Reblog: How Do You Process Your Feelings After a Divorce?

By Dr. Henry Cloud

Divorce is, be definition, a loss. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for divorce speaks of “cutting or severing a bond.” Something has been lost. The loss is real, genuine, and deep, and it must be grieved.

Grief is accepting the reality of what is. It is internalizing the reality of the severing of the marriage bond on both the intellectual and emotional levels of the heart. That is grief’s job and purpose – to allow us to come to terms with the way things really are, so that we can move on. Grief is a gift. Without it, we would all be condemned to a life of continually denying reality, arguing or protesting against reality, and never growing from the realities we experience.

When you allow yourself to embrace the sadness and shed the tears for what you have truly lost through divorce, then you can move on to a new phase of life when grief tells you it is time. It is important to note that those who have not fully grieved the losses of their divorce are in jeopardy of either never getting over it or repeating it. When I am speaking to groups of divorced people, I often talk about this in terms of dating. I tell them, “When someone you are seeing tells you that divorce wasn’t that hard on them, and they really didn’t have a difficult time with it, burn rubber out of the driveway of that house.” A person who hasn’t grieved a significant loss has unfinished business inside and can cause others great grief as a result.

What does it mean to embrace grief in divorce? It means many things, including:

  • Allowing a painful feeling to come and go, without prohibiting them.
  • Reaching out to others to comfort and support you through this, rather than going it alone.
  • Putting an end to the protests and arguments in your head about how it shouldn’t have happened, or whose fault it was or was not.

Grief doesn’t allow us to be right, strong, and in control. Grief basically says, “You loved, and you lost. It hurts.” Yet, on the other side are safe people to catch, hold and restore us.

One of the most difficult yet important tasks in grief in divorce is that of remembering and experiencing value for the loved one. Let yourself feel the love you still may bear for your former spouse, the positive emotions you have, your desires for togetherness, your appreciation for that person’s good traits and characteristics. Most people who are trying to get past divorce don’t recognize the importance of this, thinking instead that they need to be aware of the other person’s faults, sins and mistakes. Sometimes they do this out of a desire for revenge; other times it is a reaction against the need they feel for the person, which causes the fear to get hooked back in. Sometimes they do this as a way to complete the letting-go process.

Yet grief does not work this way. When you let go of a love, you are to let go of the whole person: good and bad, weaknesses and strengths, positives and negatives. When we allow only the negative feelings, we then let go only of the person we dislike, which is just a part of the whole individual. We won’t grieve the other part, the person we still love and want, and with whom we have in our memories a repository of good experiences. That person is still in our present world, still active within our heart, and causing all sorts of difficulties. Let go of the desire to see only the bad, and allow yourself to appreciate and let go of the good person you are leaving. This is the key to freedom beyond grief in divorce.

Find the original article here.

Advertisements

Reblog: The Ingredients that Fuel Healthy Intimacy

By Dr. Henry Cloud

A healthy sex life begins with love. Love brings a couple together and allows sex to flourish. Love encompasses sex; it’s larger than sex. Love can create the desire for sex, but when the passion of sex is over, love remains. It continues and is present with the couple, holding them close to each other and to the Author of love himself.

A large part of sexual love is knowing, and sexual love is about knowing your spouse, personally and intimately. That means you should know your partner’s feelings, fears, secrets, hurts, and dreams, and care about them – and likewise, your partner should know and care about yours.

The vulnerability of sex increases that base of knowing, as husband and wife reveal their innermost souls to each other through sexual love. By its unveiling and exposed nature, sex demands that sort of openness. In sexual intimacy two people show each other the privacy of their bodies as well as the privacy of their hearts and feelings.

Love involves the whole person: heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love and sex both require an emotional connection between two people; both should be emotionally present and available. When two people can attach to each other in their hearts, a healthy sex life will emerge and develop. Yet when a couple lacks this kind of intimacy, their sex life will become atrophied because it cannot feed off the emotional connection. This can happen in several ways. Sometimes one mate will withdraw love out of anger, hurt, or a desire to punish the other. Other times one will be unable to take in or receive the other’s love. Still other times one mate has an inability to live emotionally in the world. Both people’s hearts must be available in order to connect emotionally. If this is not the case, while sex can occur, it more often than not does not have enough fuel to be ignited.

