Hey Everyone! If you’re new here, let me tell you about 3 Things Thursday. I know you’re busy so every last Thursday of the month I’m quickly breaking-down 3 highly effective resources that have helped me and /or my clients. Here’s what I have for February 2020:
1. This Planner
EVO Planner. Before you order this planner, you take a simple quiz to determine your “brain type.” EVO has 4 different planners that cater to each brain type to capitalize on your strengths but they also make you aware of your blind spots. For example, if you’re an “Architect” brain type, you may excel at completing tasks but struggle to add some fun into your life.
Favorite Features: A daily gratitude section, prioritization of tasks, and an emphasis on self-care. A habit of daily gratitude coupled with meditation have hands-down changed my life for the better.
2. This App:
Calm App. We all keep hearing about how great meditation is but most of us try it once and give-up, certain that we’re not doing it right. Well, meditation may seem hard because our Western brains are very results-oriented. At first, it seems like meditation doesn’t do anything at all. However, meditation helps to rewire our brains, making them less reactive in as little as 5, 5 minute sessions. Before Calm came into my life, meditation was really hard to incorporate into my routine. Calm offers easy-to-use, non-intimidating meditation series with sessions lasting no more than 12 minutes each. I can honestly say that this app has changed my life. I’m finding myself to be more joyful, intentional, and less reactive.
Favorite Features: Guided meditations that are quick but effective, I feel like I’ve had a massage afterwards because I’m so relaxed. They also offer Sleep Stories that help me when my mind won’t turn-off before bed (they have great ones for kids too). Lastly, I regularly use their special nap Sleep Stories to help me recharge in the afternoon. Something I really love about Calm is that they are constantly upgrading and adding fresh content.
3. This Quiz:
The Personal Values Assessment from Barrett Values Centre. If you only take one more personality quiz in your life, make it this one. Technically, it’s not a personality quiz but it will reveal the core of who you are regardless. So many of us are out-of-touch with what are Values are. I’ll admit that before this resource came into my life, I had a hard time even defining the term “values.” This quiz helps make clear the things that are most important to us in our lives (Family? Personal growth? Financial Stability?).
Favorite Features: This quiz shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes of your time but can lead to insights that have the potential to make a huge impact in your life. For example, recognizing that creativity is one of your values, you may need to ask yourself how you have been making space for that in your life. Not making space for the things that are most important to you can easily lead to boredom, depression, anxiety, resentment….the list goes on. If you have a partner, consider doing this together to see where their values lie and how you can support one another in prioritizing them.
Thanks for reading! As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or thoughts: Jaclyn@jaclynsnyder.com
Every last Thursday of the month, I will share 3 things that are bringing me and/or my clients freedom in their lives. I know you’re busy and your inbox is crowded so my goal is to keep these emails quick and quality. Here are the 3 things for this week:
Positive thoughts lead to positive outcomes, right? Well, sometimes things don’t go as planned and when that happens we can feel blindsided. This episode shares the wisdom of people like Olympic Gold Medalist, Micheal Phelps, on how we can use our thinking to prepare us for success when we’re thrown a curve-ball.
Journaling is a research-based tool for overcoming depression, anxiety, overwhelm, and more. Yet, when we try to practice journaling we often find ourselves just staring at a blank page not knowing where to begin. I’m a huge fan of journals with prompts for this reason. I love this Amazon best-seller because it’s fun and it’s practical. The pages are small and the prompts are insightful.
3. This book: Atomic Habits by James Clear. $16.20 for Hardcover on Amazon.
The Enneagram journey has been one of the most transformative experiences of my life, right up there with marriage, parenthood, and (good) therapy. I have been sharing about the Enneagram on this site for a while now, I even created a downloadable pdf called, “Nail Down Your Enneagram Type.” After a year’s worth of research and soul-searching, you’d think I would have felt pretty confident about knowing my own Enneagram Type. Frighteningly, I was confident that I knew my Type- most of the time. Sure, I had doubts that would come and go, but I stood-by my assessment: I was a Four with a *strong* Three wing.
