Pack Your Bags

Doctors often use the word trauma to describe the effects of serious injury to the physical body, and the bruising  that is left behind from the sudden impact. We can also experience emotional trauma in the same way, and the bruising can be just as severe as with a physical wound. Just like a wound to our physical bodies, emotional trauma requires care and attention so that it may heal.

 If the trauma is left unresolved, it may affect our sense of self and wholeness as a person. This in turn affects our relationships, by bringing a piece of “baggage” into our present.  Emotional trauma can result from any experience in which a person feels that their life or well being is endangered. These experiences can be a divorce, and affair, or other life changing events. Our natural instinct is to protect ourselves, and may manifest as avoidance, denial or repression of the event. Symptoms of unresolved trauma may include addictive behaviors, anxiety and depression.   

 The impact on relationships is severe- wounds that continue to fester, low self esteem, and a complete unawareness of the intensity of negative emotions that are present. Triggers are common, and may unintentionally reopen the wound.

 When trying to heal a trauma from your past, what can you do to resolve the unresolvable?

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If you have had a traumatic event that is affecting your relationship, here are some ways to begin the healing process.  

 1. Understand trauma and its affects- read books, talk with a therapist, and get some outside help. Trauma is very difficult to deal with alone.

2. Develop emotional resilience- as hard as it is, you need  to experience your feelings, not push them away. This can also be accomplished through the help of a therapist.

3. Learn new ways of self soothing- develop self caring behaviors that give you positive feelings. These positive feelings will also spill over into your other relationships.

4. Make sure that you give yourself time- and lots of it. Healing does not take place overnight, and everyone heals at their own pace.

 Healing of trauma is like the healing of any other broken body part, and essential to a whole, healthy life. Making efforts to heal brings us more into the present, making room for connection and intimacy with our loved ones. If you have suffered a trauma, don’t wait any longer to begin the healing process. You’ll be glad that you did. 

For the Love of Money

The word “infidelity” is pretty common these days, with examples daily in the news.  Celebrities, neighbors and friends all have a story to tell about how they have been betrayed by their partner’s sexual indiscretions.  Usually we think about infidelity as sexual or emotional betrayal, being lied to and deceived by a partner in the worst way that we can imagine. But there’s another type of infidelity that is becoming more common, and that is of financial infidelity. This type of cheating pushes at the hot button for many relationships and marriages- that of money and finances. 

Financial infidelity is defined as being dishonest with your partner, either blatantly or by omission, about what you have done with the family finances. Examples are running up credit cards into the thousands, forging a partner’s signature to open a new loan or credit line, hiding large debts or financial obligations, all without your partner’s knowledge or consent. Being dishonest about money is a form of cheating, just like sexual or emotional cheating, because you have lied and broken your partner’s trust in the relationship. Just like sexual cheating, financial infidelity can be devastating to the relationship. A loss of intimacy, loss of trust, or loss of hope for the future is all common feelings and reactions when this type of behavior happens.

Now, some of you may think that a few little lies about money can’t hurt anyone, right? Fudging a little about how much you spent for that last pair of shoes or that great new fishing rod can’t be harmful.  Well, there are lies and then there are LIES. While it may be true that a lie of $20 dollars may not be harmful, racking up $5000 dollars without discussing it with your partner ahead of time could be very harmful. In a recent Redbook survey, 96% of couples thought that it was their partner’s responsibility to be open and honest about finances.  So, is it okay to lie about a small purchase that you made? Telling a lie, ANY lie, is a trust eroding behavior.  As with any behavior, starting with a little bit of a lie can turn quickly into a big lie. And the person telling the lie doesn’t feel very good either.

So, what can a couple that has experienced financial infidelity do to begin rebuilding the relationship? The steps involved are similar to any other betrayal and how to trust again.

Be transparent. The first step in rebuilding trust involves both partners being fully accountable for their actions when it comes to finances. This means giving one another information about, as well as access to, all financial records, such as credit card statements, bank accounts, loans, etc.  Information like this may be extremely uncomfortable to disclose, but it is crucial to begin repairing the financial damage that has been done, it also demonstrates an openness that is necessary if trust is to be rebuilt.

Work together to create a financial recovery plan. This is extremely important- especially when the financial cheating has affected the both of you, and your credit. Working together to create a recovery plan helps to build trust, and to begin accountability with each other. Your plan might include steps for repaying the debt, creating a budget, and working with a credit counseling agency.

Compromise. It is not possible for both people in a relationship to always get their way when it comes to money. You and your partner both have valid points of view about spending, saving and investing that you both need to acknowledge. Try to understand your partner’s particular financial style and be willing to meet in the middle. This will allow both of you to get at least some of what you want which, in turn, will lead to greater trust in one another.

 

Remember, it takes time to rebuilding trust between you and your partner. Rebuilding trust is a process that will occur gradually over time as you both follow these positive steps. Consistency is everything, so make time to sit down with your partner on a regular basis to talk about how things are going and re-evaluate your financial goals. You will be amazed at the progress that is being made.

A Fair Fight

Conflict doesn't mean that your relationship is in trouble - it means that you are two living, thinking beings with individual opinions. Both happy and unhappy couples disagree - how can any two people share a house, jobs, in-laws, pets or kids without an occasional spat? Everyone disagrees at some point - but when do you know that things are out of hand? There's a world of difference between constructive criticism and dirty fighting. With the right tools and mind set, conflict can actually become a path to deeper intimacy - the chance to be seen as you truly are, to accept your partner's vulnerable and unique self, and to build a strong partnership.

Partnerships and couples need to have discussions, they need to solve problems, and sometimes they need to disagree, but they don't need to squabble, argue, bicker, or fight. Fights are dramatic, which is not helpful to a discussion. If you have enough energy to create drama, you have more than enough to tone it down into a discussion. Here are a set of guidelines you may find helpful in arguing.

  • Remember the point of the fight is to reach a solution, not to win, be right, or make your partner wrong.
  • Don't try to mind read. Ask instead what he or she is thinking.
  • Don't bring up all the prior problems that relate to this one. Leave the past in the past; keep this about one recent problem. Solve one thing at a time.
  • Keep the process simple. State the problem, suggest some alternatives, and choose a solution together.
  • Practice equality. If something is important enough to one of you, it will inevitably be important to both of you, so honor your partner's need to solve a problem.
  • Ask and Answer questions directly. Again, keep it as simple as possible. Let your partner know you hear him or her.
  • State your problem as a request, not a demand. To make it a positive request, use "I messages" and "please".

Next time you have an argument, practice some of these guidelines and you will be amazed at how the interaction will change.