Reblog: You Don’t Have to Deal With Toxic Behaviors of Others

by Dr. Henry Cloud

I was doing a seminar one day when a woman asked this question: How do you deal with critical people?”

My first response was, “Why would you want to do that? Dealing with critical people is awful.”

She looked at me like I was crazy and said, “Well … because you have to!”

“I don’t find that to be true,” I said. “Why do you have to?”

She got very circumspect and almost in a whisper so no one could hear, she said, “Because they’re everywhere!”

“Everywhere?” I asked.

“Yes, everywhere.”

“Wow, let’s talk about that.”

And we did, right there in front of a thousand people. I asked her what these critical people were like and where she was finding them, and she began to describe judgmental, critical personalities that she knew in her work, her extended family and in her social circles. In a sense, she was right. They were everywhere – at least in her everywhere. Apparently, she had an uncanny ability to find them, no matter where she was.

It seemed that at her work or any other circle, she would somehow manage to be drawn to the most critical person in the group and become friends with them. After awhile, she would feel like, “all they do is criticize what I am doing and tell me I should be doing it differently.”

What I told her that while it was true that critical people can be found everywhere, it was not true that she had to keep finding them or become best friends with them. But as long as she needed approval of these people – which is impossible to attain – she would always need to find a critical person so that she could live out her lifelong strategy of finally getting one to like her. Good luck.

The observation here is that she needed a critical person to accomplish her goal of getting critical people to finally approve of her. Her “script” required a critical person, so without realizing it, she always looked for one. All she would know was that when she encountered a critical person, she would feel “not good enough” and would begin trying to be good enough in their eyes, exerting lots of effort and continually falling short.

“What do I do?” she asked.

“Easy,” I said. “Just be honest with them, and you’ll never hear from them again.”

“What?” she said.

“Just be honest with them. Tell them something like, ‘Yeah, I can see that you would do it differently, but I like it like this. What’s for lunch?’ ”

Recognize the boundary there?

“But they will keep telling me what is wrong with what I am doing,” she said.

“Probably. So then you just say, ‘Yeah, I understand you feel that way, but that is the way I want to do it. Let’s move on. What’s for lunch?’ ”

In this situation I just described, replace “critical” with a toxic behavior of someone you know. Now think of what you can do for yourself next time you think you have to “deal with” them. Recognize what you’re feeling and honor that. Define the boundary for yourself, and communicate it with the person with whom you have an issue.

For example, “I don’t like it when you treat me like that. If you continue to do so, I will choose not to be around you until you can respect me the same way I respect you.”

That’s a vague statement, but you can define the specific boundary that meets your needs.

Now take a moment to ask yourself: What role am I playing in the situation I find myself in? What am I contributing to this?

Understanding all of this gives you something you can work on. You can work on your tendency to allow toxic people to have that kind of power over you. You can work on staying separate from their opinions and have your own. And most powerfully, you can finally notice that there are other people in your life who don’t exhibit those behaviors.

Please note that if there is an abusive person in your life, the boundaries you set may require a strong support system. It is encouraged that you seek the help of a counselor, a group and/or contact local law enforcement as necessary.

Find the original article here.

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TED Talk: What I learned from 100 days of rejection

Jia Jiang adventures boldly into a territory so many of us fear: rejection. By seeking out rejection for 100 days — from asking a stranger to borrow $100 to requesting a “burger refill” at a restaurant — Jiang desensitized himself to the pain and shame that rejection often brings and, in the process, discovered that simply asking for what you want can open up possibilities where you expect to find dead ends.

Reblog: How to Help Your Children Through Divorce

by Dr. Gail Gross

There are many affects of divorce on a family – emotional, economic and personal, and children are often the collateral damage. Parents are in so much pain and distress that they are unable to care for the emotional and physical needs of their children. As a result, children are caught in the crossfire, between two emotionally wounded people, who once said, “I do” and for whatever reason now, don’t.

Children, however, have had nothing to say about this decision, and the only place where they feel safe – their home with mother and father – has now been destroyed. All the structures, by which they identified and labeled themselves and their family, no longer exist and, regardless of their age, children can’t really get their minds around the idea that something they considered “forever”, no longer exists. Furthermore, we know today that the impact of divorce on children can be long lasting.

Longitudinal research on children from divorce informs us that trust, commitment and intimacy are more difficult to develop in relationships later in life when they are violated at an early age. Therefore, children of divorce, tend to marry later in life and often have problems choosing a life partner. Also, other delays are evident, as these children can be paralyzed or frozen in their emotions at the very stage of development that existed at the time of divorce – or they can be seen to regress to earlier developmental stages that existed before the divorce. However, this rather bleak scenario does not have to exist.

Out of 100% of the people in our country that have children, only 20% are traditionally married. There are all types of family structures in which children are raised. The important thing to remember is that children need to have their needs met; they need to be nurtured; and they need to be able to count on their parents to be reliable and be there for them. Consequently, parents must step into their adult mode; override their own feelings of incapacity and be there for their children – now. Though marriage fails to survive, the family can still prosper if divorce is a success.

What Parents Should Know About Divorce

Keep Children in the Loop – It is much easier to deal with things we know about. Parents must be open and honest and give age-appropriate information to their children. If you do this, then you can actually lower your children’s anxiety rather than have it be free-floating, looking for a place to reside. Tell your children together and try to promote a united front. This will signal to your children that though the marriage breaks – the family survives, and that parents from henceforth, will become co-parents – loving their children unconditionally no matter what. Keep it simple. Don’t exaggerate or over-react. Children take their cue from their parents. If you show them confidence, they will feel secure in a potentially out-of-control situation. The course is set – steer them through it, with competence.

Have a Plan – Structure and consistency offer stability. Children feel secure if they feel that you, their parents, will protect them and have a construct for their future. Restore a normal routine as quickly as possible, including a calendar for visitation and holidays. Practice and rehearse your children in their new living arrangements, including school. This will give your children the confirmation that their parents have put serious thought into what happens to them.

