Tag Archives: advice

Have you ever had – what you considered – a great date, and then you never heard from the guy again? Then you start thinking about everything that you said, how you “blew it,” what you did to scare him away and so on. You may even reach out to your friends, divulging every detail of your date to see if they could pinpoint where you went wrong?

 

Stop it.

 

Ladies, some of you care and overanalyze waaaaay too much about one little date. Not only do you examine every interaction and second-guess your behavior, but then you become your own worst enemy and critic. Instead of thinking that there might be something off with the guy, you look at yourself and just pile on blame and self-loathing. You take things too personally.

 

I coach a lot of smart and successful women. Whether they’re in their 20s, 30s or 40s, if they’re single, the goal I always hear is: “Anita, I want you to find out what’s wrong with me.” You look inwardly and put yourselves down instead of looking outwardly at the guy or the situation. Maybe the guy just wants to date around so the timing is off, he’s been through a recent breakup or he just started a new job that is very demanding. Or maybe he’s super picky and judgmental and no one would be good enough for him! Who knows? Sometimes you won’t get closure about why someone cut contact and didn’t ask you out again. You can either beat yourself up over nothing or just let it go and move on, keeping your self-esteem intact.

 

That’s not to say that a little reflection after a date can’t be good. Maybe you shouldn’t have been 45 minutes late to your date or had two more cocktails than you planned on having. But dissecting every little detail is pointless, exhausting and won’t lead to happiness – or a relationship.

 

There are several risks to these self put-downs. You may start doubting your own likability, so when you meet someone who shows you any interest, you latch on because you think he’s you’re only chance at love. Or conversely, you can make assumptions and create a problem that doesn’t actually exist. You can stop a budding romance just because of your worry! You can also suck the fun out of dating. The next guy you go out with, instead of having fun with him, you’re going to be too worried about what you say or do to not scare him off. You may come across as stiff and awkward and then boom! You have just created a self-fulfilling prophecy because the guy won’t ask you out again. But he’s not rejecting the real you, just the over-analytical you.

 

If you’re prone to over-analysis, try keeping a few men in your dating portfolio. It’ll help to avoid focusing on the details of one date. Also, if you don’t hear from a guy, challenge yourself to think of reasons that have nothing to do with you. What he does or does not do is not a direct reflection off of you! And don’t forget, there’s nothing wrong with you. Really.

Featured in the Chicago edition of Attorney at Law Magazine:

When I argue with my spouse, she complains I am treating her like a witness I am cross-examining. She gets defensive and the tension escalates. Nothing ever fully resolves and we both shut down. I feel like we now avoid arguments rather than solve them. What can we do?

Having communication issues is one of the main problems couples face. In order to minimize getting trapped in the cycle you described, there are two main points to keep in mind.

First, although I don’t have specifics about what you and your wife disagree about, from my experience getting to the point of shutting down and not resolving anything is over perpetual issues. These types of issues include how money should be saved or spent, degrees of cleanliness and organization, how to discipline children, etc. They account for about 70% of the conflict that couples have. Perhaps surprisingly, they aren’t solvable because they are rooted in fundamental differences between people based on factors such as backgrounds, personality, experiences, and life goals and dreams. The good news is that you don’t have to expect to fully resolve most disagreements with your wife.

Instead, these kinds of problems need to reach a compromise. Managing the inevitable differences between you and your wife in this way will be key to your marital happiness.

Some couples believe they have to see eye-to-eye with their spouse, but this is unrealistic. We each have subjective realities and as I tell most of my clients, you’re probably both right. You want the focus to be on deepening your understanding of your wife’s reality instead of supporting your own case (and hopefully she will do likewise).

Since you’ve gotten to the point of not dealing with an issue to avoid an argument, I recommend that you try to listen without aiming to solve anything. Make a conscious effort to find out why your wife’s stance is important to her. No judging or criticizing, but truly getting an understanding of why that is her position – maybe a particular need, value, want or dream makes this especially significant to her. She also has to work on doing the same. The point is not necessarily to agree with each other’s view, but instead to understand it. Once this takes place, you are much more likely to reach a workable compromise. Respecting each other’s perspective and seeing its value can help you break out of your current cycle.

