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relationship advice

Wife vs Husband Does It Have To Be A Competition?

Most people enjoy succeeding or winning. But having to be right or constantly competing with your partner is detrimental to your relationship. Too frequently score keeping leads to hard feelings. It increases tension and fear and reduces trust. Choosing to relax and enjoy the journey together makes for a more harmonious home.

Couples compete on many points: who apologizes the most; who makes more money; who does more at home; who has the better job; who does more at the church or in the community; who is more involved with the kids; who has better friends. The possibilities are endless. Underneath it all the source of competition can be insecurity and the need for validation or approval from others. Some use being right or best as a way to get validation and boost their sense of self.

Does it have to be a competition? Consider the following questions:

  1. Do I have to have the last word? Do I have to prove that I am right?
  2. Am I gleeful when I can prove my partner wrong? Am I watching for ways that my partner missteps or stumbles so I can point it out?
  3. How am I inviting competition into our relationship? What could I say, do or think differently that might help?
  4. Do I express gratitude to and about my partner? Could I do this more often?

To stop the competition begins with you. You cannot control what your partner says or does, but you can start to make different choices for yourself.

  • Make the choice to cooperate rather than compete in your relationship. Recognize that when you both win your joy is doubled. If you have to win; you make it so your partner has to lose.
  • Learn to enjoy your partner’s accomplishments. Become each other’s best cheer section.
  • Try competing with yourself instead of with your partner. Perhaps you can find little ways that you can be better each day. Challenge yourself to find your personal best. Stop comparing yourself to your partner or to others.
  • Take responsibility for self-validation. Do not allow your self worth be determined by whether you are always right. Letting go of having to win all the time, may make your life more enjoyable.

If you want to stop competing as a couple start by making different choices yourself. You can then invite your partner to talk things through. Remember to listen twice as much as you talk. Consider ending the competition between you and look more toward becoming a team, cooperating as you win together.

Overreacting? Pause And Consider

We are all guilty of overreacting in anger or at times being more irritable than usual. At times our partner may take the brunt our foul mood. It would be most helpful to remember to pause before acting in these situations. Taking time to pause and consider could prevent us from saying something that we can never take back. Before tearing into our partner, I suggest we pause. Check in with our self:

  • Am I hungry?
  • Am I tired?
  • Am I upset with someone or something else?

We may also be able to help our partner do the same thing. Especially if we first bring it to their attention when they are not snapping at us.

The, “You’re not you when you’re hungry” slogan for Snickers Candy Bar makes a valid point. Low blood sugar may make us crankier. Hangry is the term used to describe anger that show up when we are hungry.

Being tired can also make it more difficult to manage our emotions and to handle difficult situations. It is amazing how a good nights sleep can make a problem seem more manageable. Perhaps it has something to do with being able to think more clearly, when we are well rested.

Bad moods tend to be contagious. All too often our partner makes a convenient target for our frustration with a co-worker, boss or situation. When we are stressed or overwhelmed, hurt or upset we will be less tolerant of our partner’s requests or actions.

Before you say something to your partner that you may regret, PAUSE and consider if  you are hungry, tired or upset with someone or something else.

Keep the following in mind:

Pick the time. Choosing a time when you are both well rested will improve the chances of a positive outcome.

Make sure you have both eaten. Starting the discussion on an empty stomach could lead to increased conflict.

Allow each other time to decompress. If either of you is dealing with stress at work or from another source, take some time to validate and support the other, before diving into your issue.

Why Is This So Hard - Unfulfilled Expectations

It Is Not Supposed To Be This Way

Unfulfilled expectations can lead to disappointment and disillusionment. Focusing on the thoughts, “it is not supposed to be this way” or “it shouldn’t be this hard” bring pain. All relationships in some ways fail to meet expectations. Most couples at some point reach a “commitment remorse” stage in their relationship, where they start to wonder, “What have I got myself into?”

Acceptance
Acceptance

Maybe there is too much fighting. Maybe that sense of closeness is gone. Maybe resentment has been building. Maybe there is a lack of respect. Maybe they have had thoughts like, “I love you, but I am not in love with you any more”. Maybe a co-worker is starting to look more appealing than they should.

