We're craving villages, emotional intimacy, connection, and support but this goes against our American ideals of independence, pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, and the great importance of being "fine".
I had a mom to an 18-month-old ask at a recent talk I gave to a group of women, "Does anyone talk on the phone anymore?" and "...how do you make those kind of friends?"
She was in a room full of about 20 other moms wondering how to be more connected.
I don't know that there's anything worse than being in relationship AND feeling alone.
And so I've started wondering lately, "Is small talk killing the village?"
I used to be so good at mingling. I think I mastered small talk in the midst of grave (and not so grave) life experiences as a child.
Mingling probably saved me in a lot of ways.
Stuck at home with a soap-opera watching Grandma at age 3? Mingle enough with surrounding families and they'll entertain you and feed you lunch.
Tensions flying high in my parents' highly conflictual marriage? Mingle with ANY neighborhood kid that will bite...then play 'til street lights come on.
Parents divorce and I move out of state at THE WORST and most AWKWARD age EVER? Mingle your way into the hearts of some better-feeling families so that you're welcome 24/7.
DON'T BURDEN THEM WITH YOUR CRAP. Be light! Easy breezy. Smile! And especially smile when you tell them WHY you moved to St. Louis; you don't want them to think you're DYSFUNCTIONAL...Here, practice these lines, "We moved to St. Louis when my parents' divorced. No, don't be sorry. The divorce wasn't hard, it was expected."
No one taught me how to mingle. The unspoken rule was clear: Don't burden people with your crap.
The truth is that behind all that smiley small-talk I was an anxious and depressed child with a plummeting self-esteem.
I mingled my way through college, into the hearts of a few boyfriend's families, and into my Master's program while successfully not fully owning any of my issues and not truly deeply connecting with anyone except for maybe my therapist.
When I was 24 mingling became impossible when my 3-month-old niece passed away. It turns out the part of my brain that knows how to shoot the shit literally shuts-down for months (maybe years) after helping my half-sister pick out a casket for her baby.
I just couldn't talk about the weather, or the game, or your hair...I just couldn't. And I knew you didn't want to talk about dead babies as you would quickly contort your face and say, "Oh, I'm sorry," with an implied "THE END. WE'RE DONE HERE. FINITO." as you'd quickly change the subject to my hair.
Strangely, this mingling master was in a master's program where we were being taught to NOT small talk. If psychotherapists are small-talking we're wasting your time and money.
Nothing therapeutic or healing happens in small talk. NOTHING.
Do our brains have the ability to shut off the small talk when we need it the least? I have no idea. All my research in affective neuroscience hasn't revealed this phenomena, but I know many others who have experienced it as well.
And now, in my office, where I have worked deeply with couples and individuals for over a decade, I see the effects of all of this small talk: Moms feeling deep loneliness, people panicked wondering if their feelings are normal or if they're somehow defective, and a degree of emotional distance and charade that is literally pinching us off from a basic human need to feel like we belong - like we're part of a tribe.
So what can you do if you're feeling like you're craving a tribe?
1. Stop wearing your "It's fine!" mask and see who's left. YES, there are people who are in your life now who will not like you as much when you're not fine....and there are people out there who will love you MORE.
How are you going to find your tribe of people if you're not wearing YOURSELF...they will never recognize you.
I met my most recent tribe member at a social event for our kids. In a group of women small-talking she said, "Well I have 4 kids, so I always look like shit and my house always looks like shit." I started inviting her over and out immediately.
2. Imperfectly invite people over. Don't wait until the house is clean (or in my case- not under construction). Host not-fancy dinner parties, happy hours, fire-pit gatherings, or book clubs. I started a book club last year and literally called it THE IMPERFECT BOOK CLUB - yoga pants casual, wine welcome.
The ways you are imperfect allow people to connect to you and love you even more... and the people who are not in your tribe might run away screaming. It's a great litmus test.
3. Stalk people. As busy adults it's so rare that friendships just spontaneously happen. When I had my first child I felt so alone. Many of my friends moved out of state within a 2 year period and I was the first to have a child. To my dismay, new friends didn't fall out of the sky and into my kitchen.
I remember seeing an old acquaintance on MySpace (yes, it was THAT long ago) and thinking, "She likes Indian food, baby wearing is one of her interests, and she's funny....I think we could totally be friends." I asked her and her family on a date to the Indian Buffet for lunch.
Did it feel strange? YES! Did I feel like a stalker? ABSOLUTELY. And we've been great friends ever since and she loves to tell people the story of how I stalked her on MySpace.
If there's someone out there you'd like to get to know more ask them to connect 3 times before giving up.
4. Know you deserve (and need...just ask Maslow) a tribe. Historically for our species living in close, inter-reliant groups of 30-50 is what's normal. It's no wonder we're all craving that village. Listen to this FASCINATING snippet from the Ted Radio Hour where journalist Sebastian Junger explains that the need to belong is so innate and so strong it's why some veterans actually miss war. He says their experience of trusted brotherhood while at war mimic more closely a village than anything else in our society.
5. If you're a mom, attend my upcoming TRIBE retreat for Moms in May, 2017. I've worked deeply with moms for the last 10 years and have created this retreat just for YOU (or the mom in your life). For all the details click here.
It will definitely be a no mingling zone.
You deserve happy relationships....without having to go to war,
I don't know about you, but lately I'm feeling scattered and lost. I'm making dinner less. I'm working less. I'm cleaning less. I'm connecting less. I'm procrastinating everything more.