Now, this is incredibly humbling to admit (I’m a therapist, I’m supposed to be superhumanly self-aware, you know) but I was wrong. I’m going to tell you that this experience was nothing short of a full-blown identity crisis. But first, let me tell you how I got there because maybe something can be learned from this.
Themes That Didn’t Fit
For each Enneagram Type there are common themes that you will hear repeated again and again. These are phrases or words that seem to resonate deeply with everyone within that archetype. One of the phrases that I often hear for Type Four is this sense of always being on the outside looking in. Admittedly, this is a phenomenon that I just don’t connect with. I do, however, resonate with this: if everyone knew who I really was, they’d know I don’t belong here. Both are sharing feelings of not belonging yet one is saying “I’m an Outsider,” the other is saying, “I’m an Imposter.”
It always bothered me that I didn’t resonate with this experience as other Fours did. I thought that maybe it was because I was the “countertype” of Four which is the Self-Preservation Four. I thought that maybe it was because I had a strong Three wing. With all of the nuances that are available for each type, it can be easy to rationalize anything that doesn’t seem to fit within the “typical” caricature. Still, I decided to keep an open mind…
Characteristics are Not What Makes Personality
The other reason why I confused myself with a Type Four, is that I have some of the typical characteristics of a Four. I care deeply about aesthetics, I’m obsessed with music (on vinyl in particular), I write poetry, I like to wear black, and I let me tell you, I think about death a LOT. I have also experienced bouts of clinical depression throughout my life. I’ve made a career out of deep conversations and feeling feelings. Yet, these are not the things that truly make a Four a Four. What makes a Four a Four is the underlying motivation and fear that drives their behavior. This is what makes any of us fall within a Type. Here is my interpretation of the basic desires behind each Type:
Here’s what I realized: I’m not particularly fixated on being unique or irreplaceable (Type 4). I want to be impressive and needed- in a unique way. All of these fall within The Heart Types; 2, 3, 4. To be honest, I also resonated with being infallible or perfect (Type 1) and with being competent (Type 5). Most of us will resonate with multiple drives. It’s the one that wins out that matters. So how do we tease this out?
The Importance of Instinctual Variants (aka Subtypes)
Now anyone could read the above list and think, “I want to be all of those things!” And truly, we each have some of all nine Types within us. Our Tpye is just what we “lead” with. When I was feeling stuck, Yoga Therapist and Enneagram coach, Abi Robins suggested that I start by looking at general definitions of the Three Instinctual Variants. Your subtype will flavor the way your Type manifests. They are as follows from The Enneagram at Work:
Self-Preservation- Governs our needs for material supplies and security, including food, shelter, warmth, and family relations.
Sexual/One-to-One- Governs our sexuality, our intimate relationships and close friendships, and the vitality of the life force within our bodies.
Social- Governs our needs for belonging and membership within the larger group and community.
All of us connect with each of these drives but there is one that will outweigh the others. When I took a historical look at my life, I can see there have been many times when I chose to prioritize intimate relationships over material security and community belonging. This means that my primary Instinctual Drive is One-to-One.
Now Look at the Variants of Each Type
With my Instinctual Variant, One to One, in mind I let that flavor each of the above Types I seemed to connect with. It looked something like this:
Type One: To be in charge of perfecting my partner.
Type Two: To be indispensable in my intimate relationships.
Type Three: To be impressive as the image of what an ideal partner should be.
Type Four: To be irreplaceable, my partner’s “soul mate.”
Type Five: To be competent by obtaining an ideal partner who is trustworthy.
Again, looking historically at my life, I have persistent themes of trying to be an ideal image of what a woman partner should be in a heterosexual relationship. I was able to rule out all of the other Types for various reasons although with Type Four, I still felt some connection. I was between Type Three and Type Four.
What is Your Stance?
If you’re still struggling with your Type at this point, I get it! This was a long process for me. It is so worth it though, so don’t give up!
Another way to help tease-out your Type is to look at the Three Stances:
Withdrawing– We struggle to engage through action. (Numbers 9, 5, 4)
Compliant– We struggle with independent thinking. (Numbers 1, 2, 6)
Aggressive– We struggle to connect to our own feelings or those of others. (Numbers 3, 7, 8)
I was able to rule out the Withdrawing and Compliant stances as I have never had a problem with: 1) Having an opinion, 2) Sharing it, or 3) Drive. Consequently, my Number is within the Aggressive Stance which meant that between 3 and 4, I was most likely a Three.
Try it On With an Open Heart
Realizing I was probably actually a Three was really hard for me. Above, I mentioned that I was embarrassed that I wasn’t as self-aware as I thought I was. Being a therapist, this felt like a failure. I never thought of myself as someone who was afraid of failure but then I realized how many times I had tried to keep relationships from failing. I also don’t like engaging in activities that I don’t think I’ll be good at! Ha!
The problem with Type Three is that I didn’t naturally resonate with wanting to look “successful.” While reading through more literature though, I came-upon the word “impressive.” Threes want to be impressive. This 100% resonated with me. I don’t always like being seen as the “winner” because people seem to not like the elite. Being impressive, however, meant that I could be down-to-earth, friendly, but still impress my “audience” in ways specific to their ideals.
This leads me to the next major connection I have with Threes. I can be a Chameleon. I can easily connect with people because I can pull from myself only the parts that they will like and identify with. Threes can edit their personality. Fours don’t really do this. Fours are ok with being unique and different. I only liked being unique if it would be impressive in some way.
Mistyping is Not Failure
I’ve admitted that I was embarrassed to have mistyped for so long. However, now I can truly look back on my, “Year as a Four,” and see the importance of that season. There are some very key aspects of my personality that are still influenced by my Four Wing, even though I lead mostly with Type Three. The parts of me that are more Four than Three, got the attention they deserved. For so long my Threeness has taken the spotlight (as you can imagine) and my Fourness was something only expressed in solitude or close relationships.
The Enneagram is meant to be a spiritual journey. This means that no matter where your path takes you, something can be learned from it.
In Summary: These Three Steps May Help You Find Your Type
Start by finding your Subtype: Social, One-to-One, or Self-Preservation.
Now consider what Stance you may have. Aggressive, Compliant, or Withdrawn.
Look at the Types through the lens of your Subtype.
Here is an updated pdf to help you along your way:
A few weeks ago, I came across a children’s book called, “Jack (NOT Jackie).” This book told the story of a little girl who was so excited to have a baby sister, Jackie. As Jackie grows older, it becomes clear that she doesn’t like the same girlish things that her older sister likes which is very disappointing. Their parents, however, are understanding and supportive of Jackie’s choices. One day, Jackie insists on being called, “Jack,” instead of Jackie and announces, “I AM a BOY!” Their mom responds by saying, “Well, Jackie’s been trying to tell us that for a long time.” Eventually, big sister comes around to see the joys that can come from having a little brother. It’s a very sweet and well-done story.
As I read this story to my six-year-old, he asked a LOT of questions. It made me realize that this is a very touchy topic and I wouldn’t blame parents for wanting to avoid it out of fear of saying the wrong thing. Here are some of the questions my son asked and comments he made:
“Haha! She’s so weird!”
“She CAN’T be a BOY!”
“Wait. She IS a boy?”
“Why did his parents think he was a girl?”
Does reading that make you cringe a bit? Me too! Here’s how I responded:
“Sometimes when people are born, their outside parts don’t match their inside parts. That’s why it’s so important that we listen to people and let them tell us who they are.”
Now, I understand this is a VERY simplistic explanation of gender identity but I think that it’s sufficient for a 6-year-old. We did get into specific body parts. I explained that sometimes people are born with both girl and boy parts and sometimes people are born with parts on the outside that don’t match who they are on the inside. We don’t need to overcomplicate things but just let them know that sometimes, things aren’t always what they seem. The idea is to take away the natural fear of people who are different. When we demystify things, we take away the fear.
Using stories and metaphors can be very helpful for children as they tend to see things as very black and white. Other examples of things/people that aren’t as they appear on the outside?
I hope you find this helpful! Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have or contact me via email: Jaclyn@jaclynsnyder.com
Aren’t we all a little obsessed with Marie Kondo right now? I just can’t get enough of her bright smile, optimistic energy, and soul-moving wisdom. Her show has me reflecting on how much clutter affects our emotional state. Have you noticed how many couples say that clearing-out the clutter has helped their relationship?
It’s true that our inner state is affected by our environment. It’s also true, however, that our environment can be a reflection of our inner state. Chaos on the outside can be a sign of disorganized emotion. Likewise, a space that is polished to perfection could be the sign of a harsh inner critic. If this is true, what does your living space say about your inner world?
If you’re sharing space with a partner, what does your living space reflect about your relationship? Are you a couple with so much on your plate that you can’t keep the house organized? Do you hold on to things longer than you need to? If this is the case, there may be some things in your relationship that could use a little “tidying.”
What’s Cluttering Your Relationship?
Regardless of whether your home reflects it or not, holding-on to resentment can be toxic for a relationship. Much like tidying a home, tidying your relationship requires:
1) Putting it all out there so you can see what you’re dealing with. Consider a weekend away or a date night to devote time to sharing your relationship concerns. If you need help identifying the problems, couples counseling can be safe, neutral space to unpack the things that are messing with your relationship.
2) Choosing which elements of your relationship are welcome to stay, and which need to go. I love that Marie Kondo has us “thank” the items that we need to let go of. Many times, we use negative coping skills in our relationships because we don’t know what else to use. Thank those habits for trying to help you but it is now time to move on with new ones.
3) Learn New Skills. As a couple, you’ve gotten into a rhythm. Sometimes that rhythm is so familiar that we stick with it, even when it’s not really working for us. We may not know how else to be with our partner. We just feel stuck. Just like developing any new habit, it is absolutely possible to find a new rhythm, all it takes is guidance, motivation, and determination. Don’t give up!
If this sounds like a journey you are ready for, I want to help you get un-stuck so you can find the joy in your relationship again. Contact me today for a free consultation. If you’re reading this and not local to the Austin area, head over to Psychology Today for list of Couple’s Therapists in your area.
Wishing You Joy,
Consider Reading These Articles Related to Couples Counseling:
No matter where you place yourself on the LGBTQ spectrum, if you also identify as a Christian, my guess is that you have probably had some difficulty reconciling your faith with your sexuality/gender identity. While there are some gay Christians who have been completely spared from that dilemma, most have not. If you or someone you care about identifies as LGBTQ and Christian there absolutely is hope for making peace with both of these identities- but where do you begin?
First Things First: Reparative Therapy is Dangerous
Reparative/Conversion Therapy is the attempt, on behalf of a counselor, to help a client change their sexual orientation or gender identity. The damage of this therapy is so profound that it has been deemed unethical by the American Psychological Association and has been made illegal in many states. For more information on this practice, read: The Lies and Dangers of Reparative Therapy.
Find a Counselor Who Will Respect Both Worlds
Counseling can be an excellent resource (if I do say so myself) for hashing-out your faith beliefs and your sexuality/gender identity. I recommend finding someone who will respect you as an LGBTQ Christian. Find a counselor who will encourage you as you find your own path on this journey. This is a very personal endeavor and you should never feel pressured to sacrifice your faith or your sexual orientation/gender identity. Consider finding someone who is relatively familiar with Christianity and knowledgable of the unique issues that come with being LGBTQ.
You will hear a lot and I mean A LOT of opinions on what it means to be LGBTQ and Christian. I recommend starting with some basic research about gender and sexuality. This may help to solidify your beliefs about what is choice and what is not. Here are some helpful resources:
You are not alone on this journey. It is so important that you connect with people who are in the same boat as you. Thanks to the internet, you can find so many great communities to join. Depending on where you live, you may also find some churches who will accept all of who you are. Here are some resources to consider:
Q Christian Fellowship “Join thousands of others around the world in our private, password-protected discussion forum.”
Don’t Give Up
You deserve to live an authentic life. Being a Christian and LGBTQ comes with challenges. Lucky for you, research shows that the LGBTQ community is one of the most resilient. You are strong enough to get through this but you don’t have to do it alone. Connect with others. Reach-out for help. Here are some stories that you might find inspiring:
Look, the holidays can be hard for everyone, but they can be especially trying for those of us who are a little extra fabulous. The holidays often come with the lovely reminder of how different we are from our families and, especially if we’re single, an extra dose of loneliness. Never fear, here are some ways to emotionally bullet proof your holiday season.
Celebrate With Your People
Surround yourself with people who know you and love you. The foundation, “Born This Way,” found that social support is one the most important factors contributing to resilience. Even if you don’t have the time or energy to host a party of some kind, just grabbing a cup of coffee with someone can be enough to lift your spirits. If you don’t already have a friend or two whom you can be real with, make finding community a priority.
Rethink How You Think
I recently read an excellent article that highlighted the amount of little traumas that LGBTQ individuals inflict upon ourselves just by imagining being rejected or bullied. We tell ourselves stories of future rejection before it has even happened. This is a protective mechanism but it may cause more harm than good. Brene Brown has shared the concept of changing our inner narrative in her book, “Rising Strong.” This is a book I highly recommend for LGBTQ individuals in my practice. Next time you imagine yourself being bullied or rejected, consider other storylines. Choose to consider all of the possibilities. This doesn’t mean that we throw caution to the wind, it means that we choose to not dwell on imagined negative stories.
Be Your Own Best Friend
This is a stressful time of year for everyone but it can be especially stressful if you’re in the closet or lack family connection. Remember that you have a choice as to how you will spend your time this season. Take care of yourself as you would a dear friend. Would you send your best friend into a situation where they would feel rejected? Would you let your best friend sit at home alone? Now, maybe self-care for you looks like staying home, and that’s ok! Just make sure that your time is filled with things that bring you joy. For the most part, you get to choose what this season will look like for you.
Find Something Bigger Than Yourself
This is the season of giving, is it not? There’s no better time to get involved! There are so many organizations who have wonderful opportunities for serving the community. Sometimes, we need a break from focusing on ourselves- especially if we are in pain. Serving others helps us to have perspective, gratitude, and increases our sense of value in the world. If you’d like to give back to the LGBTQ community here are some opportunities in the Austin area:
For those of you who celebrate Christmas and have a love for the Enneagram, I have a special treat for you: A Christmas playlist based on Enneagram Types! Now, they may not all be self-explanatory so here I’ll provide my thought process behind each song choice plus a link to the lyrics. I’d love your feedback and additions, let me know what you think in the comments section!
Type 9: Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy
Type Nine’s are characterized by a desire to maintain inner peace and tend to avoid conflict. I adore this collaboration with Bing Crosby and David Bowie, bringing together two generations and two very different genres for a common message of love and peace. This seemed like a great choice for Type 9, “The Peace Maker.”
Type 8: Do They Know it’s Christmas?
Type Eight is known as, “The Challenger,” or, “The Protector.” This song is provocative and bold. Most people either love it, or hate it. However you feel about it, there’s no denying that it was meant to challenge society during a time of mindless spending and self-absorption.
Type 7: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree
There were SO many songs that could have worked for Type 7! After all, Christmas is all about FUN, isn’t it? For much of the world it seems to be because there were tons of songs about joy, and laughter, and partying it up. I decided to go with a this timeless tune because it could very well be the first classic Christmas Party song. Here’s a video with the lyrics included (just in case it isn’t already seared into your brain):
Type 6: Happy Christmas (War is Over)
I’ll be honest, I first considered this one for Type 9, but it seemed for fitting for Type 6 with the lyrics,
“A very merry Christmas, And a Happy New Year, Let’s hope it’s a good one, Without any fear.”
Type 5: What’s This?
If you haven’t yet seen the amazing Tim Burton (Type 5) classic, “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” add it to your list. The song, “What’s This?” captures the inquisitive spirit of the Type 5, although I will admit it may be rather upbeat for many Investigators. It actually may be a perfect example of when Type 7 moves to Type 5.
I also considered, “The Christmas Song,” because the melody paints the picture of one is who is slowly and methodically taking in the sights of Christmastime. If you are a 5, what song do you think best captures your personality?
