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Trust and Relationships: Part 2

When we enter a relationship with someone new, when we feel hurt by another person’s actions, or when we hurt our partner, it is common to avoid certain conversations. However, when we pull away, we create distance in our relationship. We fear scaring the other person or pushing them away in the short-term, when in reality, talking to them could help narrow the gap in the long-term.

 

Here are 8 ways to build and maintain trust in relationships:

 

1. Accept the Effort

 

Do not assume you are worthy of or take the concept of trust for granted. We have to be willing to maintain trust within a relationship. It is important to make it a priority so that our partner feels connected to us, and vice versa. It is possible that we may lose pieces of trust from our partner, and it is crucial to be willing to rebuild those elements.

 

2. Stick to Your Word / Do as You Say

 

A large component of trust with your partner is trust relative to reliability. It is important that your partner knows they can ask you for a favour, or to help them with something, and feel confident that you will follow through. These items can be minor or major, and in the end, they add up to your partner knowing they can count on you. For example, if you ask your partner to bring toilet paper home on their way home from work, it is something they can reasonably expect you do (unless you communicate otherwise along the way).

 

3. Communicate Openly and in Person

 

Think about what you would like to know, and provide your partner with that same opportunity. When you are curious, your partner likely is to. In addition to being open, the method of which you choose to relay information is important. The meaning and tone of a message can be misinterpreted over text, or even on the phone. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and overall body language are very important pieces that your partner picks up on. Communicating needs can be hard as is, so removing the extra layers of communication over text can leave less open to interpretation.

 

4. Let Go of Judgments

 

Your partner may bring forth some information, a need, or a request that you may not understand. It is fair to not agree with every item your partner brings forth; however, it is important to acknowledge and try to see their perspective. You might not understand why something is important to your partner, but the fact that it is important is all that matters. Before you can trust, you must respect each other and your differences without judgment.

 

5. Be Vulnerable with Each Other

 

It is much easier to keep information in about yourself than to share it. The deep-seated secrets and fears that you may not feel comfortable sharing are those pieces that can bring you so much closer to each other. How do you feel when others share their fears and struggles with you? Those that share with you have let you in, and made it easier for you to share back. So, you will be amazed at what can happen if you do share one little piece. Chances are, your partner will tell you something new that you can learn about them.

 

6. Forgive Each Other

 

You may have a very solid base of trust between each other, and at the same time, it is possible that you may feel hurt or you may hurt your partner. We are imperfect human beings, and mistakes can happen. Know that it is unlikely your partner will say or do something to intentionally hurt you. Holding onto transgressions or mishaps will only erode the trust in the relationship. We should feel the ability to make mistakes and accept responsibility thereafter, without it being a constant source of contention. Letting go of the hurt, accepting the apology and moving on builds a trust based on honesty and love for the other person. If past betrayals surface, resist the urge to dwell on them. It will get in the way of fostering healthy relationships you are working to build now.

 

7. Self-development and Self-care

 

Give yourself the same care and attention that you give to others. Taking care of you is the opposite of being selfish, as it strengthens you, and enables you to better support everyone you are connected to. In any relationship, it is important for the people in it to grow as a couple and as individuals. Personal growth helps maintain the relationship and trust in each other.

 

8. Be Supportive

 

It is important in any relationship to be supportive of the other person. Support may include being physically present and providing physical affection to the person, or it may be giving emotional comfort through validation and words of affirmation. To learn more about the type of support your partner appreciates, and to understand your needs better, take the ‘5 Love Languages’ Quiz. It is even more important to show that support when we are in a stage of building trust. This involves both parties in the relationship feeling comfortable to take a risk, be vulnerable, make mistakes or try new things, knowing their partner will be there to catch them if they fall. Supporting your partner creates a united team, easing the feelings of loneliness.

 

If we do not take the time to understand what our partner is looking for in a relationship, or express our needs and feelings, it can be difficult to build and/ or continue to grow a strong foundation of trust. Relationship counselling can be a helpful way to work through these issues.

 

See our previous article on ‘Trust and Relationships: Part 1’ to understand and check in relationship on some major aspects of trust. 

 

Written by Carly Clifton, Director & Registered Psychotherapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

 

To learn more about how we can support you with building trust in your current and/ or future relationships, contact us at 647-961-9669 or info@balancedmindandwellness.com.