It’s also true that love, and healthy sexuality, cannot exist without trust. Because sex is such a symbol of personal exposure and vulnerability, a healthy sex life requires that couples develop a great deal of trust in each other, trust that the other person will not use what he or she knows to hurt the other person. When people trust each other, they feel free to continue their explorations of one another at deeper and deeper levels. In fact, one of the Hebrew words for trust also means “careless.” In other words, when you trust someone, you are careless with him or her. You are not anxious and fearful, editing what you say and feel. You are free to be yourself with the other person, because you can trust that he or she will not do wrong by you.

Love also changes our focus. It shifts our perspective from an emphasis on “I” to a focus on “we.” That is, in love, the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts. It is not self-seeking; it is relationship-seeking. That’s why couples don’t talk about building their lives together. They discuss and dream about building a life together. There is a continual emphasis on how “we” are and on caring for the other person’s welfare, and when that happens, we can give ourselves to our significant other in vulnerable, yet, fulfilling ways.

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: Don’t Marry Your Future Ex-Husband

by Harriet Lerner PhD

Choosing a life partner is one of the most important decisions we’ll ever make, so chose wisely.

First, consider the top five reasons that wise women sometimes make foolish choices.

1. Timing.  We’re most prone to fall mindlessly in love at difficult emotional junctures—on the heels of a breakup, divorce, or death of a family member, for example.

2. Steamy starts. The rush of romance and sexual attraction can act like a drug, and blur our capacity for clear thinking.  When we get obsessed with a guy we confuse intensity with intimacy.  In fact, intensity blocks us from taking an objective look at our partner, ourselves, and the relationship.

3. Idealization. We’re convinced he’s so brilliant and special, that we put him above us.  Perhaps he has a gift we don’t possess, for example he can fix your computer,  has a photographic memory, and can conjugate Latin verbs.  Discerning his strengths and weaknesses is part of knowing him better, but an idealized view leads us to undervalue our own worth and ignore his shortcomings. We’ll make excuses for negative traits, qualities and behaviors because he’s “so brilliant.”

4.  Desperation and fear. Your two best friends just got married, you’re about to turn forty, and someone reminds you that your biological clock is ticking.Your anxious brainwakes you at 3:00 in the morning with scary pictures of your future without a mate. Fear has never helped anybody make good choices. It leads to clinging when we should be walking.

5.  Lack of Self-Focus:  You’re looking for someone to fill up your empty bucket, give you some kind of direction, or provide meaning in your life.  Poor choices happen when we’re not putting our primary energy into having our own life plan and figuring out how to live our own life (not someone else’s) as well as possible.

Here are six tips to give you the best chance of making wise choices.

*Slow things down and get to know him as well as possible.   

*Don’t insulate your relationship with him from other important relationships, even if he says he wants to spend time only with you.  You won’t really know him if you don’t make sure to observe him among both your friends and family and his.

*Keep your primary focus on your own goals and life plan, which will put you on firmest footing whatever happens with a particular guy.

*Don’t silence your voice or avoid conflict in order to preserve relationship harmony. Get out sooner rather than later if there is a big red flag waving in your face. 

*Don’t count on the quality of your love or nagging to create things in the future that aren’t there to begin with.

 *Never forget that there are many possibilities for intimacy and connection other than pairing up.

find original article here.

Reblog: Why You Don’t Need Your Parents’ Approval as an Adult

By Dr. Henry Cloud

Ben was 30 years old when I met him. He came into my office burdened by the opinions of what his parents thought of his life choices. It sounds crass on the surface, but one of the first things I told him to do was to “grow up and get a life.” But the problem with this common phrase is that there is great difficulty in the process, so let’s look at both sides: growing up and getting a life.

Your symptom, feeling like you give too much weight to your parents’ opinion, is a sign that some growing up has not happened. And while you feel like you always have to honor your parents, you don’t always have to obey them. If you’re still in the child position, then that is getting in the way of how you were meant to live your life. So, we have to look at two reasons for still remaining in the child position: not growing up, and not having a life.