Type Four: Last Christmas
It seemed way too easy to choose, “Blue Christmas,” for Type Four, the Tragic Romantic. Instead, I went with Wham!’s, “Last Christmas.” I (as a Four, myself) also considered my personal favorite, “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses. Let’s just say us Fours can be a little “extra,” it felt impossible to pick just one song!
Type 3: The Christmas Can-Can
Type 3’s are known for doing all. the. things. This is such a fun song for those amazing over-achievers in our lives!
Type Two: All I Want for Christmas is You
This was another really tough one because there were so many songs to choose from! Type Two’s love Love and value relationships over anything else. It seemed that the most important thing for a Two during Christmas would be to have love in their life. Two’s also tend to love tradition, so I went with a song that we all know. Check-out this blast from the past!
Type One: O Holy Night
It’s hard for me to explain exactly why this felt like the right song for Type One. To me, this song describes the feeling of all being right in the world, even if just for a night. Type One’s are often called, “The Perfectionists” or “The Reformers,” and have a innate sense for what could be improved. I like to think that for a moment, when One’s listen to this song, they feel some inner peace. The Enneagram Institute has typed Celine Dion as a Type One, so I went with her version of this timeless piece.
What do you think?
I had a lot of fun making this playlist but of course, it’s daunting to capture a personality with just one song. I easily could have made a playlist for each Type. So, what do you think? Did these choices resonate with you? I can’t wait to hear your feedback and additions!
Community is of upmost importance for our health and wellbeing. Sometimes we need a trusted friend to remind us that we’re not alone in our troubles. Even the best therapist can’t replace the comfort of a loving friend. A good therapist will always encourage you to seek outside support. If you do have such a friend in your life, remind them that you just need a listening ear, not advice. Also, a true friend will be honest with you about how you may be contributing to the relationship problems, which leads me to…
4) Have you considered how you are contributing to the problems in the relationship?
It’s so easy to see how our partner can do better, but have you considered your part? In my article, How Couple’s Counseling Works, I describe a relationship gone wrong. You’ve heard the term, “It takes two to Tango?” Well, it’s true. No one can make you behave a certain way. Sometimes it feels like we don’t have a choice but that’s just not true. We always have a choice to respond in way that reflects who we want to be.Consider journaling daily about your relationship. Note how you are contributing to the problems.
5) Are you being the partner you want to be?
Make a list describing the kind of partner YOU want to be. Now is the time to reflect on who you want to be as a partner, regardless of who you are with. Often, we become resentful, frustrated, critical, or hopeless when we aren’t taking care of ourselves by setting good boundaries. If you find yourself being critical when you’d like to be more patient, ask yourself why that is. Patience isn’t required in easy situations. Patience is required when other’s fall short of our expectations. However, if you find that your patience is constantly wearing thin, maybe you haven’t been setting enough boundaries. It’s possible that you need to take some responsibilities off of your plate or lower your expectations of yourself. Here are some examples of boundaries:
If you need to go to bed before your partner, maybe you could agree that one of you will sleep in the guest room so that you can get a good night’s sleep and aren’t awakened when they come to bed.
Choosing to have PB&J two nights per week for dinner to lessen the pressure of meal planning and prep.
Gently telling your partner that you will not discuss an issue further if they continue to yell.
Telling your boss that you won’t continue to answer work emails on evenings and weekends.
Hiring a babysitter one night per week to deal with the bedtime routine while you go to a local bookstore.
When it’s time to see a therapist.
Any or all of these suggestions may help to solve the problems or they may serve as a great start towards a better relationship. If it feels like you and your partner are stuck, reach-out. Changes are hard to make and you don’t need to go through this alone. Sometimes it’s helpful to have a third-party present who is trained in relationships. This person can help identify your unhealthy pattern and get you on the path to better communication, better self-care, and better problem-solving. Send me an email or search for a therapist near you on Psychology Today.
Does the thought of going to couple’s counseling make you nervous? If so, I don’t blame you! For many people, going to therapy sounds about as fun as going to the dentist. When we have a painful cavity, we know it needs to get fixed. We also know that that getting it fixed will cause more pain at first. Counseling is similar in that it usually gets harder before it gets better. However, after all is said and done, couple’s therapy can make our relationship stronger than ever before.
