5 Affirmations Happy Couples Give Each Other Often

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

We are regularly bombarded with images and messages about “true love.” They all seem to add to something like this:

  • You have one true soul mate out there
  • When you meet, it’s love at first sight
  • From there, well… it’s happily ever after

Sure, this is an oversimplification but, by how much? Each of us, through no fault of our own, get some very unproductive messages about relationships. Movies, books, and social media often present us with the image of what a relationship should be. This can result in big problems when real life doesn’t follow the fairytale script.

There is a very basic, yet powerful way to counter the “true love hype” in this age of social media, memes, and smartphones. What is it?

Affirmations!

What is an Affirmation?

An affirmation is defined as a positive assertion.                   

An affirmation is a conscious act. It is a mindful statement of truth.

We each have anywhere from 150 to 300 thoughts per minute. Most of the tens of thousands of thoughts we have daily are subconscious. The majority of these are negative, and most of the time we are not even aware of our negative cognitions. When we begin to pay attention and choose to mindfully be aware of the ticker tape of thoughts going on in our mind, we can then counter the negative thoughts with positive affirmations that are more helpful.

While everything else ricochets around your brain, an affirmation has a calming effect. It provides much-needed certainty among the many conflicting thoughts. Affirmations are helpful in relationship terms, as well as in individual. A steady practice of giving your partner and your relationship positive affirmations feels like a strong foundation against the changing, unpredictable winds.

When we affirm ourselves, our partner, and our relationship, we absorb the positivity. We feel it. We mean it.  We live it.

5 Affirmations Happy Couples Give Each Other Often

1. Our lines of communications are always open and always open to change.

Healthy communication is a foundational part of a happy relationship. Remember that good communication is a process — not a destination.

2. I love you as you are.

Too often, we stack up our partner against other people. Even worse, perhaps, is when we stack our partner up against some future version of them. We can love our partner as they are — while also supporting them as they evolve and grow.

3. I take responsibility for my words and actions.

No more defensiveness and passive-aggressive deflection. We will think before we act and speak and after we act and speak. If we make a mistake, we will repair that mistake and take responsibility for it.

4. I forgive when necessary and I apologize when necessary.

Hard times will happen. The goal is never perfection. When navigating rough waters, we will handle the struggle with maturity, grace, and love.

5. My respect and trust are unwavering.

No matter how our connection evolves — even if that connection dramatically shifts — respect and trust is non-negotiable. These are guiding principles for all our actions.

There’s Something Else Happy Couples Do

Leave nothing to chance. Accepting that sometimes you may need a bit of help is another way to affirm yourself, your partner, and your relationship.

Individually and as a couple, we must accept that sometimes we do better if we get outside help and support. This may mean reading books on healthy relationships, attending a workshop or weekend retreat for couples, or seeing a couples counselor. Reaching out for help with your relationship doesn’t mean your relationship is failing, it affirms that your relationship is important to you and you want to make it better and happier for you both.

The patterns we develop over time often mask what we choose not to see. To stay a “happy couple” means we must sometimes face some “unhappy” truths. We identify them, address them, and do the work to make different choices. All in all, there’s no other affirmation that shows love more clearly.
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Jill Baumgarner is a licensed professional counselor intern with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you and your partner want to find new ways to affirm your relationship, contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Don't Agree? Can't Relate? How You Can Gain More Empathy For Others

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By Lauren Ross, MA

Are you having trouble relating to others? Understanding your partner and other loved ones? Communicating with your coworkers? Have you started to wonder whether you might be the common denominator in your relationship misunderstandings?

Every relationship comes with its unique set of challenges but relating to others shouldn’t feel foreign. Cultivating more empathy will enhance your relationships and encourage you to forge strong connections with other people. Use the following tools to increase your empathy levels and build successful relationships.

Immerse yourself in fiction

Immersing yourself in fictional stories can be incredibly beneficial in cultivating more empathy. Reading books and watching television shows or movies allow us to explore the lives of others. When we embark on these fictional journeys, we form attachments to characters, begin to see the world through their eyes, and walk a while in their shoes. Engaging in the fictional lives of characters is almost like practicing for “the real thing” – the more you cultivate your imagination, the more you cultivate your ability to empathize.

