How To Start The Conversation Of Future Planning Ep 49

How To Start The Conversation Of Future Planning | Relationship Coach

Welcome back to another week where we are doing the work of digging in and building a marriage that we love and this week I have a special episode to help you start the conversation of future planning in your marriage.

To be 100% vulnerable, I came up with the topic for this class in the MIDDLE of a conversation I started during a Saturday coffee with my husband. One of the things I had been focusing on in my marriage the last half of 2021 was examining why I wasn’t opening up and doing some of the things I wanted to do in my marriage and challenging myself to do it anyway.  

For me, one of the things that I had been yearning to do for years, was do a better job of mapping out our future and asking questions, being curious and openly dreaming together, which we often did but that is where it ended, they were just “options” of what our future could look like. What I know now is that dreams are just wishes and that just talking about them was not creating anything concrete. Last year I started taking my desires into my own hands and invited Jeff to come along, sometimes he did and sometimes he didn’t but when I look back we created some fun time together. Activities that I had previously held back on because I was letting myself believe a story that they weren’t important.

What I realized is that I was expecting Jeff to take the lead and that sort of got to me because I know that I’m more of the planner, I’m more of the one who holds on the importance of our dreams and that I actually love the planning of things but often I see that I have these thoughts about my plans – that he isn’t interested, that planning is stupid. So instead I started to listen to what I wanted and I started taking steps towards those things and stopped wondering what Jeff was thinking because what I know is that one day in our future he is going to say thank you and of course, even if he doesn’t I will be thanking myself for taking care of my future self.

So prior to our coffee conversation I had been reflecting over my past year and starting to think about what I wanted to create in 2022 in all areas of my life and this had normally been stuff I would keep to myself. I again had thoughts that this wasn’t important, that it was a waste of time, but what I realized is how important it really is BECAUSE I thought it was important! When we actually map out our steps to getting closer to our goals our goals grow because we learn so much along the way AND I wanted to stop thinking about his thoughts! 

So what I want to do today is help you begin this conversation while also learning that these techniques can be applied to any conversation you want to have.

  1. Get you started having conversations that are important to you and help you build shared meaning in your marriage while taking a look at why you aren’t having these conversations
  2. Learn how you are a major influencer in your marriage and that your voice matters
  3. Understand that these conversations don’t need to be long drawn out, heavy discussions
  4. Have you start doing the things that you want to be doing in your marriage

The question I want to ask you is why you are waiting for your spouse to take the directive in any of your conversations? Why are we women always putting our desire for connection and conversation in the hands of our spouses when it is us who want the conversation? We can stick to the story that he’s not starting conversations because he’s not interested or not good at conversation or we can take our desires into our own hands.

Why do we argue with what is happening when we are sitting in silence wishing they would start the conversation already when we could just enjoy the silence or start our own conversation.

The first thing I want to talk about is taking steps – I think that often we have this grand idea of what a process should look like that we get overwhelmed in the details and then we walk away frustrated. What my main goal for you today is to start becoming aware of this conversation that you want to have, to stop waiting for them to read your mind and to create what you want for yourself, even if it feels messy. I don’t want you to get caught up in the details, I want it to be fun for you.

This conversation could look different for all of you – start where you are:

  • IF you are a goal setter and have a process for mapping out your future then the conversation would look a little different than if you don’t do any goal setting but want to.
  • Make it fun and be curious – talk about yourself and what you are discovering about yourself and what you want to create this year in your life and then ask them their thoughts around the things you are thinking about. Ask them questions about what they might want to create for themselves – WITHOUT and agenda around their response – LET THE CONVERSATION BE FUN, just that, a conversation, no right or wrong answers here
  • Remember that if you haven’t had this conversation before or if you have and it hasn’t gone the way you hoped it would that their perspective is different from yours, they may not be in the headspace that you’re in so what if this was a conversation to help them get thinking forward?

If you’re new to goal setting let’s first get you started by thinking about your own life priorities. Take a few minutes to ask yourself some of these questions:

  • Look back at the past year and write down everything that has been going well, all the things you love about your life right now.
  • With these areas of your life you are having success in, what do you think the keys are to this success?
  • Then ask yourself what you think is missing in your life right now and write down things you’d like to improve in your life
  • Now look at what you wrote down and what stands out for you.

Make this simple – you don’t need a whole day brainstorm session, don’t make it difficult, there are no wrong answers here!

You could also take a few minutes to think about a few of your top-life priorities, if you could create one thing in each category at the end of this year what might it be, again, make it simple. Here are a few of the areas of your life you might consider:

  • personal life
  • physical health
  • marital life
  • family life
  • career/business life
  • spiritual life
  • financial life

With each of these consider writing down one goal for the year in one area and then what you will do in the first quarter to reach that goal. If you are new to goal planning start small with steps you can achieve so you build belief in yourself. I love coming up with one main goal with other small ones underneath it so that I have one main thing to focus on all year.

