Stonewalling To A Disengaged Marriage Ep 52

Stonewalling To A Disengaged Marriage | Relationship Coach

Here we are, gathering together, talking about our life and marital struggles to learn how to create a life that feels more like what we once dreamed of being married would be like. I love these cozy conversations because they are so different from those conversations where all we do is commiserate together about what is wrong with our spouse and how difficult it is to love them the way they are. These conversations help us look objectively at what is happening in our marriage without pointing fingers of blame so that we can look beyond what we see and experience on the surface and start understanding what we are seeing. This place of awareness is sometimes an awkward position because we still feel stuck in the pattern, but as we commit to learning and changing, we start to see the fruit of our labors. This week we are looking at what relationship expert John Gottman calls the fourth horseman, stonewalling, and we’re going to talk about stonewalling to a disengaged marriage.

Stonewalling typically begins to appear a bit later in the marital relationship, usually after the negativity from criticism, contempt, and defensiveness become so unbearable that shutting down and disengaging begins to be a viable way to deal with the emotional flooding occurring for the individual that is shutting down. During a normal conversation, each person is engaging. While one person is talking, the other person indicates that they are listening by making eye contact, nodding their head, throwing in an understanding word, or asking clarifying questions. When a spouse is stonewalling, they are not providing any signs that they are engaged, which often has the partner reacting in ways that push the stonewaller deeper into their state of emotional overload.

Today I’m going to dig into a bit more of what stonewalling could look like, why people resort to stonewalling, why it is so destructive to your relationship, and steps to start eliminating it.

If you remember episode 40 where I shared about Bids For Connection and then the follow up to that in episode 41 where I talked about Your Response To Bids For Connection, the partner starting the conversation is sharing a bid for their spouse’s attention, now, how that bid for connection was initiated is so very important because it sets the tone for where the conversation can go, in episode 45 I shared how to have Better Marital Communication By Considering The Start-Up or how you initiate the conversation. Now, how the spouse responds to that bid for connection determines whether they are creating connection or disconnection, stonewalling is turning away from your partner, and it is a withdrawal from your relationship’s Emotional Bank Account and you know what happens to our bank accounts when we take out more that we deposit. The interesting thing, though, is that when it comes to our emotional bank account, now that I think about it, it’s sort of like what happens to our emotions when our bank account gets low, we stop interacting in healthy ways, our unhealthy habits kick in and quickly wipe out our account, heading us into walking on thin ice in our intimate relationship.

What stonewalling looks like

There are many ways to disengage from an uncomfortable conversation, start watching peoples interactions, and learn for yourself, but here are a few examples:

  • Not listening, engaging, ignoring, turning away, looking at the dog, getting up and doing something, looking at the phone
  • Changing the subject
  • Reacting with defensiveness instead of engaging in an adult conversation
  • Telling the other person that they are making up stories about how they are acting (this could be more along the lines of gaslighting), denying participation in the act of stonewalling
  • Being dismissive about what is brought up in conversation, including physical actions like eye-rolling or head shaking
  • Being physically absent: working long hours, hiding in the garage or in front of the screen for long periods or finding ways to be away from the house disproportionaltely from the time spent at home
  • Silent treatment, acting better than, dismissing
  • Physically up and leaving the conversation
  • Never addressing their dismissiveness at a later time when they are emotionally regulated, avoiding bringing the topic back up
  • Short disengaged responses like “I’m fine.” “It doesn’t matter.”
  • Avoiding conversation to avoid conflict

When you start to recognize that your partner is stonewalling, your best reaction is to stop the conversation because your partner has shut you and what you are saying out. Tell them that you perceive that they are disengaged and that you are going to exit the conversation and that if they are willing to re-engage, let you know, and you’ll come back to the discussion. By no means do you want to raise your voice or criticize because it will only create more disengagement. It is not your job to “fix” your partner’s emotional patterns, but as you learn to empathize and understand what may be going on for them, it is your opportunity to open up to how you are feeling and give them space. Again, you are influencing the health and future of your relationship because you aren’t engaging in unhealthy interaction. This is your opportunity to step back and take some time to self-soothe, regulate, evaluate YOUR actions and let them decide how they want to move forward.

