Tag Archive: relationships



couple huggingAt first glance, looking at the concept of unconditional love, the task itself seems forever daunting, if not completely impossible! How can we love our spouse so completely and unconditionally? No wonder so many of us give up on the thought of happily ever after and “until death do us part”. Love is complicated enough when we are NOT expected to love so perfectly. But perhaps unconditional love is not as daunting as we first suppose.

Perhaps it is our expectations of what marriage is and should be that we take a look at first. If we enter a relationship with the expectation that the other person is supposed to take the role in our lives of ‘completing’ us, or bringing us fulfillment, and the ideal perfect idea of happily ever after involving no conflicts and agreeing on everything (let’s be honest, when we say that, we really mean that the other person agrees with you) and couple all of that with the expectation that the other person is not a ‘broken’ person dealing with their own issues, and growing from them, what we really have is a search for a fairy tale, and not reality. It is also a picture of self-centered or self-focused love. We are looking for someone else to love us unconditionally, with no understanding of what unconditional love is really about. What I have just described is not only a recipe for disaster, but it is not what a ‘real’ relationship ought to consist of.

First let’s take a look at what unconditional love really is. The definition goes something like this: The one who loves does not do necessarily what the one being loved wants, but what is deemed best by the one who loves. It also has to do with the concept of preferring one another… not merely looking out for your own interests and needs but also to those of the other. This means that we are looking out for each other, to find and cherish the best in each other, and encourage growth in each others weak areas, so that they might become stronger and well balanced in all areas of life, rather than a marriage of convenience seeking what someone else can complete in you. It requires being other focused. It requires greater emphasis on building together something that will not only last, but grow and flourish and bring the best of the both of you through friendship and team work.

This concept of love does not fit so well with your typical Hollywood romantic movie. A perfect example comes to mind is the upcoming movie, “About Time” with Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson, about  a guy who finds out from his dad that the men in his family have always been able to travel through time. The character Tim in the movie (played by Domhnall Gleeson) can’t change history, but he can change what happens and has happened in his own life. As the movie trailer indicates, Tim goes back to the same moments in time several times to edit what he presents of himself to the girl whom he is falling in love with, so as to present a more ‘polished’ or ideal presentation of himself. Click below to watch the trailer for this movie:

Sadly, this is not what real life or real love is about. It is most often the opposite. The person with whom you are the most intimate gets to observe you in ways that outsiders do not see. The day to day habits, character issues, un-edited versions of each other. I will admit, in the early stages of a relationship, yes it is true that people most often show the best parts of themselves at first, but eventually the flaws show. Eventually disillusionment enters the relationship, especially when you are seeking the ideal mate.

couple arguing in bed

While it is quite disappointing when people first see the flaws in their spouse, it is a perfect opportunity for something real to develop and the perfect place for unconditional love to be tested. This is the part of the relationship where your real values surface. When you first see the flaws – the temper, the blameshifting, the hidden secrets surfaced, the addictions or bad habits show up… what do you do? Do you see this as the perfect opportunity to run away and leave the relationship? Do you withdraw emotionally and disconnect? Do you fight and bicker and stick it out? Most of these responses come from something deep within us that longs for the ideal, coming out in language like “I need to find someone better than this.”

If you have followed my blogs for a while, you may recall a series I did a long while back on boundary development. To refresh, boundary development happens in the first few years of growth, going through the following stages of development: First we need to attach and connect, then we need to separate and individuate and begin to notice that mommy and me are not the same. This is also where boundary development begins. Knowing what you want, or don’t, determining your likes and dislikes, and differences between you and others first takes place. The next stage involves knowing that you are loved unconditionally; that both your good and not so good parts are loved. Finally, there is the stage of adulthood and authority. These are the stages we walk through while growing up in our first family. I mention this because, as many of us know, we all carry baggage with us into every relationship we enter. Everything that is unfinished business in our growth and development needs a safe place in which we can continue and complete that growth, that missing element. This is a perfect example of what the intention of marriage is for.

Marriage is meant to be a safe place to finish growing and be cheered on by our mate to continue to grow and develop throughout the remainder of our lives. Without continued development, we grow stale and become stagnant. Where there is no vision, the people perish. We are meant to continually live with purpose for the remainder of our lives. The same man who was quoted to say that without vision we perish, is the same man who tested the measures of life, as you can read in the book of Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament of the Bible. Solomon was claimed to be the wisest man of his age, and after an experiment of experiencing all sorts of pleasure, and riches, work, even wisdom itself, came to the conclusion that everything in life is meaningless without purpose. His conclusion was that God gave purpose to life, and that without purpose, there was really no point, because everything comes to an end. You can’t take your riches with you. Pleasure alone without purpose leads to depression, and loneliness. He realized that life was not meant to be live self-centeredly.

So too, marriage is not meant to be lived for the convenience of others making me happy, but rather to work as a team together building each other up, and being a help to each other spurring each other on toward more and more growth, and personal or professional or spiritual growth, as well as coming to deeper levels of maturity within the relationship. Sharing not only the joys and successes of life together, but also walking together through the painful seasons of life along with all of the trials, and through each others weaknesses, openly communicating and sharing with each other brings a deep and rich fullness to your lives together, and ultimately leads to a life where there is never a dull moment, or distance between you, but rather a rich sense of ‘wholeness’ as you draw closer together, always preferring one another.

This is what unconditional love is meant to be.

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Looking to improve your relationship?  Check out my online Relationship Coaching Program and get started today!

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

 

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“I love you but I don’t trust you”. Does that sound familiar to you at all? If so, you’ve come to the right place to find some answers to resolving the issue of trust in your relationship. Can a relationship survive without trust? Do you want it to? Do you feel conflicted about whether you should stay or should you go?

I’m sure we’ve all been there at some point in our lives… whether it is as severe as a gambling problem that has depleted your financial stability, or as nasty as an affair can cripple a marriage, a severe addiction that your loved one is involved in that is affecting you as a by-product, abuse, or a betrayal by a friend… there are many ways in which trust is broken, and different levels of severity to be sure… but the types of broken trust I hope to address today are the ones that cause you to ask difficult questions about whether the relationship is salvageable, or better yet, hope for total restoration!

I read a book by the title of my opening statement: “I love you, but I don’t trust you”, written by Mira Kirshenbaum, who has some great advice and much wisdom on the subject. I would highly recommend this book as it is a great read for anyone wrestling with complicated trust issues. Today, I hope to briefly review some of her recommendations that I believe are full of wisdom!

From the back cover of the book, it grips the reader with compelling questions such as:

Is my relationship worth saving?
Will the trust ever come back?
How can things ever be good between us again?

As a quick overview, some of the most important messages I pulled out of her book where most often questions that left you thinking… but help to pull you out of the vicious trust cycle of “should I stay or should I go.”

Asking the following questions should help you not only sort out the answer to that question, but help to answer the question of “Can trust be restored once it is broken?”, once you’ve made up your mind to stay.

Try asking yourselves these questions:

1. Would you want this relationship if trust could be restored?
“Guideline #1: If you didn’t think this was a good relationship before the betrayal… then why would you want to stay in it now? But if the relationship was a good one, why wouldn’t you want to try to salvage it?

2. Does the fact that this betrayal happened ruin everything for you?
“Guideline #2: If the betrayal has changed who the other person is for you so thoroughly that you can’t imagine wanting to be with him – not even after your anger has died down, not even if you knew for sure he’d never betray you again – then trust isn’t the issue and you’ll be better off ending the relationship.”