Then I want to encourage you to mark your calendar with two days a month where you will take a few minutes to ask yourself how you are doing with the goals you set for yourself. You can ask your spouse to join you but take the lead here for yourself. You are doing this planning for YOU and are sharing it with your spouse, asking them to join you. Don’t stop doing what you want to do because you perceive them to think it’s ridiculous. After you take time to ask yourself some of the following questions then you have material for another future planning conversation:

  • How are you sticking to your priorities?
  • How are you not sticking to your priorities?
  • How are you feeling about what is working?
  • How will you get better between now and your next check-in date at keeping your priorities at the forefront of your mind?
  • Write down a specific plan/commitment that you are willing to implement over the next two weeks.

First, I want you to realize that if this is new to you that it’s quite likely that you will forget about the things you wrote down as priorities – no big deal. You might even forget to do your check-ins until months later, that’s ok too. You are developing new patterns and it might take a bit of investigating to figure out what works. Again, there is no right or wrong here, just get started and learn what works for you. Then I want you to share all of your discoveries with your partner – YOU are planning the time, the conversation, it doesn’t mean that you have to set a date with your spouse though you may choose to. You don’t have to say “I want to talk about our future planning on Saturday evening,” though depending on where you are on the future planning spectrum, you might so that if they want, they can start thinking about things they want to talk about. Otherwise, it’s just you starting a conversation about how your goal planning is going and asking some conversation-starting questions to get them thinking about what they want to create.

The exercise is an exercise in stepping out of your comfort zone and starting to talk about things that matter to you.

This here is the work we do in AwakenYou in your marriage, my 1:1 coaching program. We start with ourselves, taking a look at the things we want in our marriage and then looking at how we’re waiting for our partners to take the lead in what we think is important in our own lives. What we learn how to do is take our own life into our own hands and start providing what we want for ourselves so that we can live the life and marriage of our dreams.


I am a life coach who works with individuals to break down relationship barriers by awakening their true selves. My process isn’t about changing your partner; it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage. If you’re ready to take your life and your love relationship to the next level, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s decide together if this is your next step to creating the life you’ve been dreaming of.

Is Contempt Killing Your Marriage? Ep 48

Is Contempt Killing Your Marriage?| Relationship Coach

Hello AwakenYou listeners! Before we jump into today’s topic, I want to share a few things that will be happening here in this community of people yearning for something different in their marriage as we dive into 2022. Starting this week and every second Thursday of the month this year, I will be teaching a class to help inspire you with ideas of ways to create more of what you want in your marriage. This month we will talk about how to start talking about your future together and what you both want to create this year, a perfect complement to the work you may be doing around goal planning. Secondly, after running my beta six-week Marital Magic course, I will be offering it five times this year, and the first one kicks off the first week of February. This course is a fun way to get started on the process of working on your marriage with a group of others who have similar goals to see how coaching helps you overcome the obstacles that are in the way of creating what you want in your marriage. And of course, the Cadillac of all of my offerings are to work with me one-on-one in my AwakenYou six month program where we get serious about doing the work to help you align with what it is you want in your life and, most importantly, in your marriage so that you can get back to a space where you can start falling back in love with your partner. Getting on my mailing list is the best way to stay up to date with all of the new things I will be introducing this year and get the first opportunity to join this community of people taking their marriage into their own hands instead of hoping for the best. This week we are continuing where we left off at the end of 2021, which was taking a deep dive into the seven indicators that your marriage is off track and headed in the wrong direction by taking a look to see if contempt is killing your marriage.

As we dig into each of these different indicators, please create awareness for yourself. As I study and share what contempt in marriage looks like, it has become obvious that this can be difficult to detect, especially if it has been a part of your early relational modeling. It might be something you think is “what you do.” This was definitely true for me, and over the holidays, I got a good opportunity to watch the contempt dynamic in my family, seeing where the seed was planted and nourished in my life without me seeing the pain of it because it was the water I was drinking, a defense mechanism that was installed early on. So this is why everything I share is first and foremost for you to start becoming curious about if and how this might be playing out in your life and, more importantly, your marriage while slowly pushing you away from the result you want, which is to develop a loving-kindness that grows and nurtures the relationship. This work starts with you in so many ways, starting with looking at what you are shielding or protecting within yourself. How are you lashing out to avoid looking at what is going on inside of you that you’re afraid of confronting?

Where we’ll start is to marinate on what contempt looks like and steps you can start taking to nourish yourself and put an end to a strategy that isn’t getting you the result you want.

What is contempt

Contempt arises when one has a sense of superiority over their partner, that the other is beneath considering their point of view or perspective, that they are worthless and deserve to be shown that they are not deserving of approval or concern. In short, it is disrespect. It is a constant brewing inside of what is wrong with the other and carried out as a form of attack on the other person’s sense of self, often executed as a way to make oneself feel better and superior.

