Monday, September 25, 2017

Your Brain Wants To Be Safe More Than It Wants To Be Connected To Your Partner

When you become violently ill, your brain says, "Hey, lets keep this from happening again." You ask yourself, "What did I eat that made me sick." You may simply have a virus, but your brain is searching for something that will prevent you from getting sick again. Getting sick must be avoided - it can kill you!

When you have been hurt in your relationship, your brain says, "Hey, lets keep this from happening again." How can you prevent future pain? The immediate desire to prevent further hurt will take over...even at the expense of your relationship. Your brain is designed that way! Pain triggers survival instincts which are sensed non-verbally; it is a feeling that can be difficult to put into words.

Your brain's primary instinct is to survive. When you feel overwhelming pain, your brain processes this as a danger to survival. When overwhelmed, you feel anxious, hyper-alert, and go into high gear to learn as much as possible about the cause of the pain. 

When the hurt comes from your partner, you'll ask your partner to provide the answers to how and why he or she was able to hurt you in the hope that you will find the key to preventing future pain. 

It can be difficult for your partner to respond because he/she is likely to feel blamed and shamed for causing the pain. Not only is your partner likely to be defensive but is also likely to try to take your pain away. Your partner may try to minimize your pain or shift your view in an effort to alter the pain. 

Your brain will have none of that! Your brain wants to hold on to the pain as a reminder of this danger. You are more likely to be careful in the future if you remember the pain of the past, particularly overwhelming pain that the brain interprets as a danger to survival.

It is useful to be able to discuss your pain with your partner because this triggers the upper regions of the brain that are uniquely human and less confined to survival instincts. If your partner can empathize with your pain and respond soothingly, then the sense of danger to survival can wane and the desire for relationship can balance with the risk of being hurt again. 

While your partner cannot alter your view of the pain, you can keep the pain from defining your life. You can reassure yourself that you are a survivor. Use the pain to plan for the future but not to control your future.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Take A Minute For Your Marriage

Relationships are tough. Probably 90% of relationships end if we take into account dating relationships that did not click. This should either tell you to remain single or that relationship success must be intentional, not just a luck of the draw.

One way of staying focused on maintaining a connection with your mate is to seek out training. Just as you would train to do well in your job, successful relationships employ skills that can be learned. But where can you learn these skills without devoting a lot of time, energy and money - all of which can be in short supply.

The easiest, least expensive (it's free!!!) and best source of information can be found through subscribing to the Marriage Minute. Brief descriptions of a single skill will be emailed to you on a weekly basis. You can learn more about this at

There is really only one problem. You really have to do more than read the skill; you must practice it over and over until it becomes second nature for you (and hopefully your partner). 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Being Responsive Rather Than Defensive When You Have Hurt Your Partner

When you have hurt your partner, it is important to be responsive to his or her pain. Seems simple enough, but couples often get lost as they respond to this situation. It is difficult to acknowledge you have hurt someone you care for. Also, you want your partner to acknowledge that there were multiple factors involved in your behavior…that you are not such a bad person.

An example is when hurtful insults are hurled in the middle of an argument. Later, your partner lets you know how hurtful those comments were, but you don’t want to be painted as the bad guy (or gal), so you point out how the comment was made in the context of an argument.

The problem is that your partner is asking you to be responsive to their pain, but you are responding by defending your responsibility for causing the pain. Now, you are the focus, instead of your partner’s pain being the focus of discussion. It is far better to empathize with your partner’s pain first, then discuss the context in which the pain occurred.

Jenny: “You hurt my feelings when you called me those names. I felt disrespected. I want you to respect me even if we are having a disagreement.”

Paul: “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings and lost my temper. I care about you and am sorry for speaking that way. I really think we need to examine how we approach these differences about finances.”

It important to note that Paul was able to first listen to Jenny’s pain before he addressed their need to examine their approach to managing finances. He didn’t automatically make her message to be about him. Instead, he heard her message and was able to be responsive to her pain, before addressing the relationship issue.