Taking the stance that it is not supposed to be this way, leads to resistance and fighting. We can end up throwing blame, justifying bad behavior and feeling like a victim. Acceptance of what is and gratitude for the experience brings us peace. We are more able to focus on what is my part and what could I do to help make things better.

Expectations put the neediness in dreams. When I have a vision, hope or dream for my life, it can help pull me forward. When I get sidetracked with ideas like: I should already be there, what is wrong with me? My partner should be more attentive or less pushy, what is wrong with them? We should be seeing eye-to-eye, what is wrong with us? then I find more and more reasons to be dissatisfied. When I start adding the shoulds, I lose sight of my vision in the judgments and criticism.

We can become completely dissatisfied with our life if we keep telling our self that it is not supposed to be this way. We can start to focus too much on that feeling of lack and worry too much about what am I getting out of this relationship. The more we focus on what is lacking the less we feel love toward our partner. Those feelings of love can return when we turn our focus to loving our partner, rather than feeling unloved by them. Joseph Goldstein said, “You can’t stop the wave, but you can learn to surf.” Acceptance can allow us to learn to surf in our relationship, rising above the challenges and difficulties. Rather than feeling like we are drowning as the waves pummel us. Acceptance does not mean that there is no need for change. It does mean that there is no energy wasted on grumbling about how things are not as expected.

The greatest gift that you can offer yourself and your partner is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance. Offer it first to yourself and you will be better able to offer it to your partner.

Too Much Of A Good Thing

Have you wondered why the very traits that attracted you to your partner in the first place, can become the traits that drive you crazy? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that often your biggest strengths are also your biggest weakness. Without balance, your strength may become your downfall.

Too Much Of A Good Thing
Too Much Of A Good Thing

I have a fondness for good quality chocolate. I thought that I would greatly enjoy the all you can eat chocolate buffet. What I discovered was that after the third delicious chocolate dessert, chocolate became less and less appealing. Soon I was searching for anything that was not chocolate. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Too much of even something wonderful, can become off-putting. In relationships, the wonderful quirkiness that drew your partner to you, can become the irritant that pushes you apart.

Having high standards and striving for excellence can start to feel like perfectionism and faultfinding. Your partner may feel that no matter what they will never get it right. The bar is set so high in your relationship that they are constantly disappointing you. To balance your amazing quality of striving for excellence, try being a little more accepting.

Being easy going may end up looking like abdication of responsibility. Your partner may feel that you are unwilling to express your preferences. They may get tired of making all the decisions. To balance your accepting and agreeable nature, try adding a little assertiveness.

The desire to keep things fair may turn into obsessive scorekeeping. Your partner may feel your relationship is more a competition than a love affair. Try balancing the desire for fairness with being more collaborative.

A strong desire to be a team player may end up feeling like dependence and clinginess. Your partner may feel smothered or start pushing for time to themselves. Try balancing the desire for collaboration with time for independent thought.

An independent nature may begin to feel like aloofness and distancing. Your partner may feel excluded and unappreciated. Try adding some collaboration to your relationship.

Being the life of the party, fun and talkative, may end up feeling impulsive and erratic. Your partner may have a difficult time feeling heard. Try pausing to listen more.

Being quiet and thoughtful could begin to look like withdrawal and secrecy. Your partner may feel left out and that you take life too seriously. Try consciously choosing to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner.

To make the best of your strengths and keep them from turning into weaknesses requires courage. The courage to choose to stretch and grow. You can recognize where your strengths begin to work against rather than for you. Think in terms of moderation in your relationship. Just like reasonable portions of chocolate each day, taste so much better than overdoing it. Balancing your strengths so that they do not become irritating will make your relationship healthier.

Open To Influence From Your Partner

When we are open to influence from our partner, we validate them in a substantial way. We help them feel loved, valued and important all at the same time. This ability to listen to and accept our partner, especially when we disagree is an important element of lasting, happy relationships.

Open to Influence

Are You Open To Influence From Your Partner? When couples refuse to allow their partner to have a voice in the relationship or to weigh in on decisions the relationship slowly or sometimes quickly deteriorates. As with other harmful relationship habits, awareness is the place to begin rectifying the problem. I have included a short quiz to help you identify your strength or weakness in this area.