It is the most lethal of the four horsemen, and the goal when someone is using contempt is not to resolve a possible issue but to tear the other person down. In an example where a woman or man might wish their physical intimacy looked different, one partner would attack the other with words that tear the other person down instead of stating what they are unhappy with and why. It might look like a spouse stating that the other is a prude and not sexy, which tears down the spouse’s character, ultimately creating less of what the contemptor is wanting by pushing them further away, increasing distrust and closeness. What that partner isn’t doing is looking inside to understand what it is within themselves that needs them to tear down another to feel better and why they aren’t able to have an open and loving conversation to find out what is at the root of the problem. A productive conversation would sound more like sharing that they would love to have more physical intimacy, why that is important to them, and asking for some help in discovering how they as a couple might start working towards what they both want. When a partner isn’t tearing down the core of another, it doesn’t cause the other to push them away. Instead, it allows them to have an open, vulnerable, and authentic conversation that leads to more intimacy in and outside the bedroom.

Contempt can take many different forms, words of sarcasm and cynicism, name-calling, eye-rolling, mocking the other, mean humor, and whatever form it takes, it is cyanide to your marriage. When contempt is mixed into disagreements, it is virtually impossible to aspire towards any resolution because your partner is translating your words to mean that you are disgusted with them as a human being. Contempt only leads to more conflict and further distance between you.

How to eradicate contempt

The first way to eradicate contempt is to understand what it is, why it’s being used, and even find some empathy for the partner who might be using it to feel better about themselves. Let me share a simple yet common form of contempt that many of us can relate to whether we’ve done it or been on the receiving end of it.

“Oh, I have never done that!” This is a form of contempt, and it is taking something someone shared and stating that they would never do something THAT bad, insinuating that how the other feels are less than themselves.

Here is another: “I’d never do that to you!” or “How would you like it if I did that to you?” Again, the person states that what the other did was morally worse than anything they would ever do, therefore insinuating their superiority.

How about this: “Don’t you know how to fold clothes the right way, what is wrong with you?” here again, the comment is making the action of folding clothes mean something is wrong with the person and that the person speaking is morally better. A simple change here could be letting go of how the other folds clothes, sharing how you might want the clothes folded without being attached to the expectation that they conform to your wishes, or sharing that you appreciate their willingness to help with the laundry and that you have a way you like your laundry to be folded, and then do it yourself.

A change to end contempt starts by noticing it, whether you are the sharer of the contempt or the receiver. Then it is the process of understanding what is going on, evaluating what is happening for you, sharing how you are feeling, and then bringing an invitation to discuss it. The opposite antidote to contempt is to ignore it and say nothing. This creates disconnection and distrust in your relationship; open, honest communication airs out the disagreement and leads to a better understanding of each other. Avoidance only creates separation.

As you start to pay attention to the dynamic in your marriage, you have the opportunity to dig into the roots of why it is there, how it makes you feel, and decide when and how you want to bring it up in conversation with your partner. The willingness to address these tough marital dynamics shows your willingness to create a smarter, more loving relationship where you can talk to your spouse about anything and know that it is never to tear the other down but to help build each other up into more emotionally intelligent beings.

I’d love to hear back from you after you take some time to process and be aware of how contempt might be playing out for you or your partner in your marriage. Know that if either of you is riding with the second horseman, it doesn’t mean you are the problem in your marriage. It means that you now have the opportunity to create lasting change for yourself and the future of your marital relationship. It means that this new knowledge can bring you to an end of life marriage that you look back on and smile at with a big heart full of pride in what you were willing to work on.

Remember to look at the show notes to get on my mailing list so that you can join me this Thursday evening and plan a fun life planning conversation with your partner. I will show you how simple it can be and how just the thinking of it might have you giving up before starting. See you all next week!


I am a life coach who works with individuals to break down relationship barriers by awakening their true selves. My process isn’t about changing your partner; it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage. If you’re ready to take your life and your love relationship to the next level, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s decide together if this is your next step to creating the life you’ve been dreaming of.

2022: Your End Of Life Marital Possibilities Ep 47

2022: Your End Of Life Marital Possibilities | Relationship Coach

Happy 2022 everyone! As I write and record this episode my heart is bursting with excitement thinking about what I have created in my own marriage and looking forward to what our future together will look like. The last couple of weeks I have been taking time to reflect on all that I created in 2022 and then project into 2022 of what I want to create to further take care of my future life and marital relationship. In this episode, I want to share a bit of my marital journey so as to help you imagine what might be possible for you in your marriage. I am also going to share some of the beautiful things my brain offered when it comes to the process of doing this work and stepping closer and closer to your goals which include end of life marital possibilities.

