Out of Kilter

Read this and just had to share.
“We don’t need to change as much about ourselves as we think we do to find someone special. It’s about finding a match, not finding someone perfect, and vice versa. “
This sums it up very nicely. You should never lose the essence of who you are in a relationship. Take the blocks that you have used to create your own life and find someone with whom you can share those blocks and make something even better.

Laughing cow in France

This post was written by my dear blogger friend SD, from Four is a family.
 
It got me thinking about Mr Nice -why, yes, I know, what a surprise-, and the idea of what was, or wasn’t meant to be. I have been regularly torturing myself with the notion that if I’d done this, or not said that, perhaps, we would have stood a better chance. Of course, the idea that it wasn’t meant to be is so much more comfortable than the feeling I have somehow failed.
 
Relationships are tricky things for most of us.
 
It would be lovely if the early ‘honeymoon’ period of a relationship could last forever. None of the warning signs would lead to actual problems. Our past wouldn’t catch up with us. Real-world problems wouldn’t intrude on the bliss. Storm clouds would stay on the distant horizon. Our kids wouldn’t…

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Is Your Relationship Working?

Keep a daily tally of both positive and negative occurrences.

One of the most common questions that people ask when they are entering or are about to enter a long term, committed relationship is, “How do I know it will work?” At some point, every couple with whom I have worked has asked this question, or some variation of it. Well, at least one of the people involved would ask. In the spirit of full disclosure, that used to be me. The short answer to that question is, YOU DON’T!

The reality that most people don’t want to hear is that there is no way of predicting how one will feel tomorrow, let alone 20 years down the road. “I will ALWAYS love you” is a sweet sentiment and in truth, is an exclamation that can be made without running the risk of giving false hope – if the statement is taking literally and without assumption. “I will always love you”, does not mean “I will always be with you.” What it means is that, for what ever reason, there is something between the two of you that holds significant value to the proprietor of that statement. A value that will never diminish in his or her eyes. While there is no way to guarantee the outcome of the relationship, that value is something that can be used to determine if the relationship is working for you right now.

To sum it up, you need to see more positive than you do negative within the relationship. In other words:

NET POSITIVE > NET NEGATIVE

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as it may seem. Reason being that each person holds a different point system for the values that mean the most to them. You can refer to the article on core values by reading an article on arguing. It’s not enough to make a pros and cons list and simply list the things about your relationship into their respective category. This is a part of it, but first, you have to sit down and assign a point value to the issues in your relationship, be them positive or negative. For example, I firmly believe in the love language philosophy. Simply put, the book by Gary Chapman explains that every person has their own language which depicts the manner in which they give and receive love. For me, physical contact and terms of endearment are my top two languages. These are the most common ways that I express that I love someone and the best way for me to feel loved by someone. Therefore, I place a higher value on these occurrences within my relationship than someone who likes to give and receive gifts as one of their primary languages.

To help determine if the current status of the relationship works for me, I use a five point scale, ranging from (+2) – (-2). It is easy for me to sit back and think about the daily interactions that I have in my current relationship. Actually, my girlfriend makes it pretty easy for me because we happen to speak the same two languages. She is never shy with telling me how much she loves me and she is not stingy with walking up and giving me a hug and kiss for no reason at all. I’m a lucky guy! But getting back to the point, I realize that most couples do not speak the same language. More importantly, even if they do, it is a scientific fact that negative occurrences far outweigh positive occurrences. It takes (on average) five positive occurrences to equal one negative occurrence. Looking at things in an objective manner is difficult for anyone to do.

The suggestion I give is to carry a pocket sized notebook with you at all times. Write down each occurrence with your partner and tally the results at the end of the week. By occurrence, I am saying refer to the list that you make yourself of the things that hold the most and least value to you. Below is a sample list of positive and negative occurrences.

POSITIVE

  • Tells me she loves me – +2

  • Physical contact – +2

  • Gifts – +1

  • Honesty – +2

  • Spend time together – +2

  • Wants Kids +1

NEGATIVE

  • Lies -2

  • More time at work -1

  • More time with friends -1

  • Abusive (any kind) -2

  • Cleanliness -1

NEUTRAL

  • Politics -0

  • Religion -0

  • Similar family structure -0

Notice how some of the list is generalized and won’t change, (eg Wants Kids). Others are ever changing and the number of occurrences can greatly impact the results. This list is just an example of some things that can go toward your own list of the overall determination if the relationship is working for you. For the sake of the exercise, keep track of things that can fluctuate, such as physical contact. You can be as detailed about some of the list as you want. For example, in your notes about contact, you can put that you spent 20 minutes sitting on the couch holding hands or you can simply put a check mark indicating that there was physical contact in a positive way.