Do not think about how you wish you were or how you want people to think you are; carefully consider your actual behavior in the relationship. Be completely honest with yourself and answer the following questions True or False:

  1. I can accept my partner’s opinion; it is okay if we disagree.
  2. My partner is too irrational; I cannot take him/her seriously when discussing issues.
  3. I want to hear and understand my partner opinions.
  4. Even if we disagree, I appreciate my partner’s insights.
  5. I believe there must be a give and take to our discussions.
  6. My partner comes up with good ideas.
  7. If I don’t make major decisions, no one does in this relationship.
  8. My partner is too often overly emotional.
  9. I want my partner to know that his/her opinions are important to me.
  10. Usually I find it easy to agree with at least part of what my partner says.
  11. I get tired of listening to my partner after a while, or I tune my partner out at times.
  12. Usually I can listen and be respectful, even when I disagree with my partner.
  13. I am very convincing and win more than my share of arguments with my partner.
  14. I feel my opinion matters, when we make decisions.
  15. My partner completely lacks common sense.

For questions 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 12, 14, score one point for each true answer.

For questions 2, 7, 8, 11, 13, 15 score one point for each false answer.

If you scored 13 or more, then being open to your partner’s influence is a solid part of your relationship.

If you did not score high, it does not mean that you cannot have a great relationship, but it does mean that you could benefit from working to become more accepting of and open to your partner. Strive to be more respectful of your partner’s thought and opinions. It is possible that you may have to give up the need to be right and practice allowing your partner to enjoy that opportunity now and again.

Triple Filter Test = Safe Words

Wisdom

I think making use of Socrates Triple Filter Test, could prevent a lot of drama, frustration, hurt feelings and mistrust. Before you share a juicy tidbit, critique your partner or lash out in anger; apply the Triple Filter Test. Too often we open our mouth before we think and then when we stop and think we wish that we could pull back what we said. Somehow, saying “I didn’t mean it” does little to undo the damage done. Most of us have a fairly good filter on what we say when we are in public. However the more comfortable we get with someone, the more we remove our social filter. This may help explain why we often treat those we love worse than we would treat a stranger.

In ancient Greece, Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem. One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”

“Hold on a minute”, Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”

“Triple filter?”

“That’s right”, Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”

“No,” the man said, “Actually I just heard about it and ...”

“All right”, said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”

“No, on the contrary.”

“So”, Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”

“No, not really.”

“Well”, concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”

Triple Filter Test:

Is it true?

Is it good?

Is it useful?

I would also like to add, when you are deciding if what you are about to say is true, to stop for a second and remember that just because you think it is true, does not make it true. I have frequently, in my life, jumped to conclusions that I later discovered were far from accurate. The filter is “have you made absolutely sure that [it is] true?”

Using this filter would mean a lot of things would remain unsaid. But considering how hard it is to unsay something, I would suggest that this might be a good thing.

Can You Be Too Nice?

It is an interesting question - can you be too nice? Is it possible that being too nice can harm your relationship? The answer could surprise you. Have you ever said or heard your partner say: “I’m done with this, I don’t want to do anything for anybody ever.” “I am sick of having to make all the decisions. You won’t tell me what you want to do. All you says is whatever I want.” “I get no respect. We always have to do things your way.”

Too Nice

Tensions may arise in your relationship from a surprising source. The things that you think are helping your relationship may not be helping. People, who are too nice in their relationship, in time, tend to feel like they have disappeared into the relationship and may end up feeling that they have to remove themselves from the relationship to re-establish their identity. You can prevent yourself from being swallowed up in your relationship by recognizing when you are being too nice and choosing to be true to yourself in your relationship.

You can be too nice if you consistently do for your partner what they could and should be doing for them self. You can be too nice, if you rescue your partner from the consequences of their actions. You can be too nice if you constantly sacrifice your wants and needs to accommodate your partner’s wants and needs. You can be too nice by tiptoeing around your partner to avoid conflict.