3. Can I imagine the possibility of forgiveness?
“Guideline #3: If you can see your lack of forgiveness as a self-destructive act, if you can see forgiving as a life-affirming act, and if you can sense the realistic possibility that one day you might be able to forgive, it makes sense to work at healing this relationship. Otherwise, not.”

4. Does the person you mistrust care about how you feel?
“Guideline #4: If the other person doesn’t care about how you feel in the sense that he consistently hasn’t gone out of his way to do things to show his caring, then he will not be able to work with you during the trust-restoring process, and so it’s not likely to happen. Why bother trying?”

I need to insert something I have personally observed in this stage of restoring trust: It is far easier to fixate on the problem (broken trust) than to actually notice and take into account the other person’s caring actions. Be careful in this stage to pay attention to the internal messages you are taking in. Is everything coming through the broken trust filter, or are you able to cognitively reason instead of looking through an all-or-nothing point of view? Can you intentionally give credit to the other person when they ‘go out of their way to show they care?’ If they are unwilling to rebuild trust… you will know it.

5. Can the other person work on your relationship with you?
“Guideline #5: A good way to tell if the other person is willing to work on the relationship is this. What happens if you attack less and listen more? If that makes the other person more willing to work on things with you, then you’re in good shape. If it doesn’t make a difference, or if you can’t bring yourself to attack less and listen more, then you may not be able to go through the process of rebuilding trust.”

Broken trust CAN heal. We were hardwired to trust. It’s in our DNA. “We want to trust. We need to trust. We’re designed by nature to be trusting creatures.” As Mira says in her book.

The reality is, as I mentioned in my previous blog on trust, when we stop trusting, we lock our hearts up in a cave, impenetrable. We become hardened, and isolated, and we lack ability to sustain caring and attached relationships because something inside of us has been altered by broken trust. Our sense of safety has been dismantled… our belief that there is good in the world turns into suspicion of every person we meet…

“Our thinking goes something like this: If HE could hurt me the way he did, than ANYTHING could go wrong, EVERYTHING has the potential to blow up in my face. I can’t even trust myself.”

I know. I’ve been there too. It’s like you no longer csn trust yourself to make good judgments. But again, if we turn it into an all-or nothing belief, we will completely discredit ourselves because we did something perfectly normal, perfectly human: we chose to trust someone with our heart and they disappointed our hope.

In closing, I will share this great quote from another favorite author of mine, that really helped me to understand why just because you trust, it doesn’t necessarily equal that someone else will be trustworthy in response:

“If you are a responsible and loving person, you might assume other people are like you – responsible and loving… You do the right thing by taking responsibility for yourself, for your mistakes, for your work, and care about other people and how your actions affect those people. You have concern about how what you do affects others. Doesn’t it make sense that everyone else would be like you and really care?”

Unfortunately, if you were to read further, you would realize that this simply isn’t the case. But just because it is not the case, does not mean that we automatically suspect everyone as a person who is self centered and out to get you.

Eventually, we must come to a point where we reach out and risk again, despite how unsafe it feels. Check out my blog on “Safe People” for tips on learning what qualities need to be in place for you to believe it is worth taking the leap of faith and trusting again!

And don’t be too hard on yourself. It is a process, and as they say, time heals all wounds…


Dealing with emotional trauma can be very distressing, and in some instances, very severe. When one has experienced a major traumatic life event – from surviving an abusive relationship, to losing friends or family members to a drunk driver or a hit and run, suicide, to combat, or a terrible break-up, deception, manipulation or mind control, discovering that one’s partner has been unfaithful, or being conned and taken advantage of, hearing painful news of an illness that is debilitating or life-threatening – Anything that leaves a person feeling like the floor has been taken out from under them, and are experiencing a loss of personal power, like their whole world has just spiraled out of control… These people know what trauma is.

My intention is to do a series not so much on the trauma itself and identifying it, but rather to offer some self care tips, advice on grief and grieving, forgiveness, re-establishing safety after one has experienced a betrayal of trust, or how to face the places and things that you avoid that serve as triggers for anxiety and out of control feelings due to a traumatic life event – how to face those situations and re-build safety slowly. When it comes to relationship trauma, it is important to have tools to rebuild trust and I will touch on that as well.

Today I just want to give you a sense of normalcy if you are experiencing the residual effects of a traumatic situation. I personally find that sometimes it helps to know what to expect as you go through the stages of healing to help yourself feel like what you are experiencing is normal for the situation you are going through. I find it helps bring a small measure of stability to an otherwise overwhelming sense of powerlessness over the situation, and the loss of control that causes you to feel like your foundation has been ripped from underneath you. Having a roadmap of what to expect is sort of the first step to laying a new foundation.

It may sound kind of silly at first, but identifying the trauma is a good first step – now some of you may think it is quite obvious to pinpoint, the reality is, sometimes it’s not. For instance, part of experiencing something traumatic often involves some of the same stages of grief, so denial is a normal process, not wanting to, or being unable to accept what is happening is actually normal. Sometimes the shock of what the body, mind or emotions are experiencing that a person simply goes numb and cannot comprehend the reality of the situation immediately. I think this stage of being anesthetized from the initial blow is a little of God’s kindness to shield us from taking in too much all at once. Another good example of why identifying trauma can be difficult is working through your own childhood trauma. Children cannot identify trauma as readily as an adult can. But even as adults who endured trauma as a child, you may not see your childhood as traumatic. If you were constantly exposed to abuse, you may have taken in cues that this is ‘normal’ behavior because it is all you were exposed to. So, identifying what the trauma is, is actually a pretty significant feat for some!

Once you have identified your traumatic injury, or experience, it is important to talk about it with someone you can trust – a supportive friend, a therapist, a support group, because part of the healing process is being able to share our deepest feelings to give them a voice. Sometimes it is helpful just to talk as it allows yourself the opportunity to problem solve, bring awareness to the situation, bring understanding, bring the roots of the problem out into the light to help promote self-awareness or a sense of understanding. It helps you get in touch with the emotions surrounding the trauma.

Some people also find it helpful to write about it to help sort through their thoughts and emotions about the experience. Some people organize their thoughts better through writing than verbally. The most important thing is that you are processing it in order to feel it, rather than avoid. Avoidance is normal too, but studies suggest that avoidance can increase rather than decrease the stress and anxiety, fear and anger surrounding the situation, which can lead to further emotional injury down the road, or even lead to physical health problems.

Taking inventory of what happened and how it affected you is very important, but perhaps been more important than that is moving to the next stage of repair, involving FEELING the pain, sadness, anger, hurt etc that has come up as a result of the trauma. It is common to experience shock, anxiety and depression as well – also stages in the grief cycle. The feelings will take their time to pass, each person is different, but embracing them rather than repressing them will eventually lead to subside the intensity of the emotions. Note of caution: For those experiencing intense anger, this is not code for unleash all your fury, but rather to acknowledge it and try to determine what is beneath the anger, as anger is a powerful protective emotion usually covering over something far deeper -like sadness, pain or grief. If you have trouble knowing how to effectively deal with your anger in healthy ways, you should seek out an anger management group or see a counselor for additional help.

To move forward from the initial process of identifying and feeling the effects of trauma, the stage of acceptance inevitably comes. We must at some point accept what happened. This does not mean agreeing with what happened and somehow ‘making it ok’, rather it involves a willingness to live with the outcome, recognizing that what’s done is done and we cannot change the past, and choosing to go forward acknowledging what has happened. This is a HARD step. But it is essential to begin feeling better.

Forgiveness is almost always necessary for experiencing trauma of some kind. If you lost your son to war, you may need to forgive the man who killed your son, or the political regimes that brought on the war, or perhaps your own son for willingly joining the army.

