How to Neutralize Your Spouse’s Defenses

How do you neutralize your spouse’s defenses? That’s both an easy and difficult task.

It’s easy because, deep down, you likely know what you need to do. It’s difficult because actually doing it takes work and intentional action (at least at first).

If your spouse is always on the defense, there are some things you can do to minimize that.

Figure Out Why They’re Defensive

People aren’t always justified in their defensiveness or the amount they exhibit. But the fundamental reason people are defensive is always the same.

They’re trying to protect themselves. You may be knowingly or unknowingly hurting your spouse.

A negative childhood without enough praise and affirmation would also make it harder not to be defensive, too.

Even someone being confronted about an affair is defensive (though for selfish reasons) because they want to protect themselves. They may fear losing their reputation or a committed relationship among other things.

So, your goal is to crack the case for why your spouse is defensive.

Maybe it’s because they’ve screwed up in a big way and don’t want to admit it.

But it equally could be because they feel nagged, disrespected, underappreciated or that trust has been broken.

Step back and evaluate when and why your spouse becomes defensive.

It’s also valuable to ask your spouse why they are defensive and sincerely tell them that you just want to help.

The challenge may be for you not to become defensive if you don’t like the answer!

But at least you’ll know where you stand.

Compliment Your Spouse About Something

A relationship can turn adversarial and stay that way for a long time. Just like fish living in a toxic river or a cat hoarder living in filth, you start thinking that is normal existence.

Well, it’s not!

There’s is a much better way to live and it begins with “small” things like a well-aimed compliment.

Isn’t a large ship directed by a comparatively small rudder? Compliments or criticism are the rudders of your relationship.

Generously compliment your spouse and watch the toxicity drain right out of your relationship. Watch your relational “ship” take you to places you never dreamed of going before.

Do Something Besides “Paying the Bills”

Life can quickly become a never-ending cycle of responsibilities. It easy to become “business partners” in your relationship instead of soul mates.

Just the everyday stress of life can increase the defensiveness in others. Knowing this, intentionally schedule some times for you and your partner to de-stress together.

Pick a location or activity that you both enjoy. This can help you and your spouse let your guard down in ways that normally can be difficult.

Although spouse defensiveness is a real problem, things can get better little by little. As this area improves, expect the quality and quantity of your communication to soar. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Coping with Spousal Abandonment

It felt like you were in a war zone—because you were.

The enemies were closing in around you. You knew you couldn’t fight alone. But you weren’t alone–thank God.

But just when enemy fire was strongest, that someone you depended on abandoned you. Left you all alone to fend for yourself.

You were going to do this together. You were going to fight together against problems, not fight with each other about them.

If you’re drawn to this topic, there’s a good chance you’re hurting right now. Your feelings are understandable. Here are some thoughts on coping.

Seek Stability Alone (At Least At First)

Is it possible your relationship could be restored? Anything’s possible.

But is it guaranteed? No.

Definitely, own any shortcomings you find in yourself without beating yourself up. After all, you’re the only person you can change.

Trying to control a spouse who walked out on you is the surest way to make yourself miserable.

Whatever you do, though, don’t make a knee-jerk reaction.

Keep your distance from easy ways to fill that spousal void if it’s unhealthy.

That temptation may run the span from risky relationships, overeating, substance abuse, to pornography among many others.

Take small steps towards stability on your own. That means (as soon as possible) setting a new and healthy routine.

That healthy routine will involve meaningful work, adequate sleep and time with those who want to help you, not exploit you.

Stay Away from Exploiters

Speaking of exploiters, they come in many forms and are the last thing you need right now.

There are certain people who can smell suffering like sharks can sense blood in the water.

They often dress themselves up as someone who’s genuinely concerned.

But watch out. Appearances can be deceiving. These are the “scab pickers” who always attend deep suffering.

Exploiters have many specific names: Moral-superiority specialists, Abusers, Gossipers and Controllers.