Reassure Your Children – Don’t burden your children with adult decisions and responsibilities. Let them have their childhood.

Do Not Split Your Children in Relation to Your Former Mate – Children bear the genetic inheritance of both parents and consciously or unconsciously, feel their identity wrapped up in mother and father. If you attack their parent, you are in essence attacking your child’s identity – who he or she is, as a person. Children are very loyal and empathetic to their parents. As a result, if you put them in the middle of your divorce, they will bear both, some of the responsibility and guilt for the outcome – successful or not. Don’t ask children to be responsible for things over which they have no control. It can damage them for life.

Be Authentic – Tell the truth to your children – but never speak against their other parent. Children have had their trust shattered, and it is the parent’s role to rebuild that trust for them through positive regard and experience – little by little, day by day. Reconstruct a secure familial model for your children, letting them feel that you can care for them and be counted on to tell the truth – no matter what. Answer questions honestly, keeping in mind age-appropriate information. Parents are required to parent and maintain a sense of self-control.

Put Your Children First – Don’t make them your ally or your agent. Don’t ask them questions about your ex-partner, their living arrangements or dating arrangements. This puts children in a double bind and makes them feel very uncomfortable, as they feel they may be betraying one parent or the other.

Create A Safe Family Environment – The family structure is now different and unfamiliar. Children see their parents fragile, for what may be the first time. Their safe haven – the family as they knew it – is gone. To protect their family – their parents, children often repress their own feelings. Grief is the natural response to loss as well as guilt, anger, and fear. Children blame themselves as they are very egocentric and have the feeling of omnipotence. It is the parent’s role to help their children deal with these feelings so that they don’t have either short-term or long-term injury. Unresolved grief, fear, guilt, and anger, when repressed, can lead to both childhood and adult depression and in the worst case scenario suicide. Children must be encouraged to express their feelings and parents must give them the space in which to do that.

The Empathic Process – The best way to reconnect to your children is to communicate with them often. The best way to communicate with them is to listen to them with empathy. Set a regular time as a family tradition, a ritual, to restore faith in the family’s ability to function securely and be protective. Find a neutral space – the kitchen table, which is the heart of the house and serves very well for family meetings. Make eye contact; listen attentively; touch hands; hold confidences; and never defend positions. This is a place for each child to tell their feelings freely. There are rules for the empathic process – each person gets equal time to talk without interruption; and each child is invested in ideas and solutions. As a result, problem solving can happen because everyone’s feelings are considered. Never discount feelings. Divorce is devastating to the emotional make-up of children and adults. Of course, there will be the expression of injury – including anger, hurt, and blame. The family can take it, because love in a family is unconditional. This is where the parent must rise to the occasion to stay in the adult mode and support by listening, not just hearing, the pain in their family. The consistent family meeting, gives children a chance to reveal their feelings and express them. It also gives parents a chance to check in with their children to see how they feel; see how they are doing.

Never Give False Hope To Children That The Marriage Will Reunite – This only encourages fantasy or magical thinking and delays healing. In a certain way, clear and straight talk with your children gives them an opportunity to transition from one family structure to another by reaching down into their own resource and finding out that they can survive.

Seek Professional Help – Parents must never use their children for friends or counselors. If parents can’t handle their suffering, they should go to either a meaningful person; a person in the clergy; or a counselor or therapist.

Children Who Can’t Move Successfully Through Divorce, Need Therapy – Group therapy; counseling and support groups of children in similar situation are very successful in helping children connect to their feelings. Sometimes dance therapy, art, journaling, help children communicate in ways that are often too difficult to verbalize. A good counselor can guide them through the process.

Create New Family Traditions – Sometimes families reorganize in a way that includes step-parents and step-siblings. Therefore, parents must take the lead and invite children into the process of creating new family rules and new holiday experiences. Remember once again – to parent – to shape the new model by giving freedom within limits. If you invest your children in these decisions, they will be more likely to adapt comfortably. These children may have inherited new parents and new siblings, and no one asked them their opinions – no one gave them a choice. The trauma of divorce is deconstructing and parents can lead the way toward healthy reconstruction.

Creating A New Family Model With New House Rules, Rewards And Consequences Is Very Important To The Success Of This Transformation – Children become very territorial once they have experienced the dissolution of their family and face the establishment of something new. In essence, they are fighting for a place for themselves. This takes love, patience and time. Remember – children need their needs met; they need to be nurtured; and they need to be able to count on their parents to be there for them now.

Recognizing Signs Of Distress – Divorce is a trauma for the emotional well-being of your child. It is important to know your child; to pay attention and see signs of change such as eating, sleeping, activity, school work, social behavior, anxiety, agitation, depression and in the extreme, giving away precious possessions. Children look to their families as a way to define themselves. It is a part of who they are – their identity. It is unthinkable that no matter how bad the family system is, it will actually dissolve. Divorce is so critical to the way that children feel about themselves, think and act, that if not handled well by the adults involved, can lead to a whole host of negative outcomes – not the least of which is childhood suicide. Parents can make all of the difference, but first, it is essential that they stay in their adult and parent. This means they should not burden their children with their problems; don’t take away their children’s childhood by making them responsible for themselves; and don’t make your children your friends and allies.

In the final analysis, children have two parents and their very identity is wrapped up in both. Seek professional help if you need support, but do not use your children as counselors; don’t make your children your agents; don’t ask them uncomfortable questions about their other parent; and don’t put them on the spot in a double bind. This kind of splitting can only lead to feelings of disloyalty and guilt.

Create a safe space for your children where you can communicate with empathy and listen. Check in with them on a regular basis; find out how they are doing; how they feel. It is important to know that your children want to be normal and the same as everyone else. Therefore, honor their feelings; confirm their feelings of hurt and pain and invest them in the discovery of options to help them find their own resource for survival. Return your children to a normal routine as quickly as possible, and remember to participate in the solution – don’t be the problem.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: 7 Reasons Why People Use Passive Aggressive Behavior

by Signe Whitson L.S.W.