Some people stay in the child position with parents because they are either unable to “grow up,” or they are unwilling. Inability to get out of the child role and still want parental approval involves the process of needing something from your parents that you did not get. When there is something you are still looking for like love, acceptance, approval, validation or other ingredients that parents are supposed to give children to prepare them to be adults; you can be stuck waiting for them to finally grant you what you never had. You never really leave and become an adult because you are still waiting for “something.”

The truth is if it hasn’t happened by now, they are probably not able to give you what you want anyway. You have to get those things from the people you surrounded yourself with. If you are still waiting for your parents to give you something they cannot give, then it is time to grieve that and get on with growing up.

The next part, “to get a life,” involves taking control of your actions and your feelings, because you were created to have a fulfilling life that belongs to you and only you. If your parents still have that much power, then you are in the child position, still dreaming of one day having a life instead of getting one. Children dream of what they will one day be or do, and adults go for it.

The hard work is this – stepping out of the security of the child position, (where the biggest risk one ever faces is the disapproval of other mere mortals) – and into the risk of living life as it has been given you (where bigger things are at stake than someone’s approval). At stake is the ultimate wager – will what you do with your talents, abilities, opportunities and resources mean more to you than what your parents think?

find the original post 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: Who is Responsible For My Patterns?

by Henry Cloud

We hear much today about dysfunctional father problems. Many women note their poor choices in boyfriends and husbands, or they may develop depression anxiety or compulsive disorders and make the connection that they had a problem father. They recall absent, distant, critical, abusive, weak, or scary dads. They are relieved that their present struggles have a past pattern that now makes sense to them, and they begin working on their “father issues.”

It has helped women to realize the reasons for their problems and provides a root to the issue that much of their current pain has to do with a past relationship. In addition, we have made a lot of progress in unearthing the father issues for people, looking at all the damage dads can do and discovering how to recover from those injuries.

However, some of this thinking oversimplifies and confuses important issues. For example, picking bad men isn’t always due to having a bad dad, and having a distant father doesn’t always create depression. We must investigate more deeply than this. Many women who grew up with absent fathers also had mothers who were both nurturing and assertive. Mom took responsibility for both mothering and fathering needs and made sure her daughter grew up in a relationship with several safe men who could help in her character growth. These women may have grown up technically fatherless, but they still received all the “good stuff” they needed.

Some believe that all attachment problems are mom problems and that all aggression problems are dad problems. So the logic goes, if a woman has a hard time setting limits and being her own person, it’s because of fathering issues. This is true, but incompletely so. Moms also have a lot to do with childhood assertiveness, and dads are able to teach tenderness. In fact, as children we generally learn our first no, our first independent steps, and our first identity moves from none other than mom. Mother issues of assertiveness occur years earlier than dad issues, which are a secondary process.

Kristin, for example, knew she was picking the wrong men. She found herself in her mid-thirties, leaving a second marriage, and then quickly getting involved with yet another man. The men she chose all tended to be strong, self-assured, and in control. Yet when she committed to them, their self-control would quickly turn into Kristin-control.

When she talked to a friend about her destructive pattern, he said, “You had a distant dad, and you’re looking for his strength and protection in the arms of a husband.” That sounded logical. Kristin’s mother had been quiet and nurturing, so as far as she could tell, Mom wasn’t the issue. Kristin began working on the loss of her father. Yet after all her work, Kristin still found herself attracted to controlling men. It was only when she began seeing a therapist who recognized the deeper “mom” issue, that Kristin could truly begin to change.

The reality of Kristin’s background was worse than she thought: Mom’s quiet nurture disguised a passivity and lack of identity in Mom herself. So Mother failed to lead her daughter through the separating, individualizing, and assertion training that Kristin needed. She taught Kristin to be sweet, passive, independent, but not to strike out on her own. As little girls do, Kristin then reached out for Dad, to repair what Mom couldn’t. But he wasn’t there either. Thus begun the eternal search for the Knight and Shining Armor. The truth was, underneath the armored helmet was the face of a structure-building, assertive mother. Kristin had unknowingly disguised mother issues as father ones.

Like Kristin, you may think you “man” problems are “dad” problems. They may be, but keep in mind the possibility that two dynamics are in play here: the mother who couldn’t let go and the father who couldn’t make his little girl feel special. They tend to occur simultaneously.

