From Courtship to Criticism Back to Courtship — How?

Criticism to Courtship

By Cathy Neville, LPC, NCC on February 25, 2016

Courtship to Criticism

There’s a new cable television show on Tuesday nights.

It’s called Fit to Fat to Fit.

Essentially, the premise every week is this:

A fitness trainer who is quick to heap criticism and lacks a measure of empathy for his or her overweight clients agrees to spend four to six months ruining his or her own taut physique with fatty, unhealthy food and a sedentary lifestyle. When he or she becomes sufficiently fat, the trainer then meets up with a heavy client who has struggled to lose weight.

Together, bonded by their desire to be fit and toned, they get to work.

Soon, their bodies are restored, goals are met, and lessons about compassion and appreciation for health are learned.

Isn’t it that way with some of our most intimate relationships?

We start out courting each other, in love, and promising each other devotion and loyalty. Relatively fit.

But along the way, things change. Irritation, unresolved issues, and resentment set in. The shape of our love is changed and the shape and comfort level of our connection is compromised.

Criticism and disdain clog communication like fatty food around the hearts of that trainer and his client. The heart of our relationships start to struggle and strain. We have to work our way back to the respect, admiration, and encouragement of our early relationship to save our love. Back to relational fitness. And it’s worth the work out.

Criticism Back to Courtship

So what does that look like?

How do you shed the weight of criticism that drags your relationship down?

Well, let’s start at the beginning…that period of courtship that bonded you together in the first place.

What did you use to have? How did you and your partner pursue each other in the early days of your relationship? Was it a period of discovery? Weren’t you intrigued by each other, craving tidbits of information during long conversations that would confirm that he or she was “the one”?

Clearly, you got your answer. You talked, shared your dreams, made plans, and took the leap together. And for a while, your relationship was bliss. And then it was routine. And then there were problems.

All of that is natural.

Except that slowly your ability to solve your problems seems complicated by criticism. What happened?

Did you start to pick at each other over little things like messy bathroom sinks or forgotten dry cleaning? Were you exasperated by his/her parenting styles or lack of marital attention? How did criticizing and complaining about each other work its way into your communication and, worse, into the way you communicate about each other to others?

Criticism takes a heavy toll on love. It erodes trust and security.

It undermines that core idea in any intimate, committed relationship that says, “We’re in this together and you’re safe with me.”

It’s a heavy, hurtful, unhealthy place to be in your relationship.

And it’s time to move on. It’s time to get fit with a return to courtship.

It worked before and it will work again. Here’s how:

  • Courtship assumes nothing. Approach your partner with curiosity. Criticism got in the way because it assumes too much. You are critical of each other because you think you know how the other person should operate. You’ve forgotten to look and listen to the how’s and why’s of who your partner is. You’ve forgotten to simply observe mindfully and allow the moment, feelings, and concerns of your partner to exist without your action or pressure to do anything.
  • Courtship inspires selflessness. Once upon a time you were willing to edit a few of your wants and needs to accommodate your partner. Resist the critical attitude that focuses on how much attention your partner is not paying you. Practice routine “courtship consideration.” Trade a few demands and expectations for more caring, interest, and concern.
  • Courtship embraces unconditional acceptance. Criticism at the start of a relationship is generally frowned upon…for good reason. It does not endear you to a person and will likely just lead to distrust, anxiety, shame, or resentment. Growing intimacy and trust is the name of the game when you court a partner. Don’t let your familiarity with each other rob you of the chance to keep getting to know each other. Repeatedly offer your unconditional acceptance.

Reclaim the healthier love and positivity of courtship.

Trim the criticism from your relationship and feed yourselves compassion. Nurture your love with loving feedback. Meet with a couples counselor if you need help.

Revisit the loving practices and communication that brought you together in the beginning and let courtship work its magic once again.

Have You Drifted Apart? 5 Ways to Reconnect

Have You Drifted Apart? 5 Ways to Reconnect

Have You Drifted Apart? 5 Ways to Reconnect

By Cathy Neville, LPC, NCC (revised on December 27, 2015)

In our frenetic, forever plugged-in world, it’s all too easy to spend our days bouncing from task to task without touching down to connect with the people we love.

Do you find yourself going to bed without hearing about your partner’s day? Is your significant other running out the door to work before you can say good morning to each other? If the distance between you and the person you want to spend your life with has become too great:

1. Make decisions together

In a society that encourages individuality, it can be hard to think in terms of “we” in a serious relationship. A romantic commitment means more than just giving of yourself; show your significant other you depend on him/her too. Dream with your partner. Ask your spouse how a vacation to visit an old friend would make him/her feel. If you want to go back to school, start a conversation about it before doing all the research. When your spouse tells you what he/she dreams about, really listen. Opening up the decision-making process reinforces that you are life partners, not just roommates.

2. Check in with each other

If your partner tries to describe his/her day while you’re in between phone calls or sending an email, not only is it difficult for you to actually listen, chances are he/she feels like a last-minute addition to your busy schedule. Setting aside even ten minutes a day to sit across from each other without distractions can be a powerful way to reconnect.