Why people resort to stonewalling

Often people haven’t learned how to deal with conflict, so they shut down (freeze), retaliate (fight), pacify, and people please (fawn), or run (flight), and all of these are primal protective reactions. The ones you or your partner gravitate towards are the ones you adopted early on in your life in response to what you perceived as a threat, and now it has become your go-to response when “danger” appears. The truth, though, is that actual danger isn’t what is happening; you can pause and ask yourself, “Am I in danger right now?” most likely, the answer is no, and if it is yes, then we have a whole different conversation to dive into.

Stonewalling or silent treatment could also have been a taught behavior; maybe a parent or early childhood mentor used it in their marital relationship, or it could have been used on the child as a way of parenting. When one has been mentored in this way of dealing with conflict, they don’t learn the opposite of stonewalling, which is to have an open, honest conversation about working through the conflict.

Learning how to communicate with each other is crucial, and all it takes is being open and honest. Ask yourself why you are hiding from the one person you vowed to be closest to. Stonewalling appears on the outside to be a way to control an outcome and appear powerful but often is utilized because they feel powerless and have low self-confidence in themselves and their ability to present their ideas and have them potentially be “rejected.” But we know here that other people can’t reject us and our opinions. We can only do that to ourselves, and having different opinions in our marriages helps create conversation and growth.

Stonewalling seems like a way out, but it isn’t effective in building the relationship; it only erodes and pushes intimacy away. If you are having intimacy problems in your relationship, you can look at all of the topics we have discussed over the last few months and conclude why. When you are disconnected emotionally from your partner, sex isn’t desirable; sex becomes an action you do because “you’re supposed to” or an activity you participate in in hopes of controlling your spouse. What you will discover is that as you work through many of the emotional issues I talk about here in AwakenYou in your marriage, the intimate connection begins to grow in your relationship where you are then sharing sex out of desire instead of obligation or fear.

Why stonewalling is so destructive to your marriage

Stonewalling in of itself has you shutting down. When you are shut down, you are disengaged, which does nothing to build the relationship up, resolve problems, better get to know your (and yourself), and create connection. It does the opposite, which is how it slowly erodes a relationship. By the time the relationship gets to stonewalling, it has already gotten to a place where the couple isn’t working together; they are often at the point of living parallel lives. Studies show that up to 85% of men are the stonewallers in relationships; according to John Gottman, men often react to conflict with more physiological stress than women do, and stonewalling is a way to appear neutral and stay out of conflict.

Because women are better able to deal with physiological stress, it is more difficult for them to understand why their partner is withdrawing and familiar for them to push against it, blaming them for not participating in the relationship. Secondly, when a woman gets to the place in the marriage where she is resorting to stonewalling, the relationship is often in a more sensitive state and closer to the possibility of divorce.

Stonewalling indicates an unwillingness to work on relationship differences which is crucial to the success of the marriage and often can have the other person feeling neglected or abused.

How to eradicate this destructive habit

Can we say it all together: AWARENESS. By now, you all have heard this word on auto-repeat for a good reason, what we don’t know can hurt us, what we can start to see from a different perspective can give us insight and a new way to seek solutions. You are taking the first step to eliminating this destructive habit by becoming aware of the roots of where this defense mechanism comes from. Now, you could take this information and throw it in the face of your partner if they are the stonewaller, but that is not useful. From here, you are first going to become aware of how you are showing up and how you may be doing your version of stonewalling, or you may be contributing to your partner’s reaction. Let me remind you that we are all in control of how we show up in life. Regardless of how someone else is showing up, we can always choose a reaction that dissipates conflict instead of inflaming it.

Begin to pay attention to how your partner shows up when you bring up conversations that typically shut them down; how do they react? How can you find empathy and understanding with how they show up or even curiosity? Could you eventually find space to ask them about how they are reacting and why? Go back to my episode on conversation startups and start planning different ways to bring up important conversations. When you see your partner slipping into their version of stonewalling, put up your white flag version of a pause (go back to Emotional Regulation In Your Marriage, episode 35).

