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Do You Like To Be Criticized?

Most of us don’t realize the negative power of criticism. Harville Hendrix, nationally known relationship expert says flatly; “CRITICISM KILLS LOVE!” Whenever you try to give “constructive criticism” to your partner you are stepping on their feelings and acting as if you know better than they do about the subject that is on the table.

depression-1250870_640“So who died and made you king?” is what your partner will think when you criticize them and act like you are right and their thinking is wrong. Your arrogant attitude tends to elicit one of two responses:

Most people take the bait like a trout hitting a fly. They pull on the line and have a fight with you. Then the conversation deteriorates into one-up battles, tit-for-tat replies and straight forward vengefulness and meanness for the insults you just hurled at your partner. The deeper truth is that condescension and put downs are behaviors that you use when part of you is feeling small, unimportant and hurt. But you do not feel hurt when you are acting loud, mean, critical and nasty. The grandiosity of the one-up posture is actually a defense against feeling the pain of the rejection and disconnection that you feel in your heart. So you settle for the fight instead; it actually helps you feel powerful and strong for a very short period of time. In the literature this is known as “offending from the victim position.” You gloss over your injured and hurt feelings and rush into attack, name calling and vicious put-downs. Most verbal and physical abuse flows from this dynamic: You feel unloved and overlooked. You cannot tolerate those feelings in your mind. Then you rocket into what you think is justifiable cruelty.

People just don’t like to be told that they are wrong. And that is exactly what you are doing … but you don’t even know it. You think you are being useful, helpful and constructive.

The other group of people picks up their marbles and goes home. They don’t like playing with a bully. They become silent, drop inside themselves and disappear behind a curtain. They do this because you have shown them that you are not a safe person with whom to play; and they want to be with someone who treats them as if they were an equal.

By Dr. Howard Lambert,
Colorado Licensed Psychologist

Relationship Tip: Do People Find You Arrogant?

It is not uncommon in your daily casual conversations to speak offensively to even your closest friends. For example, you tell other people they are wrong, tell them what they really meant by what they just said, or you invoke higher authorities to support your personal beliefs. You love to win arguments because it momentarily makes you feel powerful or important inside of yourself. You fail to see that you “win” at the expense of the other person (i.e. the loser).

Do other people find you arrogant?It may be true that, in any given area of discourse, you have more information than the person you are talking to. But do you really want to feel falsely inflated while making your partner feel stupid? Loving relationships flourish when you work to create a collaborative conversation in which everyone’s viewpoints are valued and folded into the final decision. You have been in conversations during which you learn new information, digest it and reach a new conclusion. When talking with someone who communicates respect and personal interest, you feel enriched by the new information and happy with your new conclusion. When the delivery of the new information seems to come from a position of that person stooping to give you what s/he knows, you grow annoyed and resentful even when you know they are correct. It is all in the delivery.

To avoid having this unintended effect, you must be aware to your tones, posture and mannerisms. Eighty percent of communication comes through the non-verbal cues you give off as you send your messages to the other person. The remaining twenty percent is in your choice of language. Let’s look at both of these areas.

The non-verbal check-in comes by attending to your attitude and your internal self-talk. If you are thinking, “You must be crazy to believe that nonsense,” or “You can be such an irrational bitch,” or “You really are a controlling SOB,” how do you think your tones will sound? On the other hand, if you are thinking, “We really see this in two very different ways,” or “You are my beloved, and I think you have bad information,” or “I will wait until you are done speaking and then share this new information I have learned,” you will inevitably sound more cooperative and collaborative.

The language you use often reveals your inner attitude. There are three common insulting forms of speech people use when arguing with one another.

1) When you are arrogant, pompous and filled with yourself, you say things such as “That’s totally wrong,” “You are so full of s—t,” “That is not what happened,” “You don’t know what you are talking about.” This is called “talking to be right” (i.e. “I know what the truth is.”)

2) A second form of obnoxious talking down to your spouse is the Emily Post Position. Here you say, “Everybody knows that it’s customary to …” This leaves your partner feeling like an uninformed idiot only because he/she has a thought that is different from your own.

3) Finally, there is “Quote The Expert.” This involves referencing some knowledgeable expert who has much more credibility than either of you and happens to agree with whatever position you are espousing.

You make these speaking errors because our culture sets you up to fight to be right, to win at all costs, and to feel personally gratified when you land a good blow (metaphorically) on your partner’s argument. To change your tones, your attitude and your spoken behavior, you need to practice living in a new relational paradigm. You must practice telling yourself that closeness and intimacy is far more important in the flow of your life than feeling a momentary burst of righteousness at your partner’s expense.