If you were in a serious car accident that was not your fault and have to live with serious physical consequences as a result, you may need to forgive the person who hit your car.

If your child was abducted or kidnapped, raped or murdered, forgiveness may seem damn near impossible! Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do. And forgiveness does not mean you have to have a relationship with the person who injured you or someone you love, but it does mean that at some point you let go of your hatred and anger and bitterness.

I have heard it said that unforgiveness is like drinking a poison you want someone else to drink. Un-forgiveness does us more damage to us than the person who hurt us. They have already caused damage. We cause ourselves further damage by holding onto hatred and bitterness that just fills our souls and consumes us, sending us spiraling down a deep, dark hole of despair, self pity, anger, vengeance, etc. anything and everything that robs us of the opportunity to live life free, full of life and love and hope for the future. But forgiveness takes time. And that’s ok.

Sometimes it is important to confront the situation in order to deal with our anger or to release someone through forgiveness. Sometimes it is ok to address the person face to face or write a letter. At other times, especially when processing your more hostile feelings of anger, it may prove more beneficial to write a letter you don’t send, or deal with those feelings in therapy, until you can face the person without being volatile, being able to say what you need to say constructively. Some people may feel they never have to face the person directly, and walk through that process on their own or with a support group or counselor.

Letting go…. Is just as hard as acceptance, and forgiveness. But letting go of the burden and walking away and moving on are the final stages in the process of healing from trauma. They have identified the truth about the trauma and faced it head on, worked through it through talking, writing about it, finding healthy and effective ways of dealing with anger and confrontation, accepted what cannot be changed, forgiven those involved, and now they must find the courage to move on toward the next phase of life. They must learn to live in the present and let the past stay in the past.

Healing will be easier if you are able to look on the bright side. If you are able to accept the bad, but not only see the bad but look for the good as well. Most people or situations are not “all bad”. If you can find a way to merge the good and the bad, so as not to over-amplify the negative reality, you will begin to see things in a more balanced perspective. You can begin to see alternate ways of looking at the negative experience as well – not to minimize what was done, but to bring balance to your own perspective. If you cannot see anything good other than the trauma, begin to loom for what you have learned from the experience, what wisdom or coping skills you have developed to endure painful and trying times in your future.

Walking through these stages will help minimize your tendency to Medicare or turn to addictive substances to avoid or anesthetize your experience, and help you come out stronger!


That’s right, I’m blogging Saturday instead if Friday! That’s because my husband swept me away up the grand river yesterday to go canoeing for a fun birthday event before taking me out to dinner to celebrate my birthday (which was the 23rd of August!) the night before that we checked out the busker festival downtown TO. (Toronto for those not local to the Toronto area!)

So, I thought this would be a great segue to today’s topic: how to keep the romance alive by coming up with some great date ideas!

I mean there’s always room for the traditional dinner and a movie out! But sometimes it’s nice to mix it up and check out new restaurants you’ve never been to, and expand your palate by trying new foods… Something very easy to do when you live in a melting pot of many cultures with all the verying types of food to try.

We are lucky in Toronto to have everything from Jamaican, Chinese, French, Italian, vietnamese, Indian, Greek, Thai, Israeli, only to name a few!
So mix it up!

You can also try different types of clubs or lounges with different atmospheres in each, whether it be a jazz club, to a salsa dance club, to anywhere they play live music.

Check out the local festivals in your city or town as well! Anything to get out of doors and experience the culture in your town!

How about going for a long walk on a beach nearby (or make it a day trip if the beach is far away) or walking hand in hand in a beautiful garden?

Dancing in the rain? Finding your favorite song together?

Renewing your vows?

Indoor picnics on a rainy day?

How about a blast from the past and check out a nearby carnival and indulge in cotton candy or a candy apple as if you were just kids again? Check our the rides while you are there too!

What about checking out the nearest local zoo or museum, or check out a water park for the day or go to a horse race or a casino for the day?

Make plans for short weekend getaways, not so far from home, somewhere you’ve never been, in between your big annual or bi-annual vacation plans?

Check out Montreal or Quebec city or manhattan, Vegas, Florida or LA?

Cruises can be fun, or sunny beach destinations as a vacation idea.

How about rainy day fun? Plan an indoor picnic! Go all out! Put your blanket on the floor, food in your picnic basket and enjoy some creative fun picnic food!

Create your own holiday and come up with fun ways to celebrate!

Here’s a fun one: book a couples massage!!! Or spend a day at the spa!!

Hot tub dates?

What about a random birthday or anniversary idea?

A romantic stroll in a romantic town. If you happen to be anywhere in Europe, Paris perhaps? Or anywhere really in France or Italy! In Ontario, check out Grand Bend, Toronto, Niagara Falls, Stratford… Or locally, a nice park, walking hand in hand, stopping only to kiss under the biggest tree you can find!

What about waking up early together to catch the sunrise quietly together in a beautiful part of town. (or for the not so early risers… Check out a sunset together instead!)

How about romantic notes for each other or a special card? Emotionally flood your partner with a list of the 12 most important things about your partner that make you smile or that you love the most!

Breakfast in bed is a traditional and wonderful way to wake up in the morning! Turn up the charm! If you haven’t been romantic in a long time, things like this are great to soften a heart that feels hardened by emotional distance between the both of you?

Sexy lingerie?? Or how about offering a simple foot massage, or a sensual full body massage?

Don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about sporting events! Check out your favorite teams and sport and book tickets for the both of you to go together!

Or the ballet, catch a show like the blue man group, or a live play like Les Mis, or whatever is currently playing near you in the theatre!

Play your spouse’s favorite love songs by the fireplace to get the mood going!

A home cooked meal for the person who usually does most of the cooking!

A bottle of champagne for a special occasion!

Buy gifts for your partner that symbolize things they are passionate about to show thence you notice their passions and care!

Don’t forget some of the basic things: give your heart, not just gifts!

Write poetry for your spouse!

Make a little loving gesture each day for a whole year – discuss with each other what they consider loving gifts or gestures!

Buy her or him books by their favorite authors!

Buy their favorite movie!

Buy her shoes and purses, and jewelry! She will love that!

Fun sexy games to try:
Anything that involves stripping! Like poker, or chess…. Twister??

Basically, get creative, to keep things from feeling stale! All creative efforts show you are interested, and are usually appreciated! Timing is everything!

Know your spouse… This will help you better come up with great ideas they be sure to enjoy!

Be careful not to let fear of failing or things not going as perfectly as you planned kill the moment! Improvise or try again! It will get better with practice!

Don’t worry about feeling like you are not creative enough, or that you lack self confidence, try to stop worrying about the cost. These things can kill the moment!

Here’s another thought: write a list of the 50 reasons why you married them!

Dud I mention flowers and chocolate? Or whatever the favorite dessert is in your relationship?

Leave secret love notes tucked away somewhere for them to find randomly!

Get a babysitter for the night so you have uninterrupted quality time together to invest in your relationship! Set rules that date night is NOT the time to bring up issues in the relationship or even to discuss projects you’re working on, anything work related, or even the kids. This is a chance to re-connect and get away from the normal busy schedule!

Have fun creating your own fun ideas! May I recommend the book: ‘10,000 ways to say I love’ you by Gregory Godek for a whole bunch of ideas to get your creative juices flowing!

Finally, get ideas from your friends and some of the romantic things they have tried in their relationships!

Go ahead! Put some fun and spontaneity into your relationship and get the romance going again!

Schedule a date night now, and start planning… And never forget how romantic a secret surprise is that is unexpected and random!

Have a great weekend!

