How to Get On Less Emotionally Distant Train

“The best portion of your life will be the small, nameless moments you spend smiling with someone who matters most to you.” ~ Unknown

Like this quote says, openness isn’t just about being talkative. You don’t have to spend all your time together, pool your money, or tell each other everything to be close. But, on occasion, you may want to think positively about your spouse, so you can enjoy each other’s company. Without openness, it will be hard to smile in their presence.

Openness is a playful. light and easy going feeling that helps you be yourself and be emotionally present with your spouse. We are open when we are calm and not reacting as if there is a threat. This openness comes and goes, and it can be hard to see our part in the times we feel less open.

Instead of blaming your spouse, observe your own distance. What makes you switch from playful and open to closed off and distant? How do you switch it back on? It’s hard isn’t it. I know you are tempted to say but he or she does or doesn’t do enough of…

Assumptions Fuel Emotional Distance

While you may not believe me, your happiness is separate from your relationship. We can all make ourselves more negative or more carefree with a different train of thinking. Your spouse may be distant at times, but I imagine you are too.

The only way to be more smiley, open, and playful with your spouse is to see your spouse as separate from you. That is, your happiness and emotions can be less regulated by what your spouse does or doesn’t do when you see it as a less of  a reflection of how they feel about you.

Kathleen Cauley, licensed marriage and family therapist, shares her thoughts on emotional separation in her video Myths about Communication. She stresses that communication is less about getting your point heard, and more about calming down to hear. In this way, openness is “staying interested in your spouse without assuming: 1) it has something to do with you, 2) it hurts your feelings, or 3) it will get in your way.”

For example, if your spouse is emotionally unavailable to you on occasion, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be happy without his/her response. Nor does it mean that your spouse don’t care about you or you aren’t important to him/her. But when you make these assumptions, you probably start pulling away to protect yourself.

Our assumptions fuel our distance, and emotional separateness creates intimacy and openness. If you don’t take your spouse’s busyness, tension, or unavailability as a threat to your own emotional well being then you are free to be available. You don’t have to distance too. So when your spouse is available, you will be too.

“Emotional separateness is the key to emotional intimacy.” ~ Margaret Otto, LCSW

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Marci offers face-to-face counseling services in the Kansas City, MO area. Schedule an appointment today to help you move forward.

Or if you are looking for a counselor in your area? There are therapists who are trained to work with individuals on marriage and family issues: Bowen Family Systems or American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy

Becoming Less Allergic to Others’ Negativity

Do you easily absorb others’ negativity? You let it get under your skin or hurt your feelings. Instead of really hearing them, you feel like they are talking about how they feel about you.

For example, when my daughter complains about not wanting to do her chores, my mind makes assumptions. My heart rate quickens as if there is a threat that I need to prepare for. And I tell myself, “She makes everything hard on me. I wish she would treat me as good as she treats her teacher.”If I stay in threat mode, I get hooked into a power struggle, debate, or argument.

Others negativity can be like an allergy, we feel infected by something that isn’t really threatening to us. Instead of letting it infect us, we can change our thinking and emotional response already in progress.

When we perceive others’ negativity less personally, we free ourselves and our loved ones. We are free from being held responsible for others negativity. As a bonus, we are free to connect with others, instead of protecting ourselves.

6 Steps to Managing an Allergy to Negativity:

If you walk around feeling like there are threats to your emotional well-being in each personal encounter, you will live a guarded life. In the long run, you will miss out on opportunities for personal connection.

While our emotions tell us that negativity infects us, how do we let others’ complaints get under our skin less? Here are 6 steps to letting negative emotions stay where they belong (in owners’ skin):

  • Interrupt your own emotional reaction in order to think more clearly
  • Evaluate whether negativity from other is threat to your well-being
  • Choose not to let it get under your skin and cause an “infection”
  • Find another way to think about negativity that is separate from you
  • Let other own their feelings by letting them stew in it
  • Reflect what you observe not what you feel

In my example, I can take deep breaths to help me slow down before I yell at my daughter. This gives me time to see that her complaint is not a threat to my happiness. Thus I don’t have to let it get under my skin as much as it usually does.