Wandering aimlessly is my new past-time.
I wake up most mornings at 6am to write with my Australian writing buddy who lives in Atlanta (accountability is hugely important when a task requires me waking up when it's dark outside...and hearing an Australian accent first-thing isn't so bad) and as I hopped on our Google Hangout Jetsony video call I realized I have not a frappin' clue what I'm going to write about today.
As I was saying all of this out-loud to my writing buddy I realized I'm feeling a little bit paralyzed by all of the current events: keeping up with all of the changes, listening to the swirling outrage, educating myself, forming opinions, figuring out HOW on EARTH people's opinions could differ from mine, reading about what everyone's doing, about what I should be doing, deciphering what Joe Schmo on my Facebook page thinks about the current events through all the grammatical errors (I'm just asking for a big grammatical error in this post by writing that...if you find it, you win a prize!)...
and I'm forgetting to breathe.
I'm forgetting to notice what's good.
I'm forgetting to look within.
I'm forgetting to reach out for support.
I'm forgetting about how powerful I am.
I'm allowing myself to become overwhelmed and overstimulated and frazzled by a never-ending barrage of information that I have control over.
And it's taking its toll.
The world doesn't need us to be overwhelmed, overstimulated, frazzled, and under-productive.
I've never heard of any great change or leadership or well-being coming from a frazzled and overwhelmed human being.
The world needs us to be clear, focused, and collected.
I believe this lies somewhere between what I've been doing lately and burying my head in the sand and never watching or reading another news source again.
Here's what I'm going to try:
Limit information intake: I'm going to do this by time and by source.
I think we need to ask ourselves a few questions about the information we're consuming:
1. Is it addicting?
2. Am I learning something or is this just confirming my opinion?, and
3. Would this article NOT do a damned thing to convince others of my opinion?
If the answer is YES to any of these questions I believe these articles or programs are a waste of my time, energy, and resources and I'm pretty sure that 90% of what I've allowed myself to consume falls into this category.
Limit social media time or filter your feed: Jumping on Facebook is no longer the destresser it used to be. I haven't decided yet, but I'm either limiting my time there and/or filtering political posts or posts from known not-so-great-sources from my feed. More on that HERE.
Come up with doable action steps: There are so many ways to get involved it sends my brain into a tail-spin. If I choose one action item per week it will be about, rouuuuggghhly....my math could be really wrong here...51 more ways I am consciously being involved than last year.
And I have to REMEMBER: no amount of caring is too small. I can send $2 or $200 to organizations and causes I care about depending on what feels good to me that week.
Get Some Accountability: Know someone in the same boat?...I bet you do. Come up with your own guidelines for yourself so that you can harness your energy and VOW to send a despicable organization of your choice a check if you veer off course. EEP! This one hurts.
We might as well be sending the other side an energetic check when we allow ourselves to be drained, overwhelmed, and paralyzed, right? Why not just double-down to keep yourself on track?
You're boiling inside about something your partner just said or did...maybe it's the VERY thing you've talked about 457 times before and it's STILL happening.
The thing to do next to actually come to a resolution is probably THE most counterintuitive...
So, let's start with that witch that lives inside you
You know...the one who says things like, "YOU SUCK" or "YOU'RE A TERRIBLE MOTHER" or "YOU'RE JUST A SCREW UP" or "YOU'RE NOT DOING ENOUGH"
I think we all live with some version of that voice. Our brains are wired for it. I don't really care what you call it: ego, fear, the devil...
One of the very first things I do when I work with couples is I try to tease out the specific-to-you destructive core beliefs at play within each person that are being triggered within the relationship.
We all have destructive core beliefs shaping our lens through which we see ourselves, each other, and the world. When left unexamined, they can slowly deteriorate relationships and put an upper limit on success and happiness.
Last weekend I made an extensive list of these beliefs on a whiteboard for a classroom full of couples and asked them to pick the ones that most resonated with them.
And what happened is what usually happens, people have a REALLY hard time identifying these beliefs...especially as they pertain to their relationship.
It's like when I've had my sunglasses on my head for hours and then am booming, "WHERE ARE MY SUNGLASSES?! HAS ANYONE SEEN MY SUNGLASSES?!" as I'm trying to get out the door.
They've been there so long I can't feel them anymore.
I approached a couple who looked confused. He said, "I can't really figure out what mine is." I had asked the group to think of some arguments, irritations, blow-ups, or times they shut down with their partner, and then see if they could find a theme of one of the underlying beliefs on the board.
He had plenty of examples. "Like when she asks me to change the baby's diaper and then has an opinion on how much diaper cream I've used, or when I'm making dinner and she takes over a task because she doesn't like the way I'm doing it...."
I said, "So, it feels like you can't do it right? Or like she feels like you're not competent or capable?"
These thoughts fit clearly under the belief in inferiority (I'm less than you) and in fact were listed on the board.
And this is REALLY common. I wonder if the toughness in seeing these beliefs in ourselves is that in those moments of defensiveness or shut-down we're so focused on the OTHER person's part that it makes a blind-spot for seeing our own.
THE HUGE TRUTH IS...if there wasn't a part of you that believed that insert your destructive core belief here it wouldn't bother you when it seemed like someone else thought it too.
I also wonder if in many of us one defense mechanism we've created in living with such beliefs is portraying the opposite in an effort to prove to ourselves and the world that we're O.K.