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Before I get started on today’s subject, I would like to point out that today is my husband and I’s 16th anniversary – and I’m only 34! We got married young! Lol! We celebrated last weekend with a picnic dinner and movies under the stars, and will be going out for dinner tonight and a full day at the scandinave spa in Collingwood Ontario on Sunday to celebrate. For our 15th anniversary, we went on a cruise to Europe! So beautiful! I will likely blog more about it next Wednesday!

Telling you this is an important segue into today’s topic on love and respect, touching on the differing needs of men and women. Why is it important to mention my 16th wedding anniversary, you might ask, other than the obvious reason to share a special occasion with you? Because, even after 16 years of marriage, there is still much to learn, and new ‘aha’ moments about each other, as we journey together through life, watching and participating in the areas of change and personal growth in each other’s lives. An anniversary is a perfect time to reflect on the successes, growth together as a couple and as individuals, as we look back through the years from where we started to where we are now. And there is still much to learn.

For instance, I picked up this book a couple of months ago, called “Love and Respect” by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and as I read it, I realized I was very much unaware of how desperately men need to feel respected. Before all the women raise their defenses and women’s lib ideas of ancient traditional perspectives of men ruling their wives, often involving suppression or control, and take a modest look – let us put our biases off to the side for the moment and consider what Eggerichs has to say, and take away from it what you will.

I personally felt that hesitation myself as I am very much an advocate of women’s rights, and equality, and quite liberal myself when it comes to very traditional and limiting perspectives of women. So bear with me because I think the author does a good job of addressing both women’s and men’s needs quite equally.

Having said that, here is a synopsis of what he suggests women need. I will start with that first, so the women readers are more open to hear what their men need! And if you have a great relationship and equal status with each other, this will serve as another great tool to understand each other better.

The author of the book suggests that most women desire closeness, openness, understanding, peacemaking, loyalty and esteem. She fears respecting him because her deeper fear is being a doormat. He suggests that even in conflict, women confront to connect. We are seeking a peaceful resolution to restore the closeness and the connection. If the conflict is left unsettled, she feels a ‘gulf’ between the two and will continue to confront until it is resolved. Oftentimes Dr. Eggerichs suggests that in these confrontational moments that men feel that she is trying to control her man, but disagrees with this common perspective and suggests to men “your wife is confronting you to connect”. When a couple gets this, it remarkably improves their interaction with each other.

On the subject of a woman’s need to feel close, he suggests women feel close when her partner holds her hand, hugs her, is affectionate without sexual intentions, spends alone time together focusing on each other, pillow talk after sex, and I might add to that, feeling connected heart to heart in conversation that promotes emotional intimacy.

The author suggests she wants her spouse to open up and shares his struggles with her. She wants to be understood and not to be viewed as a problem to be fixed. She needs to be listened to, to be heard.

When there is conflict, she wants her man to own up to his contribution in the matter and say he’s sorry instead of blaming and not taking ownership. It takes two to tango. Usually there is fault on both sides, even though percentages of ownership may vary from conflict to conflict. She just wants him to own up to, or should I say “man up” to his part in the problem area.

She desperately needs to know you are committed to the relationship and to be honored and valued and treasured. This is her version of being respected. She will feel respected and esteemed when you speak highly of her in front of others, telling her you are proud of her accomplishments, giving her affirmation and praise, and value her opinion.

Keep in mind, this is a synopsis of the book, if you want a more in depth understanding, you will need to buy the book!

Now that the women are softened and are feeling a little more understood, we are a little more prepared to hear about his needs. What does your man need? How do we understand him?

The author uses the acronym C-H-A-I-R-S to describe his needs. By the way, the acronym he uses to describe her needs is C-O-U-P-L-E.

His needs are: conquest, hierarchy, authority, insight, relationship, and sexuality. How many of you women cringed at a few of those words? Especially hierarchy maybe?

He explains that conquest has to do with appreciating his desire to work and achieve. He feels it is his duty to provide for his family and he wants to do it well. He will feel you appreciate his desire to work when you listen to his work stories, you tell him verbally that you value his work efforts, allow him to dream bigger and encourage him to reach toward accomplishing those dreams. If you criticize his work he feels disrespected.

Hierarchy has more to do with his desire to protect and provide than to lord it over you. Women who are reading this will appreciate this quote from the book: “women hear (the word hierarchy) and think immediately of the chauvinist mind-set: ‘The male dominates the female’…’It’s a man’s world’…’Men are superior and women are inferior’… And on and on. I can’t really blame these women,” he says, “because over the centuries men have…justified all kinds of terrible treatment of women” but disagrees wholeheartedly against such abusive treatment of women. Rather, he suggests that if a man is “good-willed”, his wife’s respect and his hierarchical position will not cause him to abuse, because that is not his nature. He will not use his position as “chair” of the family against those he is to love and protect” and provide for. He wants to be responsible. This is one of the ways he wants to show you love, by providing and protecting.

As for authority, the author suggests that a man needs appreciation of his desire to serve and to lead. Another hard concept for women to swallow! Authority comes with responsibility, and is not to be given irresponsibly. Mutual submission to each other is necessary, but a responsible man knows this, and when he leads with authority, he is serving his family, by preferring her needs above his own. Eggerichs suggests that your husband wants “your acknowledgment that he is the leader, the one in authority. This is not to grind you under or treat you as inferior.” He suggests it is because your man wants to be responsible. “Appreciating and respecting his desire to serve you and lead the family takes faith, courage, and strength on your part” he tells women. He will feel you appreciate his authority and leadership when you tell him you are thankful for his strength and enjoy being able to lean on him for support, he will also feel this way if you support his self-image, or praise his good decisions and show grace towards his bad decisions. If you disagree, tell him in private and not publicly in order to honor him.

I know women need him to ‘just listen’ and not problem solve, but he needs to feel as though his insight is appreciated, as well as his desire to analyze and counsel. He will feel this way if you thank him for his advice, let him problem solve occasionally, and recognize that problem solving for him is his “male brand of empathy”.

As for relationship, he appreciates “shoulder to shoulder friendship”. Sometimes he just wants to be in your company, not to talk, but just be in the same room, or doing the same activity together, as he would do with his male buddies. He just wants companionship sometimes.

Last but not least, which really needs no further discussion as we all know a mans desire for sexual intimacy!!! He needs you to understand he needs sexual release just as you need emotional release. He needs you to respond to his sexual advances and wants you to initiate too!

In closing, I will add that the author suggests that these aren’t universal principles across the board, and rigid concepts. Some women may have needs that the author suggests a typical male to have, and some men may relate to the needs mentioned in the C-O-U-P-L-E acronym suggested as typical female needs. That is normal as each of us has differing needs regardless of gender. Dr. Eggerichs is merely pointing out some common themes he has seen within his counseling practice throughout the years.

For what it’s worth, it is a riveting look at how we relate to each other, and the foreign needs of the opposite gender and how we can learn to both love and respect each other better in a marriage relationship between man and wife.

Happy anniversary honey! I pray I can better understand and meet your needs, even the ones I cringe at and wrestle with!

I look forward to engaging in your comments, questions and opinions on this subject. I’m curious about the responses of those reading this blog!

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one or couples Relationship Coaching Program which will equip your relationship with the tools it needs to grow!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your no charge Personal Freedom Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach


One might imagine in a fairy tale world that giving love and receiving love are actually quite normal, straightforward, and even… Simple? Yet, why is it that it is not always so in the real world? What is it that crosses the wires somehow and there is a malfunction, or a ‘short circuit in some relationships where receiving love is actually quite difficult?