Frustrating. Confounding. Relationship-damaging. Effective. Passive aggressive behavior is all of these things…and more. It is a deliberate and masked way of expressing covert feelings of anger (Long, Long & Whitson, 2008) that occurs among both men and women, in all civilized cultures and at every socioeconomic level. Why is this dysfunctional behavior so widespread? This article details seven reasons why passive aggressive behavior thrives in families, schools, relationships, and the workplace.

1. Anger is Socially Unacceptable

Anger is a normal, natural human emotion. It is, in fact, one of the most basic of all human experiences. Yet from a very young age, many of us are bombarded with the message that anger is bad. During a period in our emotional development when we are highly susceptible to social pressure from parents, caregivers, and teachers, we learn that to be “good” we must squash honest self-expression and hide angry feelings.

2. Sugarcoated Hostility is Socially Acceptable

When people learn that they cannot express anger openly, honestly, and directly within relationships, the emotion doesn’t just go away. Rather, many of us learn to express it in alternative, covert, socially acceptable ways, often through passive aggressive behaviors.

3. Passive Aggression is Easier than Assertiveness

In this day and age of common core, standardized tests, and Race to the Top, social skills instruction is often edged out of a young person’s formal education. Yet study after study shows that specific instruction in such “soft” skills as assertiveness, emotion management, and relationship building are as essential to a young person’s development as any “hard core” math and reading skills.

Kids are not born knowing how to communicate their feelings in direct, emotionally honest ways; rather, assertiveness is a skill that needs to be taught and is best mastered though repetition. On the other hand, passive aggressive behaviors such as sulking, emotional withdrawal, and indirect communication are much more the mark of immature, untamed emotional expression.

4. Passive Aggression is Easily Rationalized

A young girl doesn’t feel like cleaning her room. When her parents insist, she pouts first, procrastinates second, and then shoves all of her earthly possessions under her bed. When her father becomes irritated by her behavior, she feigns indignation: “I don’t know why you’re so upset. I was going to do it as soon as I finished my homework.” When her mother shows exasperation at the alarming pile of dirty clothing peeking out from below her comforter, she plays the victim: “Nothing I do is ever good enough for you, Mom. You just want me to be perfect!” With both parents, the girl rationalizes her string of compliantly defiant behavior, casting herself in the role of victim and blaming her parents’ “unreasonable” demands and standards as the real problem.

5. Revenge is Sweet

Passive aggression involves a variety of behaviors designed to “get back” at another person without the other recognizing the underlying anger. Jason feels overworked and under-acknowledged in the office. He calls out sick on two consecutive days, thereby missing a key deadline that sabotages his department’s productivity and ultimately reflects poorly on his boss. The boss is overlooked for a promotion; Jason’s mission is accomplished.

As in this example, passive aggression is often a crime of omission; it is what Jason did not do that indirectly caused a major problem for the target of his unarticulated anger. Because it can be difficult to “catch in the act” and often impossible to discipline according to standard HR protocols, passive aggressive behavior often exists as the perfect office crime.

6. Passive Aggressive Behavior is Convenient

Not everyone who uses passive aggressive behavior is a passive aggressive person. For example, a husband who typically communicates directly and honestly with his wife may not have the wherewithal on a particular weekend day to say “no” to her request to fix a leaky faucet, so he promises to do it while making endless excuses to put off the task. The man is not passive aggressive across the board, but on this day when relaxing and avoiding a fight with his wife are his top priorities, he chooses passive aggression as a convenient behavior of choice.

7. Passive Aggression can be Powerful

By denying feelings of anger, withdrawing from direct communication, casting themselves in the role of victim, and sabotaging others’ success, passive aggressive persons create feelings in others of being on an emotional roller coaster. Through intentional inefficiency, procrastination, allowing problems to escalate, and exacting hidden revenge, the passive aggressive individual gets others to act out their hidden anger for them. This ability to control someone else’s emotional response makes the passive aggressive person feel powerful. He/she becomes the puppeteer—the master of someone else’s universe and the controller of their behavior.

In the short term, passive aggressive behaviors can be more convenient than confrontation and generally require less skill than assertiveness. They allow a person to exact revenge from behind the safety of plausible excuses and to sit on the sofa all weekend long rather than complete a list of undesirable chores. So, what’s not to love? Truth be told, while momentarily satisfying or briefly convenient, in the long run, passive aggressive behavior is even more destructive to interpersonal relationships than aggression. Over time, virtually all relationships with a person who is passive aggressive become confusing, destructive and dysfunctional.

Find the original article here.

 

Reblog: Have You Caught Someone Lying? Here’s What You Do.

By Dr. Henry Cloud

When we think about setting boundaries in relationships, we have to consider the fact that you may encounter someone who may lie to you, which raises the question – why do people lie, and what can you do about it?

There are really two categories of liars. First, there are liars who lie out of shame, guilt, fear of conflict or loss of love, and other fears. They are the ones who lie when it would be a lot easier to tell the truth. They want to be honest, but for one reason or another, cannot quite pull it off. They fear the other person’s anger or loss of love.

The second categories are liars who lie as a ways of operating and deceive others for their own selfish ends. There is no fear or defensiveness involved, just lying for the love of self.

You will have to ask yourself if you want to take the risk and do the work if you are with the first type. There are people in the first category who have never had a relationship where they felt safe enough to be honest, and they tend to still be hiding. So they lie to preserve love, or preserve the relationship, or avoid being caught in something because of guilt and shame. They are not really dangerous or evil, and sometimes when they find someone safe, they learn to tell the truth. This is a risk that some people want to take after finding out that deception has occurred. They hope that the person will be redeemed by the grace and love that they offer and will shoot straight with them from then on.

The thing is, dating is not a place for rehabilitating someone. It should occur in that person’s counseling, recovery or some other context. Just because someone lies out of fear, that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable, and serious devastation can occur even with fearful liars.

The second kind of liar is a definite no-go. Tell him or her good-bye, and save yourself a lot of heartache. Perpetual liars are not ready for a relationship, no matter how much you’re attracted to him or her. Run, run, run!