When I don’t feel threatened by her complaint, I am able to hear that she doesn’t feel like cleaning right now. Her negativity is less about me or our relationship and more about her. 

I no longer feel like defending myself or making her feel bad. Instead I can reflect my observation and remind her of the choices that are in front of her. (“I know you are tired. You are welcome to watch TV when your room is clean or go to bed early.”)

I would not be able to listen to her in this way if I took her complaint personally. I am able to move on, and she will either take responsibility or stew in her complaints. Either way, our relationship isn’t impacted negatively by her complaining. And I am becoming less allergic to her complaining.

Emotional Separateness Key to Relational Connection

I am convinced that the way to feeling more connected with others is to allow each person to have their own bucket of emotions. That is to separate our emotions as being a reflection of the person that carries them.

By not taking others emotional reactions personally, we are truly able to hear what they are saying. To listen to what they are saying about themselves. And the only way to do this is to get calm enough to hear them without being allergic to their negativity.

How do you get calm enough to keep learning about the important people in your life?

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Moving Forward After an Affair Without Losing Your Mind

“It is estimated that roughly 30 to 60% of all married individuals (in U.S.) will engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage.”    ~Wikipedia (compilation of research studies)

Does this statistic alarm you? As a marriage counselor, the frequency of infidelity in marriages no longer surprises me. Instead, I am honored to have a unique vantage point. You have allowed me to observe what helps individuals and couples recover from infidelity.

Have you recently found out your spouse is having an affair? If yes, I imagine you are experiencing many different feelings. You can’t stop thinking about the affair and feel compelled to find out everything you can, even if it’s painful. By now, you are growing weary of holding onto the fear that the affair will happen again.

How do you recover from this news without losing your mind and yourself? Discover what choices you have in front of you, even if you feel like you have no choices. Your choice lies in how you respond and make sense of the affair. In doing so, you will chose what you are going to do as well as what you are not going to do.

What Not To Do When Your Spouse Has An Affair:

I have listened to you and heard what helps and hinders you from recovering from infidelity. Here’s what I think you’d say not to do…

  • Don’t let the affair tear down your self-worth. You are not any less lovable or attractive. Someone else’s actions don’t have to reflect how important you are.
  • Don’t get stuck on trying to fix your spouse. One of the ways your spouse deals with stress and tension is to turn to more than one person for comfort. Each time you try to fix them, you will be letting them off the hook from fully understanding and learning from this.
  • Don’t over-focus on the affair. While it may be all you think about at first, it helps to look at the bigger marriage or family climate. The affair is typically a symptom of underlying marriage patterns or family stress level.

What To Do If Your Spouse Has An Affair:

Now, you know what has hindered others from recovering from an affair, but what about what helps?

  • Nourish Yourself: Expect to feel the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Find ways to manage worry and practice good self-care.
  • Take Opportunity for Learning: Use the news of marriage infidelity as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your marriage. What do you want to change to improve your quality of life? What marriage patterns could be contributing to your marriage being vulnerable to infidelity?
  • Recognize Denial for What It Is: If your spouse is denying and minimizing the affair when you have evidence of it’s existence, then he or she isn’t ready to accept responsibility for their actions. And your spouse may also not be ready to end the affair. If your spouse is ready to end the affair, they will do so without you telling them to.
  • Be Clear About Your Position: You have a choice: are you or aren’t you ok with being with them when they are pursuing romantic or sexual contact with other people? Instead of setting boundaries on them that they may or may not follow, let them know what you are willing and not willing to do while they are having an affair.

When experiencing a high level of stress and anxiety, your first reaction may be to tell your spouse what to do. It can initially produce more anxiety to realize you can’t shape up your spouse’s behavior. Find security in knowing that the other person’s actions don’t have to define you.

Being sure of yourself can free you from being consumed with anxiety about the infidelity. It helps you feel more in control and moves you to the present while understanding the past. The affair is turned into an invitation to tend to what needs to grow or change.

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Marci offers face-to-face counseling services in the Kansas City, MO area. Schedule an appointment today to help you move forward.

Or if you are looking for a counselor in your area? There are therapists who are trained to work with individuals on marriage and family issues: Bowen Family Systems or American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy