Creating Trust in a Relationship

Worth reading! From Off the Web!

“I never dreamed he would cheat on me!” 


Love may be intoxicating, but trust is what makes it safe. Trust is based on a shared understanding about what each person in the relationship expects of the other.

The wise couple develops an explicit, concrete agreement about what is and is not okay in terms of interactions with, and especially attractions to, people outside their relationship. When they have absolute confidence that the other person will stick with the agreement, they each relax and trust.

Here is How to Negotiate a Healthy Couple Contract:

  • Be Open About Your Expectations
  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

Read the rest HERE:

Creating Trust in a Relationship  By Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

The Single Best Piece of Marriage Advice Ever Given

Worth Reading! From Off the Web!

I Think there is some good points in this article!  Especially:

“If you’re smart about it, you’ll rise above the inevitable setbacks and stresses of a shared life, and you will make it your lasting mission to bring out the absolute best in your spouse.”

How do you do this?
You have to banish contempt. Contempt is an acid, and it etches ugliness into love. To banish contempt means that when your husband has given in to his least attractive tendencies, his most fearful, or fearsome; when your wife has lost her focus, her patience, or her heart … This is the moment when you must see through the annoying, demanding, complaining, failing, faltering wreck in front of you—and find the strong, kind, fascinating, functional person you know your spouse wants to be.
You have to learn to be a critic without criticizing. The origin of the word critic is the Greek word kritikos, which—strangely enough—does not mean “able to pick at flaws incessantly” but does mean “able to make judgments.” This is a crucial difference. The kind of criticism that helps marriage is the kind you learned in English class: studying something so well that you can find its hidden patterns and its deeper truths. If you apply this kind of criticism in marriage, it is actually possible to stop a spouse in mid-spiral (sometimes even in mid-sentence!) and say, “Excuse me, no offense, but I don’t think you are being the person you want to be.” The pronoun is vital. The difference between “who you want to be” and “who I want you to be” is the difference between encouragement and nagging: spark and ash…”
If we don’t develop a sense of grace and an open loving heart, then we should at least let our partner go. It is a very crude, immature, and base character who thinks the only hold he or she has on the other is to keep them feeling insecure about themselves.

Read the rest here –

How to Communicate Effetcively

Communication Skills using the

Awareness Wheel

I remember reading somewhere that the average person has about 3000 thoughts per minute, along with the corresponding emotions, expectations, and conclusions. I don’t know how they came up with 3000, but lets assume it’s true – That’s a lot of stuff going on! If you want to be clear and congruent in your communications, it’s essential that you slow this process down. You have to learn how to check in with yourself.

One of the tools I use with my clients in therapy is called The Awareness Wheel. Once mastered, it helps the user understand their experiences (awareness), and, if desired, communicate clearly to someone else.

Each experience can be broken down into the following five categories:


  • Sensing or the Facts- what you have seen or heard. They are behavior descriptions, as if seen from a video camera, without evaluation or ascribing meaning.
  • Thoughts – what you tell yourself the facts mean. They are the interpretations, beliefs, conclusions, or stories you tell yourself about what is going on.
  • Feelings or Emotions – Keep it simple: Happy, sad, mad, or afraid.
  • Wants or intentions– What you think will fix the problem.
  • Doing or ActionsWhat you actually do.

Becoming a better communicator

  • Perception Check: This is my guess, am I accurate?  Sometimes it is a good idea to test, clarify and alter your interpretations by moving back and forth between the sensory data and your interpretations. (FACTS and THOUGHTS)

A common problem in relationships that often occurs is the result of confusing FACTS with interpretations about what is happening. Our interpretations generate emotions, and we can be caught up in our anger or hurt because our interpretation is different from our partners. The model helps you to clarify interpretations and emotions by going back to the original sensory data (what you saw, heard or felt) and checking each other’s interpretations. You may or may not get to agreement on the meaning of what you witnessed, but it’s helpful to know what each of you is thinking and perceiving.

  • Use Responsible “I” Statements  

Speaking as though we know the “other’s” intentions, feelings, or thoughts is offensive. By using “I” statements, we show that we are speaking responsibly about something we should be an authority about – ourselves!

  • Reflective Listening or “Mirroring”

Reflective listening consists of slowing the conversation down, while assuring your focus is on being a good listener and not your defense! After a sentence or two, you, the Listener, repeat back in your own words what you think your partner is saying. You then ask if you heard them accurately and completely. You keep trying this until your partner says, “Yes, I feel understood.” Then you switch, and you say a few sentences to your partner, and they repeat what they heard back to you.

Exercises using the Awareness Wheel

  1. Get to know yourself. Journal regularly about your experiences using the Awareness Wheel. Learn the difference between FACTS (what you have seen or heard); THOUGHTS (interpretations/ stories I tell myself about the Facts)); EMOTIONS (body-feelings – Happy Sad Mad Afraid); WANTS (goals or intentions – what you think will fix the problem) and the ACTION taken. Keep in simple.
  2. Practice expressing your Awareness Wheel, through writing first, to another person. Remember to use responsible “I” statements. Ask yourself:*** “ How can I say this in a way that the OTHER person is most likely to hear me?”

For example:

“When _(Facts)_   I thought    (Thought/Belief)    and I felt  (Emotion)  . What I’d like is  (Request/Want)What do you think?” (invites sharing)


“I felt _(Emotion)  when you _(Facts)_ because  (Thought/Belief)  , and I want _(Request/Want)_. What do you think?”

For example:

Let’s call my clients Joe and Jess.

Jess comes home after a frustrating, but productive day at work. She gets out of her car, and notices, again, the dead spots on the lawn (sensory data). She scowls (feelings- anger) and thinks (thoughts), “How many times do I have to ask Joe to fix the sprinklers!!!” (Wants and actions).

She enters the house and hears a football anouncer blaring from the TV (sensory data). She roles her eyes (feelings: sad/disappointed)  and thinks, “He’s not even with the kids. It’s like I have THREE children instead of two.”

Jess goes into the kitchen to find her mother feeding the kids their dinner, and is so thankful that she at least has her mother!  Jess thinks she wants a divorce.
Because Jess has worked with me for a while, she decides to not act on all these conclusions, but goes to her room to journal about first. 
After summarizing the last 5 minutes (as written above), she asks herself : 

“ok, so WHATS the issue?”.

I don’t feel supported;  and I’d like a more equal partnership. 

She practices her approach in the journal first, remembering the advice :”How can I say this in a way that Joe is more likely to HEAR me?”

Can I talk to you about some things? (Invites participation). 

Ok. This is just my perception, ok? When I got home today, I noticed the dead grass again, then I walked in to find you watching TV while mom was feeding our kids. (SENSORY DATA). And I Thought to myself ‘Joe isn’t taking our talks seriously!’ … because – I mean – how many times have I asked you to help me take care of the house better? How many times have I told you that the kids need more time with you (prior Wants and Actions)??  Naturally, I am incredibly frustrated (Feelings)! I’m seriously getting to the point of giving up (Want), and I may want a divorce.(future Action).

When Relationship Conflict Turns into Fighting

Worth reading from Off The Web! At psych central :

AngryCoupleSilloeutteConflict is inevitable as soon as we expand our world from me to we. Once two people decide to commit to each other; once they start to share responsibilities and living space and dreams, there are bound to be issues that require either negotiation or accommodation. People who love each other and who are willing to work on problems together generally have the capacity to solve whatever problem comes their way. But even the most mature and most skilled problem-solvers sometimes get stuck. What started out as a difference of opinion or a problem to be solved turns into a fight that goes nowhere.

At that point, neither person understands what is happening. One or both may feel unreasonably attacked, blamed, misunderstood or abandoned. The usual responses to fear — fight, flight or freeze — kick in. The original problem has now been compounded by hurt and anger.

When that happens, one of the following underlying issues is often at fault. Unless it is addressed directly, the couple will find themselves fighting about things large and small that are really just forums for battling yet again about the more fundamental but unnamed issue.

Triggers from the Past.

Some people are so wounded from their experiences growing up that anything that looks at all like a repetition of family dynamics makes them shut down or run away. Adult children of alcoholics, for example, are understandably sensitive when their partner has a drink or two. Their partner may have a perfectly reasonable approach to alcohol. But a drink in his hand triggers old fears, old resentments and old behaviors.
Less obviously, if someone grew up with a parent who easily lost her temper and perhaps got violent, all it takes is for the partner to raise their voice a few decibels to send the other person into a defensive mode.

Unresolved Trauma for One or Both.

People who have been traumatized by a horrific event, especially when it involved betrayal or pain by a trusted person, sometimes learn to dissociate as a method of self-protection. By emotionally separating, they did manage the unmanageable. But the very thing that kept them safe during the trauma is now in the way of being a present and involved partner when there is an important problem to be solved.

Developmental Issues.

Some couples do fine as long as their life remains stable. But life rarely remains constant. Developmental shifts like the birth of children, job changes, kids leaving home, death of a parent, etc., need to be recognized and taken into account or they can block effective decision-making. This is especially true if several life tasks pile up. If the couple finds themselves in regular fights, it may be that there is unresolved grief or anger or fear connected to the change.

Lack of Role Models.

We are living in a world where there are more and more adult children of single parents and divorce. Other young adults have grown up without a second adult in the house due to early death of a parent or chronic illness or addiction.
Yes, as long as kids have supportive and caring adults in their lives, they can be okay regardless of circumstance. Kids’ resiliency and creativity is often amazing. But many young adults today did not have the experience of regularly watching two adults have disagreements and work through them. They have not witnessed the process of healthy negotiation and healthy decision-making.

These young adults have to figure it out all on their own. Hopefully they will do so together. But sometimes they respond to conflict with the usual reactions to fear: Fight, Flight or Freeze. None of those are helpful in solving a problem.

Generational Loyalty Conflict.

There are families or origins that make it almost impossible for their adult children to be positive and committed adult marriage partners. In such families, the individual has been programmed to be loyal to parents first, spouse second. This can take a variety of forms: The adult child is always expected to be “on call” for his family of origin and to drop everything to respond to the parents’ needs. The parent(s) insist that the adult child always side with them if they disagree with the spouse. The older generation expects to be consulted about any major decision that the young couple makes. The older generation expects financial support regardless of whether they need it or if the younger generation has their own obligations or desires.
When a partner has to choose between his or her parents and partner, everyone ultimately loses.

Dovetailing Dysfunctional Patterns.

The partners’ dysfunctional coping styles fit together so well, they can neither see them or break through them. A classic example is the pursuer-distancer relationship. She has learned that in order to get her needs met, she needs to pursue her partner. He has learned that in order to feel that he has some control, he needs to take some space. The more he separates, the more frightened she gets, so she pursues even more insistently. The more she pursues, the more he pulls away. And around and around it goes. Whatever problem needed to be solved is lost in the dance of closeness and distance.
Yes, people can avoid conflict if one or the other partner accommodates or gives in too much, but that usually results in resentment. People can also steer clear of conflict by avoiding talking about anything that is really important. In that case, they will drift apart. But there is another way.

When a couple regularly finds themselves in the same fight and can’t resolve it on their own, it is often helpful to get some outside help. A therapist can see the issues they are either blind to or haven’t resolved. Although it is sometimes helpful for each person to engage is individual therapy to deal with unresolved personal history, it is not only appropriate but essential for both people to be involved when they are in a committed couple. It is important for them to learn how to identify each other’s old issues and be supportive of each other in their efforts to move beyond old defenses, to trust, and to confront their problems together.

Mature couples aren’t alarmed by differences but see them as places of growth. By talking about a difference of opinion, style, or approach to a problem and by working at it, they learn more about each other and develop their mutual problem-solving skills. With each problem they resolve in a way they can both accept, they become a stronger couple.

More Articles

How To Revitalize Your Relationship

Why Knowing Yourself Helps All of Your Relationships

4 Steps to Creating Healthy, Happy and Fulfilling Relationships