People who are extremely conflict-avoidant and overly concerned with keeping others happy often give up being themselves to be in their relationships. They are afraid to express their thoughts and opinions for fear of upsetting their partner. They refuse to bring up difficult subjects because that might lead to conflict or at minimum an uncomfortable exchange.

They get burned out in their relationship because they are constantly pleasing everyone else, hoping that someone will give back to them. They are frequently disappointed because they refuse to set boundaries around what they are willing and able to do and around how they want to be treated.

Initially the partner may think it is great to have a partner who is constantly giving them what they want and need. In time that partner may become frustrated because they cannot seem to coax an opinion out of their people-pleasing partner. There will definitely be confusion when their people-pleasing partner begins to express their resentment. When people-pleasers gets seriously burned-out, their behavior usually drastically changes from constantly pleasing their partner, to being obnoxious and refusing to do anything for anybody.

We absolutely need to be caring, generous and kind in our relationships. But when being nice prevents healthy open communication, means constantly discounting your own wants and needs, means taking responsibility for your partner’s behavior, you have crossed over into being too nice. Being too nice will build resentment within you and frustration within your partner. In the long run, being too nice will harm your relationship.

Can you be too nice in your relationship? The answer is that as long as you have a backbone and equally respect yourself, you can never be too nice. Be nice, but recognize your limits and set your boundaries accordingly. Be honest with your partner, communicate openly, respect your wants and needs as well as your parrtner’s, allow your partner to experience the consequences of their behavior and expect and allow your partner to contribute meaningfully to the relationship.

Love Yourself, Love Your Partner

Far too often in counseling sessions I have heard things like: I don’t feel like s/he loves me, I feel like I come second, third or fourth, I feel put aside, I feel unappreciated. Statements like these are often followed by, “I love him (her), but I am not in love with him (her).” When people’s needs are not being met in their relationship there is a tendency to withdraw and withhold, creating an even larger wedge between partners.

Love

Our unsatisfied needs move us to action. When we are feeling that our partner does not love us or that we are not important to them, we will do things to try and reassure ourselves that we are loved and important to our partner. Too often the action that we take moves us farther away, rather than closer to getting our needs met. Consider the wife who feels neglected because her husband is frequently staying late at work. When he does finally get home she is sullen, hurt and angry. What she needs is to feel loved and like he values and wants to spend time with her. However, her behavior ends up pushing him farther away and the time that they do spend together is unsatisfying to both.

For each of us, it is ultimately our own responsibility to meet our own needs. That being said, it feels amazing when our partner helps us to get our needs met. We cannot control what our partner does. We cannot make them behave as if they love us or as if we are important to them. But we can control our thoughts and actions. We can behave as though we love them and they are important to us. Feeling that our needs are not being met can at times make us blind to the needs of those around us.

Before you can jump in and work at meeting your partner’s needs, it is vitally important to first take some time to work on meeting your own needs. Give yourself the gift of loving and accepting yourself. Give yourself the gift of acknowledging and knowing that you are important and that you are worth it. Self-sooth. Find ways to strengthen and energize yourself. Love yourself first, then offer love to your partner.

When you come at trying to help your partner feel loved and important, from a place of knowing that you are loved and important by and to yourself, then your feelings will be more those of giving rather than resenting. When your partner’s needs are met, it is more likely that they will be more aware of your needs and behave in ways that helps you get your needs met. As you can see from the example above, unmet needs too often lead to behavior that is counter-productive. At those times, it takes skill to recognize the need underneath your partner’s behavior.

You can choose to deal with what you can control and decide to reach out to your partner and focus on giving, rather than worrying about what you are not getting. Be aware of the human tendency to give love in ways that feel loving to you. It is extremely important to know your partner and to learn what it is that feels loving to them. Giving gifts of love can feel like a credit or deposit in their emotional bank account. But as Stephen Covey pointed out, “Nothing you do is a deposit unless the other person perceived it as such. “

If you do not know your partner and do not give in ways that are meaningful and feel loving to them then your sacrifices and gifts of love will not be recognized as such. When we focus on giving love, rather than focusing on what we are not getting, we will feel more loving toward our partner and hopefully they, as their emotional bank account fills up, will start behaving and feeling more loving in return.