 

 

Trust and Relationships: Part 1

Elements of Trust in a Relationship

 

Trust is a concept that almost always comes up in starting, working through, or picking up the pieces in all of our relationships. The reason it continues to be ever-present is because it filters through all avenues of our life. When you first think of ‘trust’, you might automatically think of it in relation to ‘fidelity’ or ‘infidelity’. While this is a very important aspect of trust, it is one of many elements that are important to foster in partnerships.

 

Trust is not a black and white concept. It is very unlikely that you fully trust a person or fully distrust them. It is far more likely that you trust certain people in certain respects and other people in other ways.

Below, we have outlined 6 major parts of trust that deserve attention and energy in your relationship.

 

1. Fidelity

The first form of trust we think of in relationships is fidelity. It is important that, without previous transgressions among the two of you, you are able to provide that partner with full trust that they will be faithful to you and only you.

However, if elements of emotional or physical unfaithfulness do arise, it is important to accept that you will be able trust them again in this area, with time and effort. It will be harmful, not helpful, to hold grudges against your partner who might have slipped up.

It is important to recognize when your partner might be hurt, or when you might have hurt your partner. If the ‘betrayer’ wants to salvage the relationship, it will be beneficial to become completely transparent for a period of time (such as no secret passwords, meetings, etc). Over time, the ‘injured’ partner, will need to accept that the total transparency will not be forever useful, and will need to, one again, trust in the dark.

If you have not experienced incidents of infidelity in your relationship, it will be important to continue to provide words and actions that demonstrate your commitment and loyalty to them.

 

2. Physical Safety

Whether or not this has been a concern for you in the past, it is an important element of trust. This area emphasizes being able to feel safe in their presence (such as knowing they will not violate your sense of personal safety and wellbeing), being able to trust that they would prioritize your health and safety (such as driving safely with you in the car), and being able to protect you from harm or in dangerous situations (such as helping you to escape a crime scene).

If you live together, it is important that your home and space feel as though it is a safe environment. It is important that you do not worry about yourself or others in this space, or any spaces you may encounter together.

If you are in a situation where you fear your safety and wellbeing, please consider seeing a therapist for counselling, going to the police, or calling a local distress line that deals with such issues.

 

3. Financial Security

Most people in long-term relationships find ways to combine their financial resources, or have payments they are jointly committed to. This is a powerful from of trust, as our security is tied immediately to our financial resources.

Do you feel as though you can trust your partner with your financial security? Would you trust your partner with your banking account, your mortgage payment, and/ or your investments?

Regardless of whether you have combined your finances, it is important to reflect on the reasons, and reflect on if you worry about this sense of security in your relationship.

 

4. Emotional Predictability

Inconsistent emotional patterns can make it difficult to build a healthy, loving relationship. Sharing negative emotions is part of communicating openly in relationships, and it is critical to feel safe when doing so.

Take a moment to think about what it would be like/ what it is like if your partner was emotionally erratic. This can occur when a couple has a very pleasant and enjoyable exchange, and without warning, one partner acts randomly out of anger. It can feel unstable and unpredictable when your partner suddenly acts in what feels an irrational state with you without explaining themselves.

Are you able to trust your partner’s emotional reactions most of the time? Have you ever felt that you were unable to trust their emotional reactions?

If emotional unpredictability is part of your relationship, please consider thinking about what it would be like to suggest altering the language and reactions. Are you both open to using non-accusatory language, reducing blame and outbursts from your life? Couples counselling can be extremely beneficial to find the tools to build healthy strategies to express your emotions.

 

5. Truthfulness

It is important to feel as though you can trust your partner to tell you the truth in certain aspects of their life, and at times, you might need some affirmation that what they are telling you is, in fact, the truth. There might be times a ‘white lie’ comes up to protect you and hide a surprise that actually might be for you. These are not the times we are focusing on.

When your partner tells you something, do you believe them? Do you trust your partner if they come home late and tell you they had a last-minute meeting at work? Do you believe they are writing a work email rather than messaging someone else?

It is important not to feel as though you have to ‘check’ their words, actions, patterns to see if they are truly being authentic with you. The ability to trust that your partner is being honest with you is a critical part of building and maintaining trust.

 

6. Reliability

As an integral part of your life, yours and your partner’s needs will inherently cross over at times. When you have a difficult day, and would like help finishing one of your tasks, it is important that you are able to call your partner and ask them to help you, and know that they will follow through.

Your partner will likely want to depend on you during challenging times. You might also want some extra help, and to feel as though you can count on your partner to remember what they promised you. Do you trust them if they told you that they got the kids to school on time or that they made the deposit at the bank that you requested?

In order to better understand the ways in which you can develop trust, take the time to explore which of these six elements are present in your current relationship, within both of your actions. There are likely areas where you rate your partner more highly than you do in other areas. This is natural. No one is perfect, and it is normal that you trust your partner more in some areas than in others.

 

*Stay tuned for our article next week on ways to build and maintain trust.*

Written by Carly Clifton, Director & Registered Psychotherapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

It takes time to build up trust in a relationship. The best way to start doing that is by practicing transparency. Let us help you grow trust within your partner, whether solely in individual counselling or together in relationship counselling.

To learn more about how we can support you with building trust in your current and/ or future relationships, contact us at 647-961-9669 or info@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Drawing the Line in the Sand: Boundary Setting (Part 3)

One of the most difficult parts of setting boundaries for most is to actually say “no” and turn down requests. This is difficult because it can bring up feelings of guilt and perhaps inadequacy or the fear of hurting others’ feelings. It can be difficult to say “no” because you believe you are ‘not allowed to’ or that you do not want to take responsibility for the result of saying no. Usually, in my mind, there is a fear of “what if they get mad or upset?”

Some things to consider in saying “no” include:

– Waiting for the question or request from another person
– Not answering until you have decided your position on the request. You might want to say “let me think about that and I’ll get back to you”
– Using clear language. Instead of saying “maybe, it’s possible ..” say “No, I can’t do that”
– Limiting apologies unless if it’s necessary, because “sorry” holds less value if you use it too often
– Don’t make excuses or defend yourself as it may result in others offering solutions to the barriers you’re proposing and then you can find yourself in a spiral of lies
– Saying “no” without asking for permission or acceptance since it’s your right to say “no” to requests
– Accepting the consequences since the person on the receiving end may not like it and show it. They’re allowed to feel what they feel just as much as you are allowed to say “no” to their request

Now that have identified items to consider, here are a few examples ways you can say “no”:

– “No, thank you”

– “I have a policy of not making impulsive decisions. I need time to think about this before”

– “I appreciate that you’re asking me this. However, I am not able to help you with that”

– “This seems really important for you. At the moment, I don’t have the ability to put the attention into this as you will need, so I have to say no”

– “I can’t say yes at this time”

– “I don’t want to commit and then disappoint you”

– “I’d love to help; however, I’m feeling overextended and cannot provide what you need”

It can be helpful to practice this on people who you feel safe and close to before trying this in situations and with people you might find saying “no” to be more challenging with.

 

Written by Vivian Zhang, Clinical Therapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

To learn more about how we can support you with developing healthy boundaries and communication tools, contact us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com or 647-961-9669.

Drawing the Line in the Sand: Boundary Setting (Part 2)

Asking for What You Need

Boundaries are important for our own understanding of our limits and what we’re comfortable with. When our boundaries are violated, we tend to feel uncomfortable, upset, distant, hurt, or angry (to name a few emotional responses). An important part to setting boundaries is knowing how to ask for what we need.

Some important guidelines to consider before asking for what we need include:

  1. Setting a boundary with an action to follow (e.g. be okay with walking away from a relationship if the other person continues to violate your boundaries)
  2. Being clear, direct, and firm in the words you use
  3. Limiting the use of debating, defending or over-explaining yourself
  4. Knowing and connecting with your support network
  5. Staying grounded in what you need by not giving in if this is important to you

 

Now, you’re ready to ask for what you need. A simple way to structure our conversations in asking for what we need is to use the DEAR MAN strategy:

DEAR MAN” is an acronym, with each letter representing its own skill. As you learn and try to use these skills, you’ll find that having hard conversations becomes easier over time.

Describe the situation (“I’ve noticed that …”). Stay factual and reduce YOU statements

Express your feelings (“I’m feeling …”). Name the emotion and don’t explain the rationale behind your feelings

Assert your needs (“I need …”). Be concrete and direct in your language. Remember you can’t force anyone else to feel a certain way, so try to keep it focused on your needs versus their response

Reinforce the outcome (“And by doing this …”). What will they gain by meeting your needs?

 

Mindful. Take a minute to check in with how you’re feeling. Ask yourself “what’s going on for me?”

Appear confident. Body language and postures are super important, so make sure you are standing or sitting up straight with an open posture. What do you need to do to appear confident?

Negotiate. Be open to making and hearing suggestions. See if you and the other person can agree on something that works for both of you. What is/isn’t negotiable?

 

Learning how to stand up for ourselves while still respecting the needs and limits of other people can take a lot of practice.  Remember to be kind to yourself if some of these interpersonal skills feel newer. Many of us have years of unhealthy relationship habits or patterns to undo. You can and you will undo them – you are making a choice now to do things differently.

It is recommended that you try applying this with someone you trust and can make small requests with before you start using this in more challenging situations.

Good luck!

Written by Vivian Zhang, Clinical Therapist at Balanced Mind and Wellness Inc.

To learn more about how we can support you with developing healthy boundaries and communication tools, contact us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com or 647-961-9669.

Content from this blog post is adapted from DBT Skills Training: Handouts and Worksheets (Linehan, 2015).

Responsive Versus Reactive Parenting Styles

A Guide to Supporting You and Your Child When You Are Both Upset

 

Most parents can think of a handful of moments where they just “lost it” with their kids. These are moments when they were unable to keep their cool and be the bigger person in an overwhelming interaction where their child may have been misbehaving or experiencing a challenging emotion. When parents become activated or triggered by their children, they tend to step away from their preferred ways of parenting – calm, compassionate, curious, and wise. Instead, parents become emotionally flooded by their child’s behaviours or feelings and they react without much thought. Being able to know when you are triggered, attune to your feelings, and respond thoughtfully to your child in an overwhelming situation takes some practice – and it involves shifting your focus away from your child’s behaviour and towards your own internal experiences.

 

Reactive Parenting

 

A reaction is typically quick, without much thought, tense and aggressive. We react when the emotional centre of our brain is so activated that we go into fight, flight, freeze, or appease actions.

 

These reactions are unhelpful to yourself and to your child. They tend to be quick, avoidant, and based off of fear or anger. They give the message to your child that when you are overwhelmed, you make me overwhelmed, and I don’t know how to handle that. Alternatively, we want our children to learn that we can be a container for their emotions. We want to give the message that when you are overwhelmed, I will be there as a wise, calm, strong, and caring parent for you to depend on and learn from. When we deliver the latter message, children actually begin to learn how to manage their big feelings and communicate what’s going on for them more effectively.

 

Responsive Parenting

 

Responsive parenting involves self-awareness and an awareness of your child. It involves being able to hold your internal experiences and your child’s experiences at the same time. With responsive parenting, you are being mindful of how you may be triggered by your child’s behaviours, and how your feelings impact your perceptions of your child and how you are inclined to respond to them. Responsive parenting allows you to deal with your upset feelings, and then support your child through theirs. Here are 12 guidelines that can support you when both you and your child are overwhelmed and upset.

 

  1. Practice self-awareness. When you are particularly activated in a situation with your child, consider asking yourself the following questions: What emotion am I feeling right now? What am I feeling towards my child right now? What thoughts am I having about my child right now? Am I seeing them as a problem? What thoughts am I having about myself as a parent right now? Am I holding an expectation for myself or for my child that isn’t being met in the ways I hoped for at this moment? Can I be okay with that and work with my child rather than against them?

 

  1. Practice self-compassion. Self-compassion involves being empathetic towards yourself, especially during a difficult time. Acknowledge that your child’s behaviours are challenging, and that this is hard. Recognize that you are feeling angry, confused, overwhelmed, disrespected, or uncared for, and that those feelings are really hard to manage. Remind yourself that you are not a bad parent, but that you are going through a difficult moment.

 

  1. Remember that it is the relationship between you and your child that will build their capacity to regulate their feelings. When overwhelmed, children need to feel connected with their parents. By joining your child and coming together when they have difficult feelings, you fulfill their need for connection and closeness and you teach them to handle hard feelings in a safe and secure way. Your child will realize that they have an emotional container (you), who is bigger, stronger, wiser, and kinder.

 

  1. Give yourself a time out. If you are upset, it will be very hard for you to offer the connection, calmness, and understanding that your child needs. Remember that your child is not responsible for your emotions. If you are feeling angry, overwhelmed, confused, or disrespected in a situation, it is your responsibility to recognize what you are feeling and give yourself the care and soothing you need. If your child is not in immediate danger of hurting themselves or someone else, take a Time Out for yourself. Use this time to remind yourself that no matter how you feel, your child needs you. Remind yourself that you are bigger, wiser, stronger, and kinder than your child, which means that you can offer them patience, understanding, connection, and wisdom. You can also refer to #1 and #2. Return to your child when you are calm enough.

 

  1. Remember that your child’s emotional regulation abilities are less developed than an adult’s. When they are emotionally overwhelmed, their decision-making and behaviour control centre of their brain is deactivated. The way that they learn emotional regulation is through you. And they need a caring guide to calm them down enough in order to understand their emotions and come up with alternative ways of expressing themselves. Think of yourself as their external brain as they learn to emotionally regulate themselves.

 

  1. Maintain a calm tone of voice that is firm, reassuring, and kind.

 

  1. Look “under” your child’s behaviour. Every behaviour and emotion is a mode of communication. Young children don’t typically have the capacity to communicate their experiences verbally, particularly when they are experiencing a big, negative emotion. Ask yourself: What are they trying to communicate but are having a hard time communicating effectively? What emotion or feeling are they experiencing beneath their behaviour?

 

  1. Describe what you see and understand. It’s helpful to give children the language to describe and understand their experiences and feelings. It also demonstrates wisdom, empathy, understanding, and validation when you describe what you are seeing and what you are taking away from their behaviours. An example of this would be: “I can see that it’s hard for you that iPad time is over. Are you feeling mad? I understand that you love to play on the iPad and it makes sense that it’s disappointing to you that you have to stop.”

 

  1. Talk about your own feelings with respect to what just happened. This helps normalize and model effective communication about hard feelings. It also teaches your child that their behaviours have an impact on others. For example, you might say: “When you threw the book, I felt disrespected and hurt.”

 

  1. Stay with your child until they are calm enough.

 

  1. Avoid trying to “teach them a lesson” or correct their behaviour immediately. When children are emotionally overwhelmed, they are not in a place to learn or take in new information. Meet your child where they are at. You can let them know that their behaviour is not okay (e.g. if they are hitting, using mean words, etc.), but rather than punish or set a consequence, guide them through the emotional experience first (see #6-10).

 

  1. Talk about different ways of handling the problem next time. When both of you are calm enough, you can then offer your child alternative ways of communicating their needs and feelings with you. Next, help your child take responsibility for their part, and demonstrate taking responsibility for your part. Lastly, collaborate together on new options for how both of you can approach and deal with a similar problem in the future.

 

As parents, you may find it challenging to adopt these approaches in your relationship with your children. It might be helpful to seek out a family therapist to support you as you work on developing your responsive parenting skills. To learn more about how we can support you with parenting concerns, contact Nikki Sedaghat at nikki@balancedmindandwellness.com.

 

Content from this blog post is adapted from The Circle of Security Intervention: Enhancing Attachment in Early Parent-Child Relationships (Powell, Cooper, Hoffman, & Marvin, 2016) and Time-in Parenting: How to Teach Children Emotional Self-Control, Life Skills, and Problem Solving by Lending Yourself and Staying Connected (Weininger, 2002).

Understanding and Reducing Anger and Resentment

Many people seem to be carrying their anger and resentment wherever they go. Carrying these heavy, negative emotions weigh you down and demand considerable attention and energy. At times, this negative feeling can impact more than just ‘you’ – it can also impact your actions toward your career, your family, your friends, and/ or your romantic relationship.

Is it Wrong to Feel Angry?

The answer is no. Anger is a normal, natural emotion. In many situations, it’s a healthy and appropriate emotional reaction. Anger is an emotional response to a real or imagined “wrong” or injustice, but sometimes people get angry simply because things took a different course than they feel they should have. Anger can be destructive, as we can experience it as a push against present-moment reality. In a sense, we experience thoughts representing a refusal to accept what is.

Most often, anger is a secondary emotion. It can take shape instantly, and sometimes unconsciously, in response to feelings of being hurt, fear, and/or feelings of inadequacy. When most people experience these primary emotions, they feel vulnerable, and might withdraw, experiencing their feelings internally. This way, it is easy for most to avoid expressing these more difficult emotions, as they can make us feel ‘out of control’. For many people, this revealing of vulnerability creates so much distress that the underlying emotions are automatically transformed into anger, a feeling people are more comfortable with expressing externally/ outwardly. Expressing anger outwardly is often associated with a feeling of being ‘in control’, by projecting focusing on projecting feelings onto others, rather than processing the primary emotion.

Resentment

Resentment is closely related to anger. Resentments are negative feelings, basically ill will, toward someone or something as a result of a past experience. Resentment is the re-experiencing of past injustices. Some people hold resentments for many years, and choose to not let go of them. The trigger for resentment has usually left, while we still may hold onto the emotion connected to it. It is important to note that the stronger the resentment is, the more time you spend thinking about it, caught up in the anger connected to it.

Ultimately, the person holding the resentment is the one who suffers most. If you allow yourself to become angry or resentful whenever situations do not end up how you want or expect them to, then you are effectively giving control of your feelings to others.

Here are some tips on how to address feelings of anger and resentment in more healthy and helpful ways:

1. Practice identifying and allowing yourself to feel the primary emotions underneath the anger. 

2. Be conscious and present with your anger and resentment. Notice the thoughts, push and pull of different feelings and urges, and/or physical sensations.

3. Identify how you may have contributed to the situation(s) that you are angry or resentful about. Look inward and identify an alternative perspective of the situation which makes you feel anger.

4. Try an alternative method of expressing anger and resentment. Share these feelings with supportive individuals whom you trust. Journal or write about them. Choose a physical outlet, such as going to the gym, walking/ running, going to yoga, etc.

5. Learn and practice relaxation and self-calming techniques. Examples include deep breaths, mindfulness, meditation, and/or detaching from social media.

6. Although challenging, it can be helpful to create an opposite shift in urge and action. Try treating those you feel anger and resentment toward with kindness and compassion. This shift can create a circular effect in that it can also influence their actions in a positive way toward you.

7. Do not give into acting as an avenue for others’ anger and resentment. Try not to get stuck in the toxicity of interactions filled with negative emotions. Disengage from negative, unhelpful thoughts and actions.

8. Remind yourself that you cannot change the past. Acting in anger and resentment will not change or undo what has upset you. Accepting this will enable you to be more present and less stuck in the past.

If you find that you have difficulty letting go of angry feelings, consider consulting a mental health provider to move forward with anger management counselling. Angry thoughts and feelings can be isolated, or they can be part of a mental health disorder that professionals can treat effectively with psychotherapy. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), among other therapies, can help to work toward enhancing skills for regulating emotions.

If you have any questions or would like help with working to increase your mental wellness, call our Director, Carly, at 647-961-9669, or email us at info@balancedmindandwellness.com

The Greatest Gift(s) You Can Give Your Relationship this Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day holds a lot of weight for many couples. The expectations and pressure that come with this holiday dedicated to love leads couples to focus on the “perfect” way to shower their partners with romance. While gifting roses and chocolate covered strawberries are lovely romantic gestures, discovering deeper sources of intimacy and connection in your partnership this Valentine’s Day might be one of the greatest gifts you can give to your relationship. This post offers 4 suggestions to connect with your partner in deeper ways.

 

  1. Reflect on the Positive Aspects of the Relationship

It’s important to take the time to acknowledge and celebrate all the positive aspects of your relationship. Showing gratitude for all the small and big ways that you and your partner contribute to your relationship prevents you from taking each other for granted.

Consider:In what ways do I enhance our relationship? Be specific. In what ways does my partner enhance our relationship? Be specific. What parts of our relationship do my partner and I typically excel at? What was a recent relational issue that we handled well? What is it about each of us individually and as a couple that makes these successes possible?

What answers did you have in common? Which of your partner’s answers surprised you? Can you thank yourselves and each other for the ways that you contribute to your relationship?

 

  1. Explore Each Other’s Love Languages

Everyone has a preferred way to show and receive love; that is, we all speak different love languages. Gary Chapman, the author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, writes, “We tend to speak our primary love language, and we become confused when our [partner] does not understand what we are communicating. We are expressing our love, but the message does not come through because we are speaking what, to them, is a foreign language.” The goal is to understand each other’s love languages and learn to express love in your partner’s language.

Chapman highlights that there are 5 Basic Love Languages:

  1. Words of Affirmation
  2. Acts of Service
  3. Receiving Gifts
  4. Quality Time
  5. Physical Touch

This Valentine’s Day, consider taking the Love Language Quiz with your partner. If you’d like to explore the concept of love languages a little deeper, consider reading The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lastsby Gary Chapman with your partner.

 

  1. Ignite the Spark: Open up Communication about Your Sexual Desires

Sexual intimacy can be one of the most vulnerable experiences between partners. Partners may hold back on expressing their sexual desires and needs for a variety of reasons. Consider reflecting on your sexual needs and desires and exploring this with your partner. Remember that sexual intimacy is a mutual experience, and each partners’ preferences and vulnerabilities must be validated.

4 Ways to Talk about Sexual Desires:

“It really turns me on when you/we/I…”

“It would feel really good if you/we/I… Can I show you?”

“I’ve been thinking a lot about … Is this something we can try together?”

“If I’m not feeling particularly sexual, how can I communicate this to you in a way that doesn’t make you feel unwanted/unloved?”

Valentine’s Day can bring on pressures and expectations around what sexual intimacy should look like. Put the “shoulds” aside, and think about what would feel satisfying to you and your partner. This invites you to think about mutual pleasure and satisfaction, rather than trying to fit into an external sexual script. To discover more about intimacy in long-term relationships, consider reading Mating in Captivity: Unlocking Erotic Intelligence by Esther Perel.

 

  1. Get to Know Your Partner’s Inner World

We are individuals before we are partners. Sometimes our individuality (e.g. values, preferences, interests, etc.) is neglected in the context of our relationships. How can you invite your partner into your inner world and allow them to know you in new ways?

3 Suggestions to Invite Your Partner in Your Inner World:

  1. YouTube Swap. Each of you get to pick a few YouTube videos (10 minutes or less) on different topics or forms of entertainment that interest you (e.g. comedy sketch, Ted Talk, sports clip, etc.). Watch each video together, switching between yours and theirs. Feel free to discuss why you chose the videos you did, or enjoy the videos without talking.
  2. Plan your own dream date. Take your partner on a date that feels satisfying and exciting to you.
  3. Download the Gottman Card Decks App. This app suggests meaningful questions for partners to ask each other on a variety of topics, in order to get to know each other in deeper ways.

 

You and your partner may find it difficult to connect with each other in these ways. Addressing the challenges you and your partner are facing together is another great gift you can give your relationship this Valentine’s Day. It might be helpful to seek out a couple’s therapist to support you through this journey.

To learn more about how we can support you with relationship concerns, contact Nikki Sedaghat at nikki@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Supporting Someone with Mental Health Issues

When it comes to talking to a loved one about mental health, it can be very uncomfortable. As a society, we are still living with a lot of stigma when

 it comes to mental health. There is not enough information out there to help us know how to start; however, we are making some great strides in mental health awareness, for example, with Canada’s annual Bell Let’s Talk Day this past Wednesday.

 

Try these R-E-S-P-E-C-T tips to support your loved one with mental health issues:

 

Realize it will take them time to understand where you are coming from.

When you approach the topic of mental illness with a loved one you know/ suspect are struggling, they might be having a hard time coming to terms with their mental health condition. Some might experience “anosognosia”, a symptom where one does not have self-awareness of the condition they are experiencing. Their acknowledgement of your concerns may take time. This TED Talk by Dr. Xavier Amador might be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXxytf6kfPM

 

Educate yourself and others.

It can be really helpful to speak to a professional about your concerns and what you are observing. While you may not be suffering from mental health symptoms as a primary patient, you certainly experience secondary symptoms, which are equally deserving of support and conversations with a professional.

 

Say to yourself “it’s okay to feel what I’m feeling”.

It can be really challenging for family members to support a loved one with mental health concerns. Caregiver burnout is a feeling of mental, physical, and/or emotional exhaustion due to the demands of providing care. It is important to have support if you relate to feelings of this ‘caregiver burnout’. Your loved one needs you to be healthy in order for them to be healthy.

 

Patience is a virtue, and definitely hard to practice.

Not only will you need to be patient with your loved one, but it is also important to be patient with yourself and the difficult feelings that might come up for you. We want ourselves and others to stop feeling bad right now, and we want the solution to our problem to come more quickly. Remember: recovery usually takes longer than we thought it would, and it can become frustrating… but you can push through. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.

 

Expect that there will be good days and bad days.

In supporting a loved one with mental illness, it is important to know that healing is not a linear path. There are ups and downs and some days feel like you are taking 10 steps backwards instead of forwards.This can trigger feelings of anxiety and/ or depression. When we are not intentional in caring for our mental health, we can be more susceptible to experiencing bad mental health days. Remind your loved one of the simple self-care items they could try to get back on track.

 

Crisis plans are important.

A crisis plan is a plan that is discussed in calm moments to decide which supports (personal and professional) to access and how we can keep our loved ones safe. Here is a great template to use: https://www.maine.gov/dhhs/samhs/mentalhealth/rights-legal/crisis-plan/home.html.

 

Teamwork makes the dream work.

Think about who to involve in your “team” to support your loved one and you as well. List out people like mental health professionals (e.g. psychiatrists, family doctors, therapists), peer support (e.g. groups, crisis helplines), and family and/or friends. It can be a lot easier, and less painful, if we all contribute to one’s healing together.

 

To learn more about how we can support you in managing your stress and feelings of anxiety about your loved one, please contact Vivian Zhang at vivian@balancedmindandwellness.com.

Please see our previous blog post for some more tips on how to talk about mental health.

Relationship Issues: Let Your Guard Down

One of the most common relationship issues is not being able to let your guard down. We become defensive when we don’t want to expose our feelings or ‘true self’. It’s time to be vulnerable and stop pushing people away! How? Read the following tips to being more open and stop shutting out opportunities!

1. Find the right people to trust

Have people let you down in the past? Chances are, this will prevent you from opening up to new people now and in the future. However, the harsh reality is: not everyone is like that, and there are other great people you can rely on… if you let them get to know you. That ‘if’ is key. Communication is key to building relationships and trust. Start looking for those people to build the relationship you want!

 2. Identify your comfort zone… and get out of it

There is comfort and security in keeping to yourself, but now it’s time to experiment by taking risks. Slowly, start exposing yourself by doing things you would not normally do. Introduce yourself to someone that looks friendly. The first step is not easy. Chances are, the other person will be glad you did!

3. Let your feelings show

Don’t be afraid of sharing your feelings with your friends and family. Letting them know what you are feeling and thinking can be a great release, and they can give you valuable advice. This doesn’t mean saying every single thing that’s on your mind – just let go of those worries and stresses you really don’t need to hold onto! Relationship issues often stem from not sharing or communicating enough, even with friends and family. 

4. Stop avoiding being vulnerable

Building a ‘tough’ appearance by holding everything in can be exhausting. You can be fiercely independent and full of emotions. You don’t always have to be on your toes. Stop equating expression of emotions as weak and helpless. Most people see and feel strength in showing vulnerability.

5. Be forward

There is no better way to let your guard down than by just being straightforward with others about your feelings and intentions. Try it – it really is quite liberating! After spending so much hiding your emotions, being straightforward with yourself and others can be very rewarding.

6. Stop being pessimistic and critical

One of the main reasons why many people put up walls is because they are afraid of getting hurt and used by people. This becomes a pattern where we make assumptions and form false perceptions of people who might be honest and sincere. People aren’t always selfish – they are often genuinely interested in you. Let others get to know you on another level – let yourself connect!

7. Give people a chance

Why not take risks and give people a chance? Let them in! It might be hard to do and you might get hurt at some point, but you can also reassure yourself that expressing your feelings or emotions with others is worth it. Risks are meant to be made, and all relationships have some element of risk!

Whether it is at work, in a romantic relationship, or with family and friends, let your guard down! Stop experiencing the same relationship issues when you are the one with the simple fix!

To learn more about relationship counselling and how to work on letting your guard down in specific relationships, visit https://www.etobicokepsychotherapy.com/relationship-counselling-etobicoke/ , call Carly at 647-961-9669, or email carly@balancedmindandwellness.com

 

Relationship Issues: Does Your Partner Know the Real You?

Often, the cause of many relationship issues, is lack of communication. A main reason this happens is because we are worried about or ashamed of what the other person will think if we say what is actually on our mind. This is when we hold back and don’t necessarily show or express our values and beliefs to our partner. So what does it mean to be the ‘real you’ with your partner?

– Would you rather show your partner a ‘false you’ and keep a perfect image? Or would you accept your partner knowing the real, imperfect you, not having the most favourable at all times? If you turn the tables, what do you think your partner would want?

– Would you rather remain guarded and difficult to read? Or would you rather let yourself be vulnerable to your partner? What do you think your partner would want?

It can be intimidating to think deeply about these questions. Being your true self is risky: it opens up the door to rejection. But, ask yourself this: if you haven’t shared your inner feelings or been totally honest, then has your partner accepted a ‘false you’? Honesty and authenticity makes it possible to have a deep connection, supported by acceptance and understanding. Chances are, if you take the risk, your partner will, too. It takes courage to do so, but you will experience relief and a deeper sense of intimacy once you take the plunge.

Being yourself is associated with higher self-esteem and satisfaction in relationships. It is not only associated with benefits for yourself, but also for your relationship. While it is important to make a conscious effort to share more with your partner, it is equally important for you to encourage them to share more with you. Exposing your ‘true self’ to your partner leads to increased trust over time. If you worry about trust or have relationship issues related to it, then consider this as a step to gaining a more secure attachment. Trust drives overall relationship satisfaction and commitment.

Building a relationship in which you can comfortably be yourself may be a great start to a satisfying partnership. Communicate with each other, take a risk, and be yourself.

If you feel stuck and unsure of how to approach sharing this part of you with your partner, relationship counselling with a professional can be extremely beneficial.