For instance, it's easy to begin acting from a superior intent when you perceive that someone is treating you like you're inferior.
Imagine the outcome if he snaps back, "YOU're always micromanaging ME!"
"It sounds like you think I'm not capable?"
One elicits defensiveness in the listener and the other invites a conversation about the real underlying issue.
What I see in my office is just a few themes of core beliefs:
In men I mostly see some variation of: I can't DO it right or I can't DO enough - focused on DOING.
In women I mostly see some variation of: I am not enough - focused on BEING.
There's also the insidious, "I'm defective", "I'm a failure", and "I'm bad."
I have one client who is, career-wise - REALLY successful, but also moves through his personal life with a large dose of belief in his defectiveness. Because of a diagnosis of depression and anxiety it's like he can't trust his own feelings or his brain at large. This keeps him from addressing emotional issues in the moment which has his partner feeling like she's playing a game without the rules as she gets blindsided with his true feelings long after the fact.
This triggers her belief that she's not enough and sets off a big reaction to which he attributes to him not feeling or thinking about this "right" and ends up being one more piece of evidence for the stack labeled, "I'm defective".
In the workshop I hosted this weekend a man said, "I think mine is that 'I'm bad', but I'm not really sure." He told me this comes up for him when he travels a lot for work leaving his wife home to parent their 3 young children.
"I know she wants me to call, but sometimes I'm in meetings and in different time zones and it just makes it not possible."
His wife was in the restroom. I asked him if her core belief was, "I'm not important". His eyes got big and he tapped on her worksheet, "YES."
I love when people think I'm a witch.
I often see couples' destructive core beliefs fitting together like puzzle pieces - holding them in a go-nowhere pattern of interaction like Chinese handcuffs. The more they do what's intuitive from the perspective their destructive core belief creates, the more they're locked into an argument that feels like it never gets resolved and probably happens on repeat.
I teach couples to lean in to these moments so that they can be set free (same deal with Chinese handcuffs). To lean into these tough conversations we have to learn how to wrap our mouths around our own destructive core beliefs and those of our partner.
THE MOST RIDICULOUS EXAMPLE: Months after we had our first child we were attempting to go on date nights. It was a real joke. Despite being away from the baby, it seemed we couldn't remember how to talk about anything but the baby: when the baby last pooped, was it a big poop?, or a small poop?, how long the baby had slept, and when the baby will sleep again....
You get the idea.
In a really conscious effort to get us talking about something else I said, "So, what places to visit are on your bucket list?"
"I don't know," he said abruptly with a HINT of a "that's a stupid question" tone.
I read his response as confusion: I had changed the subject REALLY QUICKLY. So, I gave him some examples, "You know, like I REALLY want to go to Greece, and Italy, and Hawaii, and Spain. THOSE are the places I'm really drawn to. So, how about you?"
I don't know.
Like where have you always dreamed of going?
I DON'T know.
I . DON'T . KNOW.
It was clear that he really wasn't saying "I don't know," at this point and I dropped the subject. I thought maybe he was just in a bad mood.
Same thing happened on the next date night. It was clear he was irritated with the topic.
Because I know some big destructive core beliefs for him are "I don't do it right" and "I don't do enough" I thought, "HOW could he be perceiving this conversation through THAT lens?"
Wait...Do you think I'm saying that it's YOUR job to get me to these places?
YES! What else would you be saying?
He also heard that he wasn't doing enough because he hadn't gotten me to any of these places yet.
THAT WAS SO NOT MY INTENT. But now, because his perception of my intent was clear, I had a chance to clear it up. "ERIC, I work! If I want to get these places it's my job to get me there...not yours. My happiness is MY job."
When we're not clear of our destructive core beliefs and how to talk about them in the moment, it can be SO easy to get off track.
We had the bucket-list-places-to-visit conversation recently and it went really differently. I asked him if he remembered the last time we talked about it, and he didn't (our oldest is 9).
And as I'm writing this I'm realizing that just the context of having a new baby could have really magnified his destructive core beliefs: They are often mirrored back to you by the people and things you care about the most. A baby's cry sure can sound a lot like, "YOU'RE NOT DOING IT RIGHT!" and "YOU'RE NOT DOING ENOUGH!"
I was going to take more credit for us being able to get through that conversation this time without him taking my dreams personally, but maybe the fact that we don't have a newborn plays as big a part as all of the relationship work we've done??
So, what's the first step in wanting to scratch your partner's eyes out less? Examining and addressing the witch that lives inside of you...and the one in your partner.
If it bother's you, it lives in you.
You deserve happy relationships,
This husband and wife owned restaurant is a no-brainer starting point for the Date Night STL crawl I'm doing to kick off my 2017 Date Night Workshop Series.
I just had to know: Where do Katie and Ted go for date night? Babysitter on stand-by.
But first...about my love affair with their place:
My first date with Katie's Pizza & Pasta Osteria was in the winter of 2014, but it wasn't with my husband.
We'd been trapped with a crabby and sick 2-year-old for days of our winter break and I was itching to get out of the house. In researching for our upcoming move I'd stumbled upon this snazzy-looking new restaurant.
"Pizza, pasta, wine...that should please everyone."
I loaded our older kids in the car and headed to Katie's. I was immediately smitten. The mismatched chairs, the big white modern lights, the art (much of it by Ted himself), the open kitchen, the wine list, the cool staff...I felt like I was adulting and it was all happening in a strip mall....with my children. What is this place?