Boundaries Protect Relationships

Setting boundaries is an important relationship skill. Good boundaries protect relationships. Many people find it difficult to ask for what they want. They go through life giving to and pleasing their partner, hoping that some day their partner will return the favor. Resentment and frustration can build until the pendulum swings too far and those who for years have been bending over backwards to please others, suddenly become obnoxiously insistent that things go their way for a change. Finding the balance between being too passive and too aggressive can be a challenge.

The following 4 tips can help you achieve an assertive balance when setting your boundaries.

Boundaries

1. Know Yourself In order to be assertive, you first need to know your values, preferences, and limits. It is important to recognize the difference between your principles and values, and your preferences. Once you are clear on who you are and what is really important to you, it becomes easier to share this with your partner.

2. Set Boundaries Share your expectation with your partner. When setting boundaries, be honest, direct and specific. Try to create boundaries based on your values and principles, rather than preferences. Cleanliness is a value; the color of the towels in the bathroom is a preference. Try to remain open and flexible about preference; and firm and consistent about values. The more we stay true to our values the better we feel in our life. Persistence is key when setting boundaries. It becomes easier with practice and it is freeing to be open about your needs and desires.

3. Open Your Mouth Your partner cannot read your mind. If you want your needs to be met, the best way to help that happen is to open your mouth. You can start small by expressing your preferences for shows to watch, places to eat, and things to do for fun. It can be easier to start by talking about how you felt about things that happened in the past and what you would have preferred and work up to expressing how you feel about what is happening as it is happening.

4. Be The Example Of What You Want Respecting your partner’s boundaries sets an excellent example for your partner. If he wants you to call if you are going to be home late, then call. If she wants you to keep the clutter off the bedroom dresser, then do so. The small choices we make every day, speak volumes to our partner. You can also check in with your partner to see if what you are expecting and asking seems like a reasonable request to them. Your partner may be more willing to respect your boundaries if they feel respected in return.

If you have clearly set your boundaries, you are being respectful and consistent in setting or maintaining your boundaries and your partner still refuses to respect you and your boundaries, it may be time to consider seeking professional help.

Anniversary Blues

Have you ever had an Anniversary, Birthday or Mother’s Day be a huge disappointment?Anniversary My husband’s worst fopa in this regard was the year that he asked me to buy cards and presents for Secretary’s Day (which happens to fall shortly before my birthday) and then he forgot to even get a card for my birthday. That was years ago and it was the only time he “forgot” my birthday. Most of the pain resulting from important day disappointments comes from the meaning that we attach to what has or has not happened. In my case the meaning I attached to what happened was that my husband cared more about the secretaries than he did about me. In reality he had been bombarded with reminders of Secretary’s day from the secretaries and on the radio; there were no such reminders for my birthday. And although it should have been important to him make that day special for me, there was no mal intent on his part.

Things to consider: Have you set yourself up to be let down?

Instead of waiting and knowing that he will forget, choose to be proactive. Do what my daughter does and circle the day in red and write in a reminder. It may, in some distorted way, be satisfying to be proved right that he would forget, but what is the price of being right. Sometimes it is wiser to choose to be happy rather than right.

Do you have unrealistic expectations?

Are you expecting your partner to do something far beyond their inclination and ability? If for example you love to entertain and create fun parties, but your partner will not or cannot pull that off, then hoping that he is going to throw you that special big bash may only lead to disappointment. I know a woman who badly wanted a nice party for her 30th birthday, but she knew that her husband would not have time to plan it. Instead of being hurt and upset, she decided that she was going to have an absolutely wonderful birthday and planned the day herself with the help of her children. The result was that she had a great birthday because she was realistic about what she could expect.

Do you have secret or hidden expectations?

If there are certain things that you would really like, whether it is ideas for presents or activities or whatever, SHARE THEM with your partner. Some of you may think that if you have to ask then it doesn’t really count. Again the question: is it more important to hang on to a romantic notion that somehow he will figure it out or do you want to be happy? If you want to be surprised, give him several options to choose from; but the reality is that the more information that your partner has about your expectation, the more likely you are to get what you want.