First of all, let’s take a quick look at some basics. Everyone of us has different ways we ‘feel’ loved. According to Gary Chapman, author of “The Five Love Languages”, he narrows these love languages down to five categories: words of affirmation, touch, acts of service, gifts, and quality time. For those of you unaware of this book, you may already be having an ‘aha’ moment as an example floods your mind why you never feel loved by your husband when he doesn’t buy you roses, but if he spends lots of quality time with you and that’s not your primary love language, you barely notice his attention. Or on the other hand, if she’s always buying you gifts, but rarely massages your back, or runs into your arms for an embrace, if touch is your love language, you may feel unwanted or even unattractive to your wife.

And then there’s the gender differences of course. His needs, her needs, right? She needs to feel close (and yet her definition of closeness is different than yours, most likely!). He needs sexual intimacy. Her ideas of intimacy are slightly different. Yes, she wants sex, but she wants to bond in an emotional way, involving openness and communication, and he rarely understands what she means by that. He needs to feel respected, she needs to feel cherished and valued, like she is a treasure, not an object. She wants loyalty, faithfulness and commitment, he likes to provide and protect, and be valued for it. He likes to ‘fix’ the problem, to be valued for his insights, she wants him to just be a sounding board… He wants to counsel, she says “just listen!”.

With all of that going on, is it any wonder we ever have good working relationships at all. Especially with the opposite gender… Or a completely different personality type. Don’t let me even bring that into the equation! With all the differing personality types out there, it takes a lot of work and a lot of ‘preferring’ each other, a lot of asking clarifying questions to determine just how someone not only wants… But needs to be loved.

But that’s just the intro. Then you get into the baggage you are bringing with you from past relationships, and even your primary parental relationships might come with some set expectations of how things are to be, how one should love, etc. So we have individual love languages, gender differences in needs, bad breakups, and past experiences, what we were brought up with re: family values, ideas, etc, let alone coming from a family past that was abusive, or where there was a failure to thrive, neglect, etc. and then add on top of all of that, the ideal romantic chick flick of the fairy tale happy ever after story, with all the social requirements of perfect body image, the culturally defined expectations of what a man is to be, and what a woman is to be, some too good to be true, and others simply superficial, with no real guidance in learning how to give and really receive love.
Keep in mind, I am not bashing anyone, nor am I jaded by life, I simply see the facts and contributing factors that there are a lot of pressures and demands and ideals and expectations and assumptions… And don’t forget baggage- that we drag into every relationship we enter.

Phew. Tough stuff, and yet somehow, there are massive success stories and happily ever after tales after all. But they are HARD work.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But when it comes to receiving love… There is a certain part of the population that generally has a real hard time with it. Giving may come a lot more naturally. When someone offers to pay for your dinner, is it easy or difficult to accept? Have you ever stopped to wonder why?

Are you reluctant, or feel incapable of asking for what you need or want? Can you express what you like or dislike in the relationship openly? Even in the sexual department? When you get what you want, are you satisfied, or is there still a hole inside? Like you are detached and disconnected from the happy emotions that usually accompany receiving an emotional need you have?

If so, there may be some of that ‘baggage’ we were just discussing going on beneath the surface.
If you lack the ability to truly bond and feel connected with another person, you may not have bonded with a primary caregiver in your early development years, or have undergone abuse of any kind. Neglect can cause a person to feel very isolated in their soul. Addictions can cause isolation, especially sex addiction, as it tends to rip apart the ability to really connect in an intimate way heart to heart, soul to soul, with your partner. Why? Because often deep shame accompanies it, which no one is comfortable to admit, and shame rips apart self-esteem. Low self esteem is a major player for sure, and can be for any number of reasons and begin at any time in life, usually accompanying some traumatic event. Rejection can tear at our sense of worth and esteem. On and on the list goes on. If you live with a split sense of self, like you can only project the ‘good’ or capable side of yourself, performing your way through life, you likely don’t connect very deeply with others as you wrestle to risk enough to let someone see the less than perfect parts of yourself.

I would highly recommend reading the book “Receiving Love” by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D & Helen Lakely Hunt, Ph.D for some great insights. Even if you are not the psychology nerd that I am and are not as much interested in “why” you feel you cannot receive love, there are some great exercises at the end of the book that you can practice with your partner if you really want to try and overcome the inability to receive love.

I will leave you with a couple of starter ideas that my husband and I have tried that really work.

One of the exercises we tried was to tell each other 5 things we were grateful for each day that the other person had done that we felt was loving.

Another idea is to create a gift list. Write down the things you want on your list (if you are working with a modest budget, keep that in mind while writing your list. Don’t make it unattainable. When you are finished, you swap lists and the other person is responsible to randomly give you that gift. If you both purpose to do this, it can be a very beneficial practice in allowing yourself to receive. It doesn’t even have to cost money. It could be “I would feel like it was a gift if you picked up after yourself and put your dirty clothes in the hamper!” or perhaps, dancing in the rain or some cities have the movies under the stars idea where they show free movies in a park that could serve as a free romantic night… The sky is the limit. The purpose is practice!!

Emotional flooding is another great exercise where you sit down with each other and just tell each other all the wonderful things you love about them, their natural abilities and talents, appearance, character qualities you admire, etc.

The book I just mentioned contains the above examples (I believe there is more to each assignment though) and many more.

Just remember this, if you forget everything else that I have said: you were created with divine purpose, in the image of God, loved by God, and were created to be loved, to be able to give and receive love, and no matter what anyone else says or thinks about you: you are worthy to be loved. Let go of that self critical voice affirming all the reasons you can’t be loved, and start changing the message: write a list of why you should be loved, why you are lovable right now, and have some compassion for yourself! The bible actually puts it quite well when it says to love others as you love yourself. In fact, most faiths share this golden rule. It is difficult to love others truly if you cannot see enough value in yourself to love yourself. If that seems too difficult, start with this: ask yourself “what do I like about myself?” and begin repeating those messages as affirmations regularly. You may be surprised how quickly you begin to see value in yourself. You are doing the work of building your self esteem. Don’t sabotage it by the self criticism. Pay attention to its voice as it creeps in, and let the sentence end midair as you breathe in an affirmation about your worth and intrinsic value!

Have a great weekend!


I’m starting a new series for the next couple of months on relationships and marriage. Over the next several weeks, I will discuss such concerns as how to effective deal with confrontation, forgiveness, receiving love, some marriage basic ‘need to know’ tools, differences in gender needs and love languages, etc. Today I want to start the series off right by addressing some essential characteristics of healthy relationships. I will address more of the same in subsequent blogs.

Relationships can be difficult even for the best of relationships, and even though those relationships you look to as examples of how to get it right, that seem so streamlined and perfect while you watch them in admiration from a distance – those couples know a very important secret: Healthy relationships take work! While there are many contributing factors to making a relationship great, I am going to touch on some key elements to getting you started on making your relationships great!!

First of all there is commitment. It must be paramount in your relationship with your spouse or potential future life partner (for those of you not married yet).

What is commitment and how sincere is your commitment to each other? We live in an age where commitment is a word not really understood. With high divorce rates looming, we seem to as a generation lack a clear understanding of what commitment means. The marriage vows we read on our wedding day, in sickness and in health, till death do us part, give way to the wedding plans and the excitement of the day itself. And many traditional wedding vows are no longer being used.

Just what are we committing to? And when you’ve been down the road of marriage for many years, just how fresh in your mind do those early vows remain? There are reasons why the book of proverbs tells us so clearly to guard our hearts and even our eyes, to keep us from the temptation of greener pastures elsewhere when you are doing the real hard work of marriage -being truly know and loved for your flaws and all. Commitment certainly is something we need to newly re-evaluate and determine once again: till death do us part.