Practice active listening

Do you find yourself listening just to solve an immediate problem? Does partner accuse you of constantly interrupting or cutting them off? Do you hear this from your friends and family, too? This might be because you don’t give them the opportunity to fully express themselves.

When we don’t truly listen to another person, it’s impossible to empathize with them. Next time you find yourself in an argument or discussion with a loved one, practice listening without interruption. To gain full comprehension, repeat back to them what you understand about their wants and needs. You can resolve conflict more efficiently and build stronger connections when you listen for understanding.

Don’t shy away from curiosity  

Don’t be scared to ask questions when you meet new people, or to obtain a deeper understanding of someone you already feel close to. The more you inquire about the people you meet, the more easily you’ll see things from a variety of perspectives. Being curious decreases judgment while increasing empathy.

Step outside of your comfort zone

The more places you visit, the more people you’ll meet. The more questions you ask, the more expansive your worldview will be. Try stepping outside of your comfort zone and helping people you wouldn’t normally find yourself interacting with.

Instead of living inside of your own bubble, step into a new environment and devote your energy to another person. Remember that, ultimately, we all carry biases, and that it’s important to question them. Challenge these biases to empathize more with one another.

Empathy takes practice, and while some of us carry this trait more naturally than others, we can all benefit from cultivating it.  
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 Lauren Ross, MA

Lauren Ross, MA

Are you looking for a counselor who can help you improve your relationships with others? Lauren Ross, MA, a professional counselor intern and marriage and family therapist associate with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin, can show you ways improve your communication with your partner and others. Contact her for scheduling at 512-270-4883, ext. 107, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Relationship Recess: Why Playing Together Promotes Staying Together

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By Sarah Wilson, PhD

For most kids, playing together at recess is the best part of the school day.

They can let down their guard, give their brain a break, and allow their muscles to work out pent-up tension.

As an adult, you don’t have recess like you did when you were a kid. But you can still steal away from life to enjoy a little playtime. Especially with your partner.

In fact, making “recess” a part of your relationship routine can actually strengthen your bond.

Here’s how.

Keeps You from Getting Bored

Couples often report that they divorce or end their relationship because they have grown apart or have gone in different directions. Relationship boredom may play a big role in this distancing.

Boredom often leads to dissatisfaction and dissatisfaction can lead to breaking up.

To safeguard your relationship from the downfall of boredom, infuse some pep into your routine.

For example, consider trying a new restaurant, maybe an ethnic food that neither of you have tried before. Or, plan a miniature golf outing with your partner. You can even go all-in and learn a new hobby or skill by taking a class together. How about dance lessons, a new language, or an exercise class?

The goal of trying new things isn’t to win or be the best, even if you’re super competitive. It’s to laugh and have fun together. Plus, the actual activity isn’t nearly as important as the attitude in which you participate.

Helps to Bridge the Good Feeling Gap

Humans work in a unique way, associating feelings with things and activities. You might associate grocery shopping with the feeling of urgency. Or, connect contentment to watching your favorite movie.

Playing together with your partner will provide the same sort of connectivity.

When you enjoy the activity you’re doing together, you experience good feelings. Your amazing brain will connect those good feelings to your relationship in general.

Essentially, doing fun and novel things together gives you both a rush of positivity. In turn, this positive rush washes over your relationship and covers you both in optimism and good feelings and emotions.

All these good feelings can help you resolve conflict more effectively, too.

Promotes Happiness in General

Trucking through the same routine day after day can eventually wear on you. Routine is good, and you may thrive on it, but everyone needs a bit of variety in their lives. Especially in our relationships with our partners. We need arousal and stimulation.

Not only can a new activity stimulate brain cells that are stuck on autopilot, but it can make you feel genuinely happy.

You might not be absolutely enamored with the activity itself. More than anything, though, a new activity can spark a flame that is at risk of fizzling out.

Unsurprisingly, this overall feeling of happiness often spills over into your relationship. When you are a happier person, you tend to be more pleasant and more satisfied with your partner.

It’s a Win/Win for Both of You

Starting out, establishing a fun relationship recess might seem too activity-focused. Meaning, you are both more concerned with enjoying the activity than enjoying each other.

Here’s the thing about a relationship recess, it has little to do with the actual activity. As mentioned before, it’s not the activity that makes the difference. It’s the spirit behind it.

Ultimately, it’s a win/win for both of you. Even if one of you isn’t a huge fan of the activity. And although your partner may “win” in convincing you to try something new, and vice versa, both of you are champions.

By playing together, you’re creating emotional intimacy and cultivating an intense connection.

You might even find yourself saying, “I never thought I’d be doing this!” And in the next breath, discovering you’re really having a great time.

Plus, the beaming smile on your partner’s face will be worth it.
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Do you and your partner need some help putting the "fun" back into your relationship? Dr. Sarah Wilson, LMFT Associate, can help you develop strategies and goals to bring the spark back to your relationship. Contact her at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin at 512-270-4883, ext. 104, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Fight Fairly: Do You Know How to Do It? Take These Steps

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Some couples seem to have continual conflict while others want to avoid it at all costs. Other couples fall somewhere in the middle of the conflict spectrum. While intimidating and uncomfortable, conflict is an inevitable part of any healthy relationship. The key is to fight fairly when you and your partner have conflict. Take these steps to fight fairly and have more productive arguments:

Stay relevant

Try to avoid “kitchen sink” arguments where you throw in “everything and the kitchen sink.” This tactic is a defense mechanism and only serves to escalate conflict. It is not productive and won’t lead to a successful conclusion. If your fight is about finances, stick to finances. Don’t include in-law issues, parenting problems, or anything else if that’s not what your argument is about. Leave the past out of it as well, and don’t rely on generalizations about your partner’s character. Resolve the issue at hand and if something else crops up, agree to set it aside, and address it separately at another time.

Don’t interrupt

When a fight gets heated, it can quickly escalate into a screaming match where you both want the last word. Instead of viewing your conflict as something negative, try seeing it as a conversation where both of you have the same goal – to understand one another. Let your partner speak without interruption and ensure they allow you to do the same. Take turns and listen to understand your partner, not to formulate your rebuttal or response. Instead of interrupting and interjecting comments to get your point across while your partner is speaking, wait your turn and converse with them as you would outside of a conflict situation.

Attack the problem, not your partner

View the fight as a conversation with the same end goal. To fight fairly means, rather than attacking your partner, you work together to tackle the problem. Remember your partner is not the problem. Accept that it takes two people to have a conflict. Your partner may contribute to the problem at hand, but they are not the sole cause of the situation. Realize that you may be at fault, as well. Be willing to own your part. When you begin to play the blame game, your partner will shut down or play it right back. Blaming, criticizing, and returning a defensive response, will not get to the root of resolution or compromise.

Be open, be honest

When stating your wants and needs in a relationship conflict, be completely open and honest, and speak with kindness. Don’t expect your partner to assume what you want or need from them. Yes, sometimes you must clearly communicate your needs. Your partner is not a mind-reader. Remember, to communicate what you DO want and need. DO NOT list the things you are not getting from your partner and expect them to figure out what you do want. If you’re a people pleaser, try challenging yourself to be vulnerable and truthful to get your needs met. Alternatively, ensure you allow your partner to do the same. Ask and genuinely listen to your partner’s wants and needs without being presumptuous. Ask questions and be curious to be sure you are understanding your partner. Just as they may not realize what you need from them, you may not realize what they need from you.

Watch your body language

Actions speak louder than words. Regardless of what you’re saying, it won’t matter unless your body language matches. Kind words uttered through clenched teeth don’t add up. Your body language will carry more weight in that situation. Don’t roll your eyes, act exasperated, make huge sighs, and scoff or laugh-off what your partner has to say. Eye-rolling, scoffing, sarcasm, and laughing-off something are all signs of contempt toward your partner, a dangerous road to go down during conflict or at any time. Focus on your tone of voice, even try to talk in a lower level than you normally would. Arguments that involve sarcasm or passive aggression are almost always counterproductive.

Compromise

Relationships require compromise, and even during times of conflict. Compromise is about listening and engaging in respectful dialogue. Compromise is not about giving in or giving up to avoid or end a disagreement. You and your partner certainly don’t have to agree all the time, but you each need to, at least, seek to understand the other’s point of view. Research shows that two-thirds of a couple’s conflict is about unresolvable problems. This is the reason learning to compromise and continuing dialogue is so important to a successful relationship. You will likely compromise over and again on the same topics of disagreement in your relationship. Similarly, if you realize that you were wrong, put your pride aside, and own your part of what is going on between you and your partner; stay humble and apologize when you know you’re at fault.

You don’t have to agree with everything your partner says or does, and disagreeing does not mean you love them any less. So often we view conflict as something scary or negative when it’s a healthy part of any relationships. The key is to learn to have conflict and disagreement in a way that is productive and doesn’t harm your relationship. Continue to maintain a healthy and balanced relationship by learning to fight fairly and reframing your view of conflict.
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Linda Ramsey, MA, a counselor at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin, helps couples learn to communicate effectively and productively even during times of conflict. Do you and your partner need some help with this? Contact Linda at 512-270-4883, ext. 106, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How Healthy Boundaries Provide Just the Right Amount of Distance to Connect You

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Navigating close relationships can be tricky.

Especially close relationships with family members.  Often, you come together for winter holidays, graduations, baby showers or other milestones. And all you want is to gather for some low-conflict, person-to-person bonding. One big happy family. But before long, you may find that your family experiences what many others do.

Your father inevitably crosses a line at the Labor Day barbecue, your sister betrays a confidence at Christmas dinner, or your mother-in-law becomes a critic at your daughter’s June wedding. And eventually, your family’s gatherings become an experiment in all the ways you can get on each other’s nerves.

Why?

What’s blocking the path to family harmony?

Honestly, lots of personalities exist in families. Everyone has a shared history but there are also many individual hang-ups, opinions, issues, and backstories at play.

Sometimes the lack of boundaries creates enmeshed family units that have a hard time dealing with each other, unless they are all thinking the same way and deeply connected to the status quo. Other families guilt and blame each other (or certain members) for the trials of the entire group. Still, others maintain a hostile or disrespectful environment despite attempts to come together.

You don’t really need to manage all of that. However, a strong grasp on healthy boundaries could help you manage your own expectations and enjoy your family as much as possible.

Healthy Boundaries: what they are and how they can make your relationships better

Healthy boundaries? No doubt you’ve heard of them. They sound really good to most people.

Limits and parameters seem just the thing to help keep the peace and to promote the harmony you long for, especially in some of your more trying relationships.

“So, great,” you think, let’s “set some boundaries.” Easy, right?

Maybe. But if you’re like so many people who’ve grown up in families that made do without them, then setting firm boundaries may be a foreign concept.

That’s okay. With some loving persistence and knowledgeable guidance, boundaries can help you and yours relate confidently with ongoing connection rather than conflict as the primary goal.

  • What do healthy boundaries do exactly?

The beauty of setting boundaries is that they help you maintain personal values, respect, and emotional safety.

Sometimes families think the blood connection means anything goes. No punches are pulled. Too much is said. But that perspective can lead to families that become more and more toxic, damaged, or distant as time goes on.

Healthy boundaries can be relationship life preservers, keeping you safe in a flood of family upset, drama, or undue influence. Holding to your heathy boundaries will still allow you to reach out and maintain those relationships that are important to you.

  • What healthy boundaries are not

Keep in mind, too, healthy boundaries are not about making demands, power struggles, punishment, or shaming each other into compliance or silence. Limits in relationships aren’t concrete walls meant to stop you from connecting. They are more like hedges or picket fences that invite conversation and interaction, with just enough separation between you to make you think about whether it’s wise to enter another person’s space and prevent trampling each other’s values.

If the boundaries are respected, the hedges can stay low. If not, boundaries afford you a safe point of negotiation. You can clearly decide the nature of your relationship and interaction going forward.

Many couples, siblings, blended families, and groups of in-laws discover that scheduling some time with an objective, experienced family therapist or counselor is advantageous as you work to become more aware of the parameters you want to set in your relationships. Learning to recognize and honor the limits of relationships makes the entire family feel safe with their histories honored and their needs respected.

Healthy boundaries work if you remain curious, compassionate, and cooperative

In addition to tuning into what respectful, comfortable boundaries look like, you’ll become more capable of recognizing boundary breeches addressing them, and handling relationship repair without creating a lot of drama in your family. This holds true in your other relationships, as well. 

How? Healthy boundaries require promotion, protection, and encouragement of the individual, as well as the collective. Why have a family reunion if uniting feels emotionally exhausting or unsafe?

  • Stay curious. Ask questions and listen to each other. Does everyone feel valued and accepted? Is there manipulation, aggression, or resentment among you? Who has a voice and who doesn’t?
  • Setting healthy boundaries takes some courage and awareness. You’ll need to be brave enough to change the status quo and vulnerable enough to ask for cooperation.
  • Setting boundaries is tough work sometimes. You may have to bite your tongue at times to honor each other’s choices. Boundaries may need to allow for less family tradition and more individuality. Negotiated guidelines may need to address how to best deal with unacceptable behavior in the most loving way possible.

Most of all, boundaries allow everyone to take care of themselves and to be themselves, without pressure to accept behaviors or situations that are personally intolerable or becoming part of a mind-meld that doesn’t meet your needs. 
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Are you ready to put healthy boundaries in place in your relationships? Are there other changes you would like to make in your relationships? Linda Ramsey, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern and licensed marriage and family therapist associate with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. She works with couples and families to help them building and maintain healthy connections. If you are seeking support and guidance as you establish healthy boundaries for yourself, contact Linda at 512-270-4883, ext. 106, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page.

Always Ranting and Reacting? How to Ensure More Effective Communication in Your Relationships

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By Carlene Lehmann, MA

While effective communication may come easily for some, it is far more difficult for others.

What about you?

Does it seem that communicating with others is increasingly difficult and disrespectful? Do your disagreements feel less like interacting and more like overreacting? Are your rants making their way into your everyday conversations more and more?

You’re not alone. Communication can be tough for many of us, especially when our emotions take over.

What gets in the way?

Communication is often complex because the way information is shared varies from person to person, depending on a variety of factors. The unique nature of our relationships, our family of origin, our pasts, our circumstances, our communication styles, as well as our emotional needs, impact how we communicate. Moreover, a lot of this happens under the surface, in split seconds, without our awareness. And maybe, too often, adversely affects what we say and how we say it.

Learning to be a more effective, compassionate, and respectful communicator might be one of the best investments you make in yourself.

Finding ways to tune into your own issues and needs while employing proven, effective communication tools is vital. You can fulfill your need to be heard and understood while capably influencing and engaging the people in your life.

So, instead of unproductively ranting or overreacting, consider using these communication tools:

Be an active listener

Effective communication is a two-way street; you can’t be a good communicator by insisting on being the only one speaking. You need to find a happy medium of give and take in a conversation.

Finding a way to really tune in is crucial because listening demonstrates respect and self-control. It honors the other person’s point of view and their right to speak without being dismissed, interrupted, or shut down.

However, be aware, active listening is not quietly waiting to speak. Active listening is not simply hearing the other person’s words. Active listening is not formulating your response while the other person talks. It means ensuring you understand the message the other person is trying to relay.

Active listening involves hearing the import of what is being communicated to you, asking questions for clarity (not debate), summarizing what you think they mean, and asking if you have the correct understanding before responding with your own thoughts.

Focus on your nonverbal communication

What you don’t say is just as important as what you do, so it’s important that your actions and behaviors match your words. Try to establish rapport and connection with your body. Lean in, look at the person speaking in an interested and open manner, relax your body, nod in understanding.

Avoid rolling your eyes, shrugging, and folding your arms. These communicate disrespect, disinterest, or even disdain. Communication is meant to connect not create distance. Be careful to show that you want to do more than make your own point. Signal that you are willing to be fully present and engaged physically and mentally.

Take responsibility for your reactions

Effective communicators are responsive rather than reactive. Take charge of the way you behave and reply to others. Don’t allow someone else’s differing, offensive, defensive, or divisive position to determine your ability to communicate well.

You own your responses and you are responsible for your reactions. When you practice self-control and mindful awareness you can slow down the temptation to react without thinking.  If you’re feeling attacked or overwhelmed, it’s okay to take a step back from the conversation and temper your response with introspection. Then, reconvene when you feel emotionally grounded and able to hear and share effectively.