The second thing to consider when communicating is the timing of your talk. Getting to that point of shutting down is dangerous for a relationship and needs to be avoided. Once you hit that moment, rational thought is next to impossible. As your disagreement escalates, you stop hearing what the other person is saying. Your mind refuses to let you listen because instead it focuses on potential warning signs and escaping the situation. You’re also unable to understand your wife’s perspective or empathize. Bottom line is that it leads to the inability to access the necessary tools to effectively communicate.

It’s important to stop the argument before either of you shuts down, so call a time-out when you start feeling overwhelmed. Take at least 20 minutes, do something that calms you down, and resume the conversation once you’ve both cooled off.

Conflict should not be about who’s right and who’s wrong, who wins and who loses. It should center on respecting each other’s different points of view, to find an understanding on what you both need and compromising. In this way, your marriage can always win.

A common problem presented to me is, “Anita, I love my partner, but I’m just not in love with them anymore.” Usually my clients don’t realize that they were active participants in falling out of love by the choices they made over the course of their relationship. Frequent pitfalls they seem to experience include:

 

  1. Keep making negative comparisons. You not only spend more time thinking about what your partner is doing wrong than right, but you also think someone else would be better for you. Perhaps you start thinking that someone else would appreciate you more, understand you more fully, and that your life overall would be happier with someone else. Negatively comparing your partner and your relationship to others primes you to slowly chip away at your positive feelings.

 

  1. Don’t speak up for your needs/wants. A fast way to let disappointment and resentment build up is to not speak up for what you need and want in your relationship. Although your partner should stay attuned to your needs, it’s also important to be direct with your partner when you feel they are not being met. When you don’t openly express this, you increase the likelihood that you won’t feel as satisfied or happy in your relationship, and again open the door for more negativity.

 

  1. Pull back emotionally. Love can be scary. When you put yourself out there with your deepest desires, you can get rejected and hurt. It takes courage to keep being vulnerable with your partner. But if you don’t, you won’t feel as connected. Many of my clients talk about lacking that in love feeling with their partner, and they stopped being vulnerable a long time ago.

 

  1. Don’t prioritize your partner. Relationships require both partners to be active participants. Too often I see couples placing their relationships on the bottom of the list, after children, work demands and family obligations. You have to continually reignite the passion and connection by focusing on your relationship. You won’t feel in love if you don’t take the necessary time to continually cultivate those feelings.

Sometimes falling out of love comes down to the choices you make. If you’re struggling with your feelings but make an effort to avoid these pitfalls, you can begin to change the course of your relationship to feelings that are more positive and loving.

He’s someone I work with. I didn’t think much of him at first. We talked a little but mostly just went out for lunch with other coworkers. After awhile we broke off from the group and the two of us starting going out to lunch together. Then we started talking outside of work, mostly just text and email. He was a good listener and I could tell him anything. I didn’t think anything of it, he was just a friend.

As a relationship coach and therapist, I regularly help couples who are dealing with issues of infidelity. The workplace is one of the top places where cheating happens, and the above scenario is one I repeatedly hear. This type of affair is the sexless affair, also known as the emotional affair. The boundaries between it and a friendship can be blurry, so how do you know the difference?

Here are four questions to ask yourself to determine if your connection with someone else could really be a sexless affair or merely a friendship:

1. Is there little to no transparency? Your partner should know about your friendship. Most of my clients say that their partner either didn’t know this person existed or to what extent their communication was! Transparency also means you don’t discourage your partner’s questions about what’s going on. Another aspect to consider is whether you share more of what’s going on in your life with your friend than you do with your partner.

