Blog Section

Who is the Enemy?

(C) Canstock Photo

Sometimes in our love relationships, we have been hurt or let down so often by our partner that we begin to develop an adversarial relationship. We are always on guard to protect ourselves from further pain. Our relationship becomes us vs. them in an attempt to wall off our heart from the one who knows us best, and therefore knows how to hurt us the most. Most of the time in these situations, our partner isn’t trying to hurt us. Our partner is hurting themselves and like us, is trying to protect from further pain.

In the book Love Sense, Dr. Sue Johnson describes what happens in these relationships:

“When emotional starvation becomes the norm, and negative patterns of outraged criticism and obstinate defensiveness take over, our perspective changes. Our lover slowly begins to feel like an enemy; our most familiar friend turns into a stranger. Trust dies, and grief begins in earnest.”

She goes on to say that the “erosion of a bond begins with the absence of emotional support”. This is key. In order to keep our most important relationships strong and healthy, we have to actively work on being an emotional support for our partner. We need to be there for them, and we need them to be there for us. Emotional supportiveness creates a teammate mentality. Instead of problems turning into us vs. them scenarios, they are approached with the couple as a team, facing the enemy (or the negative cycle) together.

One roadblock in our ability to be there emotionally with our partner is our hurt and anger.
Anger is a secondary emotion. Its purpose is to act as a shield, protecting our more vulnerable (primary) emotions. If my husband doesn’t call me when he said he would, it’s easier for me to lash out at him in my attempt to make sure he knows how hurt I am. My lashing out is likely to cause him to feel defensive and respond with anger of his own (because he is also using anger as a shield to protect himself). If I take a moment to breathe, and calm myself before commenting on his missed phone call, I might say something like, “when you don’t call me when you say you will, I feel really hurt. I worry that I’m not important to you, and you mean so much to me that it hurts in my chest to think that I don’t matter to you.”

Instead of expressing my secondary emotion, anger, I’m expressing my primary emotion. Fear. Fear that I don’t matter to my partner as much as he matters to me. I’m being vulnerable and asking my partner to reassure me and be vulnerable in return.

If my partner responds to my vulnerability with criticism, it reinforces my view that he is not a safe person to turn to, and the emotional bond is further damaged. If he responds with reassurance, the emotional bond can be strengthened. “I’m so sorry I didn’t call. I got so busy with my meetings that I forgot. I know it means a lot to you that I call when I say I will, and I’m sorry I let you down. You do mean so much to me.”

Dr. Johnson describes three questions that we can ask ourselves and our partners when we are working to strengthen or repair our emotional bonds.

1. Are you Accessible? (Will you give me your attention and be emotionally open to what I am saying?)

2. Are you Responsive? (Will you accept my needs and fears and offer comfort and caring?)

3. Are you Engaged? (Will you be emotionally present and involved with me?)

Dr. Johnson combines these into one “core attachment question”. ARE you there for me?

Sit down with your partner and talk about these questions. Do you feel like your partner is accessible, responsive, and engaged? Are you accessible, responsive, and engaged with your partner? When have you been successful at answering “ARE you there for me”? When have you struggled? Think about the last struggle and look for the primary emotions under the struggle. Try being vulnerable with each other.

The stronger our emotional bond, the easier it is to deal with the frustrations that crop up in every relationship. Sometimes the damage in our relationships has gone on for so long, or is so emotionally painful that we need help in repairing it. Couple’s therapy can help break the cycle of negative interactions and allow emotional bonds to be rebuilt stronger than ever.

More

3 Book Kit to Create a Happy, Healthy Person!

canstockphoto2311099

In my opinion, there are several of our societal norms that are alarming. Many of the values that our nation used to rate high on the list are slipping. Worst of all, this value shift has led to increasing health, social, and economic crises. It is my belief that if a person is not deliberate about how they want to become and how, they will get swept up in the societal messages and goals that lead to so much unrest and discontentment. Here are 3 books to date, which have shaped my person and helped me to be deliberate about what I am becoming:

 

  • Daring Greatly by Brene Brown

 

 

This book teaches lessons that are applicable to almost all areas in life. This work is based in research. Most meaningfully however, I believe is the instruction on how to allow vulnerability in our lives to foster connection, creativity, and self-worth. If applied, the principles in this book can change the way you see yourself, and therefore the way you interact with and experience the world around you. Living this stuff makes you actually feel like you are living. Society doesn’t condone this kind of living, but people are responding to this research, which means we are hungry for something different than society is feeding us.

 

  • Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman

 

This book completely changed the way I treated my body and the way I saw my body. It, like Daring Greatly, is all research based. I had no idea the degree to which I had been mistreating my body with food. Since reading, and applying these principles, I feel happier, well rested, energetic, strong, and clean. It takes a lot of effort to do this, because society (even some in the medical field) goes completely against these nutrition ideals, but it is worth it!

 

  • The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey

 

 

Another area of peoples’ lives that usually needs a tune-up is personal finance. We live in a society that idealizes money to the point that many people go deep into debt in order to achieve an empty ideal. This book will make you rethink the way you earn and spend money. Most people aren’t thoughtful enough about how they earn or spend. This book teaches you how to make your money do what you want it to, no matter what your person goals may be. Security is the name of this game.

 

I hope these books are as useful to you as they have been to me. Happy reading!

More

5 Ways to Boost Confidence: LCSW Julie Hanks on KSL’s Studio 5

5 Ways to Boost Confidence: LCSW Julie Hanks on KSL’s Studio 5

Confidence is one of those characteristics that almost every woman desires for herself. We understand that in many ways, confidence is key to happiness, assertiveness, and success. But how exactly do we acquire it? Here are 5 actionable items to boost your confidence:

1) Recognize the Context

Sometimes, we as women believe that struggling with confidence is a weakness we alone experience. But the truth is that many of us feel insecure and inadequate at times. Remember that although women have come a long way in the rights and opportunities available to us, we still need to continue to advocate for our equality. Feeling self-conscious or unconfident is part of the result of a bigger systemic picture. If you struggle with these feelings, know that you are not alone!

More

Why You Should Ask For Help: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

Why You Should Ask For Help: Julie Hanks on Studio 5

I need help” are often the hardest words for women to say. But therapist Julie Hanks, LCSW says learning to ask for help could change your life.

Why it’s hard to ask for help
We’re afraid people will think less of us
We’re afraid of rejection
We’re afraid of looking weak
We’re afraid of looking imperfect

 

More