3. Be there for each other

Interactions with colleagues or siblings are often shaped by personal opinions and desires – you might react critically when a coworker goes on vacation during a busy time at work. When it comes to events in your partner’s life, set aside your own motivations. If your spouse gets promoted, recognize the talent and hard work that went into the promotion before asking how her/his schedule or salary might be affected. Respect is an essential ingredient in a successful romantic relationship for men and for women.

4. Show and tell

When you feel angry, it can be difficult not to speak your mind. When it comes to love, it can be all too easy to assume your partner already knows how you feel. Don’t let your positive feelings about the life you have together go unsaid. Let each other know how you most feel appreciated, and take what you learn to heart. If your partner doesn’t like big surprises and is stressed about your financial circumstances, a letter might help her/him feel more loved than buying an expensive gift. When two people in a relationship become separately busy, their physical connection usually suffers. Bring physical touch back into your relationship.

5. Find a balance that works for both of you

It’s clear from browsing any bookstore’s self-help section that finding a balance between work and life is a common theme in today’s constantly on-the-go world. Many of us have put a lot of time, money and energy into getting a degree and landing a job.  A successful career often validates all that work. If your relationship is suffering as a result of your professional commitments, spend some time thinking about your priorities. When you leave the office, make sure you leave it mentally as well. Don’t go home and jump on Facebook or begin your evening texting on your cell phone.  When unavoidable demands are made on your time, remind your significant other how much you still care and value him/her.

If you know you have an overwhelming week ahead of you, plan a date night with your partner for the weekend or send a thoughtful email or text during your workday. Structure your commitments around an activity you can do as a couple. Take your significant other to a movie or simply cook dinner together. By planning ahead, you might find that you have more time to spare than you realize.

When you make New Year’s resolutions for the coming year, make “reconnecting to my partner,” your first!

Photo by Dreamstime

3 Ways To Know If Your Marriage Can Survive The Affair

Revised on September 11, 2015

Committing to love, working toward trusiStock_000001130579Smallt and daring to begin again

Is this the end?

The affair, like a dark cloud, looms over your marriage.

It rains so much suspicion, doubt, and blame that you can barely see each other.

It shoots lightning bolts of anger, resentment, and guilt so strong that you and your partner are sent scrambling from each other, convinced that that there’s no way to weather the storm.

Your relationship is battered, ravaged.

Is there any way it can it survive?

Will attempts to rebuild be rewarded with clearing skies?

The process of recovery following an affair is sometimes overcast, stormy, and uncomfortable. Still, love, trust and connection can be salvaged and rebuilt.

Consider 3 key factors that help determine whether you can ride out the storm:

1. You make the commitment. Do you truly want to survive–together?

Is the love still there? If you recognize that your relationship is still yours to shield or set free, there is hope. You can put aside the idea that only one of you gets out of the rain and decide that your life together is worth the work.

You must commit. Decide to feel the pain, face reality, share your hurts, tell the truth, and seek change. Do whatever it takes to recover your connection and repair the damage. Though it may be scary, humbling, and overwhelming, if you are willing to push through, you can hold on and come through the infidelity storm together.

2. You embrace the work. Will you aggressively strive toward restoration?

Outside help is vital. You must be more than just willing; you must immediately and actively work to survive an affair. Will you enlist the help of an experienced counselor and key supporters to act as your marriage support team? Introducing better communication tools, a counselor can help you manage conflicts and misunderstanding. Friends and family can help brace your marriage and keep it strong.

Will you rebuild your marriages walls? Successful survival means protecting yourself from the initial storm, anticipating resurging problems, and working to clear out the damage so that you are stronger and better protected. You and your partner can become skilled survivors instead of victims of an affair’s aftermath.

3. You want better. Are you prepared to help your marriage thrive and transform?

Forgiveness is the key. It is foundational for ultimately putting the affair in the past to move forward. Can you let the storm pass? The goal is to love again, not use the affair as leverage, a defense, or a weapon against the other. It does no good to weather the affair to then build new storms of retaliation, alienation, or never-ending probation. Recovery depends on being able to recognize and welcome a brighter day.

Will you invest in a “new,” reinforced marriage? This is no time for carelessness. After a storm, you may realize that the old way of living wasn’t strong enough to withstand the weather. You might invest in a new door, repair the roof, or clear views through the windows to better see what’s coming. You fortify the best of what you have and discard what didn’t protect you well. Your marriage can survive and thrive if you diligently and mutually invest kindness, respect, compassion, and support.

You and your partner determine the course of your future relationship. Dig in. Get the help you need. If you want it, work to recover it and resolve to strengthen it. Your marriage can make it through this storm.

Survive as a committed couple, strive with dedicated support, and thrive by constructively moving forward.  As a relationship therapist, I can help you decide whether moving forward is the right choice for you; and if so, just how you do that.  You can call me or go online to make an appointment today!