It has been approximately five years or so since I found myself looking at what looked like my second marriage crumbling apart. Many of you already know this story so I’m not going to get into those details but what I want to share is a bit of reflection that can help give you some hope and perspective around what turning your marriage around looks like while remembering that the work I did was mostly work I did on my own. Though I sought therapy and used many different coaches, the work I did on my marriage consisted mostly of me being committed to our marriage and what I wanted it to look like for me.

We have used several different marriage therapists who have always left us feeling mostly hopeless. When we slowly faded away from our last marital therapist work, I decided it was time for me to focus on myself. I did lots of searching, I felt vulnerable and ashamed that “there might be something wrong with me,” but I was determined to figure this out. On the outside, my life appeared successful but on the inside I was a mess, never feeling like I was going anywhere real in life. Inside I knew that there was more for me in this life but the how eluded me. Over those five years, one year was spent in individual therapy while searching for solutions in all sorts of different modalities, including working through recovery steps in Celebrate Recovery, reading a lot of books and listening to a lot of podcasts. Those podcasts led me to discover what life coaching really was, how it could help me and I haven’t looked back since because what I was listening to was so counter to anything else I had done that I decided to start studying it and see if I could comprehend what I describe as abstract thinking. After presenting some of the life coaching concepts to my therapist, having her disagree with the information I shared, I knew this was what I was going to spend my next year discovering.

I haven’t looked back since, life coaching concepts changed my life and my marriage.

In my reflection, I looked back over the past three years of my business, thinking about the time and money I have spent to retrain my brain and absorb all I could to learn more about how the brain works and how relationships work. I concluded that if all of this work “only” brought me to the end of my life madly in love with my husband, then every moment and every penny invested would be more than worth it. It even allowed me to think broader and abundantly towards future investment, knowing that there isn’t anything I would rather spend my money on. The trivial things we can spend money on mean nothing when our marriage is crap. We can devote useless dollars and hours doing something that will never get us to a marital relationship where a snuggle and a good laugh means more than anything. When what is around us means nothing because we have each other, that is when life sparkles. An expensive vacation hoping to “get back” all of the intimacy means nothing if we are only band-aiding over all of our relationship hurts and returning home to the same empty relationship, maybe even more empty than before we left on that vacation because we never got to truly get close to each other during our time away.

I realized during this end-of-year review that I have set goals with my marriage every year for the past three years, and this year I have seen the most growth. A Christmas where my best gift to myself and Jeff was the investment in us. An investment that will have us looking back at the end of our lives smiling brightly with joy and sunshine in our hearts of what we have created instead of a stone-cold heart full of regret grieving love that was never shared. Even better, it makes me burst with excitement thinking about all of the growth we are going to create together this year, so much so that when I think about my future self at the end of 2022 all I can do is smile brightly.

What I am sharing with you this week is this same hope. I want you to know that I understand what it feels like to long for a different relationship and be angry with what marriage looks like. I know what it’s like to be frustrated and annoyed with how my husband is showing up in our marriage and building a wall so high and so thick that the nourishment of love could never be consumed. I know what it feels like to think that this work is way too hard and tiring, wanting the future to be here now, but the end is part of the journey. If I was given that happy marriage right now I would never get the opportunity to stretch and grow which I know means that that “happy marriage” would fade away like dry sand in my hands. This is the problem I found with therapy, we were expected to change, and everything was supposed to feel good, but it didn’t, so we quit. There was never a future goal and a plan of steps we’d need to take to get there, only analysis and suggestions as to how to behave, and looking back I know that my most important lesson was what we really needed – an ally plan towards our future and to look inside to see what each of us needed to work on individually to make our union together work instead of what looked like enemy attack.

Imagine those diets where you lose all of the weight in a short time without retraining your mind around food and cravings. The weight comes back and is even more stubborn to those lose quick tactics—the same with changing your relationship. You are doing the work of changing old built-in mental responses, and that work takes time, but there is something I want to share about this process that you might want to consider right now. The longer you take to commit to the work of changing habitual ways of interaction in your marriage, the longer it will take to change those habits and get to a space where you see progress in your marriage. What I know is that the more you engage in those old patterns of interacting with others, patterns established early in your life, the more inflamed it will make your life, the more of a superhighway you build up in your brain and the more difficult it will be to change that patterning.

Think about older adults who never realize their harmful ways. Have you noticed how it gets worse and worse as they age?

My hope for you this new year of 2022 is that you decide this is the year you stop wasting money on superficial purchases that don’t do anything to improve your end-of-life experience and that you decide instead to start investing in yourself. I hope that at the end of this year, you will look back like I did with tears streaming down your face in pride for what you have done to bring love and joy into your life while letting go of the superficial monetary purchases that you think will get you a happy end of life experience. When you look back, you will not remember what you bought to make you feel better. What you will remember is the love you shared, the love you created or the love you didn’t share, and the love you left behind.

That is all for this week, my friends. I hope you had a restful new year, and I look forward to journeying through this year with you as we together build a love relationship that makes our hearts swell with radiant goodness.