They make your life worse.

They kick you while you’re down.

If you find a romantic admirer like this, you especially need to be vigilant and quickly show them the door. Such a person can make your life a living hell.

Just like looters creep in and steal after disasters, these people see your emotional wreckage and look for what they can take from you. Helping you rebuild isn’t on their radar.

Find people who actually care about you and allow them to help protect you from the “wolves”.

Get Your Hurts Out

You don’t need to cut yourself–Bleed words instead. You have to get those emotions out or you’re in trouble.

Journal, talk to people you trust and consider scheduling time with a trusted professional.

Getting everything out is, at first, part of your survival strategy.

Eventually, it will be your healing and happiness strategy. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Before You Marry—Setting the Stage for Happiness

Preparing for a happy marriage is much like the beginning of building a house.

Before you construct a house, do you find a rough piece of land and just start building walls?

Nope.

You make sure that land is level. You painstakingly work on your foundation.

What’s the point of building if there’s nothing strong to build on in the first place?

That’s a good question. After all, you want that house to stand for a lifetime. You want it to weather any storm.

So, how can you set the stage for happiness in your marriage? Here are some ideas.

Prepare Your Finances for Marriage

No matter how much you love each other, “living on love” won’t cut it—at least not for long.

Finances are not an exact science. There are many things you can’t foresee until they happen. Also, if you wait until your job and financial situation is perfect, you’ll never get married.

Still, there are some things you can do. Talk openly about your plans for work, housing and the ongoing pursuit of more fulfilling and higher paid work.

Identify areas you or your potential spouse may be weak in. Maybe one of you tends toward impulsive spending. Come up with a good way to handle this such as discussing purchases over a certain amount before buying.

It’s also wise to decide who will take care of your finances in the marriage.

You don’t want to worry yourselves to death because financial security isn’t everything. It doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage. There are plenty of financially secure and miserable couples out there.

That said, one of the biggest issues of contention and fights in a marriage involves finances. A little preparation can go a long way in setting you up for success and happiness.

Pursuing Something Bigger Than Yourselves

Before marriage, get to know each other as well as you can. This could prevent a bad marriage from happening before it ever starts.

Next, assuming you both still want to take the green light, spend plenty of time dreaming together.

Now is the best time for this. Once you have kids—as special as they are—it will be harder to stop and think about your hopes and dreams.

Find something more compelling and enduring to base your happiness on than money. Work together to answer the big “why” to your lives.

The Pursuit of Happiness

If you try to be happy at all costs in marriage, the irony is you’ll make you and your spouse just the opposite.

Plan on an enduring relationship based on an unwavering commitment to faithfulness and trust.

Not every moment will be happy, but you’ll build a deep satisfaction that will last a lifetime by staying committed.

True happiness, at its deepest level, isn’t based on superficial things like job success and finances.

Those are petty things compared to loving others and being loved. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

When Your Spouse Doesn’t Contribute Financially

There are few stressors that can wreak havoc on your relationship like financial ones.

In a healthy relationship, there needs to be an agreement about who makes the money.

Feeling shortchanged (no pun intended) because your spouse isn’t helping to bring in money for your bills?

Here are some ideas about how to navigate this challenge.

Our Current Culture and Unique Roadblocks

There was a time when a single-spouse income could provide pretty well for a family.

More than ever before, that time is over.

These days, families are maxed out. Many don’t know of any other way to provide for their expenses other than with two incomes.

Further complicating matters, spouses with young children often question if it’s even worth having a second income given daycare costs.

On one hand, that second job seems like a necessity. On the other, it doesn’t look like the second job will make much of financial difference.

Further adding to the stress is a continuing divide between the rich and poor. We now are the fourth-worst country on a long list of developed nations regarding that divide.

There are plenty of jobs but few good ones–Ones that actually pay your bills.

So, given these challenges, it’s not surprising that this is a hotter topic than ever.