For the person who is stonewalling, learning how to regulate your emotions is so important and learning how to recognize that you are slipping into withdrawal or wanting to run away and then paying attention, get in touch with your senses, really listen to what your partner is saying and letting them know that you might not be able to participate in the conversation right now, and then promise that you will come back to it after taking time to self-soothe, find out more about Self-Soothing To A Happier Marriage, ep 38. It’s so important to recognize what you are experiencing and then share it with your partner so that you both can learn and grow.

Being frustrated is a normal emotion and taking the action of stonewalling is not helping eliminate the cause of the frustration; it is only keeping you in a cycle of being frustrated numbing out.

So now you have something new to pay attention to in your life and your marriage, and I want to hear what you see more clearly in your marriage. Stonewalling is giving the impression to your partner that you couldn’t care less about the relationship or where it is headed – is that the message you want to come through because one day your partner might decide to follow through on that action, and wouldn’t it be sad if you never expressed what you were really feeling?

If you have discovered that you or your partner is stonewalling and you’d like some help navigating to the other side where you can open up and share honestly, then I’d love to talk to you about what that process looks like; I’d love to help you AwakenYou in your marriage! Book your consult today!

I am a life coach who works with women and couples struggling with how their lives and marriage feel through 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 life and marriage, which by the way, will have you see how your partner is magically changing too. If you’re ready to take yourself to a place where you can fall back in love with your life and your spouse, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s talk about your next steps to a brand new life you are crazy in love with!

How Defensiveness Hurts Our Marriages Ep 51

How Defensiveness Hurts Our Marriages | Relationship Coach

Hello AwakenYou listeners, how are you all doing this week? How many of you are noticing and relishing the longer days we have been experiencing? Even though it has been brutally cold here this winter, I see signs of spring every day on our morning walk, including hearing those birds singing their praises! This week we are diving back into looking at signs that your marriage might be headed in the wrong direction, and if you missed last week’s client success story with Arlene Mojica, you must take a listen. Arlene shares all of the unexpected results she achieved by pouring herself into the work and believing that the process would change her life and her marriage. Over the past couple of months, I have been taking you through different signs that your marriage might be headed for divorce; Ep 44 Is Divorce In Your Future? This week, we will look at how defensiveness is hurting your marriage.

What I’m going to talk about with you is what defensiveness is and how it is destructive to your marriage, why we are defensive, ways we are defensive, and how to transition away from being defensive. Ready? Let’s dig in!

What is defensiveness and why are we using it in our marriage?

Defensiveness distracts you from those underlying negative feelings that come up when your spouse says something that has you thinking in ways that make you feel hurt, angry, guilty, or ashamed. It denies your responsibility for the presented problem because it has you deflecting the other person instead of seeing and addressing the issue as a relationship problem you need to work out together.

Defensiveness might seem justified, but it never helps to solve any problem; it only makes the problem worse, which of course, then creates less connection and more disconnection. It blocks creativity and tells your spouse that their feelings don’t matter.

Why we chose defensiveness

  • It could be an old reaction to feeling insecure, possibly a learned auto-response that could easily be changed by pausing and re-considering your reaction
  • You could be reacting to something you want to hide, if you’re lying about something or withholding the truth an instinctual response could be defensiveness
  • You haven’t learned how to state your case and let it be different from your spouses so instead you resort to defensiveness
  • It could be a natural response to early childhood trauma or abuse because it takes you out of a percieved weakened position and makes you feel more powerful
  • Insecurity to how someone is reacting to your character or a behavior makes you feel like you have to defend yourself

Ways of being defensive

  • Not accepting responsibility for your part in the disagreement
  • Making excuses instead of owning the truth in your part
  • Counter-complaining which is responding to a complaint with your own complaint which is trying to one-up your partner, ignoring their comment and presenting something you percieve to be worse or more worthy of complaining about
  • Childish playback is like what we did as children, repeating the complaint and then putting it back on them
  • Using “yes-but” instead of “what I love about that is – and…” The “but” negates your partner’s suggestion which then stops forward connection
  • Continuing to repeat your stance while ignoring and not considering your partner’s perspective. This has you continuing to repeat a version of your story/perspective over and over without hearing what it is your spouse is asking for.
  • Whining which has you deflecting any responsibility and claiming innocence

We are responsible for our own actions in our marriages

Staying focused on ourselves and what is happening inside us is the key to ending criticism (ep 46), contempt (ep 48), and defensiveness. Our job is to keep the focus on how we can improve instead of what the other is doing. Though how our partners’ act can undoubtedly affect how you feel, it doesn’t have to determine how you respond.