So, what do you do if you catch someone lying to you?

1. Confront it.

2. Hear the response and see how much ownership and remorse there is for the lying.

3. Try to figure out what the lying means in the relationship. If the person is afraid, guilty or fears loss of love by you, then work on that dynamic and try to determine if the character issue is changing with more safety. But be careful.

4. Look at the level of repentance and change. How internally motivated is he or she to get better?

5. Is the change being sustained? Make sure you give it enough time. Hearing “I’m sorry” isn’t good enough.

6. Look at the kind of lying that took place. Was it to protect him or herself, or just to serve selfish ends? If it is the latter, face reality squarely that you are a person who loves themselves more than the truth and face what that means. If the former, think long and hard and have a good reason to continue.

You don’t have to tolerate deception or lying when it happens. If your significant other is not being transparent, don’t let it go. Set a boundary and tell yourself, “I have to be with someone who is honest with me.” Many times lying is a sign of a serious character problem that doesn’t change without major hurt for many people.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: What Keeps People Together and Why They Break Up

By Dr. Henry Cloud

I talk to a lot of couples, professionally and obviously just as a regular human being with friends. One of the things that I am always most curious to talk to couples about is their initial attraction. What made them decide to get together? And what happened in the first little while that helped that grow and enabled them to create a lasting relationship? The differences are sometimes stark. What brought them together and what keeps them together are rarely the same thing.

That should be obvious. Beginnings of relationships are often at least a little bit superficial, mostly because you don’t really know the person yet. And yet, the criteria for what someone is looking for in a relationship always seems to hover over those initial attractors.

When you talk to people about what they are looking for in another person, you tend to hear the same things over and over again:

I want someone who’s witty. I want someone who likes to hike. I want someone who is ambitious in their career. I want someone who is good looking. I want someone who reads a lot. I want someone who is physically strong.

People have a habit of defining themselves and terms of their likes and preferences. But we are equally defined by the things that we do not like. It is much less common for a person seeking a relationship to be looking for character traits that embody things that they know will hurt their relationship.

Maybe it’s happened, but in my experience, I’ve never encountered a couple who got divorced or went through big relationship problems over the fact that their partner didn’t want to hit the trails, didn’t spend enough time reading, or didn’t like the same sports.

The dating process is about having fun and getting to know people. The initial, more surface oriented factors that comprise your personal taste in dating partners is what makes the beginning of a relationship fun. But there is an opportunity that you must make sure you are seizing in order to size up a person’s character traits and realize if you’ll want to get more serious with them. These things often reveal themselves early.

The types of things that cause relationships to end are things like being a bad listener. Having unrealistic expectations. Irresponsible spending. Lack of emotional identification. Inability to just be real. Temper flare-ups. Perfectionism. Tendencies toward controlling behavior.

We often rationalize these character flaws as personality quirks even though they are big red flags. When you contrast that with the comparatively lightweight nature of the criteria that we select people by — the kind of superficial traits that comprise our tastes — it starts to seem like dangerously shortsighted behavior.

What good is a witty person who can’t make you feel safe?

What good is an ambitious, career-driven person if they can’t be real with you?

What good is a person who reads a lot but doesn’t hear a word you say?

When you’re starting out with someone, consider whether you’re being too limited in the way that you’re assessing them as a dating partner. Are there superficial things that you can look past for now? Those things will fade in time. Are your concrete, but ultimately superficial preferences preventing you from dating someone who could be really good for you?

Likewise, are there signs of trouble that you’re writing off because someone does meet other more ‘fun’ qualifications? How’s the future look in that scenario? There’s a good chance that all of the initial attractors will have fallen away, absorbed into the fabric of your connection, and completely overshadowed by problems that may doom your relationship, hurt your quality of life, and ultimately waste your time.

Time and energy are finite resources. When it comes to dating, you need to find a balance of what’s fun, but you also need to temper it with what’s real. You will save yourself a whole lot of heartache if you consider the kinds of things that you’re NOT looking for with the same weight of the things that you find attractive.

Reblog: How to Forgive Someone and Set a Boundary

by Dr. Henry Cloud

“I know I’m supposed to forgive,” a woman said to me at a recent seminar. “But, I just can’t open myself up to that kind of hurt anymore. I know I should forgive him and trust him, but if I let him back in, the same thing will happen, and I can’t go through that again.”

“Who said anything about ‘trusting’ him?” I asked. “I don’t think you should trust him either.”

“But you said I was supposed to forgive him, and if I do that, doesn’t that mean giving him another chance? Don’t I have to open up to him again?”

“No, you don’t,” I replied. “Forgiveness and trust are two totally different things. In fact, that’s part of your problem. Every time he’s done this, he’s come back and apologized, and you have just accepted him right back into your life, and nothing has changed. You trusted him, nothing was different, and he did it again. I don’t think that’s wise.”

“Well,” she asked, “How can I forgive him without opening myself up to being hurt again?”

Good question. We hear this problem over and over again. People have been hurt, and they do one of two things. Either they confront the other person about something that has happened, the other person says he’s sorry, and they forgive, open themselves up again, and blindly trust. Or, in fear of opening themselves up again, they avoid the conversation altogether and hold onto the hurt, fearing that forgiveness will make them vulnerable once again.

How do you resolve this dilemma?

The simplest way to help you to organize your thoughts as you confront this problem is to remember three points:

1. Forgiveness has to do with the past. Forgiveness is not holding something someone has done against you. It is letting it go. It only takes one to offer forgiveness.

2. Reconciliation has to do with the present. It occurs when the other person apologizes and accepts forgiveness. It takes two to reconcile.

3. Trust has to do with the future. It deals with both what you will risk happening again and what you will open yourself up to. A person must show through his actions that he is trustworthy before you trust him again.

You could have a conversation that deals with two of these issues, or all three. In some good boundary conversations, you forgive the other person for the past, reconcile in the present, and then discuss what the limits of trust will be in the future. The main point is this: Keep the future clearly differentiated from the past.