How can you talk to each other with respect, compassion and collaboration? You have heard it a hundred times: SPEAK FROM THE “I.” Your personal power is always greatest when you state your own thoughts, feelings, ideas and perceptions. Do not shoot down whatever your partner is saying. Listen to understand. Validate what makes sense in what your partner is saying. Live with the attitude, “There are many ways to handle every situation. Mine is not better than yours; it is just different. Let’s work together to figure out what we want to do in this situation.”

By Dr. Howard Lambert,
Colorado Licensed Psychologist

Relationship Tip: Who’s on Top?

The most destructive dynamic in a relationship is the “one-up/one-down” battle. In our competitive society, we are unconsciously programmed to see relationships as a competition. Especially when there is conflict, we automatically seek to determine who is more important, more valuable, better, or right. Of course, no one wants to be “a loser,” so each person battles to establish that they are in the more important/better position.

Relationship StruggleThis is a BIG problem because as soon as you assert that you are right, better, or more valuable, you put your partner in the position of being wrong, and less valuable. No matter who “wins” this competition, the relationship loses. This is unavoidable because when you take the one-up stance, you lose empathy for your partner. Your position of power becomes more important to you than respecting your partner’s feelings! On the other hand, if you try to keep the peace by accepting the one-down position, you cannot help but feel resentful. Human beings cannot experience humiliation without resenting it.

To put it another way, the one-up person assumes an entitled position. It looks and sounds like this: “Because I’m right/smarter/more important than you, I have the right to get my way/do what I want, AND you have no right to protest!” The last piece is the real “kicker!” That attitude is the part that fuels resentment in your partner. You act as if he/she should not protest your proclamation or behavior. It implies that your partner does not have the right to negotiate to get his/her wants and needs included in the outcome. Thus you end up with one person feeling entitled and not caring about the other’s feelings. Quite naturally the other person is fuming with resentment – a “dance of entitlement and resentment.” Not exactly a recipe for a loving, harmonious relationship!

As you delve deeper into your mind when you are in the “one-up” entitled position, you find that not only are you acting pompous and conceited, but that you actually BELIEVE that you are better than the other person. You are sure of your facts and your analysis of the situation, and you are convinced of your inherent rightness. That is why it is difficult to give up the perceived power that comes with the grandiosity of being one-up. The sense of power is addictive. This cycle must be broken for relational harmony to be re-achieved.

The antidote to this power struggle is to work to create a world of “same as.”

What is this, you ask?

Bill Russell (a former NBA star) quotes his mother’s succinct description of the “same as” position. After he had become famous, she told him: “You ain’t no better or no worse than anyone else out there!”

Another way to understand this idea is to recognize that the one-up position has lots of power for the self, but no empathy for the other; the one-down stance has lots of empathy for the other, but no power for the self. The “same as” position is one in which you have both power (to do what you need to do and say what you need to say) AND empathy (for how this is going to impact the other person.) Of course, empathy needs to lead you to a willingness to consider the other person’s needs and feelings to be just as important as your own.

In the world of “Same As,” each person’s needs, feelings, ideas and opinions are seen as worthy of respect and consideration, especially when they are different from yours. So, when you and your partner disagree, you assume that both your perspectives are valid. You make an effort to present your view calmly and confidently and to listen to and understand your partner’s view respectfully. Then you look for ways to proceed in the situation that take both of you into account;you look for a “win/win” solution. Ultimately, this is the only way your relationship can deepen and thrive.

Respect is the Minimum of Love

Live Respectfully!

Live RespectfullyWhile you cannot arrange to always feel loving toward your partner, you can make a commitment to never treat anyone, including yourself, with less than respect and to never allow the behavior of others towards you to drop below the level of respect. For instance, consider the difference between saying “That’s not true!” and “I see that differently from you.” The first respects only my point of view. The second recognizes that people who see the world differently are not necessarily right or wrong. They may only be different. Living with respect means respecting both yourself and the other person. It means holding a position of valuing each person’s thoughts, feelings, needs, wants and unique experience of the world, even when these are in conflict.

The question arises, “Who defines what is respectful, and what is not?” Most of us know intuitively what constitutes respect or disrespect for us. However, it is also important that you and your partner share with each other your own definitions of respectful or disrespectful behavior. To a great extent, respect is in the eye of the beholder. Respecting each other’s sensitivities around what feels disrespectful, even if you do not perceive it the same way, is a powerful move that puts your relationship on a firm foundation of respectful living.

