In the early stages of a relationship, we idealize our partners. Their quirks are endearing, and their bad habits are easily overlooked. Over time, their shortcomings become more and more apparent and we grow to resent them. As dissatisfaction ensues, many are left wondering how they chose such a partner. But in reality, they were always this person. So what changed?
We all have expectations for our partners, our relationships, and ourselves. But these expectations have a tendency to far outweigh reality. As the magic of the “honeymoon phase” of dating (the first 18 months) wears off, we are left with unrealistic expectations that are impossible for our partners to live up to.
So how can this be reconciled? The answer is simple. Lower your expectations and you will be happier for it. I know, I know, this is not what you were hoping to hear. But it can be life changing. If you can accept that your partner’s quirks are simply personality traits and not anything more, than you can start to remember why you loved them in the first place.
Your partner is not perfect, and neither are you; but you are perfect for each other. Lowering your expectations to match reality will alleviate a lot of the frustration you currently feel and will give your relationship the space it needs to flourish.
This topic of the week was written by Danielle Adinolfi, MFT
Apologizing is an underrated and underused skill. In life there is always conflict, mistake and misunderstanding. Because of these constants, there is always a need for an apology. Think back to any time you’ve felt wronged and were apologized to by the offending person. Did the apology fix the entire situation? Probably not. Did the apology help you to feel better? Likely so. An apology is not always a cure all, but it is surely a step in the right direction. Many people to recognize the need for apologies but do not know to properly execute them. Below are some tips to help you recognize when and why you need to apologize more:
When you should?
If you’re aware that something you did has caused another person pain, an apology is normally in order. Your intention may not have been to the hurt the person, but the reality is that you have and it’s important to take ownership for that. Apologizing opens up the line of communication and will ultimately give you the opportunity to express that your intent was not to be hurtful. Letting a person know that you feel bad that you have caused them pain, let’s them know that you actually care about their feelings. This creates an atmosphere of trust and safety, which allows for more open conversations in the future. Take the time after an apology to start discussing boundaries. Often times the original offense is a result of a lack of clear boundaries.
Things to avoid
You should avoid apologizing in order to get the other person to stop talking about the offense. This usually comes off as insincere and often compounds the problem. Avoid, dodging responsibility in your apology. For example, “I’m sorry if you feel” places the blame back on the other person and can invalidate their feelings. One of the biggest mistakes people make when apologizing is incorporating a promise with it. Telling someone “I’m sorry, I promise this won’t happen again” sounds good but what happens if you do it again? You’ve essentially made a promise you couldn’t keep and established a pattern of being hurtful.
One of the biggest obstacles people face when issuing apologies is an admission of guilt. Some people believe that apologizing is synonymous with taking responsibility for the entire conflict instead of their particular role in it. Another obstacle people have is that an apology often draws focus on a mistake they’ve made, which can be an uncomfortable feeling for some.
This Topic of the Week was written by Malyka Cardwell, MFT.
I should have done this.
You should have done that.
What if I had done that?
These are common types of wishes for something different or better after the result the was delivered.
'Should have' or 'what if' questions aren't a problem generally, but some people get stuck in thinking about them. The decision(s) was made and what followed was regrettable, traumatic or something else that is difficult to face.
Then it becomes a problem. Getting caught up in 'what if' or 'should have' thinking means you aren't living in the present moment; you are living in the past, a past that can't be changed and becomes more and more distant - while the emotional effects are held closely – as the present continues to roll past and the future becomes the now and the then.
In this case, more decisions are coming your way, but not being dealt with – either ignored, trying to reverse course or being made while the past effects are too influential. It becomes an endless loop: Reaction, that immediate, gut expression takes over, instead of responding to a new set of circumstances.
Facing a bad choice takes courage – an ability to look at why you made the decisions you did and learning from this. This is the more cognitive/rational/logical approach to moving beyond a 'what if' loop.
No one can be prepared for every possible outcome, and anxious people spend a lot of time and energy trying, but is there a simpler solution? Rather than planning for 50, 100 (more?) outcomes, prepare yourself emotionally. You have fewer possible outcomes – maybe 6 – and how you respond to each of these emotions is applicable over and over again in every situation.
Sad, anger, disgust, fear, surprise and happy. Those are the 6 basic emotions, and processing these feelings around the decisions made and the reaction can be an approach that makes you more resilient in future difficult scenarios. If anger, sadness or fear is holding you back, then knowing these are feelings that you can handle makes that decision with unknown consequences less frightening.
It's not easy at first – maybe ever – to pinpoint these basic emotions, but effort – talking to someone or journaling – can bring your awareness to a place that allows you to see deeper into yourself, and it is here – deeper – where lasting change can better take hold.
So next time you ask yourself 'What if?' or tell yourself you should have done something different take it as a cue to reset your focus to now and do the work to build yourself up for next moment.
This Topic of the Week was written by Brian Swope, MFT.