Be clear and concise

When you state your needs, it’s crucial to be as straightforward as possible. Do your best to leave little room for interpretation so that the other person thoroughly understands your intentions. If you’re having a difficult conversation, it can be intimidating to state your needs with this much vulnerability. However, misunderstanding can keep you and your conversation partner from ensuring your needs are met and impede vulnerability in future interactions.

Just as you would want the whole truth when you’re listening, do all you can to present the full picture when you’re speaking.

Agree with the feelings, if not the perceived facts

It’s not your responsibility to agree with everything that’s presented to you in a conversation. Conflict happens. You and your friend, sibling, parent, spouse, co-worker, etc. won’t always see eye-to-eye. That is totally okay. Instead of agreeing with the facts, try relating to the feelings.

For instance, you don’t have to sanction their conclusions, but you should try to understand the feelings and emotions. You don’t have to agree with the position of your partner, family, friends, or co-workers, but simply try to understand and voice compassion. You may share similar feelings of concern with the topic being discussed. Start there.

The factors contributing to your opinions don’t have to be agreed upon, but normal, human feelings can provide common ground.

Effective communication is vital for a happier, more connected life.

If you don’t feel confident in the way you communicate with others, you can take steps that can lead to more effective communication skills. Read books or watch videos on effective communication and improving listening skills. Join a group that works to improve speaking and leadership skills. Or, seek guidance from a professional who can help you uncover your communication weaknesses and support you as you learn new tools and skills for effective communication in all your relationships.
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Carlene Lehmann, MA, is a marriage and family therapist associate at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. She helps couples and individuals learn effective communication skills, emotion regulation skills, and how to improve relationships with partners, family, friends, and co-workers. Contact her at 512-270-4883, ext. 105, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page.

Revenge, Rage, or Restraint? What To Do With Anger After Infidelity

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Recovering from an affair can be excruciating.

It doesn’t matter if you were the one betrayed or the one who did the betraying. Healing can prove to be a difficult journey. And along the path to healing, you will likely feel a great deal of anger after infidelity.

Sometimes, your anger might feel like a need for revenge and other times it could even feel like a rush of humiliated rage. While these feelings are natural, dealing with them in a healthy way might not come easily.

Here are a few tips on what to do with your post-affair anger.

Uncovering Your Anger

If you’re like most people, you probably agree that anger doesn’t often seem to need uncovering. Rather, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

You feel mad, right? Yet, there is more to anger than simply being ticked off.

Anger is often an expression of hurt. In terms of an affair, anger is usually the emotion standing center stage like a powerful singer, but it is not the painful emotion driving the song.

Emotions like fear, hurt, guilt, or inadequacy remain hidden behind the stage curtain, but they are the ones actually writing the harsh notes escaping your angry lips. In other words, anger is simply the emotion that upstages your other emotions most of the time. But those other emotions deserve more attention and anger needs more management.

So, how can you deal with the red-faced musician hogging the stage? How do you find relief?

Understanding Why Anger Isn’t the Problem

To be clear, anger is a normal reaction to an affair, both sides of an affair. An affair is traumatic. So, it’s only to be expected that intense feelings bubble up.

Feeling anger is okay. It’s all okay and it’s all natural.

Still, left unchecked by your internal management system, anger can forge a destructive path. It can be harmful to your mental and physical well-being, it can also be harmful to those around you, as you may say or do things in anger that ultimately destroy the relationship.

In short, what you do with your anger remains the issue. Not the anger itself.

Accepting Your Anger After Infidelity

Changing the past isn’t doable. This means that erasing an affair or its fallout isn’t possible either.

But, changing the future is within your control. And, believe it or not, anger has a lot to do with that.

When it comes to anger after infidelity, it’s important to let it come to you as it will. Respect your feelings and adopt a self-validating approach to these uncomfortable emotions.

You feel them for a reason, so allow yourself to feel them completely.

As well as feeling and validating your anger, make a commitment to expressing it. The hard part is knowing how to express your anger in a harmless way for you and others.

How to Express Your Anger

Expressing your anger might feel like you’re doing something wrong. It might even feel a little forbidden. Yet, when expressed appropriately, it can be very healthy.

What does it mean to express your anger appropriately?

For starters, avoid reacting towards another person in the heat of an angry moment. In fact, intense anger often requires a release far away from other people.

If you’re dealing with a whirlwind of toxic pent-up emotions, write it out. You don’t need spell check or even worry that anyone will be read it. Just write what you feel. Feel free to burn it later after you’ve released what you needed to.

Many times, anger is so overwhelming that you have to physically release it. Things like screaming into a pillow, hitting an old couch cushion, or a brisk walk for few minutes all help to release that steam.

If you’re having a hard time dealing with anger after infidelity, do not hesitate to reach out for help from a counseling professional. A counselor who works with couples and individuals in the aftermath of infidelity can help you navigate this tough time, and support you on your path to healing and helpful expression of your emotions.
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Jill Baumgarner, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. She works with couples and individuals to help them heal after relationship infidelity. Contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Why Self-Awareness Matters For The Life You Want

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By Roy Faget, MA

Who’s the most important person in the world for you to know? Not your boss, not your lover, not your soul mate. The answer is - YOU! Self-awareness is fundamental to personal growth, good relationships with others, and success in life. Self-awareness is no small thing. Lack of it can break you. Some spiritual traditions even teach that the biggest cause of suffering is not knowing what is going on inside yourself.

We all want to improve our relationships, our occupations, our income, our health, and our happiness. Unless we build our self-awareness, we risk failure before we even start.

What Is Self-awareness?

According to writer and expert Daniel Goleman, who popularized the concept of emotional intelligence, people who are self-aware have these abilities:

  • Emotional Self-Awareness. Those who are self-aware recognize their emotions and the impact these emotions have on their lives.
  • Accurate Self-Assessment. Self-aware people can accurately identify their strengths and limitations.
  • Self-Confidence. People who are self-aware know their worth and capabilities.

Though we may think we know these things about ourselves, we often fail to see that emotional triggers are making us act defensively. We may overestimate our abilities and bite off more than we can chew. Or we may underestimate ourselves and assume that we are less capable than we are.

Some research on self-awareness suggests that although most people believe they are self-aware, only 10% to 15% of adults are truly self-aware.

Self-awareness and Your Personal Growth

Self-awareness won’t change your basic temperament. Knowing that you’re closer to the introvert than to the extrovert end of the spectrum won’t suddenly make you the life of the party.

But gaining more emotional self-awareness can help you understand why you feel the way you do in certain situations and suggest better ways to cope.

For example, do you feel anxious in a crowd, but your sales job requires frequent attendance at conventions and trade shows? It would be helpful, then, to understand the reasons for your anxiety before you try to learn the skills you need to cope with your emotions.

Or, you may decide that the stress associated with sales is too much and find a position more compatible with your personality type.

Becoming self-aware opens you to growth by making you aware of how your assumptions and thought patterns can limit you. Knowing who you are gives you the power to choose your perspective. Then, you can act consciously instead of just rolling with the punches life throws at you.

Self-awareness and Your Path to Success

Cultivating self-awareness gives you the insights you need to achieve success in all areas of your life. As a person who is self-aware, you will understand your own thoughts, beliefs, and emotions better. You will also become aware of how others perceive your attitude and responses and be able to make adjustments to avoid any problems or misconceptions.

Self-awareness and Your Strengths and Weaknesses

Knowing your strengths will let you use them to get through difficult situations. Understanding your weaknesses will help you pinpoint what you need to do to improve. Facing your strengths and weaknesses with maturity lets you take the bad with the good, forgive yourself, and move forward.

Self-awareness and Understanding How Others See You

Understanding how others see you is key to success. Unless you understand how you are perceived by others you risk having them misunderstand you or alienate them.

Self-awareness and Working with Others

People who are open to the contributions and ideas of others are not only better team players, they’re better leaders. Examining your own actions and thinking about what you personally need to change to solve a problem makes it less likely that you’ll point fingers at others. Self-awareness leads to taking responsibility.

Take the Next Step to Knowing Yourself

To grow personally and achieve success, the best place to start is self-awareness. Knowing your temperament and personality, your emotions, your strengths and weaknesses, and understanding how others see and react to you gives you a sense of who you are. It also shows you a vision of who you want to become.
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Roy Faget, MA, is a counselor at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. He works with couples and individuals to help them understand their emotions and behaviors. If you would like to improve your self-awareness, contact Roy at 512-270-4883, ext. 109, or request an appointment with him on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Is Your Second Marriage Doomed to Fail? Best Ways to Beat the Odds

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

When you marry the first time, there’s usually a special feeling that it will last forever.