You can also determine how long you keep track of these occurrences, however I suggest that you spend at least a month doing so. Every couple goes through ups and downs, so observing things under a microscope will need to occur for a length of time for an accurate picture. Here’s the other thing to keep in mind; if you end up with results that yield more of a net negative than a net positive, that does not mean that you should end the relationship right then and there. If you want to see the relationship work, then share your results with your partner. Put the ball in their court, but do so tactfully. I strongly caution against giving ultimatums unless it is absolutely necessary. Saying “If you don’t change this, then I will leave,” is an extreme step to take and in most cases, will result in you having to enforce your statement.

Instead try eliminating finger pointing words when addressing occurrences that hold negative values. Only spend a little time addressing the negative aspects of the relationship by mentioning it once, then following up with positive occurrences, giving praise where praise is due. Begin the next item with something positive again before addressing something negative, followed by another positive. In other words, two positives for every negative.

This brings me to the issue of honesty. I have been told on more than one occasion that I am “too honest” at times. I believe in sharing everything with my partner, even when I know it will be difficult or even cause tension. But I forge ahead regardless to show her that I have the utmost faith in our ability to work through anything and come out the other side stronger than ever. I am curious to hear your thoughts about the level of honesty you feel should be present in your relationship and why. Please leave a comment on here or you can contact me at Always Opening Doors.

Finger Pointing Words

I’ve been to counseling as an individual and counseling as a couple. One of the things that has been repeated over and again, almost like a mantra, is using “I” statements to express how I feel. Maybe I’m just slow. Alright, I know that I’m slow at times. I don’t think that I’m the only one, though, when it comes to understanding what exactly that entails. I have worked with a number of clients that have repeated the same thing; “I know how to communicate. I used “I” statements.”

Good for you. I’ve said the same thing. It wasn’t until I went to a workshop at Sandler Training in Wexford, PA, that I finally grasped the absolute right way to use “I” statements. They put us through an exercise that really opened my eyes to the application of this useful tool. I modified the exercise to be applicable to a situation in which I found myself. I used the same tactic with one of my client couples. At the end of the exercise, both of them just sat there looking at one another. Their communication had reached a new level; the likes of which neither of them had, until that moment, yet experienced.

So what was this mind blowing revelation?

The exercise at Sandler put us in a mock networking event. The rules were simple. Go around the room, talking to people as you would in a real networking event. The only stipulation was that we couldn’t use I, we, us, our or any derivative of those words. We had to talk about ourselves and what we did in an extremely abbreviated fashion. The person who slipped up first had to sit down and was out of the game.

For those of you who know me on a personal level know that I love the sound of my own voice. In other words, I love to talk. As a coach, I am constantly having to remind myself that I have two ears and only one mouth; I should use both proportionately. It should come as no big surprise that I was one of two people left standing when the exercise came to an end. My approach was very simple.

Jeremy Cid. Professional relationship coach and founder of Always Opening Doors.”

Then I would fire off one question after another as they answered the preceding one, always including the word “you”.

What do you do?” “Where did you go to school?” “How long have you been with company Y?”

Having those restrictions placed on my vocabulary that is against everything I have ever learned about communication was, again, one of the most eye opening experiences of my life. Not only on a professional level, but on a personal level as well. Stay with me, I promise I’m getting to the point.

What I learned is that when it comes to communicating with another person about how we feel, it simply is not enough to use “I” statements. The secret, that is so hard to accomplish, is to eliminate common words from our vocabulary. Words like she, you, he, him, her, our and any derivative of the like. This allows for all of the focus to be put on us (the speaker) and our feelings, without placing any focus on the other person, what so ever. We have to refer to the situation itself, excluding any reference to the person who “wronged” us.

When I’m yelled at, it makes me feel like I’m a child being scolded. I don’t feel like I am an equal part of this relationship.”

Apply any situation and any feelings to this and the result is the same; a way of expressing ourselves that allows our partner to see what we’re feeling without having to try and look over that defensive wall that is built as soon as the word you escapes our lips. Even if neither person is in the wrong for anything, eliminating “finger pointing words” opens the door to begin to see how the other person really feels.

As a coach, it is not my responsibility to give my clients the answers. It is my responsibility to ask the questions that will lead the people I am trying to help to find the answers for themselves. I ask the questions that will lead them to setting attainable goals so that they can move forward and achieve the type of relationship they desire. I have challenged myself to stripping the word you, and any of it’s derivatives that places the focus on the other person, from my vocabulary.

While working with a client couple after the workshop, I did the same thing. They were addressing a situation that had occurred a couple of days prior in which neither of them were happy with how they had handled things. When I asked them to recount what happened, both individuals used finger pointing words when talking to me and you when addressing each other. Both of them started getting worked up again and I could see those defensive walls getting higher with every use of she, he or you. Once both of them had finished their sides of the story, I asked them to tell me what happened again, this time, avoiding the use of those finger pointing words. Instead, referring specifically to the situation.