I am a life coach who works with individuals to break down relationship barriers by awakening their true selves. My process isn’t about changing your partner; it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage. If you’re ready to take your life and your love relationship to the next level, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s decide together if this is your next step to creating the life you’ve been dreaming of.

Marital Discussions: Criticism Versus Complaint Ep 46

Marital Discussions: Criticism Versus Complaint | Relationship Coach

Welcome back, and welcome to our last week of 2021. As we jump into this last week of the year, if you haven’t already done so, I would love to encourage you to take some time to look at how you created more of what you wanted in your life this past year and then to fast-forward to this time next year and imagine who you will be. Who is it you want to be and why? How would this vision bring you to closer alignment with your true self? That’s all; start envisioning yourself having accomplished that mission, and with consistent visualization, the steps towards that vision will begin to present themselves to you. Over the past couple of weeks, we have been exploring ways we interact with our partners and how our go-to ways of interacting can indicate which direction our relationship is going. Last week we had a great conversation where we looked at how to start a discussion that allows each of you to open up versus shutting down, and this week I want to continue the conversation by looking at ways to discuss what is bothering us. Let’s look at criticism versus complaint in your marital discussions, but before we do that, I want to recognize that the two of you may have stopped having “difficult” conversations because you realize they make things worse. “Difficult” conversations are important conversations where you are each sharing your inner thoughts and feelings. If you are in this camp, this is for you because it will help you start opening up and expressing what is important to you and your relationship. Giving these techniques a go will feel awkward and may not be received the way you anticipate them to go, but trust me, if you keep practicing your persistence to create what you want, it will pay off. Also, in last week’s episode, I shared what to do when your attempts “back-fire,” so go check that out too.

As you listen to these episodes, I want to have you consider what you will do with the information you collect. You want to create a more connected marital relationship, you want to feel more loved, and all of what I share here will help you move towards that goal, but only if you take the information and do something with it. Gathering information about what makes a relationship work and what pushes it apart means you hope and seek solutions. Implementing something counter to your habitual relationship interactive responses takes practice and willingness to feel uncomfortable through the process. Create awareness for yourself through what I share and start taking actionable steps. If you are struggling with the implementation, that is where I help you get some traction.

First, we’ll look at what criticism is and what a complaint is, and how they differ. Then I will share some examples so that you can better decipher which ones you may be using in your conflict discussions and help you start preparing for difficult conversations you would like to have with your partner.

The first lethal type of negative relationship interaction: Criticism

Relationship expert John Gottman of The Gottman institute created the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which refers to four different types of negative interactions that are lethal to the marital relationship. This week we are talking about the first one, which is criticism.

When we look up criticism, what we find is that it is the practice of judging the merits and faults of the other person, the act of expressing disapproval, and of noting the problems or faults of the other person. It expresses negative feelings or opinions about the other person’s character or personality. Throughout a relationship, constant criticism will wear the relationship thin and slowly eat away the positive emotions that brought the two of you together.

A criticism would be what we call a harsh start-up (link to last week’s episode), which we talked about last week, those discussion introductions that begin with “you never” or “you always.” Starting the discussion this way gives you a 99 percent chance of it not wrapping up in a way that gets you any movement forward.

The antidote for criticism: Complaint

There is a significant difference between a criticism and a complaint. A complaint doesn’t critique the person, but it focuses on a specific behavior or a specific event. Most complaints have three parts:

  • Sharing how you feel
  • What situation has you feeling this way
  • What you need, want, prefer from your partner

While we’re here, let’s talk about the difference between a complaint and nagging because none of us want to be a nagging partner, nor do we want to live with a nagging partner. Nagging would consist of bringing something up multiple times without re-evaluating the process and the result that you’re getting. In contrast, a complaint states how you feel about a specific item and then shares what you need to resolve how you feel. Your partner can choose to do whatever they want with the complaint. Still, in a healthy relationship, the partner would share their side of the story, and together there would be resolution instead of unresolved conflict.

The complaint is what we call a soft start-up to a difficult conversation, so it has you initiating a conversation that has a better chance of getting resolution than the criticism.

The difference between a criticism and a complaint.

The primary difference between the criticism and the complaint is that criticism focuses on the person and the complaint focuses on the specific behavior or circumstance.

Have you ever heard your partner ask, “What is wrong with you?” or maybe you’ve even said the words, I’ll admit to at least thinking them, and this is a criticism that can turn a well-intended complaint into a criticism. Even if you’re “only” thinking it, your energy will convey it.

Let’s look at some examples of each:

Complaint: “I feel sad that we don’t get much time to talk. Can we find an hour that works for both of us this weekend?”

Criticism: “All you do is work. You never make our relationship a priority.”

Complaint: “I feel frustrated that you leave your shoes in the entryway, and could you possibly set them in the closet?”