2. Would there be discomfort? If your partner asked to see the communication exchanges between you and your friend, do you think your partner would feel uncomfortable? Would you feel embarrassed if your partner stood next to you during any texts, emails or conversations?

3. Have boundaries been violated? If your partner asked you to stop doing things with your friend because it makes them feel uneasy, but you haven’t stopped, that’s a boundary violation. Although you and your partner may need to find a workable compromise, something to consider is why maintaining your friendship has become more important than respecting the wishes of your partner.

4. Are there fantasies? Every relationship has its ups and downs, but do you find yourself fantasizing about your friend when your relationship has hit a tough spot? Do you start comparing your current partner negatively to your friend, thinking life would be better with the other person instead?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, chances are your friendship is too intimate.

It’s important to communicate with your partner. Start a dialogue: What guidelines do you want for your relationship? One couple has a rule that they don’t have drinks alone with an opposite sex friend after dark. Another couple decided to delete their exes from their Facebook friends list. Some couples have the passcodes and passwords to each other’s phone and email. These may seem like good guidelines for some but for others it might feel like they are policing their partner. What works for one couple may not work for you, but start a conversation to figure out what works best for both of you.

A note about irrational jealousy or controlling behavior. Some of you reading this really will have nothing going on with your friend, but your partner may make demands or exhibit irrational jealousy and try to control you. It is beyond the scope of this blog to address this behavior, and instead I recommend seeking the guidance of a professional therapist to help.

What starts out as an innocent friendship can turn into a sexless affair. By considering the questions above and communicating with your partner, you can protect your relationship.

You finally met someone. You’ve had several email and text exchanges, and maybe you’ve even talked on the phone or had a date or two. You think this person is great, and you wonder if he could be “The One”?

The only problem is, you barely even know the guy.

Have you ever built a guy up in your head before actually meeting him or only after a few dates? I work with many women who get caught up in meeting someone new. They tell me how much they really like him and how they hope things will work out. If it won’t, they’ll be devastated and think they will never find love.

Whoa, let’s pump the brakes here.

When you first meet someone, sure it’s fun to be so excited at this new prospect, but you also have to keep a level head. If you put your date on a pedestal by idealizing them, you create a power imbalance. The possible consequences following this imbalance include you feeling more self-conscious, the need to prove yourself to him, and doing whatever it takes to win him over and get him to like you.

You’re also much more likely to miss red flags because you only see what you want to see – you want things to work so badly that you ignore or dismiss problems. And what if things don’t progress beyond the first few dates? If you’ve fantasized about a future together, you’ll be crushed, and your self-esteem can take a major hit.

One of the most common things I hear as a dating coach is, “What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t that person like me?” I know it can be hard, but don’t base your self-worth on what happens after that first date or first few dates. Your date is still a stranger to you. You don’t know this guy well enough yet to truly know why he stopped seeing you. There are so many variables (like timing, stress at work or an ex coming back into the picture) that affect dating that I encourage you not to take things personally.

And some of my clients are so focused on getting the guy to like them that they forget to ask themselves, “Do I even like him?” I’m not talking about experiencing feelings of infatuation, but can you truly name several qualities or values that you admire about your date? It’s simple to list common interests, but it’s easier on a long-term relationship when a couple shares similar values. It takes time to see how your date lives out his values; it’s not something you can fully know on just a date or two.

It takes time to get to know someone. If you’re dating for a long-term relationship, you want to take your time to determine if your guy is a good fit for you. Fantasizing about a relationship without even knowing him will leave you with more to lose than gain.

Ok ladies, ‘fess up. Have you been on a great date with a nice guy but he just didn’t do anything for you emotionally? He called when he said he would, confirmed plans, was a gentleman…but nothing in the feelings department. Nada. Zero. Zilch.

 

So you dump the nice guy and move on. You meet someone else, but this new guy gives you mixed signals. He calls, but takes his time doing so. He shows you that he’s interested in you, but you’re not exclusive since he’s still playing the field. You start to doubt his attraction to you, and you wonder if your relationship is even going anywhere.