Honesty is integral. If you cannot be honest with the person you are spending the rest of your life with, you will have major problems down the road. Your secrets will not stay hidden, even if you have been successful for years. All that is hidden comes to the light. Once it is exposed, often the damage is so severe that many relationships fall apart. Without honesty, you cannot have a real relationship. You cannot be fully known. If you are not really known, you cannot truly experience intimacy. To be known requires openness. if you cannot be open, you are putting on a show. This is called ‘performance’, or even people pleasing. Eventually, resentment will settle in your heart because you are not being up front. What is not expressed is your responsibility. You are responsible to own your own needs, your own flaws, failures and weaknesses. It is ok to have weaknesses. It is important that they be brought into the light of relationship so that grace can cover over your failures and weaknesses, and that the other person can offer their strength, support or skill to help you become better in some of your weaker areas. This is how it is meant to be. Two imperfect people in a partnership, helping each other along to become all that God meant for them to become.

Connectedness is also necessary. If you do not have common ground, common interests, or understand how each other needs to bond and connect, one or both of you will experience great lack. It is important however, for me to uncover a great misconception here: your partner is not meant to meet ALL your needs. There are varying relationships in your life, as it was meant to be, for you to find fulfillment and be well balanced in your life. Women need women friends. Men just don’t understand the finer details that another woman ‘gets’ quite naturally. The same is true for men. Guys bond in ways in which women cannot understand, or compete with. But at the same time, there must be a connection in your primary relationship with each other. It is a good idea to sit down and determine how you need to bond and attach, figure out what ways make you feel the most loved or respected. How do you feel heard and understood? What do you need? Figure out what these things are and sit down and communicate to each other so that you can both work diligently at preferring each other in order to connect and attach in ways the other person will feel most loved and connected with you.

Effective communication. This is a very critical element required to sustain a healthy bond with your partner. This is also where most relationships break down. Effective communication involves active listening, affirmation of what the other is saying, and though this might sound silly, sometimes even simply acknowledging the other person’s point of view before jumping in with your own can de-escalate an evolving crisis! Make sure you clarify what you have heard the other person say, and ensure you understand his or her viewpoint before running on your own assumptions of the other person’s motives. Remember, we don’t EVER know another person’s motives unless we ask questions to clarify. Try and avoid ‘Always’ and ‘Never’ statements, blaming, and only seeing from an all or nothing perspective fixating your attention on every flaw in the other person. Try and remember to be merciful and gracious towards each other, believe the best of each other and have basic goodwill towards each other. There are many more tips I can offer on this most difficult part of relationship, but these are some great tips to get you started!

Separateness & respect are not often addressed when looking at relationship tools, but are definitely not to be dismissed. Oftentimes, initially in the early stages of a relationship, both people feel like they are ‘the same’ as each other, that you both like the same things, hold the same moral or tradition or religious beliefs, but can be sadly mistaken down the road to realize ‘I am not the same as my spouse’. I hold different ideas on how to raise a family, or how many kids you want, or different vacation preferences. These things can extend into very deep areas as well. You may hold different theological perspectives on life, or even just enjoy differing leisure activities. The more we can learn to both respect and appreciate the differences in each other, the closer we come to a place of the desired intimacy you both want. No one wants to be controlled. No one wants to feel manipulated into doing something you are opposed to. We need to respect each other’s individuality, encourage it, come along and support each other in the areas of difference. In this way, we are respecting each other and loving the ‘whole’ person rather than accepting only what adheres to our own perspective, sending a message of rejection to the other person that who they truly are is not good enough.

Dealing with conflict well. Here is where your effective communication skills need to be used meticulously! Do not get sloppy in this area! Remember in your anger that you love the other person enough to treat them respectfully and with dignity and grace. I will address this subject in further detail in a subsequent blog as I believe it deserves fuller attention than the scope of today’s overview.

And above all, love. Speaking of which, the most important element in healthy relationships is love. Sadly, love is a word thrown around so easily, and taken away so quickly when the going gets tough. We misunderstand love immensely in this culture where we love everything from our favorite television program to our Gucci handbag, to our favorite car or pair of shoes. We love our iPhones, our favorite dessert, to most any kind of food really. We use the word so carelessly that it has lost its meaning. And love in these terms has a limit. We take it back when we don’t mean it anymore, when we no longer ‘feel’ loving towards someone. This kind of love is not real love at all. Real love never fails. It never gives up, it never quits, it never stops hoping or believing for good to come about. Real love is unconditional. It does not seek its own agenda first, but prefers others above oneself. It never gives up. This is the kind of love we need to learn to emulate.

Stay tuned for next Friday as I unpack healthy confrontation tips further!

Hope you all have a great weekend!


I have been doing a series on abuse for the last few weeks in my Friday blogs, and am continuing on that theme this week on the subject of bullying and violence in the workplace. I will finish up the series next Friday on how to break the cycle of abuse.

To get started today on the subject of workplace violence and bullying, let’s begin by defining some terms so we are all clear on the definitions of violence, bullying, discrimination, workplace interpersonal conflict and harassment.

Violence is defined by an exertion of physical force as to injure or abuse. An instance of violent treatment or procedure. It is also an act of behavior that jeapordizes someone’s physical or psychological well-being. It involves a threat to one’s life, safety, health, or integrity. The intent to control, dominate, to injure or destroy, to deprive a person of dignity. Workplace violence includes verbal abuse, threats, physical attacks as well as near misses, psychological abuses, assault, sexual assault, discrimination of any kind, harassment and bullying.

Workplace bullying is a repeated pattern of intentional inappropriate behavior, direct or indirect (aggressive or passive), whether verbal, physical or otherwise, performed by one or more persons against another person or group of people which could reasonably be regarded as under,inning the individual’s right to dignity at work.

Discrimination is any practice or behavior, whether intentional or not, which has a negative effect on an individual or group, because of their race, ancestry, place of origin, color, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed (religion), sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, or handicap (disability).

A Workplace interpersonal conflict is defined as a an expressed struggle between at least two interdependent parties who perceive incompatible goals, scarce resources and interference from the other party in achieving their goals.

Finally, harassment is defined as engaging in a course of annoying and provoking comment or conduct, that is, or ought reasonably to be known to be unwelcome, and related to one of the protected grounds in the human rights code. The human rights code includes the following areas of protected grounds under the definition of harassment: Race, ancestry, place of origin, color, citizenship, creed, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, handicap and gender.

The profile of a bully looks like this:

Someone who is insecure, has low self esteem, poor or non existent social skills, little empathy, someone who is controlling, or manipulative, often driven by jealousy of ability, or jealous of relationships.

The profile of a target is someone who is very capable, dedicated, intelligent, honest with integrity, trustworthy, loyal and independent, sensitive, who has the ability to master new skills & perform new tasks. Someone who is well liked, imaginative, creative or innovative, with high moral standards.

Now that we have some definitions out of the way, let’s look at how to define whether your conflict involves a bully or is merely based on assumptions of another person. For instance, if you are a person who has trouble with confrontation, and even hearing that word makes you feel like the very nature of confrontation itself is an aggressive positioning of one against another, thereby defining, by you’re experience that confrontation equals bullying, you will have a hard time identifying between bullying and simple confrontation. Confrontation done well, does not have to involve force or violence, or even raising one’s voice to try and gain a position of power, or strength to confront. It can be done in a very straightforward way, involving both compassion and respect for the person you are confronting. Confrontation CAN be a very loving and caring act if performed with good intent, with no malice or undealt with anger in order to bring about a positive result for both parties involved.