Wait just a hot pizza minute - I want all notions of strip mall restaurants with the word PIZZA in the name to leave your mind. In nearly every way, this is not Katie's.
I'm not sure if it's intentional, but it's like they somehow straddle the lines between upscale-hip-foodie-date-night place AND a casual-family-friendly-come-as-you-are kinda place. Like that drawing where if you look one way it's the back of a lady's head and if you look another way it's an angry man's face...it's BOTH.
It's tiny bottles of dry prosecco AND pizza dough balls for the kids to play with.
It's a never-disappointing place to eat and connect with friends and family. Hard.to.find.
It's like going to your coolest friend's house for a dinner party...with or without kids...and no one has to clean up.
And this friend is an amazing chef; let's talk food. Embarrassingly, I stuck to the amaze-balls salads for my first YEAR of ordering at Katie's. The prawn salad with fennel and oranges, the fried artichoke salad with asparagus, goat cheese, and balsamic, the watermelon salad (seasonal)...My mouth waters just typing those things.
And then one day the clouds parted and I gave up on my order-as-few-carbs-as-possible goal. Enter: The LEMON STROZZAPRETI. Lemony, perfectly-textured, slightly chewy hand-crafted pasta dripping with lemon cream sauce lounging around with roasted cauliflower and pistachios.
I think I had an out-of-body experience. I dream about their pasta.
And the STAFF. Having years of experience under my belt in the restaurant and retail industries: front of the house, back of the house, and manager...I really mean it when I say their staff is our favorite in town.
For my next Date Night STL crawl spot, I thought, Who better to ask than the Queen of Flavortown? What do they like to eat? Where do they like to go? GENIUS. So I chatted with Katie and got some surprising answers.
Do you have a place you frequent...as much as I frequent KPPO?
Katie: We LOVE Olive + Oak. The service is great, it's comfortable, the energy isn't too stuffy, and the menu changes every week so you can go back and not have the same experience twice. And, the story is really great, too.* We love supporting other people doing good in the community.
*The restaurant is keeping the memory and energy of 2 owners' sons, Oliver and Oakes, alive and well. Both were born with congenital heart defects and passed in 2013 and 2012. Olive + Oak is dedicated to supporting causes related to CHD.
You have a day off, where are you and Ted going for fun together?
Katie: Fishing or floating. Ted really got me into fishing. I know people think I'm trying to be cute when I say that, but I'm totally serious.
45 minutes to an hour outside of St. Louis are some really great spring-fed rivers and creeks: the Courtois, Huzzah, and Meramec Rivers. The Bass River Resort has horseback riding and ziplining. It would be a great place to take the kids.
We pack our fishing poles and a lunch and just drive out for the day. It is so pretty and relaxing. Totally peaceful and quiet - there's NO cell phone service. We wade in the stream, watch bald eagles fly by....you really feel like you're on vacation...and it's SO CHEAP!
Dessert or drinks. Day or night. What's your favorite place?
Katie: Well, we don't drink, so we can't give you THAT answer. But my new favorite place for desserts is Nathaniel Reid Bakery on Manchester. Nathaniel is the real deal. He's worked at some of the best restaurants in the country and we are so lucky to have him here in St. Louis.
I get their pastries or macarons. They have a cute sitting area and also offer sandwiches and salads.
Recently I was picking up pastries for a family party and he personally helped me out to the car. He didn't even know who I was. I was blown away by the customer service.
[ME: "KATIE! He knew who you were!!!" But...she disagreed.]
AND we also have a thing for ice cream. It's a problem. We have to cut ourselves off from Ted Drewes for a few weeks per year when we put on the pounds.
And there you have it folks!! The queen has spoken. High-tail it to all these places for your next date night. I have to say that I have NEVER thought of a fishing date, but I am SO looking forward to planning one! I think it might have to wait until next Spring.
Next? I'll be hitting up one of these places to see where THEY date night. HOW WILL I CHOOSE!?!?! Maybe you could vote in the comments? Help me out!
PS - Is your relationship not terrible, but you'd love to take it to the next level....and dinner and a movie date nights just aren't cutting it? The 2017 Date Night Workshop Series might be for you.
Here's my vision: You grab a babysitter for a Saturday night. Before dinner & drinks you head to a relationship-deepening workshop (with me, Therapist & Relationship Coach, Mika Ross). The workshops will be strategically formatted to give you the tools, time, and space to create change in your relationships. The January workshop SOLD OUT fast, so grab your tickets for March ASAP - we'll be focusing on COMMUNICATION.
I won't tell you that following your truth will be easy, that listening to what's in your heart will be a breeze, that standing up for yourself will be comfortable, or that choosing the path less traveled will be like an all-inclusive trip to the Caribbean...but I will tell you, it's SO worth it.
I was with a client today who's been choosing dreadful and draining and "good on paper" for the last 20+ years. And in the last 6 months I've had the pleasure of supporting her in choosing brutal and beautiful instead.
She's terrified of being "selfish", but she's clear what sweeping her entire self under the rug nets her...and she just can't go back to that.
She's exhausted and in love. She's navigating the toughest of situations and getting more support than ever. She's feeling the heat of more judgment from others and being more compassionate with herself. Many think she's lost her mind; she's never felt more sane.
She's giving less fucks than ever before.
She needs a damn nap, but CHEESE AND RICE I just want to give her a hug and a high 5.