 

But then he takes you on a date or compliments you, and you get butterflies. Your heart races and you’re happy, telling yourself that he’s interested and there’s a chance at a future together after all. But these feelings don’t last very long. He pulls back, he’s unpredictable with contact, but gives you just enough attention to keep you hooked. You may think, “If he just sees how awesome I am, he’ll want to be with me.” The uncertainty keeps you thinking about the guy all of the time, and your mood fluctuates based on whether you’ve heard from him or if he’s given you attention. You feel like you overanalyze everything.

 

If you’ve been on this emotional roller coaster often, chances are that you’ve mistaken your anxiety and uncertainty about the relationship as butterflies and chemistry (or for some, even love). This can be risky because you may be with a partner who’s not well suited for you. If you have a lot of anxiety, feeling calm with your date (like with a nice guy) may not be a bad thing. You seek closeness, want to be reassured and to know where you stand in a relationship. You may think you’re needy or clingy for wanting intimacy and reassurance, but in fact these are healthy for a relationship.

 

Intimacy and connection happen in a lot of ways, but one of them is by being vulnerable with our partner. In order to be able to share your hopes and dreams and fears openly, you need to feel secure with your partner. A nice guy who is consistent with his attention to you is much more likely to create and provide this security than the guys who leave you guessing about their interest in you.

 

As you date, pay attention if you find yourself feeling insecure and analyzing your date’s every action, and feeling bliss every once in awhile. Be aware that this may be your anxiety acting up because of his inconsistent actions, and not chemistry or passion.

 

So give the nice guy a chance, and you may get what you’re looking for and need to have a happy and fulfilling relationship.

 

I can’t believe I’m married to such an idiot.

You finished one thing on the list. Do you want an award for being ‘Partner of the Year’?

You call that picking up after yourself? Can’t you do anything right?

You always spend too much money. Why are you so irresponsible? Can you be any more selfish?

Do you have interactions between you and your partner where you feel your partner is mean and even downright cruel, or vice versa? Do you feel like your partner is disgusted by you, or maybe you’re disgusted by your partner? If so, you’re in dangerous relationship territory.

Contemptuous exchanges like those above are the most toxic behaviors for a relationship. Contempt shows a lack of respect for your partner, and you think you’re better than them. You put your partner down and show them they are worthless. Contempt comes in many forms – mockery, insults, name-calling, eye-rolling, sighs of disgust and even sarcasm. I meet a lot of people who are proud of their sarcastic sense of humor. Because it is a form of contempt, be careful how you use it with your partner!

Contempt doesn’t appear in a relationship overnight. It usually develops because you’ve allowed negative thoughts about your partner to simmer over a long time. You’re more likely to have such thoughts if you haven’t resolved your differences. For example, maybe you think your partner is doing things the wrong way, and your ways are better. Your partner probably thinks they’re doing things the right way, and thus you have a stand-off without a resolution. As the conflict continues, you get more and more fed up, and simple disagreements can turn to contemptuous exchanges over time.

Contempt is so toxic that research shows it is the biggest predictor of divorce. It must be eliminated. And if you’re thinking that’s impossible, research shows that among happy couples, the frequency of contempt is almost zero. Happy couples convey admiration and respect for their partner, and it’s never too late for you to do that with your partner.

To counteract contempt you can do three things:

1. Consistently practice sharing fondness and admiration with your partner. To get you started, think about the following: What are your partner’s strengths? What are your top three favorite traits about them? Why did you fall in love with your partner in the first place? How can you compliment your partner today? You have to create a positive mindset about your partner and go a step further by expressing it to them. Be genuine and give yourself time for praise and admiration to seem more natural, especially if it hasn’t been a part of your relationship for a long time.

2. Complain (as opposed to attacking your partner’s character). Think before you speak. Instead of, “Why didn’t you clean the kitchen like you said you would? You’re so lazy, I have to do everything!” you can say, “You said you would clean the kitchen but you didn’t. I’m very upset by this.” You want to focus on the behavior without the character assault.