Why Is Your Spouse Not Contributing Financially?

If you can come close to answering that question, you’ll have a better idea of what to do.

Here are some potential reasons your spouse isn’t helping with the bills:

  • They are depressed or experience other mental health challenges.
  • They’re so discouraged about the job market that they’ve given up.
  • There is an underlying physical health challenge.
  • There hasn’t been adequate communication for them to know they’re expected to help.
  • They’re already maxed out with taking care of kids, cooking meals, running errands and keeping the house (which is vital hard work though it doesn’t pay the bills).
  • Your spouse is battling an addiction.
  • Your spouse is able-bodied but still refuses to work.
  • Several other possibilities or combinations of the above-stated reasons.

What to Do Now

The number-one thing to do is communicate your frustrations in a healthy way even though you’re upset.

It may be that you can downsize and find some other ways to cut spending that would be equal enough to the extra money you think you need.

Yes, downsizing sounds scary. Ironically, many report that the experience isn’t what they expected. They anticipated slavery but, instead, found freedom.

There’s a saying that most in the western world can learn a lot from:

“The more you own, the more it owns you.”

Living above your means truly becomes slavery. Life consists of constantly making money so you have enough to spend on the “high life”. It isn’t focused on what’s way more valuable than money—people.

Every situation is a little different as is the solution.

Seriously consider discussing your challenges with a therapist to help you and your spouse work through them.

You do not need to feel alone in this struggle. You do not need to feel ashamed.

These days, many families are feeling the financial crunch like never before. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

The Best Way to Handle People Who Talk Too Much

Do you struggle to deal with people who talk too much? This is a surprisingly common problem.

More surprising, though, is the fact that many just live with this difficulty instead of finding ways to better cope.

Here are some quick suggestions to be more intentional so you’re less frustrated.

The Specific Reasons You’re Frustrated

Ok. You walked away from that conversation irritated once again. Why were you bothered? That’s the first question to ask.

Once you know the answer, your solution will be way easier.

Most people enjoy conversation. We usually feel validated when we make verbal exchanges about our lives and what’s going on.

Mutual sharing on both sides happens. The result is energizing and works to strengthen relationships and improve our lives. Sometimes, those conversations can be quite long without ever feeling draining.

When mutual sharing doesn’t happen, though, a five-minute conversation can drain the life out of you quicker than an hour-long one.

Besides the fact that someone you know talks too much, there likely are other underlying and specific problems that bug you.

It could be that the person you have in mind talks too much because of the following:

  • They only talk about themselves
  • Are consistently negative
  • Generally engage in conversation at inconvenient times
  • Talk about things that don’t interest you
  • Are prone to conflict with you
  • Don’t come across as trustworthy
  • Are entertaining romantic interest in you–which, if you’re reading this article because of them, you don’t feel the same way.
  • Several other possibilities

Once you’ve decided on a more specific problem, you’ll be able to come up with a more specific solution.

Stop Worrying About Being “Nice”

Yes, you want to be kind. That’s likely one of the reasons you have a hard time with this one. But is being “nice” in conversation really being nice?

Here’s an all-too-common scenario:

The person in question has now been talking for 20 minutes. Your eyes started glazing over 17 minutes ago. You’re engaging in a plethora of head nodding and uh-huhs and disheveled, anxious eye-contact. But the person you’re talking with (or more accurately, the person who’s talking to you) isn’t picking up on the cues that you’ve sunk into the perilous swamps of one-sided conversation and that you’re struggling to come up for air.

What you need to come to grips with is that the uh-huhs, head nods and pitiful eye-contact you’re exhibiting leave you feeling guilty for not being more engaged.

By pretending to be engaged, you’re actually not being “nice” even if the person rattling off to you hasn’t noticed.

Instead, be prepared to be honest. Admit if the person talking to you lost you or you’re too busy or whatever the reason.