It's truly brutiful...one of my fav new words from Glennon Doyle Melton.
I cannot imagine doing anything else.
So, this summer I realized in a conversation with my 9-year-old that perhaps she was hearing things about S-E-X. And then I realized, "SHE'S 9!!" Seriously, how do they grow up so fast?
In my mind I had planned to talk to my kids about sex between the ages of 6 and 8. There was a time that I could have spouted off more research backing up my decision, but right now....I can't remember the details. I just have been clear that I didn't want the talk to be a ONE TIME, really awkward, out-of-no-where thing; I didn't want them hearing about it from someone else first; and if an adult is ever inappropriate with them I want them to be able to have clear words to put around it.
I want this subject to feel a lot more approachable than it did with my parents. This is not a very high standard considering the extent of "the talk" for me was throwing a book on the subject in my direction and my mom - with a Cheshire grin and a high-pitched tone- saying, "What did YOU learn today?!" at the dinner table after that intensely uncomfortable 5th grade class.
"I don't know. Nothing." EW. I was NOT answering that question. And that was that.
I've been talking to my kids about periods, uterus-es, tampons, boobies, and pubic hair since before they were in Kindergarten. My 4-year-olds could tell you that "Once a month mommy has to wear a diaper in her vagina because a fluffy pillow inside her body comes out as blood when a baby doesn't land on it."
One day in the car last year my daughter said, "How come all the BAD stuff happens to GIRLS when they get older?" So true, sister....so true. And then in an un-thought-out effort to help her feel better I said, "Well, when Kyan gets older his penis will get bigger when he kisses someone he likes and it will be hard to hide....that's kind of awkward."
The two of them erupted in laughter and disbelief....AND THEN my 3rd grader told all her friends at school the next day. I, apparently, hadn't been clear that this was information only to be talked about with parents.
MOM-FAIL. I picked myself up, and dusted myself off.
The day after I realized my daughter MIGHT be hearing things about S-E-X I sat down with both my 9 and 7-year-old (HOLY CRAP, he's SEVEN!!) and gave them the scoop.
I think most of the screaming happened when I told them that men's penises get hard and go INSIDE the vagina.
They screamed so loud the neighbor outside asked my husband who was "doing yard work", aka HIDING, what was going on.
It's like the discomfort had to come out somehow. And so they screamed. And we laughed. And they yelled, "MOM!!!! WHY ARE YOU TELLING US THIS!!!!?" And we watched videos of the sperm uniting with the egg. And they were in awe. And then my daughter said, "So you and Dad DO THIS?!" And they screamed at the response. And they asked questions. And we talked about how it can feel really good. And we talked about how it can feel really bad. And we talked about how, like most things in life, it's complicated. And they screamed some more.
And I thought about how I wished I had a place to scream when learning the nitty-gritty details of the birds and the bees, and I was glad that they felt comfortable enough to vacillate between letting it all out and re-engaging in the discussion.
And now, every once in a while I'll check in to see if they have any questions to which my daughter booms a clear, "NO."
And, MAYBE a couple of times, I have used the threat of talking about sex to get them to stop fighting with each other. "SO, THE COUPLE START KISSING, AND THE MAN'S PENIS GETS HARD, AND...."
"MOM!!" What are you doing?"
"Oh, just talking about sex until you stop fighting."
And, like magic, they're a united front. Sibling rivalry be gone.
I know...I'll probably be paying for their therapy some day ;-)
And then I'm editing the picture below today for my online course for couples as my kids walked in the door from school (there is an exclusive $700 coupon code available for those who've signed up for my newsletter until FRIDAY):
And my kids come up behind me and my daughter says, "Ewwwwww, that picture's GROSS, Mom." I stared at the picture trying to figure out what she didn't like...I LOVE the colors...I think it's pretty...I'm confused.
And then my son pipes in, "MOM! I can READ!!!" and I get it. S-E-X.
But hey, no screaming...so I guess that's improvement?
Talking about S-E-X with your partner is HARD ENOUGH. Have you thought about how you'll handle the talk with your kids? What's your plan? If you've already done it, what worked and what didn't?
P.S. If you're interested in the online course for couples, don't panic. I don't expect the course to sell out immediately. However, the first 10 couples who sign up will get free tickets to my March 4th Date Night Workshop Series (the January event has already SOLD OUT). Sign up for the newsletter to be sent your $700 discount code later today. Registration ends this Friday, 11/25.
Can you feel it? We are about to enter the most seriously awkward of holiday seasons EVER.
Politics. Bullying. Name-calling. Racism. Sexism. Misogyny. Social justice. Conservatives! Liberals!.....it's all about to be going down around your holiday spread. Grab the....stuffing.
Already imagining infuriating things your relatives are capable of saying?
YOU are not alone.
And I don't think Adele can save us this year.
So, I've put together a few expert tips to get you through this most-difficult of Holiday Seasons.
1. This one's tough.....Check all your righteous superiority at the door. Here's how I think about it. Superiority is:
I'm right; you're wrong.
I'm better than you; you're less than me.
I'm smart; you're stupid.
And it's definitely not correlated with creating change, but it is likely to produce increased levels of defensiveness in the listener.
It will behoove you to check all of that at the door. In EVERYONE's MIND they're RIGHT. EVERYONE is doing what they think is BEST.
I KNOW...that's REALLY hard to believe right now.