3. Understand your partner. As I frequently tell my clients, the goal is not necessarily to agree with your partner, but to understand where they are coming from. Does their perspective make sense? You can both be right, and that can go a long way toward repairing the damage of contempt.

Although contempt is the most toxic relationship behavior, you do have the power to eliminate it. If it’s been present in your relationship for a long time, it may take some time to feel comfortable with the new positive and affirming behaviors. But if you want your relationship to have a fighting chance, contempt absolutely must be eliminated.

In my last blog I wrote about common myths about cheating. Research indicates that infidelity is on the rise, with more relationships being affected by it. If good people are cheating, how can you tell if your partner (who I’m pretty sure you think is a good person) is cheating on you? It’s not easy to detect given that most affairs are not discovered.

 

Although people can be very effective at compartmentalizing their lives that their affairs are never discovered, there are a few things to consider if you have any suspicions. You can’t tell if your partner is cheating based on just one piece of evidence, but you can look for a pattern of behavior that’s different from the norm in your relationship.

 

  1. You’re having more sex. People assume if one partner is cheating, the frequency of sex decreases because they’re already “getting it on the side.” Sometimes this may be the case, but also the opposite is true. The excitement of an affair can increase the passion in your own relationship. Your partner may have an increased desire for sex and it could be hotter than it’s been in a long time. They may even ask to try new techniques.

 

  1. Hostile answers to questions. Your partner gets off the phone and you ask them, “Who were you talking to?” They may snap back with hostile remarks such as, “Why do you always have to be in my business?” or “I can’t believe you don’t trust me.” You may even start doubting your own sanity, telling yourself that you should trust your partner. But harsh responses to questions, especially if you’ve never received this kind of an attitude from your partner before, are highly suspicious.
    If you’re in a healthy relationship, you should want to alleviate any concerns your partner has about a potential threat to your relationship. Monogamy cannot be assumed, it has to be confirmed with actions. If you truly have nothing to hide, prove it. Telling your partner who called you or showing them your texts shouldn’t be a problem. I’m not saying you need to show them everything every time, but if your partner asks, would you have an issue with showing them your communication?

 

  1. Consistent change in routine. Spending time with an affair partner takes time and effort. Pay attention to differences in scheduling like spending longer hours at the office, working on “weekend projects” or getting up earlier to go to the gym. Sometimes people are re-energized by an affair and become more dedicated to family life. Your partner may help out at home with chores and errands or be more engaged with the kids. The key is a consistent change in what had previously been present in your relationship or family life.

 

  1. You no longer hear the “friend’s” name – or hear it too much. Has your partner frequently talked about this “friend” or coworker and then, mysteriously, you no longer hear about him or her? When you mention why you haven’t heard about that person, do they get anxious or snap at you? Or the flip side is also true – you never heard about this person and then your partner brings their name up frequently. Both behaviors can indicate that things are evolving beyond “just a friendship.”

 

  1. You’re jealous. Maybe you’ve never been the jealous or suspicious type, but now you’ve developed uneasy feelings about someone in your partner’s life. You suspect this person has intentions beyond just a friendship or a work relationship. If you have a “gut feeling” I encourage you to trust it. Many of my betrayed clients had a gut feeling but dismissed it because they wanted to believe their partner would never cheat on them. If you have suspicions, be curious and get more information, but don’t attack your partner. Express your concerns but be prepared that your partner will dismiss you or even belittle you.

 

Because people often believe they are immune to cheating, they’ve crossed the line before they’ve realized it. If you have suspicions and your partner refuses to discuss things with you, seek the help of a professional to help you.

 

Are you not seeing eye-to-eye with your partner? Is there hot conflict or icy distance? Do you want your partner to change, but he or she wants you to change?