Find the original article here.

Reblog: Dr. Laura: 9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting Too Far Into a Relationship

  1. How well do I know them? Meeting the parents seems to be the last thing people do when dating. However, it should be one of the first. Observing someone in their “natural habitat” gives you a big impression of how your future with them might look. What is their family like? What kind of upbringing did they have?

  2. Can I trust them? If they share your private conversations with anybody, walk away. Don’t have an argument about it or give them a second chance. If they aren’t going to protect your innermost thoughts, drop them.

  3. Do I see how they are changing me? No matter who you’re dating, you’re going to be influenced by that person to some degree. Are they trying to get you to start or stop doing something?

  4. How do we communicate? Do you feel intimidated to talk or be open? Do you give them all the power because it’s easier than arguing?

  5. Am I attracted to their character or just their body? It’s easy to be attracted to someone who is a babe, but are you attracted to their heart, values, beliefs, and worldview? When you add up all the time you spend in a relationship, sex is only a tiny percentage. You have to be able to connect in other ways.

  6. Are they accepting of who I am? The most mature and loving people love you for who you are. If, while dating, they are already trying to change how you dress, talk, or eat, they are not ready for a relationship. And if you go along with it, you aren’t ready for a relationship either.

  7. How do they treat other people? Pay particular attention to how they treat people they say they care about.

  8. Do they make an effort to put my needs first? Relationships are give and take. If someone never gives, throws temper tantrums, displays outbursts of rage, or tries to control you, you need to watch out.

  9. Are their hopes and dreams for the future compatible with mine? This one is self-explanatory.

Find the original post here.

Reblog: 7 Signs of a Doomed Relationship

by Henry Cloud

If you have read Dr. Henry Cloud’s book Never Go Back, I will assume that you started with the first chapter. That chapter may or may not have been loosely based on an amalgamation of my failed relationships. I would see the 7 signs of a doomed relationship, sometimes more than 7, and instead of running away, I would run full speed into their closed arms.

Through all of my doomed relationships, I slowly started to figure out some of the signs that let me know that this was not my person. These signs are listed below in no particular order.

1. First and foremost, more than anything…you should feel safe. Safe expressing who you truly are, your mistakes and your triumphs. Every little thing that you have experienced has made you the person you are today and while some of this may not always be pretty to discuss, it made you, and the person you’re with will embrace your ups and not shame you for your downs.

2. It should never feel like a game. When someone is truly into you, and wants to pursue you and make you a part of their life….they don’t play games. They greet you with intention. They truly won’t wait an entire day/days to return a text message. When people are serious about you, you will feel like a priority. Whether you have been dating 7 days, 7 months or 7 years… relationships take effort and work, and when someone is genuinely interested in you, they will make it a point to make sure you know.

3. This ties into feeling safe, but the person you are with should not try and change you. I truly feel that you should feel accepted for who you are…but the caveat here, is that the person you’re with should help you grow. We all have areas that we can improve upon in life and relationship and I think there is a difference between changing for someone and growing with someone, I think it’s important to be aware of which one is happening in your relationship.

4. You try and make up for things that are missing. This was a mistake that I repeatedly made. I dated many people that looked so good on paper, and that I theoretically should like, or tried to like because all my friends and family loved this person. So, you try and convince yourself that it’s right. If something feels like it’s missing in your relationship, that feeling will never dissipate, it will just continue to grow. Don’t ignore it.

5. If you are starting to look outside your relationship to fulfill things that you feel are missing, it’s definitely time to reevaluate.

6. Relationships should progress. They are ever evolving and moving forward. Whether this is meeting friends and family, or planning trips together or future plans together. While relationships are very much about the present and what you are experiencing in the moment, they are also about the kind of future you see together, and not just talking about it but actively working towards something and bringing it to fruition.

7. Last but not least, and probably what I have personally used for a barometer more than anything, does this person make me feel crazy or are they a calming presence. We all have moments where we feel like we are losing our minds. Especially in relationship, because love can make us all crazy. Find someone who quiets your crazy not adds fuel to it.

Find the original article 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.