If you are confronting a reasonable person, and not a bully, someone who is able to hear your voiced complaints or concerns, or request for change, this person will respond differently from a bully. They will take what you say to heart, they are able to listen, adapt and change, and give feedback positively, and take criticism well, they are empathetic and are concerned not only about their well being, but yours as well. They have a genuine concern and make effort to improve, change, adapt and accommodate to the best of their ability. They do not allow problems that crop up to become negative continuing patterns. They are looking for ways they can make the situation better.

The bully on the other hand, will try to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it. When given feedback, they become defensive and immediately come back with reasons why something is not their fault. They cannot own or take responsibility for their own actions, and insist that other’s do, by their actions more than their words. They react as though you were the person who needs to take responsibility for their anger and bitterness. This type of person cannot hear or understand how to listen to reason, and cannot reason, they have to control their environment, a d when they cannot get away with that, the begin to bulky to try and get the environment to comply with their perceived ability to control it. They often minimize, blame shift, or make up exaggerated complaints against you, when you attempt to address a conflict. Excuses, rationalizations, minimizing… These are the traits of someone who cannot reason with you when you address a conflict. And when you do, this is often when the bully within them begins to emerge. The only way to deal with a bully is to stop talking, and set limits on their behavior. They do not respond to reason. This is where you need to ensure you have a healthy set of boundaries, so that you can hold your ground.

Know who to contact if you believe you are being bullied. Contact the management team in your workplace and make a formal complaint if necessary. Learn how to recognize the warning signs.
Get help. The negative effects of bullying over time do take their toll on one’s stress level, and psychological well being, as well as one’s productivity or positive attitude in the workplace. If you are experiencing burnout, you MAY be around people who are wearing on your overall well being. Burnout does not always involve bullying, nor is it always the cause, but it can be a symptom if you identify with any of the issues raised in this blog,

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

Stay tuned for next week’s conclusion on the subject of abuse!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach


I read this somewhere recently, and jotted down a few notes as I found I related to what was said. Sadly, I can’t remember where exactly I got this info, but my gut tells me it is from the authors Dr. John Townsend & Dr. Henry Cloud, PhD, as I read a tremendous amount of their work… But don’t quote me on that!

Here is what I took notes on:

Areas Couples find difficult being honest about:

Feelings
Disappointments
Desires, likes & dislikes
Hurts
Anger and hatred
Sex
Sins
Failure
Needs and vulnerabilities

And the barriers to honesty were:

Fear of real closeness and being known
Fear of abandonment and loss of love if they are known
Fears of being controlled and possessed if they are known
Fears of being seen as ‘bad’ or ‘not good enough’ if some part of them is known
Fears of their own desires, needs and feelings.

There is some loaded discussion that can come from that information!

My husband and I recently had a conversation about some of the values that we are freshly committing to in our marriage, as we were reading a book on marriage together, and one of the things we discussed was the absolute need for complete honesty in a relationship, and I can personally relate to the fears that are barriers to that complete honesty. I often fear expressing some of my desires that I feel my husband does not value with me. I know part of it is perception on my end, but actions and tone of voice and expressions speak loudly as well, and sometimes I receive messages from his actions that I allow to cause myself to feel he is unsupportive, and the cognitive distortions run wild believing he does not value my desires. (Admittedly, I currently am speaking of clothes! I’m a bit of a shopping nut! I LOVE purses, and shoes, and jewelry, and clothes… And books. Lol!) My hubby has always been a lot more practical about clothes than I am. This has been a common thread that reoccurs repeatedly, where I feel he diminishes my desire to shop or at least criticizes it. I admittedly, fear that he will control our financial decisions, as my dad did as I was growing up. Jason, (my husband), knows this fear I have. I have been honest with him, but there are times when I see that one shirt I just ‘have to have’ and immediately my gut instinct is shame that he will reject and diminish or refuse to allow me this one indulgence.

On the flip side, I understand what is going on in his mind. We are spending a lot of money on business expenses over the next while, and budget issues and responsibility financially are important values to us both. I know there are other items there as well, but will not reveal his concerns in my blog out of honor and respect for him.

Why I mention this, is that it came up last night. My underlying fear of being controlled, or being seen as ‘bad’ for desiring something I place some level of value on. I know this is a very surfacey and material example, but isn’t that the way it often goes? Couples fight about things that seem to be so insignificant, only to recognize that there is a much deeper issue at the core that is really being exposed and brought to the light!

Looking back up at the list, I am afraid of anger, my own and other’s, again, there are roots to this issue, as well as my fear of disappointing people, or failing. My hubby relates to the fear of failure as well. I fear abandonment or loss of love if I mess up. I fear abandonment even if I don’t mess up! Depending upon the season of my life, I often find myself fearful of being known. Again, there are roots to each of these fears.

It is a good thing if you are able to get these issues out into the open and be able to learn how to exhibit grace to each other’s weaknesses.

I read the following somewhere too, which helps me remember grace when I am angry.

F- Focus
E- Emotion
E- Empathy
L- Leave

It suggests focusing on what the root feeling is beneath the anger and identifying with it. For instance, anger most often is a protective barrier covering over another, deeper emotion. Like hurt, pain, fear of abandonment, etc. In order to redirect yourself away from expressing anger in a harmful way, it encourages you to look at the EMOTION you are feeling underneath. Then as you identify that emotion, sometimes the anger diminishes. The next step is to try and find empathy for your partner, and understand their point of view, or where they are coming from. This also is a tool to help the anger settle into something more manageable and allows for healthy ways to deal with it without brutally attacking your partner’s self worth. Finally, if the anger is pretty massive, LEAVE. Tell your spouse that you need a cool down time to get your anger back under control and tackle it again when it settles. A good rule of thumb is to have an anger action plan. Determine together when you are not angry that you will have a 20 minute or 30 minute cool down period (or whatever you decide and agree upon together). After which, you will check in on your spouse to see if they are ready to resume the conversation. If emotions have not settled, agree to check in again at the agreed upon 20-30 minute period of time. This allows for you both to feel cared about and know that even your anger is not something to be rejected by your partner, but is given a healthy permission period to cool down to avoid abusive speech toward each other. Above all, remember that you love your spouse! This will continue to hack away at the anger and allow your empathy for the other to surface and bring about feelings of compassion and love and help diminish the anger as you continue to look for the underlying root beneath the anger. I am not saying anger is all bad! Please don’t misunderstand! But there are healthy and very unhealthy ways of dealing with it. If you read my entry from last Friday on verbal abuse, you will see ways that anger can get out of hand very quickly.

I am also not saying I am perfect at this by any stretch. In fact I am not -by far! This is a new exercise I am trying myself, to deal with my anger when it comes up.

Being honest about anger is also very important in any relationship. And a person can get very angry when they feel their core values are being attacked or threatened. Any of the barriers mentioned above are often based on your core values of being known, and having a security and sense of permanence and safety, so as not to fear abandonment, it reveals core values about needing love and intimacy, respect, equality, being ‘good enough’ that you don’t need to perform or be perfect and yet, still know you are loved. I’m sure there are many more.

Honesty is much more important than we give it credit. Honesty sometimes hurts, but it the only way to pave a trustworthy, healthy relationship where integrity and love can truly grow and blossom.

Honesty is something I highly value. I believe it is one of the necessary cornerstones of a good relationship. Without it, the whole house you build your relationship on, will crumble. My encouragement to you: be ruthless to value honesty! It is a life (and relationship) saver!