If you need an excuse to exit the conversation, you needn’t lie. Your life is busy enough without having to do that.

You have kids to pick up, bathroom breaks, pressing calls, texts and emails and the list goes on.

Stop worrying about being “nice” and just be honest even if there’s risk of hurt feelings. By so doing, you’ll be well on your way to acing the talk-too-much problem!

Another way to deal with this challenge is to set a specific amount of time aside in your mind. It could be five or ten minutes. After the time is up, kindly but firmly share that you need to get going.

There’s a reason that person that frustrates you is in your life. It’s likely beneficial for them to share with you. By striking a balance, you can be an encouragement and help without becoming overwhelmed! If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

First Date: 3 Red Flags to Avoid

It’s time for your first date. You want to make the best-possible first impression. But first impressions are a two-way street.

What if that first date winds up being an epic fail and it wasn’t because of you?

Worse yet is another fear. What if your first date gives you some serious red flags and you don’t even notice them? Because you don’t notice them, you later find yourself deep into a toxic relationship?

Although there’s a host of potential red flags, here are three to consider.

Your First Date Only Talks About Themselves

Want a major Red Flag?

You’re an hour into your time together and your date hasn’t ceased talking about themselves. It’s almost like you’re invisible—like you’re not even there.

Have you noticed or are you blindly overlooking that fact?

Your relationship will always struggle if only one side is numero uno.

Things aren’t likely to get better, either. Most sensible people are on their “best behavior” for first dates.

What’ll happen when familiarity sets in? The odds aren’t very good that your opinion will matter or that you’ll be valued.

All your needs, hopes and dreams will be eclipsed by the narcissist you’ve made such a large part of your life.

Your First Date Pressures You to Be Physical

You shouldn’t feel any pressure to be physical on your first date. Your date needs to respect that fact or you’re starting out on shaky ground.

No, you don’t owe your date a thing if they buy you something to eat or a memento.

Take some control and avoid opportunities or places that could lead you to compromise or even danger.

It’s best to decide ahead of time on this issue. If your date can’t respect your boundaries on a first date, tell them to get lost.

Your First Date Is Too Pushy

Your initial date should be relaxed. It’s better if you don’t go to a fancy dinner or do something that could feel high pressure.

If your date tries to make things feel otherwise, they could be intentionally (or unintentionally) moving too fast.

They may fear losing you and feel the only way to prevent that is to do something big.

The truth is that there’s already enough pressure on a first date as it is. Find something to do that’s fun and relaxing instead of cramped and potentially stressful.

There’s no need to feel pressured into another date. You’ll need time to process that later.

In Conclusion

Watch how your date treats other people and then decide if you’d like to be treated the same way.

No date will be perfect just like you’re not perfect. This needs to be understood.

At the same time, you want to look for patterns that could cause you more grief than it’s worse. And if you find patterns like that, put the brakes on and then change lanes. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Why What I Admire In You Also Says Something About Me

If you ask 100 different people who they admire most and why you’ll get dozens of different answers.

But did you know that what we admire in others tells us something about ourselves? And it’s not just superficial tidbits that can be unearthed through such an observation as we’ll see.

What You Admire in Friends

What you admire in friends tells you something about yourself.

Perhaps what you appreciate and admire isn’t exactly enduring. It could be simply that you’re drawn to and admire people who wear nice clothes and look a certain way. Or maybe you admire a certain socio-economic status.

Even with superficial admiration, you can learn something. We all are superficial to an extent so it doesn’t mean you’re a terrible person if you admire traits that are only “skin deep”.

But let’s dig a little further. Perhaps you admire friends who have grit. Friends who had to overcome significant adversity.

If so, it’s likely you had to persevere despite overwhelming obstacles or that you currently are doing your best to make an attempt at it. This likely causes you to appreciate music artists who make songs about overcoming obstacles and causes you to admire those artists.

Maybe you love fitness or adventure and you admire those who hold similar likes, desires and activities.