As you discuss the future, you clearly delineate what your expectations are, what limits you will set, what the conditions will be, or what the consequences (good or bad) of various actions will be.

Differentiating between forgiveness and trust does a number of things:

First, you prevent the other person from being able to say that not opening up again means you are “holding it against me.”

Second, you draw a clear line from the past to the possibility of a good future with a new beginning point of today, with a new plan and new expectations. If you have had flimsy boundaries in the past, you are sending a clear message that you are going to do things differently in the future.

Third, you give the relationship a new opportunity to go forward. You can make a new plan, with the other person potentially feeling cleansed and feeling as though the past will not be used to shame or hurt him. As a forgiven person, he can become an enthusiastic partner in the future of the relationship instead of a guilty convict trying to work his way out of relational purgatory. And you can feel free, not burdened, by bitterness and punitive feelings, while at the same time being wise about the future.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: How to Respond When Others Reject Your Boundaries

by Dr. Henry Cloud

Usually the quiet one in her group, Heather spoke up. The topic of discussion was “conflict resolution,” and she couldn’t be silent another second. “I know how to present facts and arguments about my opinion in a caring way. But my husband will walk out on me if I start disagreeing! Now what do I do?”

Heather’s problem is shared by many. She genuinely believes in boundaries, but she is terrified of their consequences.

Is it possible that others will become angry at our boundaries and attack or withdraw from us? Absolutely. We were never the power or the right to control how others respond to our no. Some will welcome it; some will hate it.

We can’t manipulate people into swallowing our boundaries by sugarcoating them. Boundaries are a “litmus test” for the quality of our relationships. Those people in our lives who can respect our boundaries will love our wills, our opinions, our separateness. Those who can’t respect our boundaries are telling us that they don’t love our “no.” They only love our “yes,” our compliance.

So what does Heather, whose husband is an avowed “boundary buster,” do? Will her husband carry out his threat to walk out on her? She can’t control his response. But if the only thing keeping Heather’s husband home is her total compliance, is this a marriage at all? And how will problems ever be addressed when she and he avoid them?

Setting limits has to do with telling the truth. First, there is the person who welcomes your boundaries. Who accepts them. Who listens to them. Who says, “I’m glad you have a separate opinion. It makes me a better person.” This person is called wise.

The second type hates limits. Resents your difference. Tries to manipulate you into giving up your treasures. Try our “litmus test” experiment with your significant relationships. Tell them “no” in some area. You’ll either come out with increased intimacy — or learn that there was very little to begin with.

Do Heather’s boundaries with her husband condemn her to a life of isolation? Absolutely not. If telling the truth causes someone to leave you, this gives you the chance to reach out to a counselor or a support group.

In no way am I advocating divorce. The point is that you can’t make anyone stay with or love you. Ultimately that is up to your partner. Sometimes setting boundaries clarifies that you were left a long time ago, in every way, perhaps, except physically. Often, when a crisis like this occurs, it helps the struggling couple reconcile and remake their marriage healthier. The problem was raised, and now can be addressed.

But a word of caution: the boundary-less spouse who develops limits begins changing in the marriage. There are more disagreements. There are more conflicts over values, schedules, money, kids, and sex. Quite often, however, the limits help the out-of-control spouse begin to experience the necessary pain that can motivate him or her to take more responsibility in the marriage. Many marriages are strengthened after boundaries are set because the spouse begins to miss the relationship.

Will some people abandon or attack us for having boundaries? Yes. But, it’s better to learn about their character and take steps to fix the problem than never to know in the first place.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Why Your ‘Friend’ may not be a Safe Person for You

by Henry Cloud

I received a message from an answering service one evening, and it told me that one of my clients was suicidal. I called Theresa on the phone. She was distraught.

“Tell me what happened,” I said.

“It’s not going to work, “ Theresa replied, sobbing.

“What isn’t going to work?”

“Telling other people about my problems,” she said. “I was talking to one of my friends tonight and told them about my depression and the problems with my boyfriend, and she really came down on me for being depressed and all the other stuff that’s been going on.”

“What was said?”

“Well, she said that I shouldn’t feel the way that I do, and that if I was still having all these problems, then I was filled with too much negativity and that I bring everything on myself. I’ve tried all this ‘safe relationship’ stuff, and I’ve shared my feelings, and it just doesn’t work.”

“What if I told you that you still haven’t found safe relationships?”

“What do you mean? This is supposed to be my friend. I’ve known her for a long time.”

“Well, a ‘friend’ isn’t always safe,” I told her. “Safe is defined by helpful, and it doesn’t sound like tonight was too helpful.”

“How do you know what a helpful relationship looks like?” she asked.

“That’s a good question,” I said. “Let’s talk about that.

We value friendship. We believe that friendship is one of the most powerful tools we have in our lives to change and heal character. In relationships with others, we are healed, and our character is changed. We know several people who have developed a support system of restorative friendships that have been of enormous help.

Friends give us what we need in the areas of acceptance, support, discipline, modeling and a host of other relational ingredients that provide change. But in picking good friendships that produce growth, several qualities are important:

  • Acceptance and grace
  • Mutual struggles, although they don’t have to be the same ones
  • Loving connection
  • Both parties need other support systems as well to avoid the same kind of toxic dependency on each other that led to the problems
  • Familiarity with the growth process where both parties have “entered in” and have some knowledge of the process so as to avoid the blind leading the blind
  • Mutual interest and chemistry, a genuine liking
  • An absence of keeping score
  • Honest and realistic
  • An absence of controlling behavior

Friendships of this kind are an absolute must for our personal growth. There are many good people out there, and to find them, make sure that you use discernment, wisdom and information to trust your experience with others. If someone is destructive or toxic, be careful. Keep looking and seeking until you find safe people, those who will give you all the benefits that are in store for your future.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: What’s My Attachment Style and Why Does It Matter?

by Sharon Martin, LCSW

If you’re in an unhappy relationship, feel stuck in a pattern of failed relationships, or can’t seem to find Mr. (or Ms.) Right, your attachment style may be the reason.