But when you enter into a conversation from a superior place, you are inherently communicating that the other person is wrong, less than you, or stupid. This will most likely get met with defensiveness and MORE superiority. What does that get for you? A conversation where everyone is talking, but no one is listening...and these can easily escalate.
Yelling happens when people don't feel heard.
When someone tries to enter a conversation with me from this place I don't engage the content, I address the intent instead: "I hear you saying that you're right and I'm wrong....."
If someone is seeking to understand, by all means, we can chat all day about our differing opinions....if not, I WILL NOT go there. At this point you have 2 choices depending on what's happening inside of you: Stay, and seek to understand their perspective (if you do a REALLY good job at this they could deescalate and may even become willing and ready to seek to understand YOUR perspective) OR walk away. Excusing yourself might be a good option if you're finding yourself boiling inside with defensiveness and superiority....really wanting to teach THAT STUPID JERK A LESSON!!!! Breathe, friend. Breathe.
2. Be clear about what's NOT OK before you walk in the door. Bullying and disrespect are not OK...even if it's bullying or disrespecting someone who's not in the room.
I had a client this week say, "You know, I usually ignore my in-laws' racist and sexist comments, but my kids are getting old enough to understand...." Sound familiar? So, what's your plan?
I know people don't want to "fight in front of the kids", but I think we get confused about the difference between fighting and drawing boundaries.
Engaging in conflicts that involve name-calling and yelling? NO! I don't want that for my kids.
CLEARLY understanding how to draw clear, firm, yet gentle boundaries with ANYONE...even loved ones... is something I do want for my kids.
But here's the problem I see. MANY people are so overly concerned with being nice and keeping the peace that they perceive drawing boundaries as MEAN. They see drawing boundaries as bullying.
We HAVE TO GET CLEAR on the difference. The difference is the intent.
Bullying comes from a place of superiority: I'm better than you.
Boundaries come from a place of equality: We are equal, and your behavior is NOT OK.
Ignoring disrespect to avoid a conflict with another person doesn't make the conflict disappear...it invites the conflict inside of you. Who goes home with all the discomfort? YOU. Who goes home having imaginary conversations blasting that other person with your perfect imaginary comebacks? YOU.
Ignoring disrespect is disrespectful to yourself. It's also disrespectful to the relationship as you're inviting resentment into the relationship that the other person didn't ask for.
Put words around what you're not ok with BEFORE you walk in the door and keep your responses 10 words or LESS.
3. Don't EXPLAIN your boundary. Boundaries are simply expressing what you are not ok with. DO NOT get roped into explaining them. Boundaries DO NOT require explanation!
Boundary = "Hey, Uncle Frank, talking about Muslims like that is not ok with me."
An explanation FEEDS the bully, it invites him into an argument. Explanations are arguable statements. Boundaries are inarguable statements. Just put your boundary on repeat.
Boundary on repeat = "Talking about Muslims like that is not ok."
4. Pretend you're British or an alien - Wha?! Stick with me on this one. If you were from another country or planet... PERHAPS you could behave more like an anthropologist at Thanksgiving....an outsider, looking in...studying these people, trying to figure out what the frap they're all thinking and WHY. You could seek to understand them and observe without taking any of it personally. If someone says something you REALLY disagree with, if you're from another planet, you get to think something like, "Huh, that's SO interesting. Just fascinating," instead of "CHEESE AND RICE, what a moron!!!!" and reaching for your 12th glass of wine.
I love you all...and it is my beliefs that we're all just doing our best with what we have and that growth and change is possible, that will get me through these 2016 Holidays.
Happy Thanksgiving, America!
P.S. It's the very best time of year to join my 8-week online course for couples, the Love, Sex, Kids Course (no kids required). You get the $700 discount, and the "clock" doesn't start on the training until Jan 1.
This means you can "stock up" now, enjoy the training at your leisure, and you don't have to start until 2017.
The discount code is only valid until Black Friday and is available to those on my Newsletter List. Sign up here, you can unsubscribe at any time.
You send a friend a text message and she doesn't respond. You find yourself checking your phone, waiting for her response.
You start to think things like,
"How rude. I WOULD NEVER not respond to someone."
"If people are important to me I MAKE TIME to respond."
Maybe you even start fantasizing about teaching her a lesson that includes the word "SHOULD" in there somewhere.
If you have thoughts like these the truth is, you're hurt. How do I know that? Read those thoughts again, the intent behind them is superiority: I'm better than you.
We only feel the need to be superior when we feel inferior.
Our initial response to situations harbors a whole lot more information about how we think and feel about ourselves than proof of the rightness or wrongness of another's behavior or what others think and feel about us.
For instance, if you find that your reaction in moments like these is superiority, then these reactions most likely have roots in some beliefs based in inferiority you have about yourself like:
If you're reading this and you're like, "DANG. I do that!" you're probably wondering how to stop it.
Uncovering and unraveling the core beliefs and the response to life they create takes time and practice. Choosing another response over and over again, checking out your perceptions, and really questioning the meaning you're attaching to situations takes deep introspection and often an outsider to help you know when you're doing it...again.
The goal is to eventually BELIEVE in the truth of who you are. You are important. You are enough. You are valuable. You are worthy.
But in order to start collecting evidence for those beliefs you have to start acting from them FIRST. It is not the other way around: your world treats you the way you treat you.