Regardless, when you discover what you admire you’ll understand yourself a lot better. These admirations aren’t mere coincidences.

Sometimes what you appreciate in someone could get you into trouble. Admiring traits that aren’t, in fact, admirable could tell you that you’ve strayed a bit from where you want to be.

The Components of Purpose

When we get into things like the greatest contribution you can make to humanity, things can get hazy.

Finding the big “why” to your existence isn’t easy for most people. Some never find it. Some compare finding this “calling” to digging it out from the rubble of a collapsed building.

To find such a purpose is frustrating and sometimes agonizing. There are a series of successes and failures along the way.

Sometimes, you may just long for someone to throw you a clue. If you want a clue in this painstaking process, stop and think about who you admire.

Could it be that you are supposed to become what you admire most in others?

No, not a re-creation of someone else. Just you at your very best.

That you are to become someone who others will admire. A signpost in the dark night of others finding their way.

So, when you look at others and admire them. Stop and take notice.

Sure, what you admire might be their hairstyle. But, then again, it could cut to the very core of who you are and who you’re supposed to become. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

The Problem with Assuming Others Are Perfect

The primary problem with believing others are perfect is that you believe a lie. And believing lies about how life works can cause you to say and do things that aren’t in your best interest or the best interest of others.

Before you go beating yourself up about doing this, first realize that virtually everyone is tempted to believe that others are perfect at times.

What are some specific problems you might experience if you falsely conclude that others are perfect? Here are some possibilities.

Discouragement

Surprised by this one? I bet not. That’s because when you assume other people you know (or apparently don’t know that well) are perfect, you look at yourself and immediately put yourself down.

You know better than anyone how many flaws you have. But you hardly have a shred of evidence about the flaws of the person you’re measuring yourself by.

You conclude that you don’t measure up and in a big way. The specific things you compare to the “perfect” person may vary widely from the perfect relationship, house, kids, career, to education and on the list goes.

But the result is predictably the same. You want to go into your room and pull the covers over your head. The sun’s shining outside as you do so. You just don’t care, though.

You wrongly assumed someone was perfect who wasn’t and drew unfair and inaccurate conclusions about yourself. You decided for the moment that you are worthless.

That’s a big mistake and couldn’t be further from the truth.

Envy and Jealousy

Besides discouragement or even depression because of the comparison game, you may experience a very different emotion: jealousy, envy and maybe even hate.

You’re over your initial discouragement and now it’s time to retaliate. It’s time to fight.

And fight you should. You should fight every temptation to label yourself with words like useless, worthless and loser.

There’s just one problem with envy, jealousy and hate. You make an unsuspecting bystander the object of your bitterness and hurt.

False ideas are your real enemy, not people.

Ironically, that same person you’re jealous of may envy you and feel like you’re perfect. After all, they see all of their own flaws. But they have zero data about you.

You May Have an Affair

You may severely damage a committed relationship by imagining someone else is “perfect.”

You may regularly tell yourself how “perfect” a different person is and how flawed your old partner is. But the time will come when you see all the flaws of your new flame for what they really are.

Those flaws may, in fact, be greater with your new partner than if you’d just stayed put.

Summing Things Up

We’re all very imperfect people. It’s easier to admit that about ourselves than others. Don’t believe the “perfect people lie.”

It will only cause you unnecessary problems. You are far more valuable than your problems and imperfections. Be the best you that you can be.

That’s what the world needs most from you—a fully alive you! If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

How to Balance Dating When You Have Kids

If you have kiddos in addition to a developing relationship, you know firsthand the challenge this can be.

Sometimes it feels like a tug-of-war match. The only thing is, you feel that if both sides don’t win, then everyone loses.

If you’re looking for some tips to help, here are a few.

Good Enough is Good Enough

The first thing to realize is that you won’t magically find the perfect, ideal balance. As bad as it sounds, you’re looking for good enough–Good enough with all its rugged edges.

This will be roughest at the start of your relationship. That’s because there should be a healthy distance of your potential mate from your children.

Because you do so much separately, either your date, children or both will feel left out at times.

You want to protect your children and rightly so.

What if they grow attached to your date faster than you do and the relationship abruptly ends?

What if you “make” your kids abruptly accept your date as a part of the family when the date hasn’t earned that honor yet?

Sometimes it will seem like one side is more of a priority. Just work at making a balance.

As the relationship progresses, this will become easier once the time is right to spend time with your significant other and children at the same time which leads us to our next point.

Just Ask Them

We all can be good at feeding “the elephant in the room.” You know, the nagging fear that your kids or date aren’t getting enough quality time. We tend to avoid touchy subjects instead of tackling them straight on.

Ironically, this usually makes more work for us in the long term.

Ask your date and kids if they’re getting enough time with you. Sometimes the responses you get will be emotionally charged and leave you scratching your head.

You’ll wonder if they are accurate assessments or just feelings. You’ll have to decide that for yourself.

But at least you won’t be playing the guessing game.

One caution with this: be prepared that you may receive an answer you don’t want.
Prepare yourself beforehand not to become angry or defensive in that case.

You want to keep lines of communication open. You also want to make sure that you don’t discourage transparency and honesty from your date or kids.

Do Things Together

If your date and children start doing things together at the proper stage in the relationship, things will gradually become easier.

As the level of commitment increases, so should the time you all spend together. At first, you’ll have to decide when to even introduce your date. Then, you’ll get to decide how to slowly include everyone.

Dating emotions can be strong. You know that already. Don’t make these decisions on the highs and lows of emotions. Ask the opinion of those closest to you or a skilled therapist.

This likely won’t give you an exact answer. But you won’t be shooting in the dark anymore. You’ll likely hit close to where you should be. If it is time for you to schedule your couples counseling appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

How to Introduce Your Kids to Someone You’ve Been Dating

Looking for the ever-elusive relationship fairy to give you the nod? For her to tell you that you should marry your partner?

Good luck with that one!

Although there are plenty of emotions that go into a budding relationship, deciding if your partner is the one doesn’t need to be a mystical decision.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to deciding. But here are some ways to help determine if your partner is “the one.”

Most Of The Time, You’re Happy

This is an important one because if you ask 10 different people how they knew their spouse was the one, you may get ten different answers.

It may have been because their partner made them laugh, was kind, romantic, responsible, physically attractive or any combination of things.

But boiled down, it meant that, most of the time, they were happier with their partner than unhappy.

It sounds very similar to what makes someone conclude they have a satisfying job. Most of the time, they are happy with it so they stick with it.

Conversely, if you increasingly find you’re unhappy in your relationship, this could be a sign to hold off.

Others Say Your Partner’s The One

You shouldn’t necessarily give up on a relationship if someone close to you doesn’t like your partner.

However, if you have more than one close friend or family member who thinks your significant other is the one, that’s worth paying attention to.

Your friends and family are able to maintain a less biased view of your relationship. While you’re worried about your relationship working and doing all you can to make it a success, they’re just watching.

Most of the time, those who know you best have a pretty good idea. They can easily tell if you become a better person because of the person you’re with or the opposite.

If you’re consistently happy, they pick up on that. If there’s a consistent dark cloud over your life that wasn’t there before your relationship started, there’s no way those closest to you won’t notice.

Spend A Lot Of Time With Them

Lastly, spend plenty of time with your partner before deciding to marry.

Spend enough time with them to know if you’re happy most of the time with them or not.

Marriage never should be a knee-jerk or desperation move. Those who hope marriage will “clean up” their relationship problems are almost always disappointed.

Make the reason you marry be because you can’t imagine going through life without your partner.

The more time you spend together, the less you’ll second guess your decision. You’ll just know. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.