We all learn about human relationships from our first relationships – those with our parents or primary caregivers. Understanding your attachment style can help you get to the root of your relationship troubles.

Ideally, parents provide security and safety and children learn to trust that their parents will meet their needs. Parents provide comfort and help calm their children when they’re upset or afraid. As a result, children form a bond with their parents that builds a secure emotional foundation. Children can then confidently explore the world knowing their parents will keep them safe.

We know that humans are meant to connect to and depend on each other. Our survival hinges on it! Depending on others is healthy even in adult relationships. We are more successful and happy when we can form healthy, trusting attachments to other humans.

“We don’t have to do it all alone. We were never meant to.” – Brene Brown

There are three primary attachment styles: secure, avoidant, and anxious. I have described each attachment style below.

Secure Attachment

  • You had your needs met as a child. Your caregivers were attentive and responsive to your needs helping you to feel safe and cared for.
  • You feel comfortable being close and emotionally intimate.
  • You seek and maintain close, stable relationships.
  • You feel comfortable expressing your feelings and needs.

Avoidant Attachment

  • Your caregivers were probably distant, cold, or unresponsive. As a result, you became more independent and self-reliant, not wanting to depend on inconsistent people.
  • Close relationships tend to feel smothering and like they’re impeding your independence.
  • You pull away from intimacy when it feels too intense.
  • You need a lot of time to yourself.
  • You may resist commitment.

Anxious Attachment

  • Your caregivers were inconsistent in attending to your needs. As a result, you hold on tight in order to try to get your needs met.
  • You crave intimacy and can never get enough closeness.
  • You question whether you’re partner really loves you or whether you’re lovable and seek frequent reassurance.
  • An anxious attachment can be described as “needy” or “clingy.”
  • You desperately seek security and attention from your partner, but this can push him/her away.

Why does my attachment style matter?

Attachment theory originated with work of John Bowlby, who studied mothers and infants, but we now recognize that our attachment style is still at play in our adult romantic relationships. The parent-child attachment sets the stage for our ability to trust that our adult partners will meet our emotional needs.

Our attachment style becomes a blueprint for the rest of our intimate relationships. Our attachment style impacts our choice of romantic partners and how we relate to them. We replay these attachment patterns over and over with new people as a way to find evidence for our beliefs about ourselves. This is why people often feel stuck in the same kinds of relationship patterns. For example, many anxiously attached people date or marry avoidants who can never seem to give them enough closeness and reassurance. This confirms the anxiously attached person’s fears of abandonment and belief that s/he is flawed or unlovable.

Understanding your attachment style is useful not only because it gives you insights into your relationship with your parents and how you felt as a child, but it can also help you understand difficulties you have in your adult relationships. Ultimately, understanding your attachment style can help you figure out how you can change in order to have more fulfilling relationships. In other words, having a healthy relationship is about choosing the “right” partner and about developing a healthy, secure attachment.

How can I become more securely attached?

Although attachment patterns are well established, you can shift toward a more secure attachment style by learning new skills and practicing a lot.

A few ways to start changing your attachment style are:

  • Notice your relationship patterns. Becoming more aware of your anxious or avoidant behaviors is the first step in change.
  • Pay attention to what you need and how you feel.
  • Share your feelings with your partner.
  • Recognize cognitive distortions and challenge them.
  • Communicate your relationship needs and expectations clearly to your partner.
  • Take good care of yourself.
  • Do things that make you feel good about yourself; acknowledge your strengths and successes.
  • Work with a therapist (shifting your attachment style is hard work).
  • Spend time with people who model healthy relationships.

I hope this post has shed a bit of light on understanding your attachment style and how it influences your adult relationships. For additional information, I recommend the book Attached by Amir Levine and Rachel Heller. As always, be patient and gentle with yourself as you challenge yourself to change.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 14 Things To Know Before Dating An ENFP

by Michelle Dierker

1. We are naturally enthusiastic and curious.

I recently spent some time with a friend I knew growing up, who I haven’t seen much socially for many years. While we were out exploring a city that is still new-ish to me, she said. “I forgot just how curious you are. You haven’t changed much.” Curiosity and enthusiasm are one of the things we are probably most known for.

ENFPs have a genuine excitement for life and are full of natural curiosity about the world and the people in it. I have met older ENFPs who easily appear 20 years younger because of the zeal that they continue to have for life. It is one of the things that stands out most about our type and something that we value most about ourselves. We are fascinated by so many things. We are also easily amused.

How to love this part of us: Engage us in new thoughts or ideas. Engaging our minds is one of the quickest ways to really connect with us. Tell us what things you are currently wondering or thinking about and ask us the same thing. Throw scenarios our way or challenge us with new information. Knowledge is power and we love people who help us grow.

2. We like to take care of others, but struggle to be taken care of ourselves.

But please do it anyway.

We are seekers of people. We love them and when we connect with someone, we are often the first to go out of our way to initiate conversations, check in to see how their day/week has been, and make sure they are doing okay. We feel fulfilled when the people in our daily lives are happy and we try to find ways that we can add to that. The truth is though, we are often on the giving end of those things. Sometimes we need to be taken care of, but we will never ask you to do it. We hate asking for help. This can end up being a really lonely place for ENFPs to be.

How to love this part of us: Few things make me feel more special than knowing when someone is thinking of me or goes out of their way to help me or check in on me. Make it a point to make contact with us. Texts, small handwritten notes, or unexpected pop-ins (although not always welcomed at home) are all acceptable forms of checking in on us. We think so often of others, that we will notice when the cards are reversed.

3. We really, truly are not flirting with the waiter.

It will hurt us if you make the insinuation that we are. ENFPs are constantly accused of flirting (with everyone), and while it’s true that most people will never have as much love and attention thrown their way by others as ENFPs often lavish, it really is only our curiosity that pushes us to engage in and interact with others as forcefully as we sometimes do.