You may find that you and your partner have some intense conflicts over what constitutes “disrespect.” For instance, if your partner grew up in a proper New England family where voices and energy are always kept low and calm, they may feel disrespected when you, who grew up in a boisterous Italian family, raises your voice and energy in a “discussion.”. On the other hand, you, as the more high energy partner, may feel disrespected when your partner refuses to engage with you at this level. So now what?

This is an excellent time to practice respect! Both of you can let go of defining your way as “the respectful way” and work to value the merits of the other’s style. You can work together to find a “middle ground” that incorporates both the “peace and quiet” of the “New England” style, and the energy and engagement of the “Italian” style. Develop “our” style – one that fits for both of you.
There are a couple of other important points about living respectfully.

Blatantly disrespectful behavior (lying, cheating, screaming, name-calling, disregarding agreements) poisons your relationship in several ways. First of all, in behaving in these ways, you move to a position of disregard, even contempt, for your partner. From this position, there can be no love or connection. Secondly, when you treat your partner in these ways, they will inevitably build up resentment at being regarded as unworthy of respect. There also can be no love or connection when one is filled with resentment. So, your chance for loving connection takes a double hit.

Lastly, behaving respectfully towards your partner is a critical piece of maintaining your own self-respect. When you allow yourself to be blatantly disrespectful of your partner and/or your relationship, you cannot feel good about yourself. So, refraining from such behaviors is a great way to support your own sense of being a good human being.

Relationship Tip: How Do You Show Your Love?

We never outgrow our need to feel loved by the people with whom we are in relationship.  The best way to lubricate the central axis of a committed loving relationship is by working to help your partner feel loved by you.   Love is the grease that allows the wheel of life to rotate smoothly.

Holding Heart Shows LoveBeing a loving partner takes intention and skill. “Intention” involves the internal commitment to yourself to be kind, considerate and respectful in all of your communication.  “Skill” means that you have been willing to break old self-defeating habits and have learned some new ways to demonstrate the loving side of your nature.

Here are some skills you can practice:

  1. Give your partner a verbal appreciation every day!  Remind yourself of your partner’s best traits and behaviors and tell them how much you appreciate that aspect of their personhood.  Be explicit and be concrete.  “You are a good Mom” is a nice start.  “I really admire the way you took the time to calm Jimmy down before you put him in that time out” is more concrete, specific and personal.  If you want to learn how to make your appreciations even more powerful, practice telling your partner how you interpreted their excellent behaviors. For example,   “I really admire the way you took the time to calm Jimmy down before you put him in that time out.  When I saw you do that I realized how you are teaching him self-soothing skills even as you are giving him a consequence for his bad behavior. What a great move!”
  2. Give your gifts from your heart Gifts that have strings attached are likely to blow up in your face.  When your partner senses that you are being nice because you want something in return, an alarm goes off in their survival/ reptilian brain that says “Danger! Danger!”  Instead of closeness you get distance and wariness.  And you wonder “What did I do wrong?”  Gifts, (i.e. both verbal appreciations and material presents) must be given freely, with loving kindness and without expectations.
  3. Use the Platinum Rule. The Golden Rule says “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  This is an excellent principal for treating others with consideration and respect. It is often referred to as the ethic of reciprocity.  However it can backfire in relationships.  If you use your behavior in the relationship to attempt to signal to your partner what you secretly want given back to you, miscommunication often results.  Take, for example, the anniversary where the husband (who wants more touching in the relationship) gives his wife a fancy electric massage machine. At the same time the wife (who privately wishes they would spend intimate time reading aloud to each other) give her husband a book of love poems.  They pretend to appreciate what they received from the partner, but secretly feel disappointed and misunderstood.

In place of the Golden Rule we suggest an updated version for love relationships.  Harville Hendrix has called this the Platinum Rule.  The Platinum Rule says “Do unto your partner as they would have you do unto them.”  Take the time to learn and to remember what your partner likes to receive.  Gary Chapman’s book The Five Love Languages   can help you and your partner understand each other’s primary and secondary love receptors. To become the best lover you can be, you need to give your partner what they most long for, not what you think they ought to appreciate.