Recently I emailed another business owner about partnering in a strategic and win-win type of way. One of my core beliefs that comes up for me often (especially when stretching into unchartered territory) is that I'm a burden. As I crafted the email that familiar, fear-based voice inside my head started yammering: Are you REALLY going to bug her with this? This is ridiculous. This business doesn't want to do something with measly little YOU.
I recognize this voice. This fear-based voice has lied to me more times in my life than I can count and sent me retreating from opportunities and folding in half in interactions. I've learned to not let this voice drive anymore, though. She cannot touch the wheel. She cannot make decisions UNLESS there's something in my immediate physical space I need to seriously be afraid of, like a saber-toothed tiger.
BUUUUUUTT...just to make sure the voice wasn't right, I sent the email to my husband in the other room and said, "ARE YOU SURE I SHOULD SEND IT??!!!" He texted back: "Send it. There's no reason they wouldn't want to partner with you."
I sent the email.
She didn't respond for 3 days. Turns out, it didn't mean anything about me. She was excited to partner and wanted to know next steps. Woohoo!!
I sent next steps which included setting up a meeting. No response.
1 week went by. I could have backed off at that point. I could have made the silence mean something about my worth and value and enoughness, but I didn't. I could have retreated. I could have folded in half.
However, as a business owner myself I know things I really care about can get lost.
So, I sent another message ALL ABOUT ME. I think it's really easy to feel guilt or shame when you're on the other end of a 2nd message. I'm careful to not even say, "I haven't heard from you..." because I think it can be read as, "You should have responded by now..." and shoulding on people and teaching people lessons IS NOT an intent I want to be perceived as coming from because I know it makes it LESS LIKELY for me to get what I want/need. SO, here's what I sent. I'm not above stalking ;-)
Just stalking you ;-) Last week I was deathly ill so couldn't have met anyway. Let me know if you can meet up this week.
I bet you're thinking, "She TOTALLY got a response!" Right? That might be because it's easy for you to see my worth and value. You're right about my worth and value...and another week went by with no response.
Old me would have died an internal slow death and avoided this person for the rest of my life at all costs.
Nope. I was not going to take this personally until I got word from her that I should.
I know something about people, and it's that they LOVE being lead to a decision. Think about these 2 scenarios....
SCENARIO 1: You're at my house and I say, "Hey, I gotta run upstairs and change....help yourself to whatever's in the fridge."
SCENARIO 2: Now, think about if I said, "Hey, gotta go change. There's this guacamole in my fridge and it's my grandmother's secret recipe. You have to try it! Help yourself and I'll be back down in a minute."
Which scenario would have lead you to be more likely to open my refrigerator door? The one where I lead you to a clear decision about what to eat, right?
And so, here's email #3:
Hi! I have some availability to meet this Friday from 1-4. If a 20-minute slot in there works for you, let me know.
I received an almost immediate response. Was it because I was more clear and specific? Maybe? What did it mean that she didn't respond to the first few emails? I have no FREAKIN' IDEA, but I'm not going to abuse myself by making up things that it means about me.
I hope you don't do that to yourself either. Think of the friendships, connections, relationships, and opportunities you might be missing out on...
You deserve happy relationships...but you have to believe that first,
A 75-year longitudial study out of Harvard uncovered what creates a happy and purposeful life. What were the most important variables? Money? NOPE. Success? NOPE. What kind of car you drove? Nuh-uh. How much power you had? How much you achieved? What kind of jeans you wore? What wrinkle cream you used? How much you weighed? No. No. No. No.
The study found STRONG RELATIONSHIPS to be far and away the strongest predictor of life satisfaction. There is a growing body of research that links social ties to longevity, lower stress levels, and overall well-being.
The interesting thing is that while most people will strongly agree that relationships are what matter most...it's usually where people are investing the least of their money.
Why everyone isn't running out and investing in therapy, marriage counseling, couples programs, and relationship coaching to improve themselves relationally is beyond me.
SERIOUSLY!! What do you want? Do you want your relationships to drain you? To feel uncertain about what you want and who you are? To feel exhausted? Stuck? At a loss? Hopeless? And have to wonder things like, "Are we harming our kids?"
7 out of 10 marriages, SEVEN OUT OF TEN marriages, aren't well.
I hope to help you create a relationship that energizes you: one your kids will want to EMULATE, one that will have a positive impact on you and a ripple effect on those around you, one that will encourage your growth and success, and help you to become the person you've always wanted to be.
Go ahead...ask people if they would want to have a marriage just like their parents'...a "YES" is so rare.
Cleaning up the things in yourself and your relationship that keep you feeling all knotted up inside isn't THAT hard. By the time people call me they're usually overwhelmed with what feels like a laundry list of issues, problems, and past hurts.
What I MOST ALWAYS find is that underneath this laundry list of issues is one or two underlying themes that need to be addressed, cleared up, cleaned out, unlearned, and then we need to get the supports in place in the form of new skills, strategies, mindsets, and the accountability to stay consistent so that you can get yourself out of this state again and again and again.
I had a woman in a new client call last week say, "It's hard for me to not think of this as failing."
WE ARE NEVER TAUGHT THIS STUFF. Everything I've learned about navigating tough conversations and close relationships with ease I've learned in adulthood. I learned A LOT about what I didn't want in my early years. I entered adulthood really clear about what I didn't want, but with no clue about how to create what I did want.
I spent years, and tens of thousands of dollars on my education and training to become a relationship expert, but you don't have to. You just have to get the support to do YOU really well.