When I’m called a b@#$%, I get angry”

And so the questioning began. I guided them to expressing what they felt and what the results would be if that continued to happen through a series of open ended questions. If either person slipped, I stopped them and asked them to try again. Upon reaching the point of expression where person A had expressed, “When this happens, I feel ___. When I feel ____, I want to ____. If I keep feeling ____, then ___ will happen.”, I would ask the other person how they felt about what they heard.

The result was that one person was able to express that they were scared of being left, so they reacted on that fear. The other person felt as if they weren’t really a part of the relationship, like they were one of the children. I wish that I could express the change in the air around us as the couple heard how the other person really felt. Like I said, they had never experienced that before and both of them sat in stunned silence. A silence that was broken by one of them asking me, “Where were you when I was in therapy?” We all laughed and hugged at their break through. We then had the discussion about what goals they could set for themselves for the week to help keep them moving forward.

I want to close this out by stating that I am not bashing therapy or counseling in any way. I think that it can be extremely beneficial for those who have that specific goal in mind. The goal of dealing with the past. The goal of coaching is not to delve into the past. The goal is to determine how a person can get to where they want to be. It’s about looking forward.

If you would like to learn more about eliminating finger pointing words from your vocabulary, please feel free to contact me at Always Opening Doors. All consultations are free to help you determine if I can be of any assistance to you and/or your partner.

Pittsburgh Couples on TV

This morning at 7:00 am.

Today is a very special day for me, my company and some very dear friends who have stuck with me through thick and thin. We begin shooting the pilot for our new reality series, It’s Not Over.

The show is going to focus on local couples (for now) who have lost the spark in their relationships or who just want to find a way to bring back that spark that brought them together in the first place. I have teamed up with a few other local companies to really bring something special to these real life couples who are opening up their hearts and homes in order to keep their love alive.

The show is a celebration of those who realize that love alone is not enough to keep a couple together. It takes work. So I am offering my services as a relationship coach to them, then sending them off to celebrate the new beginning in their relationship.

Vague, I know. But I don’t want to spoil all of the details just yet. We have been shooting footage for the past couple of days, getting some beautiful footage for the opening and closing credits. So if any of you local yinzers want to be a part of this, come on out and share your story with us.

You can email me at alwaysopeningdoors.aod.com for the address or for more information.

Distance of the Hearts

We yell b/c there is a distance of the hearts.

In light of the fact that the majority of hits I have gotten on my musings from search engines have been from “arguments”, or some variation of the word, I have decided to break down some of the various aspects of arguing. I do this more as an evaluation of myself than to give the impression that I “know it all.” But, if something I say here is applicable to you – USE IT.

One of the most detrimental actions a person can take in communication with another person is to yell. I, myself, have been guilty of this disrespectful act. I have also been one to research and spout numerous theories about why we yell. I recently read something that, while it may not be 100% accurate, did give me pause.

Why do we yell at a person that is sitting right next to us? Why do we yell when we are angry?

Because we lose our composure – perhaps. Because we feel that we can’t be heard by speaking in a regular tone – sometimes.

How about distance? Definitely. The distance to which I refer has nothing to do with how physically far we are from the person with whom we are speaking. It is a distance of the hearts. In order to try and recover that distance, we yell to be heard. As we get angrier, greater is the distance felt by our hearts.

When a couple is in the throes of seduction, they whisper. Be it the sweet nothings that fill the pit of our stomachs with butterflies or nothing more than a moan, covering our flesh with bumps of geese. Love is best heard in the form of a whisper. Our hearts feel close. There is no distance to cover. As the love continues to grow, the distance becomes even less until both hearts seem to occupy the same space. At last, we do not have to speak. We simply look at each other. We understand. We accept.

The next time you feel like yelling, stop. Take a breath. Clamp your hand over your mouth if need be. Before you say a single word, remind yourself that you love the person in front of you. Then tell them. Just saying the words can have a magnificent change in what you are about to say. More importantly, how you are about to say it. If this proves inadequate, walk away. Take some time to quell the storm raging inside of you.

The purpose of a serious discussion is to make our respective points and to find a resolution. Even if the only resolution to be found is that we are heard. There is no resolution to be found through yelling. It is disrespectful to the person you love. More importantly, it is indicative of the lack of respect that you have for yourself. We all have the capacity to keep our heart close to the one we love. By yelling, we are saying that we lack the capacity, or the desire to do just that.

If speaking in a manner that reduces distance is something that will require practice, write your thoughts down. Let your partner assign your whispering voice to you as they read your words. Whatever it takes, do not yell. It only increases the distance between you.