Respect is the Minimum of Love

Live Respectfully! While you cannot arrange to always feel loving toward your partner, you can make a commitment to never treat anyone, including yourself, with less than respect and to never allow others’ behavior towards you to drop below the level of respect. For instance, consider the difference between saying “That’s not true!” and “I see that differently from you.” The first respects only my point of view. The second recognizes that people who see the world differently are not necessarily right or wrong. They may be only different. Living with respect means respecting both yourself and the other. It means holding a position of valuing each person’s thoughts, feelings, needs, wants and unique experience of the world, even when these are in conflict.

Respect is the minimum of loveThe question arises, “Who defines what is respectful and what is not?” Most of us know intuitively what constitutes respect or disrespect for us. However, it is also important that you and your partner share with each other your own definitions of respectful or disrespectful behavior. To a great extent, respect is in the eye of the beholder. Respecting each other’s sensitivities around what feels disrespectful, even if you do not perceive it the same way, is a powerful move that puts your relationship on a firm foundation of respectful living.

However, you may find that you and your partner have some intense conflicts over what constitutes “disrespect.” For instance, if your partner grew up in a proper New England family where voices and energy are always kept low and calm, they may feel disrespected when you, who grew up in a boisterous Italian family, raises your voice and energy in a “discussion.” On the other hand, you, as the more high energy partner, may feel disrespected because when your partner refuses to engage with you at this level. So now what?

This is an excellent time to practice respect! Both of you can let go of defining your way as “the respectful way” and work to value the merits of the other’s style. You can work together to find a “middle ground” that incorporates both the “peace and quiet” of the “New England” style and the energy and engagement of the “Italian” style. Develop “our” style – one that fits for both of you.

There are a couple of other important points about living respectfully.

Blatantly disrespectful behavior, e.g. lying, cheating, screaming, name-calling, disregarding agreements, poisons your relationship in several ways. First of all, in behaving in these ways, you move to a position of disregard, even contempt, for your partner. From this position, there can be no love or connection. Secondly, when you treat your partner in these ways, they will inevitably build up resentment at being regarded as unworthy of respect. There also can be no love or connection when one is filled with resentment. So, your chance for loving connection takes a double hit.

Lastly, behaving respectfully towards your partner is a critical piece of maintaining your own self-respect. When you allow yourself to be blatantly disrespectful of your partner and/or your relationship, you cannot feel good about yourself. So, refraining from such behaviors is a great way to support your own sense of being a good human being.

 

Holding on for Dear Life: Responsibility for the Heart Connection

There are times when men in particular need to hold on to their partners for dear life.

holding your partner's heartWhat I mean is that men need to step out of their programming and hold the heart connection with their partner, and let them know by word and deed that they are doing this.

Most women learn from the time they are young girls that they are the ones who are responsible for the relationship connection, even sometimes to their detriment. Look at how many more books they read about relationships then most men do! They need to be able to let some of this responsibility go, and know that the men they love will hold the heart strings as well as them.

And guys, not only hold these lines, these connections, but let your partner KNOW that you are doing this consciously. Tell her: “I want you to know that I am always holding you and our relationship in my heart, and that I will hold us no matter what.” Then, follow through, like with your golf swing.

You are on target for a hole-in-one!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Worlds Apart: When We Are Not in Curiosity, We Probably Are in Judgment

A few months ago, our daughter Danielle left her new cell phone in a dressing room, and it was stolen.

Adios, phone. Fugetaboutit. We’ll never see that again.

But Suzanne decides she wants to go to the police and report a stolen phone. So I tell her, “are you kidding?” Furthermore, she wants me to go with her to make the report. I can not imagine a bigger waste of time, as I am certain the police will do absolutely nothing after taking her report. So she hijacks me on our way home from a movie and drives Danielle and me to a police station, totally against my will and me complaining all the way, refusing to be of any help at all to her as she reports a stolen cell phone to the Denver police.

We were worlds apart on this one.

She was really angry with me the rest of that night until we talked the next day. She felt unsupported and deserted by me, and I felt dismissed and ignored by her. Finally, out of curiosity, I asked her why was it important to go to the police when they probably would not do anything except take a report and file it away? She said she didn’t know whether they would do anything or not, but it was important to her to go with Danielle and me to file a report so that Danielle could experience us taking what action we could rather than doing nothing. Danielle completely agreed with her and shared that it was also important to her that we went to the police.