How to love this part of us: Accept the fact that your world has collided with someone who absolutely loves people and shows genuine interest in just about everyone. But also know that our loyalties run deep, and if we have chosen you, we will invest in you fully. ENFPs are very much all or nothing types. If we’re not fully invested in you, you’ll know it.

4. We have layers.

And lots of them. It will take us quite a bit of time (and some gentle prodding) to actually open up to you. This is probably one of the most surprising things about ENFPs. While we come off as being incredibly warm and open, we can actually be very private. We rarely share personal things about ourselves with others. This is a juxtaposition of sorts, because what we crave most are meaningful conversations and interactions. The clincher is that while we want to know ALL about you, we will often hold back in sharing much about who we are and what we need from the people we do life with. Growing up and even today, I’ve often felt that many people feel closer to me than I do to them. There is nothing wrong with that, however, it’s important to know that while we are external processors, we are internal feelers.

There is a lot going on in my heart and mind on an ongoing basis that I might never feel that I am able to process externally with someone I love, unless they ask the right questions. There are very (very) few people who know me deeply, and those who do have really taken the time to invest in me. If you take any time to observe an ENFP, you will notice that they are usually focused on other people.

How to love this part of us: Love us through the layers. Ask open ended questions to encourage us to dive deeper with you. And realize that if we are volunteering personal bits of information with you, it’s a big deal.

5. We need time to process and we’re probably going to do it out loud.

ENFPs are external processors. What this means for the people who share space with us is that we are often coming to revelations about things while we are speaking. Unfortunately, this also means that half the time that we are talking, it can seem nonsensical, because our brains don’t do the whole, “processing and compartmentalizing what is share worthy and what is not” thing. I have about 18 conversations a day when I immediately regret the words coming out of my mouth because my brain just hasn’t caught up yet. Luckily, for mature ENFPs this isn’t usually too much of a problem, however, it does mean that our thoughts often seem scattered.

How to love this part of us: Listen. Have patience for our whimsical way of sharing what is going on in our minds and understand that just because we might be venting, problem solving, or thinking out loud, it doesn’t necessarily mean we want you to fix anything for us. Be understanding of how we process and don’t judge us for the lackluster way that our thoughts can sometimes come together. Some of the people I have felt the safest with in life have been those that I can sit beside and think out loud with. It is one of the ways we make sense of life and having someone willing and unassuming enough to help us by listening to us process is gold.

6. Verbal praise is everything.

This is a hard one to admit, but it’s true of every ENFP I’ve ever known. We are over-analyzers and we know that we have big personalities. Because of this, we have a tendency to feel insecure in relationships if we aren’t told exactly where we stand or how you feel about us. I often feel like I am just too much for people and since I was young I have always wondered if I’m encroaching on people’s space, just by how I love them. Human connection is something ENFPs thrive off of and it is something we not only crave, but something we need to feel balanced. We need to know that you see us and appreciate us. ENFPs are people who need verbal praise often, especially from the people we care about. We need to know where we stand with you.

How to love this part of us: This is a difficult one to write about without seeming really needy. This is an area where we have the potential to feel the most loved, if your comments are sincere. I guess the best way to love us in this respect is to be cognizant of the fact that this really is a consistent need of ours. Be specific in your praise and tell us when we do something that makes you grateful or proud. And remember that just because you told us on Monday how much you appreciate us, doesn’t mean we won’t need our tank filled again by Friday.

7. Go with the flow.

An ENFP friend of mine recently got out of a long relationship where the deal breaker was the difference in which she and her partner approached the speed of life. He was too regimented and she was too free and they had a tough time meeting in the middle. ENFPs go with the flow of life. We like not knowing where a day might lead us or what adventures we might find along the way. We don’t mind making plans but we don’t always feel like we need to stick to them. As my mother would say, sometimes we just like to “fly by the seat of our pants.”

How to love this part of us: Keep us on our toes. Be willing to go into a weekend or a vacation without having a schedule and surprise us by your willingness to seek out new experiences with us.

8. We crave consistency.

Luckily for my friend, our natural relationship partners (in life and in friendship) often tend to be INTJs or INFJs. Some of this probably stems from the steadiness we find in those types. ENFPs have a tendency to be all over the place, but once you really learn our patterns, we are actually very predictable. Still, we are idea people who often have our heads stuck in the clouds. We need the gentle grounding of a person who is reasonable, steadfast, loyal, and dependable. Hot and cold personalities are among the hardest people for us to connect with because we never really know what to expect or know where we stand with them. If you are warm and friendly one minute and cold the next, we will take it personally.

How to love this part of us: Be consistent, especially in your interactions with us. Because we don’t open up to everyone, if you are in our inner circle, we will likely desire contact with you on a routine basis. Knowing that we are an important part of your life validates our relationship and helps us know what to expect from you. I have often joked about this before, but it’s true: there is nothing more charming to me than reliability.

9. Be willing to engage in parallel play.

Parallel play is known as the stage in development when small children play beside another child without engaging with them directly. ENFPs are the most introverted of the extroverted types. Being so, we crave time alone to think, process, regroup, and reflect on current happenings and wonderings. While we love people, we can become easily overwhelmed or overstimulated and need quiet time to re-energize. Especially at the end of a long day, there are few things that I love more than being beside someone who allows me to just be. My old coworker, Kathi, and I used to parallel play our way through report card comments, weekly planning, printing/filing/stapling, and so much more. Being in the presence of someone we love, even if we aren’t talking, is comforting for us.

How to love this part of us: Spend a Saturday curled up on the couch reading with us or in a coffee shop writing or getting work done. We crave time alone with the people we really love and quietly sitting in your presence will be a good balance of giving us time to regroup while also helping us to feel like we aren’t alone.

10. Don’t put us in a box.

ENFPs need room to grow. More than most types, we see life as a journey and believe we are (and should be) constantly evolving through it. We are very quickly drawn to new adventures and ideas and while we do sometimes need to be pulled back down from the clouds, we also really value people who understand our need for consistent growth and new experiences. We see them as opportunities to learn more about ourselves.