Criticism: “You are a slob, I spend all day working to keep our house nice, and you totally disrespect me.”

Complaint: “I miss snuggling with you before bed. Could we go to bed together tonight?”

Criticism: “It’s obvious you don’t love me or care for me because you never come to bed with me.”

Complaints and differences within a marital relationship are almost guaranteed, and some of them may remain throughout the relationship. One of you might prefer a minimalistic lifestyle while the other enjoys some splurging. When you can love each other for your differences instead of making the differences mean there is something wrong with the other; the relationship can flourish instead of wither. The other skill these couples learn is how to use successful repair attempts to soften the tension that these differences create; we will discuss this technique in a future episode.

Resolution isn’t always going to be the outcome of a complaint but what it does do is enable the couple to interact about the conflict and begin the process of finding resolution where criticism brings about a negative interaction that puts the cap on a possible resolution. At least if a complaint doesn’t end in resolution, it steers clear of sucking the life out of the relationship.

I share all of this because if you hear yourself in some of these examples or are seeing your own examples in your mind, you aren’t alone; it is widespread in relationships. The problem comes when it persists and bleeds into contempt, defensiveness, and avoidance. Use this information to examine and create awareness of your weaknesses; awareness is the first step to change.


I am a life coach who works with individuals to break down relationship barriers by awakening their true selves. My process isn’t about changing your partner; it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage. If you’re ready to take your life and your love relationship to the next level, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s decide together if this is your next step to creating the life you’ve been dreaming of.

Create Better Marital Communication By Considering The Start-Up Ep 45

The Difference Between Marital Criticism And Complaint | Relationship Coach

Last week I did an overview of seven predictors of divorce, and starting this week, I will spend time taking a deeper dive into each, which will give you a week to focus on each. With each of these episodes, I suggest that you focus on the predictor of the week, paying close attention to your habitual practice with your partner and then taking a pause with each instance to reconsider a different approach. This week’s focus is on creating better marital communication by considering the start-up.

How you start a conversation will be an indicator of how the discussion will end unless you can take a pause and start over. Research proves this to be true, but I don’t think we need research to prove this phenomenon. We’ve talked about mirror neurons and the influence our approach to a conversation has on the other person’s response. Secondly, we can do our own research by observing and collecting data – something I highly recommend you do this week. You can do your research on your marital discussions but also expand your scope out to all of the interactions you find yourself in, maybe at work or with the kids, as well as observing other people’s interactions. Notice how the interaction starts and how that start-up influences the outcome.

First, I will share what a harsh start-up is, and then we’ll switch to looking at what a soft start-up is. As we talk about what a soft start-up is and how to switch a harsh start-up to a soft one, I will share several different examples to help you brainstorm new ways to approach your specific situations. In the end, I’ll also address what to do when your new plan of “attack” or non-attack backfires because most likely it will until you continue the practice and change old patterns.

The WRONG way to start a discussion: harsh start-up

Starting a discussion this way is pointing the finger at the other with criticism and disrespect to prove your point, damaging the relationship. It includes exaggerations like “always” or “never”; it includes opinions about the character of the other, illuding to superiority. It is sarcasm, being cynical, name-calling, mocking, angry humor, eye rolls – it is the acid that corrodes a marriage because it suggests disgust in the other.

Harsh start-ups are directed right to the other person’s core, blaming them for how you are feeling instead of complaining, which starts with how you feel about something specific and what you need or would like from the other person. Pay attention to starting with the word “you,” which points the blame towards them, versus starting with I, which brings it to how you perceive the circumstance, allowing them to explain.

An example of a harsh start-up would be something like this; “You never think about anyone but yourself. I hate that you conveniently schedule work when we clean the house. Why are you so rude?” Whereas a complaint and a soft start-up would look more like, “I see that you scheduled yourself to work during the time we normally clean the house, sometimes that makes me feel angry because I think that you are trying to get out of your household responsibilities. When do you think you can get your cleaning chores done?”

Note that harsh start-ups can happen from either side of the relationship, but if you are the female in the relationship, you may be noticing that you seem to be the one creating more of the harsh start-ups. This doesn’t mean that you are the cause of all of the problems; research shows that women are more likely to bring up things that are bothering them in their relationship to find some resolution, whereas the males are more likely to completely avoid anything that they think might create emotional stress and confrontation – which of course brings in all of the problems that come through avoidance.

The right way to start a discussion: soft start-ups

The soft start-up has a softer tone and approach; it helps both feel safer without the need to defend. If you look at the two versions of the previous example and you speak them out loud, you will notice a difference in how each feels in your body, a difference in how you receive it. Let’s look at ways to change your start-up’s dynamic and result.