Fotolia_66748363_XSThank God for curiosity. Someone said to me recently “when we are not in curiosity, we probably are in judgment.” It finally made sense to me why it was important to Suzanne to go to the police.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it has the power to heal relationships. And as it turns out – a month after we filed the police report, Danielle got her phone back!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

Integral Parenting: An Outgrowth of Our Personal Conscious Evolution

What is integral parenting?

Integral parenting is an evolutionary, developmental consciousness and skill set that empowers adults to connect and relate to themselves and children from wisdom and compassion. It is a way of parenting that is different in many respects from traditional parenting. It is an outgrowth of our personal conscious evolution, as well as the growing awareness of human rights in Western society and culture. It is not helicopter parenting or laissez-faire parenting.

It is characterized from the beginning by deep consistent involvement of all parties with one another. It really begins with the parents being committed to their own awakening and growth, as well as cooperating with the nature of the child, which, in turn, leads to deeper and deeper connection with each person. Instead of exercising power over the child, the parents develop power with the child; this is essential. Power struggles are greatly reduced because one-up power is no longer in practice. Neither are children falsely empowered in integral parenting. Influence goes in all directions and love, practiced by the parents from the outset, is the motivating force. It’s not about getting kids to cooperate. It’s about parents modeling same-as power at first with each other and teaching this way of being powerful with others, rather than having power over others.

Fotolia_62440904_XSEach person’s needs are important; each person is enough, and they matter in spite of their limitations and imperfections.

Integral parenting is person-centered rather than child-centered or parent-centered. Initially, the focus is primarily on the needs of the child(ren), although not exclusively, with gradually developing respect for each person in the family and extending to others outside of the family.

All-inclusive respect is one of the cornerstones of integral parenting. This includes respecting oneself as well as others. This is extremely important for parents (frequently mothers) who may tend to forget their own needs in parenting their child. The needs of the child are always taken into account, yet not exclusively. Children gradually learn to take others’ needs into account as well as their own because this is what is modeled by their parents. They learn to become both assertive and considerate of others.

What does power look like in integral parenting?
It is power with one another, rather than over one another, and at the same time, recognizes and respects natural hierarchies and differential statuses. This means that parents and children have influence with one another and allow themselves to be influenced. Each person’s status in the family is acknowledged, honored and respected. Essentially, power in the family is the power of love rather than fear. Integral parenting acknowledges natural hierarchies, i.e. the different statuses of various family members with corresponding rights and duties, privileges and responsibilities, depending on age and capability of each member. No member of the family is more important or less important than any other.

Integral parenting is parenting from a deeply adult place rather than from wounded or adapted child. Attempting to parent from wounded child is extremely dysfunctional, and children suffer deeply when parents are barely older emotionally than the children. More common is parenting from adapted child – usually either in mostly unconscious conformity or rebellion to how we were parented. Unfortunately, children parented from adapted child are not really seen and responded to for who they are and are becoming. Integral parenting requires adults to do their own work of waking up and growing up, so that they can be responsive to their child as well as to their own needs.

In closing, the structures of integral parenting are gradually emerging in the consciousness of adults who are evolving their own integral development. Parenting from wisdom and compassion is a hallmark of spiritual intelligence in adults who choose this way of life. None of us are perfect at this. We do have the ability to become more and more skillful, more and more grown up in our lives, even as we support our children’s growth and development.

This is our evolutionary journey together in the awesome adventure of conscious, integral parenting.

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
and
Suzanne Mariner,
Certified Executive and Life Coach, Licensed Massage Therapist

How We Inadvertently Project Our Feelings On Our Significant Other

Not too long ago, a friend called us and kindly offered us cuttings and plants from her garden. She said just come, pick them up and take all you want; they are sitting on my front porch.

So I went over and gratefully took a big bunch. I took them home, happy as a clam. I proudly showed them to my wife who proceeded to tell me: “You were a little piggy, weren’t you?” Crestfallen, I went out to the garden with my plants, now beating myself up with “You were a little piggy, a little piggy.”

Suddenly, I stopped myself.

two people facing each otherWait a minute! I remembered that I’M ENOUGH AND I MATTER, even if I was a little piggy (which I wasn’t). I felt much better.

I went back to the house and reminded Suzanne that our friend said we could take all the plants we wanted, and I didn’t like being called a little piggy. She apologized and said,”Maybe just a little, little piggy,” and I chased her around the house, both of us laughing.

Later she admitted that if she had taken the plants, she would have maybe felt like a piggy, and maybe, just maybe, she was projecting on me.

Hallelujah!

By John Mariner,
Licensed Clinical Social Worker

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