To not sweep your own wants and needs under the rug in conflict.
To not act out on the people you love the most.
To peel back the layers to get to the root of what keeps you acting in ways that you cognitively KNOW don't behoove you.
To free yourself from your past and the unconscious limiting beliefs that now color your perspective.
To feel sure and confident and free.
How much is it worth to you to feel empowered to move through your relationships in a way that you know WORKS? To have, far and away the biggest variable when it comes to happiness, and therefore success, covered?
More than that big screen TV on your wall?
More than that extra 1000 square feet in your home?
More than that Caribbean vacation?
More than that snazzy 9x13 rug you've been lusting after for your living room?
I thought so. Your relationship is calling you to grow.
My Response to Kyle Benson's Articles Suggesting Emotionally Intelligent Husbands are the Secret to a Happy Marriage
Maybe you’ve seen the articles popping up in your social media feeds: one featured on The Gottman Institute’s website and the other on Business Insider.
Ladies are sharing them at rapid pace…perhaps hoping their less-than-emotionally-intelligent husbands will read it and somehow become more emotionally intelligent.
Kyle Benson and I (therapist and relationship coach) seem to have a common love for the research of Dr. John Gottman — therapist and leading researcher of relationships in our country. Dr. Gottman has published over 200 academic articles and written over 40 books on the subjects of love, relationships, communication, and emotional intelligence.
Benson uses Gottman’s research to support his claim that emotionally intelligent husbands are the missing link to happy marriages: “Statistically speaking, Dr. Gottman’s research shows there is an 81% chance that a marriage will self-implode when a man is unwilling to share power.”
Benson’s article reports that women seem to be better at “accepting influence” from their husbands than men are at accepting influence from their wives…even when the relationship isn’t well. Research supports this as well as my decade of experience of working with couples.
The problems I have with Benson’s articles start with the portrayal of men in his examples: drinking whiskey, watching football, and choosing to fix his truck instead of resolve issues with his partner. I don’t doubt some men do these things, but men also do things like read books, cook, and interact with their children. My husband is a football-watching, whiskey-drinking person and would balk at the gender stereotypes in this article. He also does the laundry in our house.
Another issue I have with this article is what seems to be a finger-wagging, lesson-teaching intent towards men who aren’t emotionally intelligent enough…which he’s clear will lead to failing marriages and being a less effective parent:
"The husband who lacks emotional intelligence rejects his wife’s influence because he fears a loss of power. And because he is unwilling to accept influence, he will not be influential.
The biggest problem I have with this article is that Benson fails to address the true change agent in this system: THE WOMAN. First, let’s talk about overfunctioning-underfunctioning reciprocity. The women in his examples seem to be overfunctioning in regards to the emotional side of the relationship to “keep the peace”. Basically, women are more likely to sweep their own wants and needs under the rug (withdraw their influence), for the sake of not engaging in conflict. This works in the short-run to keep conversations from escalating, but over time leads to growing resentment and decreasing emotional intimacy.
In systems where overfunctioning and underfunctioning exist, the power to create change lies with the overfunctioner. Overfunctioners inadvertently play a part in the problem by enabling or allowing the other person to underfunction.
Benson states: “My point is not to insult men. It takes two to make a marriage work and it is just as important for wives to treat their husbands with honor and respect.”
But I would wholeheartedly argue that if the woman in this article is tolerating being disrespected and treated as less than then there is a part of her that is in agreement and believes that she is inferior and doesn’t deserve respect. A more important piece of this puzzle is that the woman honors and respects herself.
The world treats you the way you treat you. You get what you tolerate.
I remember a time when hearing this ^^^ was hard! So irritating. Angering, even. It was so much easier for me to blame not feeling considered on other people. “Can’t he just KNOW that I want to be considered?!”
As women we’re taught we shouldn’t take up too much space, that we shouldn’t be a burden, and that we shouldn’t speak up for ourselves. The degree to which we buy into these shoulds is the degree to which we are part of the problem.
In order to have happier and healthier relationships I had to start giving everything I wanted from others to myself first. I want him to honor and respect me? Then I have to honor and respect me first. What does that even look like?
I had to stop putting other’s needs before my own, I had to stop being afraid of conflict, I had to quit being so goddamn accommodating, and I had to learn to draw firm boundaries and to say “NO” more. According to Brené Brown the most boundaried people are the most compassionate. We cannot give to others, what we don’t first give to ourselves.
Just because someone is good at stating and sticking to his opinions, doesn’t mean you don’t get to have one or that you don’t deserve to be heard. I had to stop taking personally his ability to use his voice. Doing all of these things consistently took years of practice.
And it turns out my husband isn’t emotionally unintelligent. Who wouldn’t want everything to be his way? The problem wasn’t that he wasn’t competent or capable of being emotionally intelligent…the problem was that I didn’t let him rise to the occasion.
No one taught him to not speak up, to not take up too much space, and to not have a voice.
The result? We have absolutely no unresolved issues under our relationship rug. Last night my husband was sitting at a bar with his friend surrounded by divorcees and unhappily married people. The divorced bartender said, “Seriously, who do you know that’s happily married?” and my husband raised a waiving hand.
To create change in your relationship you cannot seek to change your partner…or read articles convincing you even more that you are not part of the problem. We have to start focusing on the part we play in creating the dysfunction: it’s the only piece we have control over and it’s what we have to leverage to create systemic change.
You deserve happy relationships.