Complain instead of criticize

We will dig into this a bit more next week when we talk about the second predictor of divorce, which is what John Gottman refers to as the Four Horsemen. Still, there is a massive difference between complaining and criticizing. When we complain about something, we direct the complaint towards something they did or didn’t do or a circumstance. A complaint contains three parts:

  1. How you are feeling (looking within) about:
  2. A specific situation
  3. Sharing what you need, want or prefer

A criticism is non-specific and directs your negative feelings to the core of who the other person is. Listen to these two and decide for yourself which one is a harsh start-up and which is a soft start-up:

  • “You are so irresponsible. Why can’t you get the water bill paid on time, it’s no wonder we don’t have any money to go on vacations.”
  • “I’m super frutstrated that the water bill has a late fee on it, we agreed that you would take care of the bills, what happened and what can you do to prevent it from happening again?”

Criticism also comes through the way you are showing up; it is possible you aren’t saying anything negative, but your body is showing otherwise. Eye-rolling or turning away is a perfect example of “unintentional” but destructive behavior.

Begin with “I” statements instead of “You” statements

This type of start-up has you focusing on what is going on for you instead of focusing on what you see your partner doing wrong. This can get a bit tricky if you are used to pointing the finger, saying, “I think that you never make any time for me.” even though it starts with “I,” it still points the finger at them. The “You” version would be something like “You never make time for me.” and the
“I” version might sound like “I feel really lonely lately, I miss spending time with you.”

Describe how you see the situation, your perspective

Your partner is not a mind reader though often we think they should know what is happening because it is SO obvious to us; this is where we need to practice expressing our needs in a clear way that doesn’t point to what we see as their deficiency. When you share how you see things from your point of view, it takes the blame off the other and will help you get a more helpful response.

You can still be kind and show appreciation even when you are in conflict

Differentiation has two people seeing the same thing in two completely different ways. The better we can get at allowing for this, the easier it will be to allow for the differences, come to some agreeable terms and still love each other. Oh, how far the words “please” and “I so appreciate your help here” can go in softening into what each of you needs.

Confront your conflicts

I know this sounds so cliche, but it is how we learn and get to know each other. When we confront our conflicts from the start and with a soft start-up, including love and appreciation, we learn more about what each other needs. We prevent blow-ups from happening when we are stretched thin and feeling overwhelmed – hello, Christmas week! When we store all of our negative emotions, which is resisting, see episode 43: A better way to deal with holiday emotions; what happens is we are more at risk of wearing thin and dumping it all out in one big blow-out session. This blow-out can create a flood of emotions for both of you, which leaves you completely useless when it comes to resolution, more on that predictor in the coming weeks!

What to do when your change in approach backfires

Your partner may still respond negatively, defensively, or counterattack once you begin to change your approach to conflict.

You: “I feel lonely lately, could you please share some times when we could have an hour together, just you and me?”

Them: “You don’t share your calendar with me, so how can I know when we could ever do anything?”

It would be easy to counterattack or blame or justify, but all you need to do is share that you aren’t accusing or blaming them but that you are simply asking for some options to put time aside on the calendar. You can share that you care and that you want to find time to get closer to them, to get to know them better. This can self-correct the course of the conversation and help your partner feel safe. Over time as you change your habitual way of dealing with conflict, your partners go to practices will self-correct as well.

As you absorb this information, ask yourself how you have approached conflict in the past, pay attention to conflict as it comes up this week, even if it’s a conflict you are witnessing versus being a part of. Use these experiences as examples to play with; consider how you might change the start-up to get a different result.

As you consider how you have and are handling conflict discussions, use this information to learn and grow. Keep a note in places where they will be a reminder to you of how you want to approach those things that are bothering you, write “SAFE” on a post-it and place it on your bathroom mirror or on your computer screen to remind you of how you want to approach these future discussions.

Also, consider the possibility that you may have stopped addressing conflict to avoid the harsh endings that come from your previous way of dealing with conflict. Remember that addressing what is bothering you is important. Now you have a new way to approach what is frustrating you, so even notice when you feel frustration or annoyance while sweeping it under the Christmas tree.

Addressing conflict creates conversation and connection and helps the two better understand each other versus withdrawing to avoid conflict, which will bring you to another predictor of divorce – independence or living parallel lives.

This week observe and practice because it is in the doing, the practicing that you learn, grow, and get to know.

I would love to hear what you noticed this week around your discussions and how you have done the work of starting to change the old cycle.


I am a life coach who works with individuals to break down relationship barriers by awakening their true selves. My process isn’t about changing your partner; it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage. If you’re ready to take your life and your love relationship to the next level, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s decide together if this is your next step to creating the life you’ve been dreaming of.

Is Divorce In Your Future? Ep 44

Is Divorce In Your Future? | Relationship Coach

Ok, to begin, let me just clarify that I am NOT trying to put a damper on your holiday cheer and just like everything else I discuss here on AwakenYou in your marriage, I am creating awareness for you so that you can take deliberate steps towards that which you want. When I pose the question “Is divorce in your future?” I want you to listen to what I talk about today and decide whether this exemplifies your situation and if it does then listen with curiosity so you can build hope instead of despair.

