Tag Archives: assertive

Trained By a Dog

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Let’s face it, if we’re vague about what we want,

we won’t get it.

Like Karen, a former client, we’ll only cultivate inner frustration.

“Never—ever!—did I anticipate the day I’d be jealous of a dog,” she said, “but I am . . . If the dog wants to play, Sam drops everything and plays with him.”

“Dropping everything,” meant abruptly turning his attention away from Karen. Despite her obvious advantages—the fact that she’s human, intelligent and married to her husband—she felt reduced to second-class citizenship.

Clearly, the dog had the edge in their relationship. All it took was a certain whimper or a wet nose placed strategically on Sam’s lap and Karen was out.

My advice was strange but it worked: “Take your cues from the dog. I guess that means you gotta get more dog-like.”  Click here to get the full scoop.

 

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Keeping the Peace Backfires

Hand covering wife's mouth

“It has to change!  I can’t take it anymore.”

Liza was referring to her marriage. “If I don’t conform to how Stuart wants me to be, or if I don’t agree with how he sees things, he get’s furious,” she said.  “And if he doesn’t get his way, he get’s stormy.”

Liza was describing life in a prison—her soul constricted to keeping the peace. She learned a long time ago that airing her wishes or complaints simply made matters worse. “I can’t talk to him. I’m always on edge . . . not sure how he’ll react.” For years, Liza pretended—even to herself—that nothing was wrong. “I wanted to avoid the pain I felt, so I blinded myself to the mistreatment.”

The day she stopped trying to fool herself, the day she faced her buried anguish, change became a possibility.

Liza began a journey inward, starting with examining why she doesn’t stand up for herself. She learned it as a child. With both parents, she learned it was best to squelch her real self and become agreeable, self-sacrificing, and always nice. She described her father as a “rageful tyrant,” and her mother as basically uncaring. Like Liza, she too walked on eggshells around her husband.

So Liza’s manner with her husband is learned behavior. The good news is that learned behavior can be unlearned. I suggested she read The Nice Girl Syndrome by Beverly Engel.

By our next session, I was certain Liza had done a lot of reading, because of the first words out of her mouth:

“I’m no longer a robot who wakes up in the morning and takes her daily punches.”

She confronted her husband with a bold truth: if change doesn’t happen, I’m out of here. He listened. She expressed her grievances and he listened hard and long.

Not only do I congratulate her, I congratulate him!

Companionship occurs in a relationship where two people are being themselves. Translated, this means each freely—but respectfully—expresses what he or she truly thinks, feels, wants, and needs, while the other makes it emotionally safe to do so. Each is alert to the unique needs and concerns of the other. Consistently, the couple practices frankness about what they like and dislike. Within a climate of acceptance, they freely exercise their capacity to disagree, refuse, and object. As individuals, they oppose all that threatens their integrity. And as a couple, they tackle—together—anything that threatens the strength and specialness of their relationship.

The formula for a successful relationship doesn’t lie in appeasing the other. Appeasing, in fact, can be just as destructive to a relationship as a steady diet of domination, hot-headedness, or bullying. That’s because dissatisfactions and complaints—on the part of the appeaser—are allowed to fester and accumulate to the point of bitterness and contempt. Eventually, love dries up and the appeaser may just walk away.

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Filed under Client of the Week, Couples, General Interest, Get Free

The Cookie War

stack of cookies

It’s not about the power another person wields or takes; it’s about the power we surrender.

That is what I conveyed to Amy in our counseling session. She needed an answer for  dealing with her demeaning husband, and it didn’t entail placating  him or being little around him.  It entailed boldly standing up for herself.   Read Any’s story here . . .

We must speak our truth, I told her, in part  because it might change the other person, but mostly because it changes us.

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Filed under Couples, General Interest, Get Free