When you marry for the second time, however, that feeling may not be there because you’re keenly aware of that your first marriage didn’t last.

Sadly, divorce statistics don’t paint a more encouraging picture for those who have been married before. Some 67% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

With those odds in mind, is your second marriage just doomed to fail? Not necessarily, if you are aware of possible obstacles that may arise, and tools to use to help beat the odds.

The Obstacles to Success

In general, second marriages face various hurdles that first marriages don’t. What are some of those?

Three formidable ones are:

  • Mistrust due to betrayal in the previous marriage

Many of those getting married a second (or third) time are unprepared to enter a new relationship when they do. Often, they are on the rebound, scarred by a previous betrayal, and simply have not allowed themselves enough time to recover from their ordeal. Without having reflected on their experience, and learned from their experience, they may repeat the same mistakes.

  • Living in the shadow of the former spouse

Those getting remarried to someone whose beloved former mate has died may find themselves in a dilemma, living in the shadow of the former spouse. On the receiving end, some feel like they’re constantly being compared to their new spouse’s ex-mate. On the inflicting end, others find they can’t stop talking about their former spouse, eventually causing resentment in their new mates.

  • Tension with extended family and friends

When two people unite that already have extended families and groups of friends, there are a lot more players who can make things stressful and challenging. Blending families, parenting strategies, divided loyalties, long-established activities—there are a number of opportunities for conflict and rivalries. Sometimes, it seems impossible to stay out of the crossfire. Under that kind of barrage, it’s no surprise that communication can break down and adversely affect their relationship.

How to Beat the Odds and Make Your Love Last

Clearly, a second marriage is not a casual undertaking. Despite the odds and obvious obstacles, though, many remarried couples have managed to find lasting love and happiness.

How can you achieve that, too?

  • Nourish trust

Open and honest personal communication between you and your new spouse is vital for nurturing the trust in your second marriage. During these talks, learn to be vulnerable and freely share your concerns and feelings with one another.

If your current spouse was betrayed by their former mate, you can take deliberate steps to demonstrate you’re different. For instance, although you’re not the one who committed the betrayal, you could agree to limit private communication with the opposite sex and with your former mate(s) letting each other know when you will or have had contact with them.

  • Create unity

It’s unrealistic to expect that either of you will simply forget your previous marriage(s). There are memories attached to every relationship we have in life. You can’t just erase them. What you can do, though, is create new and unique memories that build your new identity as a couple by regularly spending time together and focusing solely on each other.

If your new spouse needs to talk about their former mate, don’t hastily conclude that they’re comparing you to them. Instead, when you listen with compassion and empathy, you may learn that the conversation can help you draw much closer to your new mate.

If you’re the one finding yourself thinking or talking about your late ex-mate too much, try to focus on your current spouse’s endearing qualities. Reflecting appreciatively on what you love about your present partner can do much to help strengthen the unity of your new marriage.

  • Practice empathy

You may feel awkward around each other’s old friends and extended family for a time. Try to put yourself in the others’ shoes—both those of your family and friends and your new spouse.

First, show empathy when your present mate feels analyzed by your friends and family members. Moreover, show consideration for your spouse’s feelings when you spend time with old friends so that your mate doesn’t feel excluded.

And, second, show empathy for your family and friends, allowing them time to adjust to new circumstances. After all, your marriage situation changed, so your friendship/relationship dynamics could change as well. Some may not welcome that with enthusiasm.

Most importantly, don’t give up easily. The strength you need to make your second marriage last doesn’t develop overnight. You must approach the situation with a mindset of endurance and a firm determination to stay together.

Many people are proving that they have learned their lessons the first time around. Some have found that putting this knowledge to use with the support of an experienced couple’s counselor, has helped to be even more successful at building a happy and long second marriage.
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Jill Baumgarner Headshot.jpg

Jill Baumgarner, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Her counseling focus is helping couples through challenging times in their relationship. Contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.