Action Step:  Try to listen to your partner’s feelings before you move to defend yourself. You will find that you are able to avoid many of the arguments that are characterized by blaming and defending one’s self.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Changing Your Behavior Is Not Enough: Recovering From A Painful Episode

Jim hurt Nancy terribly.  He hated seeing the pain revealed both in her eyes and her tears.  Nancy’s trust had been destroyed.  Jim tried to reassure her that he would never do it again, but that they needed to move on.  She knew Jim generally kept his word, but she never imagined that he would hurt her in this way.

Jim continued to tell her that he would not hurt her like that again but that she needed her to stop being so emotional and to trust him.  He reminded her of the many times he had apologized and that he simply didn’t know what more to say.

Finding the Path to Trust
It is difficult to see your partner in pain. You just want the opportunity to demonstrate your ability to change. You know in your heart you will never make that mistake again. You just want the pain and the reminder of what you did to go away.  You wander if your partner will ever be able to trust yu again? Can you restore that trust?

Change is Not Enough
It is not enough to change your behavior and promise that the change is forever.  You must also connect with your partner through his or her pain.  Your partner must feel you empathize with the intense pain he or she has experienced.  To do this you must be willing to listen to your partner’s feelings.  

Listening means more than being passive; it means showing compassion in your response.
Consider it an opportunity to show compassion when your partner is in pain.  Show him or her that you understand how strongly the pain has affected his or her life.  

Also, you will need to show motivation to examine yourself.  This means looking deeply at your behavior that caused your partner’s pain. What were your vulnerabilities that lead to this downfall in your relationship? Take responsibility for your actions!

Pain Does Not Define the Relationship
Discussion of your partner’s pain should be limited.  Avoid allowing your partner’s pain to become the centerpiece of your relationship.  Instead, take time to enjoy the other aspects of the relationship, without avoiding time to discuss your partner’s pain. 

The goal is to seek forgiveness for inflicting pain. By asking for forgiveness, you are challenging your partner to care enough to take the risk to offer you his or her heart once again. Forgiveness will not come easily and the path is through your partner’s pain, not around it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Getting Up Off the Mat After Suffering a Blow

Your partner can deliver a blow that knocks you to the floor in pain. Sometimes the pain can seem unbearable and your only desire is to escape the pain. But should you escape or can the pain be overcome? That is the question that confronts many in committed relationships.

Is the pain more than you can bear?
Initially, the pain seems to be more than you can bear. How can your partner have hurt you so deeply? While it is natural to back away when hurt, it is important to allow time for the pain to lessen before you react. Pain causes our animal brain to react with aggressive anger, but anger can also lead to poor decisions. Chances are that the pain will lessen with time, particularly if your partner reacts well.

Is your partner willing to help you get off the mat?
Does your partner accept responsibility for causing pain. Does he or she minimize your pain? Is he or she showing compassion for your feelings? Your partner's reaction to your pain can make a big difference as to how you are able to absorb the pain and refocus on your relationship.

Has the pain changed your desire to be close?
A painful episode can change your perspective on your relationship, or relationships in general. Pain can seem like too high a price to pay for a relationship. Perhaps you reexamine your relationship and see a pattern of pain that leads you to feel hopeless that the relationship will improve.

Do you lack the courage to get off the mat?
Knowing that the relationship can be painful leads you to fear further pain. Facing this possibility requires courage. Courage means accepting the risk of repeated pain but also believing that you can survive regardless of the outcome.

Are you willing to accept personal responsibility for staying or leaving the relationship?
In the end, your partner cannot guarantee what your relationship will look like in the future. There is risk. Are you willing to accept that you must make a decision from within, not based on what your partner or others want. You are 100% responsible for the decision.

If you get off the mat, are you willing to keep fighting for an improved relationship?
It is not enough to stay in the relationship. You must be willing to give effort to address any and all issues that are a barrier to being close. Take time to decide what you want and what price you are willing to pay for the relationship.  

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Beware of Visiting an Attorney for Divorce Information

It is not at all unusual for ambivalent spouse to seek information from an attorney before actually deciding on getting a divorce. Perhaps the ambivalent partner needs information that will help him or her decide on the impact a divorce will have on have on themselves, the family or the future.