If you’d like to look at another great resource, check out my one-on-one Relationship Coaching Program which will equip your relationship with the tools it needs to grow!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Relationship Life Coach

Verbal Abuse


Today I am continuing my latest blog series on abuse in relationships. Last Friday I blogged about Emotional Abuse, this week, I hope to unpack verbal abuse a little, which is a sub heading under the broader concept of emotional abuse, because verbal abuse affects us emotionally as well.

Before I get started, I want to discuss some basic rights we should expect in any healthy relationship, all of which are violated in a verbally abusive relationship.

These basic rights include:

The right to goodwill from the other.
The right to emotional support.
The right to be heard by the other and to be responded to with courtesy.
The right to have your own view, even if your mate has a different view.
The right to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real.
The right to receive a sincere apology for any jokes you find offensive.
The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is legitimately your business.
The right to live free from accusation and blame.
The right to live free from criticism and judgment.
The right to have your work and interests spoken of with respect.
The right to encouragement.
The right to live free from emotional and physical threat.
The right to live free from angry outbursts and rage.
The right to be called by no name that devalues you.
The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered.

(Basic rights excerpt taken from The verbally abusive relationship by Patricia Evans)

Apart from the absence of the above list of items, how else can you tell That you have been verbally abused? Because verbal abuse is under the broader category of emotional abuse, many of the same factors play a part in verbal abuse. Verbal abuse is not only just someone raising their voice and yelling at you or calling you derogatory names, but can be much more subtle as well, involving sarcasm and criticism, put downs and manipulative, controlling speech, that if it has been a ‘norm’ for you all your life, can be hard to recognize and realize the difference between healthy interaction, and that which is abusive. You may think that verbal abuse is readily identifiable, but it can be very concealed, and the manipulation of it can even cause the one being verbally abused to feel as though they are the problem. Often times people don’t realize it is verbal abuse until it escalates and becomes more intense over time, or turns into physical abuse. Often, verbal abuse remains hidden and secretive from outside observation in the early stages of the abuse, often unnoticed by people outside of the relationship. They may even think the abuser is a wonderful person, because that is what is presented in the public eye, leaving the victim of the abuse isolated from outside support, and confused.

Here are some indicators that might suggest whether you are being verbally abused or not.

1. Does he seem irritated or angry with you frequently, even when you are not trying to upset him? 2. Does he tell you in some way that the way he feels is your fault?
3. Do you often wonder what’s wrong with you or why you feel so bad, but don’t know why?
4. Do you feel out of balance, caught off guard by her reactions?
5. Do you feel lost and aimless?
6. When you feel hurt and try to discuss your feelings with her, does she minimize your feelings, ignore them or refuse to talk about it, or outright blame you for something unrelated to what you are talking about to ‘knock you off course” to avoid taking responsibility for her actions?
7. Do you feel disconnected, isolated, confused, disoriented, or believe critical and condemning voices in your head that minimize and devalue your sense of self worth? Specifically messages of put down your partner has said repeatedly in the past?
8. Does he blow up at you and then pretend as if nothing ever happened, often seeming overly cheery later on without apologizing, or owning up to his behavior, as if nothing ever happened?
9. Does he apologize only when you are on the verge of leaving the relationship vowing he will change, but once you concede, he takes no initiative or action to correct his behavior and resumes his usual controlling and belittling behavior? Does he beg you not to leave?
10. You frequently feel frustrated, confused or perplexed by her responses when she doesn’t seem to understand your intentions?
11. She takes the opposite view on almost every opinion you have?
12. Do you feel like you are given double messages a lot? Ie. you express an opinion and the abuser takes the opposite position just to start an argument, or remain in a power position, only to hear the person agree with your opinion with someone else, and when you call them on it, they refuse to acknowledge it happened and blame you for making things up?

All of these things and more are indicators of verbal abuse.

Sometimes it is hard to believe that you are ‘not’ the things your partner accuses you of being because they are said so repetitively that over time you begin to believe the self-defeating messages. It may be hard to tell yourself:

I know that I am not critical.
I know that I am not competitive.
I know that I am not a bitch.
I know that I am not selfish.
I know that I am not ugly.
I know that I am not stupid.
I know that I am not always trying to start a fight, etc. because verbal abuse tends to diminish your self worth over time. So much so that you begin to believe it yourself and no longer need someone to tell you how worthless you are, because you believe it and tell that to yourself over and over. This is not beneficial nor helpful to anyone. You have innate value and worth and no one has the right to tell you otherwise or diminish your value. If someone has said these above messages to you, they are verbally abusing you.

If you believe you are being verbally abused, seek help immediately! It is likely to get worse not better. You need to get equipped with the right tools to help you not only build your self confidence and sense of self worth, but know how to address the behavior and require change to occur, and set limits on behavior that is abusive. If you feel fear about setting limits on abusive behavior, ask yourself why that is. What would happen if you set limits on the abusive behavior? Would you be physically assaulted? Would the abuse get worse? What is the reality of that fear? If you believe that you would not be ‘safe’, it may be time to break that relationship and get out, and seek counseling on how to break the addictive relationship cycle.

Stay tuned.. In a few weeks, I will have some answers on how to respond to the abusive cycle.
Next Friday I will blog about Physical Abuse. Stay tuned, as I will address how to break the abusive cycle in my blog on Friday May 25th. If you believe yourself to be in real and urgent danger, do not wait for my tips on breaking the cycle at the end of May, seek help immediately!

In the meantime, I hope and pray that you are not being verbally abused, and I pray for your safety and protection if you are, and for the strength to break the cycle and to build healthy patterns of relating to others, that you may enjoy real intimacy and respect within your relationships. Do not be deceived by the times the abuser is charming, and ‘intimate’. Real intimacy does not abuse. Real intimacy respects and cherishes the other always. Real intimacy involves the ‘basic rights in a relationship’ as mentioned at the beginning of this blog. If you are manipulated, if there are power plays, or control, aggressive and hostile speech and name calling, this is inappropriate in a relationship and harmful to the health of the relationship. The reality is, no relationship is perfect, and we all ‘lose it’ at times, or manipulate or control, but the question is whether it is habitual, the entirety of the relationship or is it as a result of a traumatic life experience that has brought harm to one or both members of the relationship, that is a mere season of the relationship, and when the trauma settles down, the relationship returns to a harmonious respectful flow, or is this anger and hostility a regular part of the relationship? I will eventually do a series on trauma as well, where I will unpack how trauma plays a role in changing our usual behavior, but for now, I am mentioning it only in reference to knowing how to identify between what is abuse, what is normal anger and what is happening due to a trauma induced life circumstance? A perfect example of how trauma can change one’s usual interactions I am taking from the newly released movie, “The Lucky One” with Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling. There is a scene in the movie when Logan (Zac Efron) comes back from the war, and is staying with his sister’s family, and his nephews come in the room to jump on him and startle him while he is asleep. But what happens is more than what they expected, and by the shocked reaction on his nephews face, you can tell that his reaction of jumping up and pinning hid nephew down on the bed in a choke hold is NOT Logan’s normal interaction with his nephews. This is an example of post traumatic stress disorder and how it affects someone’s usual interactions, and is not to be considered abusive. Being able to distinguish between normal and healthy anger in a relationship and abusive patterns, you may need some help to decipher that if you are unsure. I do not have enough time to get into that in today’s blog.

Remember, seek help if you feel you are in immediate danger!

If you’d like to look at a great resource, check out my one-on-one Boundary Development Program which will help bring control back into your life!

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If you have any questions on today’s blog or would like help on taking steps forward, I’d love to hear from you!  Post a comment below or visit my website and register for your Complimentary Strategy Session to discuss your situation in more detail.

Katie Meilleur – Certified Life Coach

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