So why does it have to hurt before it can get better?
Usually, we go to counseling because something hurtful has happened in our relationship and we want to feel better. It’s hard to look back and remember times that our partner has hurt us. However, if we don’t look at the wound, examine it, and determine its cause, how could we possibly know how to fix it? Just as the dentist has to poke around on our gums to find the problem tooth, we have to poke around and find where you have been hurt emotionally. This usually involves your therapist asking questions about recent arguments or maybe even looking at ways you’ve been hurt in past relationships.
Why do therapists always get into the childhood stuff?
It’s not always necessary to get into childhood issues but it can be helpful. As kids, our brains were developing as we learned about the world. We learned about what love looks like, whether the world is a safe place or not, whether we can trust people, and so on. Sometimes we’ve developed beliefs that are harming our current relationship. For example, if I learned that people don’t like to hear about problems, I may believe that I need to keep my problems secret from my partner. If that is my belief, I will most likely think it’s not ok to ask for help. So, let’s say I’ve had a serious problem with my boss at work. When I come home work very grouchy my partner has no idea why. My partner may try to ask but I’ll just push them away. Being pushed away may feel hurtful to my partner, so they close down too. Now we have two people in a relationship who are both feeling very alone.
Who’s in the wrong here?
One could argue that no one is. I have been doing what I have learned is the loving thing to do in a relationship- keep my problems to myself. I think that I am protecting my partner from negativity by not sharing my troubles. Unfortunately, my partner feels like they must be doing something wrong. If I don’t share with them, they must not be a good partner. Maybe they believe that people who really love each other share everything with one another. They start to doubt my love for them. Now my partner is feeling insecure and alone. I am feeling overwhelmed and alone. Both of us are just trying to do the right thing but we’re operating from different belief systems.
Here’s the difference between blaming a person and addressing the system.
I learned in childhood that people don’t want to hear about problems. I believe I need to keep things positive and not complain. When I came home in a grouchy mood, my partner asked me, “What’s wrong?” I snapped back with, “Nothing.” My partner is not an idiot. They know that something is wrong. My lack of sharing has triggered some sadness in my partner. You see, my partner struggles with never feeling good enough. Now that they see their beloved withdrawing from them, my partner is convinced that they must not be good enough to share with. Now my partner withdraws too, feeling hurt and rejected. This example illustrates why it is so important to move away from blame and move toward self-awareness.
How does therapy undo the damage?
Therapy provides a safe place to come and get to the root of your issues with a neutral party. Therapists are trained to not take sides but to look at the whole relationship dynamic. If you’re in therapy, and you feel that your therapist is taking sides, you need to bring that up to them. You may even need to find a new therapist. The role of the therapist is to help you find what your underlying belief systems are. Notice I didn’t say that the role of the therapist is to find what’s wrong with you or your partner. Rarely is it one person that causes a relationship to struggle. It’s the system of communication that is based on faulty beliefs that is the problem.
Therapy helps us to see the unhealthy patterns that we slip into when life gets hard. Once we realize what we are doing, and why, we can address it. Using the example above, I must believe that my partner actually wants to hear about negative stuff that they’re facing. My partner must learn that I struggle with sharing hard stuff, but not because my partner is a bad partner. The hope here is that I will bravely begin to share more of my heart, even though I most likely fear they will be criticized for it. When I do share, my partner must work to make sure they are making it safe to share (not judging, giving advice without asking first, etc.). My partner must also realize that if I choose not to share, it may be because I am scared. See how this helps us both to have much more compassion for each other?
Results of Couples Counseling
When we have more compassion for each other (and ourselves) we are slow to criticize and quick to connect. Often, we take the behavior of our partner’s personally. In reality, we all come into relationships with baggage. We’re all wrestling with our own demons. Counseling helps us to reveal what those demons are and then learn new ways to relate so that they don’t effect our current relationships. If you feel stuck with your partner, consider finding a therapist near you. We all get stuck sometimes, going to a therapist can help you to identify the patterns you get stuck in and then give you tools for staying un-stuck.
In the meantime, here are some free resources to help: