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.

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.

How Relationships Are Like Sports

Relationships are like sports. Image of sports balls.

Ever been on a sports team?

Did you know that your experience on a sports team can teach you a lot about how relationships work?

Here are some similarities between sports and relationships to consider.

Not a One-Man Show

Did you ever have someone on your team who thought they were the most important player? That they were better than others or privileged?

If you did, you probably weren’t full of happy thoughts towards them.

If you were the self-centered player, you may have wondered why people got frustrated and angry with you so much.

The tension happened because a sports team’s effectiveness breaks down when one person makes it all about them. Morale begins to really sag. People feel like quitting.

The same thing happens in relationships. When one person makes the relationship all about them, they consistently make selfish decisions.

They also make decisions that they think are in their best interest instead of the “team’s”. In your relationship, you really are a team.

You’ll need to put your ego and selfish desires aside even though it’s not easy. Instead, do what’s best for everyone. By doing so, you’ll do what’s best for you, too, though it may not always feel like it at the time.

You Face Many Opponents

Just like in sports, you face many opponents in relationships. In sports, a new “enemy” is always out there in a different-colored uniform from another town or city trying to conquer you. To make you lose.

Your adversaries in sports cause tension. They bring on struggle. But, with your team, you overcome them.

In your relationships, there are many rivals, too. They take more-complicated forms, though.

Your opponents may be poverty, health problems, a toxic job, the temptation to remain faithful, the death of a friend or sleeplessness. Or they may take a thousand other forms.

But one thing will always be the same. You must work together to beat back the challenger.

You must resolve to fight together. No, not fight with each other. But fight as one against anyone and anything that threatens to bring harm to your relationship.

Your Teammates Can Be Difficult

Yep. This one’s already been hit on some but is worth looking at a little closer.

As you work in the trenches on a team, at times, you grow frustrated with each other. That’s perfectly normal as tensions can be very high during stressful situations.

In your relationships, you won’t always think the other person is the best person in the world. You’ll likely even go through times you don’t want to love them.

But, eventually, you triumph over these disagreements because you’re on the same team.

It’s All Worth It in the End!

You work together to overcome difficult situations in sports. You do the same in relationships.

And as you work together in that relationship, you eventually discover something wonderful.

You find the hard times that could’ve torn you apart, instead, brought you closer together.

That a lifelong friend was the result. And that a satisfying journey was shared together. And all that happened was worth it in the end!

Are you looking to improve your relationship? Or have you struggled recently with a breakup? We’d like to help. Schedule your appointment for either couples counseling or men’s counseling using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Why Nagging Your Mate Doesn’t Work

There are plenty of lies we buy into about relationships. Let’s face it, we’re all working to get better in that area.

One tempting misconception is that nagging a mate will encourage and motivate them to change for the good.

It actually causes the opposite. Why is this? Let’s explore what nagging really is and why it doesn’t work.

What Is Nagging?

Simply put, nagging is an ongoing attempt to get someone to change but the attempt is carried out in a persistent, uncaring way.

A nagged mate feels demeaned, put down, treated like a child and attacked. This leads us to the first reason nagging doesn’t work.

Because of Human Nature

The natural human response to ongoing negative criticism is to rebel. This may be more commonly attributed to children but adults respond the same way.

A nagged mate won’t say, “You know, I finally see it. All along you were right!”

Instead, they’ll say, “You want to be mean? I can be mean too. You want to confront? Then I’ll just avoid.”

Since the nagging partner takes an adversarial role, for a nagged mate to give in to their critic would be to admit defeat. Human nature is to hold the high ground, not to grovel in this case.

Opposite Of What a Relationship Should Be

A good and healthy relationship is a shelter. It’s a safe place from the storms and “haters” of life.

When a mate is nagged, the one relationship that should be the safest and most supportive painfully becomes everything but that.

This inevitably leads to resentment, hurt feelings and anger. Some nagged mates live a miserable existence for years in this state.

Others quickly hit the eject button on a relationship like that. They search for someone who will be a safe, loving and admiring mate instead of a naysayer.

The Endless Nagging Cycle

Here’s how the downward spiral works.

One mate nags their partner. The other partner resists, avoids, becomes frustrated or angry. The nagged person begins becoming more “nag-worthy” because they don’t want to conform.

As a result, the confronter increases the amount and severity of their criticism. This causes the amount and severity of the push back from the receiver to multiply at the same time.

Over time, the nagging cycle grows stronger and more destructive. The nagger feels it necessary to nag because their mate is failing so badly.

The nagged person no longer wants anything to do with their mate who, in many cases, has become the most difficult person in their lives to deal with.

Summing It Up

Nagging isn’t fun for either mate. It’ll put both parties on the fast track to misery and greatly increase the chance of relationship failure.

Stop the nagging cycle by complementing your mate, talking openly about your struggles and by being more patient. You can also find an outside party to help you work through your frustrations in a healthy way.

You can break free from the nagging cycle one good choice at a time and experience a much higher quality of life in the process! Let us help. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Is Your Partner the Marrying Type?

Interested in marriage but unsure if your partner will make a good marriage partner? It’s always wise to find out the answer to that question sooner than later. Bad marriages can often be avoided by doing some homework first. This will also give you greater confidence if you decide that you have a long-term keeper. Advice abounds on this topic but here are a few quick tips to help you decide if your partner is the marrying type.

Ask Your Friends

You can find out a lot by asking a friend about whether your partner is marriage material. Infatuation within a relationship is a wonderful feeling but can blind you to the truth about your partner, especially early on. The “in love feeling” can cause you to easily overlook large faults in your significant other.

Your friends live outside of these feelings and will be able to give you an honest assessment of your relationship. Whether they say “yes” or “no” to the marrying type question, listen carefully to them. It may be painful if they say “no” but it could save you from even greater pain down the road. Just remember, if they give you the thumbs down it isn’t because they are rejecting you. It’s because they care about you. They know that you have many lovable qualities and that you deserve better.

You Can’t Be Yourself

Although dating often means putting our best foot forward, it isn’t always a realistic depiction of one’s true self. Couples sometimes hold back their negative emotions and act more positive than they normally would. Those in a relationship want to give their partner every reason to like them. This can reach unhealthy levels, though.

If your partner is always trying to get you to look different, wear different clothes or change your personality to suit their desires, this is a problem. Although everyone has the need to become a better person, some partners try to change things about their significant other that aren’t bad. If your partner can’t accept you for who you are as a person, it’s a good indicator that they won’t be happy with you in a marriage relationship.

Trust Issues

If you consistently have valid trust concerns about your significant other, it may be a good idea to put the brakes on. Do you find that your partner is flirty with others besides you, keeps in contact with old flames, or has been caught in physical relationships with others while you’ve been dating? Getting married won’t fix that problem and will likely make it worse. Have an honest discussion with the one you love about these concerns. Marriage relationships can’t survive without trust. If you can trust your partner, you may have a keeper!

In this process, it’s important to remember that sometimes even partners who are the marrying type sometimes don’t want to get married at first. It can take some time to work up to that level of commitment. In contrast, just because your partner is eager to get married, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are marriage material. If you’ve read this far, it shows that you’re serious about your relationship. That’s exactly what you need to be successful!

Let us help. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Do you have trouble communicating with your partner?

Communication is essential in any interpersonal context, whether it be with co-workers, friends, or family, but it is one of the most, if not the most, essential building block of a healthy and strong relationship with your partner. It’s important to remember that it is a two-way street and as much as you want to be heard, your partner will want you to listen. Many problems begin when we don’t take responsibility for our communication.

Sometimes it is hard to acknowledge your significant other’s point of view when you have one of your own, and making the effort to really listen and try to understand them is not only a true sign of respect, but can also keep things from being bottled up and coming out negatively in the future. We all have opinions which we are incredibly stubborn about, however when disagreements do occur; the common response is to become defensive. It is this defensiveness which subliminally tells our partners that they can no longer go to us with their issues. This will, in turn, cause undue anxiety for your partner as not being able to be as open as they want to be with their significant other can harbor resentment and create a lot of unaddressed friction.

Not all conversations are going to be easy and it’s dealing with those difficult ones which will lead to the strongest bonds. Avoidance of issues will not only prolong them, it may actually intensify their meaning in a relationship. This will signal to your partner that whatever it is that you don’t want to talk about is actually an issue you are struggling with. Again, since it is a two-way street, your partner will want you to want to come to them for emotional support. It’s that feeling of being a team and being able to handle any situation together that reinforces positive validation of the relationship.

It’s been said many times before, but one of the easiest ways to show you are listening is to pay attention to the little things. Those are the intimate details of your partner’s life that they will only usually share with you. Taking notice and addressing these and other minute details in conversation signifies that you have internalized and made them a priority in your life. Furthermore, take interest, but also know when to give your partner space. There are more ways to communicate with your partner to let them know you understand them than by talking. Sometimes it is best to let a conversation sink in than to try and force it. Confronting them when they are not ready is a surefire way to ensure that they will be defensive. Instead, either ask or wait for them to come to you. Finally, remember to be open and available to your partner if you want them to feel safe and secure.

Let us help. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

You Waited Until After the Wedding to Tell me This

As you already know, there should be no secrets in romantic relationships; especially those that are moving on to matrimony. You’ve all heard the saying, “Honesty is the best policy.”  That is so true in every aspect of life, including relationships with significant others, and certainly relationships with your spouse.  Maybe something that happened in the past, prior to meeting your chosen one, is better left alone and untold.  Granted.  But what happens when there are secrets relative to money and the way one spouse or the other handles it?  What if one has accumulated a large debt that the other one knows nothing about?  What if one loves to splurge on expensive items and the other likes to know where every penny is going that leaves the wallet or checking account?  In a word, trouble.

Many people who are in financial strain show no outward signs.  People function every day and seem fine, letting nobody know that they are having money troubles.  They have a house, a car, and nice clothing, but they may be toting credit card debt in 5 or 6 digits.  Is it possible that your mate has money issues that you are unaware of?  Absolutely.

So your spouse is a shopper and you are not.  Your spouse buys expensive gifts for you to celebrate your birthday, anniversary, or just because.  You remember special days, but you don’t go all out.  Suddenly, creditors are calling about exceeded credit limits and letters are being received containing late payment notices.  Do you panic?  Of course you do, if you’re the thrifty one.

Approach it.  Don’t let it eat at you.  Ask your spouse.  Have a heart to heart conversation.  This dialog may certainly lead to arguing and trying to figure out why you didn’t know any of this before you were married.  Maybe your spouse feels entitled to spend more money than you do if you spouse makes more money.  That is no good.  Marriage is a partnership and a united give-and-get situation.  It doesn’t matter who makes more money.  So how do you fix these issues?  Here are some ideas.

First, come clean with each other.  Be sure that you and your spouse know every bit of money that is owed to a creditor, even if things were purchased before you met.  Once again, honesty is the best policy.

Make all spending known to each other.  Get a budget book, or any notebook, and record every expenditure; every expenditure, from the coffee drink in the morning to the drink with your friends after work.  After the trends can be seen on paper, devise a budget.

Try to set financial goals for the future; i.e., 6 months, 1 year, 5 years, 10 years, and 15 years.  Where do you want to be?  Do you want to be retired?  Do you want to move across the country?  Do you want to travel?  All of that takes money (and savings).  Planning is essential.

Analyze your money, together.  Sit down together every month and pay the bills.  Reconcile checking and savings accounts, and look at credit card debt.  Being brutally honest is necessary.

Once you’ve both committed to getting your finances in order, it will take time.  You both will get angry and frustrated at times. It will be a long process.  Try to prepare for it.  Along the way, if you find you need some help dealing with how to solve your financial problems and the issues is putting a strain of your marriage, you may want to reach out and let the professionals at the Relationship Center of Orange County help you. 

Let us help. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.