It’s crucial to remember that we want to be allies in our marriages, not enemies (Ep 25: From Enemy To Ally). When you notice that you have moved to defensive lines, just be conscious of that and allow yourself to move back to the ally lines.

How to move away from the habit of being defensive

First, you must learn how to regulate your emotions; listen to episode 35 to get more information on how to regulate your emotions. Noticing that we are being flooded with negative emotions is something I often talk about here on AwakenYou. Identifying and feeling our feelings is one of the first things we work on in my coaching program because our feelings are indicators of what is happening emotionally for us. Knowing how to regulate our emotions to stay calm and not resort to defending ourselves is critical in building connections in our marriages.

Secondly, learn how to self-soothe. When you notice your emotions and see that you want to react and defend yourself, you can stop, pause, self-soothe and choose something different; even nothing might be a choice to let the dust settle before you move on. Listening to episode 38 on how to self-soothe to a happier marriage will help tremendously. You can count to five, focus on your senses, look your partner in the eyes, focus on your breathing, and then be able to explain to your partner what is going on for you. You can tell them that you are feeling defensive and that you want to do something different by taking time to process what is happening for you and better hear what they have to say. You can ask for a pause to better hear what they need, and this is where you as a couple can throw out that signal I have talked about in the past, which allows both of you to know what is happening and that one or both of you needs some space.

Thirdly, owning your part of the problem will go a long way in moving forward. A simple acknowledgment of how the other is right will go so far. There is never a “need” to be right, and both of you own a “right” part in the conversation or disagreement.

Fourth, commit to noticing your negative thoughts and learning how to re-direct them. My free Relationship Abundance mini-course will help with this practice. Focusing on negative thoughts keeps you in a negative thought and emotional loop pattern. Here is an example of how self-soothing can come into the picture: Let’s say you are thinking your spouse is “so hard-headed” – this keeps you thinking about more of their “negative” traits while you could recognize this and then think something along the lines of “Don’t internalize his actions and words, you are just getting flooded with emotions which are driving you to think negative thoughts, take a deep breath, go do some writing and know that this will pass.

Fifth, stop taking everything so literally. We read into what others say based on our insecurities so how can you instead get curious about their experience? Ask yourself why you are focusing on this one thing, and what if I’m missing the point and not understanding? Then repeat to your spouse what you hear them saying and ask questions to learn more about what they are presenting instead of prying into their comments to see how they might be directed at you. Notice how sometimes we are so in our head trying to figure out how our spouse is being critical that we are no longer present in the conversation, listening to what our partners have to say.

Managing our differences in our marriages is crucial to building a successfully satisfying relationship. When we don’t feel the need to defend, we allow for our differences to be present and ok so we can do things like have more fun in our marriage!

Notice how all of what we discussed today has roots in our self-security and how well we know, accept, and strengthen our relationship with ourselves. When we are insecure, we twist around our spouse’s words to mean something negative about ourselves. As we do the work of building our relationship with ourselves, as we do in AwakenYou, we start letting go of assumptions while hearing our partners from a more curious and interested space. From here, we can let go of our defensiveness.

Remember, all of these practices start with awareness, so now that you are aware of the danger of defensiveness, you can start noticing when it comes up, not only in your marriage but check out when you might be using it in other less vulnerable relationships, and now you can start taking steps towards a different choice.

I am a life coach who works with women who are struggling with how their lives and marriage feel through the process of 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 life and marriage, which by the way will have you see how your partner is magically changing too. If you’re ready to take yourself to a place where you can fall back in love with your life and your spouse, then schedule your program inquiry call today and let’s talk about your next steps to a brand new life you are crazy in love with!

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.