The truth is that ALL of these predictors could be present in your relationship BUT if you become aware of them and choose to take steps to eliminate them you are well on your way to preventing divorce in your future.

Today what I want to do is talk about the six predictors of a relationship headed towards divorce and what else to look for if these indicators aren’t present in your marriage, then I want to share the key to reviving or divorce-proofing your marriage. Over the next several weeks I am going to do a deeper dive into each of these six divorce predictors so that you can have time every week to get a better understanding of the predictor and whether that element is present in your marriage.

To begin I want to talk about relationships in general. Most of us are taught relationship dynamics through our childhood relationship teachers and we carry those dynamics into our marriage, each of us has learned different ways to manage and interact within our relationships. With that said, conflict and the inability to resolve the conflict alone is not an indicator of divorce because most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Marital arguments are often rooted in fundamental differences in lifestyle, personality, or values. More importantly, as we will discover, it is about how the argument starts, how each partner treats each other during the conflict, and how they attempt to repair it before it runs out of control.

The six indicators that divorce is in your future

Dr. John Gottman of the Gottman Institute has dedicated his life to figuring out how to help couples create successful relationships. He realized early in his practice that the conventional way of counseling couples through conflict management wasn’t creating success over the long haul so he spent years studying indicators that the relationship wouldn’t last and analyzing what went right in happy marriages. These following indicators come from his research:

  1. Harsh Start-Up: when discussions start in a negatively where at least one is blaming the other
  2. The Four Horsemen: particular types of negative interactions within these discussions which are criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling
  3. Flooding: psychological and physical overwhelm created when one partner’s negativity is extremely intense and sudden, causing the other to shut down
  4. Body Language: visible changes on the outside but more importantly internal physical changes like increased heart rate and blood pressure
  5. Failed Repair Attempts: repair attempts are efforts made to prevent an increase in tension during a discussion
  6. Bad Memories: when a couple looks back at the history of their relationship and only remembers the negative

Gottman goes on to share that there are four final stages that signal the death bell of a relationship which are:

  1. The couple seeing their marital problems as severe
  2. The process of talking things over seems useless so each partner trys to solve problems on their own (independance)
  3. They lead parallel lives (independance)
  4. Lonliness sets in

In this we see that when the couple goes from the intial phase of dependance to this place of “independance” they discover how lonely it really is. The couple who is dedicated to figuring out their relationship has so much hope, more hope than when only one in the partnership is willing to share this dedication. Often when the couple gets to the lonely stage of independance one of the partners seek something different, it might be a different relationship outside of the marriage or it might be individual “soul-searching” and this is how we get started in AwakenYou. We focus on getting to know ourselves better as individuals, we learn how to accept ourselves and strengthening the relationship with ourselves and as we do this work our interactions with our partner starts to change. With this dynamic change you bring to the relationship, your partner will also start to soften into the relationship which takes the relationship to a certain level and then at this point the person doing the work on themselves is better able to express their desires, inviting the partner to join in the journey. It is at this point where the relationship can take off and grow or where one may choose to literally take off and separate from the marriage.

With all of this said there is one more indicator of an impending bad outcome. For many couples these above six indicators are absent in the relationship yet one, or both, of the individuals, have emotionally checked out of the marriage. What might be good to know is that when couples don’t seek help after discovering that they have these indicators present, a split comes during the first 5-6 years whereas couples without these indicators but are emotionally disconnected will split on average after 16 years. The other truth is that though many leave the marriage by seeking a divorce there are also others who leave the marriage by staying together but leading separate lives and this doesn’t need to be the fate of your marriage.

To wrap all of this up and to put a bow on it, over then next few episodes I am going to dig deeper into each of the indicators of divorce so that you can increase your awareness and start creating some change in how you show up with your partner. Beyond that I want to share that cleaning all of this up will help create a new dynamic between you and your partner which then can lead to further healing in your relationship. Once you learn how to successfully handle your disagreements, you can then start working on how you interact when you aren’t in disagreement.

Most of my clients are in the camp of still living together but leading lonely lives. They desperately want connection, don’t really want to leave the relationship but don’t know how to create something different and that is when they come to me. They are frustrated and desperately want to improve their relationship. They want to feel loved and have fun again and where we start is with doing that work within themselves while they work on becoming the partner they want their partner to be. Once they’ve worked through how they work through conflict they get to start working on the process of getting to know each other again and this is where they can start rebuilding a romantic and passion filled relationship we all dream that our marriage will provide.


I am a life coach who works with individuals to break down relationship barriers by awakening their true selves. My process isn’t about changing your partner; it’s about discovering who you are so that you can AwakenYou in your marriage. If you’re ready to take your life and your love relationship to the next level, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s decide together if this is your next step to creating the life you’ve been dreaming of.