It is important to understand the risk and the benefits of seeking legal information prior to making a decision to divorce. An attorney can simply see their role as being that of an educator or an opportunity to market his or her services. if the attorney is an educator then he or she will help you to understand the legal process involved in getting a divorce and will clarify your vulnerabilities from a legal standpoint.

If the attorney is in marketing mode, then he or she may encourage you to see the divorce as a desirable step in which you will naturally want his or her services. The problem with the attorney acting as a marketing agent is that this approach can interfere with good decision making.

To make a good decision, you must be able to give yourself enough time to drain strong emotions from the process. Beware of an attorney that seems to fuel your anger when you are simply asking for legal Information.

Be cautious if the attorney goes into some depth about the quality of your relationship then suggests that your relationship is doomed.  An attorney is not equipped to predict the future of your relationship. This can discourage an effort to try to work on the relationship.

You must also examine your motives for seeing an attorney. Are you using this visit for information or to test your spouse (or yourself)? Is the visit an expression of your anger? Perhaps you want to make a statement to your partner that you are serious, or you want to make a statement that you will not be pushed around in negotiating your relationship.

Ask yourself these three questions before you see an attorney for information about divorce practices:

1. Am I seeking legal advice or the attorney's opinion regarding whether I should divorce?

2. Am I using this visit to make a statement to my partner?

3. Can I listen for information without being swayed by an attorney's sales pitch?

Thursday, June 30, 2016

How to Know When to Give in and When to Stand Your Ground With Your Significant Other

Welcome to guest blogger Waverly Hanson, author of  How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

Differences are inevitable no matter how much you love your significant other. Eventually there will be something that creates tension because you disagree. When that happens, it's important that you know how to handle it. The difference between a strong couple and one destined to break up is not that the strong couples do not fight, it's that they know how to deal with differences constructively and know when to pick their battles.

Some things are worth fighting for, but some things are not. So, how can you tell when to compromise and when to be firm in your views, feelings and desires? 

Friends and Family

Everyone needs friends and family for support. If your partner wants to isolate you from them, then that's harmful, perhaps even abusive. Yet, it's important that you and your partner present a united front to friends and family. Remember that your marriage is your primary relationship and do not allow friends and family to interfere.

Your Dreams

If you've always dreamed of going to medical school, starting your own business, or learning a musical instrument and your partner tries to stop you; hold strong to these important goals. There may be room for compromise, such as waiting to start school, attending part time or working part time, but completely giving up is not a fair solution.  

If you're the one who has a partner who is doing something that you dislike, think about why it's a big deal. What does this dream mean to the other person in the relationship? Your partner is someone you love, and their dreams are a part of what makes them tick. Unless what they want to do is illegal or objectively dangerous, why not give them your support?

The Way They Treat You

You need to value yourself, and your partner needs to treat you well. Likewise, you need to treat him or her well. If you are constantly belittled, criticized, controlled, or humiliated, then you are not being treated with the respect you deserve. Someone who loves you will make you feel good about yourself and build you up, not run you down. It's as simple as that.

Your Beliefs

Your beliefs - whether religious, ethical or political - are a part of who you are. Your spouse does not have to agree with you. In fact, some of the best and healthiest relationships are between people who disagree on key points but can do so in a calm and intelligent manner. Healthy, reasoned debates are stimulating for the mind. If debates turn into personal attacks and emotional and/or physical abuse, you must take steps to distance from this person.

Small Stuff versus Big Issues

Before you confront your spouse about something that is annoying you, think about whether it's really a big issue. Should you simply be more patient? Things like how they fold laundry, which way they hang the toilet paper or whether or not they want to attend the ballet simply do not matter in the grand scheme of things. However, if issues are omnipresent, it might be a sign of a bigger underlying issue. It may be indicative of a lack of respect, a lack of trust, or another issue that should be addressed before it tears you apart.
Communicate clearly and calmly, and pick your battles for a happy, healthy relationship.

About the Author
Waverly Hanson is the best-selling author of “How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage” available on Amazon in print and Kindle formats. She has been assisting individuals and couples with relationship and life transformations for more than 25 years as a therapist, counselor, coach and consultant.  Visit her website”>
to learn more.