You may have tried to make your relationship better – and sometimes it works, but then you both revert back to your old ways. You discuss getting professional help, but it may not be easy to trust your relationship to a stranger. Your relationship with your therapist will be important, so how do you pick a good couples therapist? Here are some tips to consider:

1. Your therapist is proactive. Marital researchers have been able to identify behaviors and ways of interacting that can keep your relationship stable and happy. You can get the kind of relationship you’ve always wanted – with some key information and new skills. You can ask your therapist if you will get homework to practice between sessions – the answer should be “Yes.”

2. Your therapist holds you both accountable. My own clients have shared stories where their previous therapists blamed one partner for their problems, even berating them in session. In my years of working as a therapist, I have yet to find a couple where all their relationship problems are solely one partner’s fault. It is important to see how you both play a role in your relationship in order to move it forward.

3. Check their credentials & caseload. Ask specifically about coursework and certifications related to couples work. A Master’s degree in counseling doesn’t mean that your therapist received training in couples therapy. You can also ask what percentage of their caseload deals with couples – it should be at least 30 percent.

4. Shop around. Other factors such as personality, gender, age of the therapist or their cultural background may be important to you. If any of these will help you be more comfortable and open in sessions, then take them into consideration. Don’t be afraid to interview therapists or meet with them for one session until you find a good fit.

When your relationship is at stake, be picky. A good couples therapist can help you achieve your goals and make your relationship better than ever – it is possible.

 

In my line of work as a relationship expert, I work with cheaters. Some are funny, others volunteer, and some go to church every Sunday. Some coach their child’s sports teams, others take care of their elderly parents, and some are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet. Some research shows that, at a minimum, at least 50% of all couples will be affected by cheating.

 

It can happen to you.

 

No relationship is immune from infidelity. There is a lack of education about cheating, especially around how and why it happens. I find myself repeating the same things to my clients and continually debunking myths. Talking openly about the “reality” of infidelity is one of the best ways of protecting a relationship from it.

 

Myth 1: Only immoral people cheat.

Reality: Good people cheat. People are harshly judged for stepping outside the bounds of their relationship. Yes, they made a bad choice, but it doesn’t mean they’re a bad person. Two of the most common things I hear are: “I never thought I would cheat” from the betrayer, and “I never thought s/he would cheat” from the betrayed partner. If you assume that both you and your partner can cheat, you can be more aware about threats and risky situations.

 

Myth 2: If there’s no sex, it’s not cheating.

Reality: There’s a different kind of affair that’s been on the rise – the emotional one. It usually starts as “just a friendship” but then a deep, passionate connection grows as time goes on. People can fall in love before realizing just how far they’ve crossed the line. Warning signs your “friendship” may be heading toward an emotional affair: You don’t tell your partner when or what you talk about with this person, and you’ve started divulging personal information about your partner to him or her.

 

Myth 3: You only cheat if you’re unhappy.

Reality: One of the ways people leave their relationship vulnerable to infidelity is by assuming that only unhappily coupled people cheat. Not so, as my clients often tell me, “I thought we were happy.” For some, cheating is less about happiness and more about sliding across boundaries. Opportunity is one of the leading variables of infidelity.

 

Myth 4: Affairs happen because of sexual attraction.

Reality: My clients often tell me they weren’t even attracted to the person they ended up cheating with. Research shows that the affair partner isn’t any better than the spouse, just different. If you assume you need sexual attraction, you’re more likely to minimize the close emotional relationship you’re developing with another person.

 

Myth 5: A marriage is irreparable.

Reality: As painful as an affair is on a marriage, healing and recovery are possible. Many of my clients tell me that the affair was a “blessing in disguise.” Often I hear that spouses talked more in the aftermath of an affair than they have all year, or they realized they have been taking each other for granted and needed a wake up call. Although the process is not easy, surviving infidelity and making your marriage better than ever is achievable.

 

An affair can happen in any relationship. Awareness of these 5 myths and the reality of each can help keep you both faithful to each other.