How to love this part of us: Encourage our personal growth and hair brained ideas. Find opportunities to help us try new things. Sometimes we do need to snapped back to reality, but learn us well enough to know when to gently tug us back to earth and when to encourage us to spread our wings and fly.

11. Include us in your adventures.

We love seeing the world through the eyes of people we love. If there is something you love doing, take us along on the journey. It will help us to feel like we are seeing another side to you and we might also learn something about ourselves along the way.

How to love this part of us: While this is really more about you than it is about us, anytime we feel like a person has opened up a piece of themselves to us, we take that seriously. Being trusted with another person’s dreams and adventures makes us feel like we are an important part of your life.

12. Criticize lightly.

ENFPs throw our entire selves into life. We try to live rather than exist, so 95% of the time we pour our whole hearts into our work, relationships, art, hobbies, etc. We have a very difficult time separating who we are as a person from who we are professionally or who we are in a relationship. Despite how long I’ve been alive or how much I’ve tried to train myself otherwise, I will always be a little bit sensitive to criticism.

How to love this part of us: Be gentle. We really do want to be the best version we can be of ourselves and the only way of doing that sometimes is to know what we can do better. Don’t avoid confrontation with us. We are likely to do enough of that all by ourselves. Instead, choose your words kindly and come at us from a point of love. If we know that your aim is to better us or our relationship, we will really try to take it in stride. And if we’ve hurt you, please tell us.

13. Inspire us.

I have never been drawn to someone I wasn’t inspired by. I also couldn’t ever be in a relationship with someone who wasn’t passionate about what they do. The ability to inspire is probably one of the things I appreciate most in others. It is the kind of person I hope to be and so I seek the same in the people I hold in my inner circle.

How to love this part of us: Share your ideas with us. ENFPs are types who often fall in love with a person’s mind. We want to encourage growth in you as much as we want you to help us grow. By sharing your dreams with us, we will know how to support you in not only your future plans, but also in your every day life.

14. Be a safe place for us.

The world is noisy, and we are often adding our own form of noise to it. At the end of the day, security is everything for us. We need to know that we have a retreat or escape from the rest of the world when things seem just a little bit chaotic or on days when we feel too much. Knowing that we are a safe place for you to land is equally important to us.

How to love this part of us: Encourage us. Affirm us. Trust us. Believe in us.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 12 characteristics of a healthy relationship:

by Sharon Martin LCSW

  1. Nurturing and loving. The most basic characteristic of a good relationship is that it’s loving. There is a feeling of being cared for deeply in words and actions. Your partner says kind things. S/he intentionally does things to comfort you, show appreciation and affection.
  2. Honest. In healthy relationships people tell the truth. They don’t keep secrets or lie by omission. The goal is transparency, rather than deception.
  3. Accepts you as you are. I’m sure you’ve heard that it’s a bad idea to get into a relationship with the expectation that you will change someone. Whether it’s a big issue like drug use or a small issue like dirty dishes in the sink, you will be frustrated (or worse) if you’re expecting your partner to change his/her ways. Yes, people can and do change. But they have to want to change. You can’t make your partner change no matter how much you love him/her.
  4. Respectful. Mutual respect means you consider someone else’s feelings and treat them as they want to be treated. When there is respect, you don’t feel pressured or manipulated. You are accepted and treated with kindness. Your partner listens and values your point of view.
  5. A team effort. You should feel like you and your partner are working together. You have shared goals. You don’t undermine, compete or try to “win”. You support each other as a unit and as individuals.
  6. Safe physically and emotionally. You can relax around your partner. You know s/he’s “got your back”. You aren’t afraid of being hit, forced to do something you don’t want to do, manipulated, yelled at, belittled or shamed.
  7. Vulnerable. Safety allows vulnerability and vulnerability allows deep connection. You feel safe to share your dreams and confessions without fear of judgment.
  8. Supportive of your individuality. Healthy attachment allows partners to go safely and confidently into the world to set and achieve individual goals. You can have time to yourself. Your partner will encourage you, be proud of you and show interest in your personal goals and hobbies.
  9. Shared expectations. Time and again I find that differing expectations end up with one person being disappointed. I’m a big believer in having realistic expectations and for couples to have similar expectations. Expectations can include everything from how often you have sex, how you celebrate holidays, how much time you spend together, or how household chores are divided. If you’re on different pages, you need to negotiate and compromise until you reached shared expectations.
  10. Forgiving. Hurt and misunderstanding are also a part of being in relationship with someone. You should be able to forgive (not forget) when there is genuine remorse and behavior change. Without forgiveness, toxic resentment and pain will grow and eventually suffocate a relationship.
  11. Addresses conflict and hurt. Communication is really important. Talking is easy when things are good, but it’s even more important to be able to address conflicts and hurts. In a healthy relationship there is a mechanism to air grievances, talk about hurt, and disagree in a respectful way. Conflicts are resolved not simply avoided.
  12. Fun and playful. Yes, relationships take work, but they should also be fun. Why be in a relationship if you don’t enjoy each other’s company, laugh together, and have a good time?

Find the original post here.

Reblog: Practice Diplomacy

by Melody Beattie

Taking care of ourselves doesn’t give us the right to be mean. Just because we’re telling the truth, we don’t need to tear people apart. Sometimes when we start to own our power after years—maybe a lifetime—of being timid and weak, we become overly aggressive trying to get our point across.

We can be honest with other people without being mean. We can be diplomatic in whatever we need to say, at least most of the time. And we usually don’t have to scream and shout.

I’ve learned a little trick along the way. The weaker and more vulnerable I feel, the more I holler and the meaner I react. The more truly powerful, clear, and centered I am, the quieter, gentler, and more loving I speak.

The next time you feel threatened or start to scream and yell, stop yourself. Take a deep breath. Deliberately speak more softly than you normally would.

You can speak softly and still carry a great big stick.

God, help me be a diplomat. Teach me how to own my power in a gentle, peaceful way.

Find the original posting here.