I will see you back here on Friday. Until then…

Why do we argue?

Knowing why you're really arguing can save your relationship

Arguments happen in every relationship. When I say “argument”, I don’t necessarily mean that there is yelling or even that anger is involved. This seems to be the case in a lot of instances, but what I’m referring to is a conversation wherein the people involved have a difference of opinion.

Sometimes things get heated and feelings get hurt. Sometimes it’s all too easy to overlook the times you both have been on cloud nine and all seemed right with the world.

I would, first, like to cover some theories about arguments and why so many marriages end due to “irreconcilable differences”. After giving you a week to process what I’m sharing, I would like to share some tips, tricks and suggestions on how to argue effectively with your partner. This is a step away from the traditional date ideas that I have presented so far, but it is an essential part of the overall goal – to create and maintain a loving relationship with open communication and everlasting courtship.

Arguments occur because of the trait that every human being shares. It’s not exclusive to anyone, regardless of gender, sexual preference, age, or race. That trait is the cause of divorce, fights and even war. It is the difficulty we all have in simply accepting and respecting another person’s right to a different opinion and to accept them as they are.

Think about it. All throughout history are examples of one person holding a certain belief and trying to force that belief on a group of people. Other parts of the world disagree so they jump to the aide (desired or not) of those deemed to be less fortunate or incapable of helping themselves. I am not, even slightly, suggesting that there aren’t circumstances where this isn’t necessary in order to maintain balance and discipline. I am merely pointing out the very basis for why things get heated in the first place.

Relationships are no different. There are two individuals who have each been raised with a certain set of beliefs and other beliefs that have been learned due to life experience. Here’s what a lot of people seem to forget – you fight because you care.

Even if you think the other person is completely off their rocker (and they may be), remind yourself that they are standing their ground, not to be disrespectful or because they don’t care. It is just the opposite. They care a great deal and are standing their ground because of a deeply routed belief system that cannot be changed by anyone except for them. Take a step back and marvel at the human spirit to fight for that in which it believes. Focus on the vulnerability the person in front of you is displaying.

Be you a man or a woman, expressing yourself and standing your ground makes you vulnerable to the person in front of you. You are saying, “Hey, this is me. I’m opening up and making myself available to ridicule and judgment.”

People often associate compatibility with another person by how much (or little) they argue. I disagree. Compatibility is simply the ability of both people in the relationship respecting the others right to a differing opinion and, at the very least, tolerating those differences. That doesn’t mean that you don’t have to have anything in common or have to see eye to eye on certain issues. But that is an entirely different discussion.

This is all about realizing why you’re really arguing with one another and how you can see the truth as a means to strengthen your relationship. Come back next week to learn some tricks to effective arguing that could bring you closer together.

Spice Things Up – Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Don't get trapped in your comfort zone. Photo courtesy of Millenial Branding

Traditions are very endearing to a lot of people. I, myself, find a lot of value in traditional ways of doing things, especially when it comes to romance. This week’s blog is about breaking tradition and really stepping outside of, what I’m sure, is a very comfortable zone for a lot of people.

I’m talking about Date Night. Every book that has ever been written on relationships tells us that couples, especially married couples with kids, should set aside a night each week (or month, depending on how much you really like each other) to go out on the town and have some alone time. That is very sound advice and can be invaluable to busy couples. This idea takes Date Night in a different direction.

As your reading, keep in mind that in order for this to be effective, you might want to talk with your significant other about her opinion on role playing. I don’t mean role playing in the bedroom sense – although things can definitely head in that direction if you play your cards right.

The first thing you need to do (once you’re sure your partner is comfortable) is pick a random night. Don’t tell her when this will go down, because it will take away from the surprise of the night. You will need to plan your day accordingly once you know when you want to have the Date Night that is different from any other. If you have the luxury, go to her office and leave a note on the windshield of her car instructing her to meet you at a restaurant at a particular time.

Only it’s not “you” that she will be meeting. You will be a complete stranger whom she has never before met. The real you, will be working late or out of town on business.

The key to making this fun is to avoid places that you have gone as a couple. It can be difficult to stay in character in familiar surroundings. If you have the means, springing for a hotel that night will only add to the fun. Spend the evening acting as complete strangers. If you prefer, she can be the “other woman” and you can be the real you. Or you can both take on alternate identities and simply agree to meet at a random bar at a random time.

However the roles are distributed, the idea is to do something wrong and dirty without really doing anything wrong and dirty. Have an affair with yourselves every so often. It may be uncomfortable at first. Perhaps you won’t be able to stop laughing at how silly the two of you are acting.

That’s okay. Just because you’re married or in a serious relationship doesn’t mean that you can’t afford to laugh at yourselves and each other.

Have fun! See you next time!