Life is chock full of choices. There are choices that are self defeating or even self destructive. Then there are choices that are life generating. It’s our choices that make up our life. It’s our choices that make the difference in having success in our relationships. Even when we feel we don’t have a choice, we do.

Choices & Their Impact On Relationships Part 2

Life is chock full of choices. There are choices that are self defeating or even self destructive. Then there are choices that are life generating. It’s our choices that make up our life. It’s our choices that make the difference in having success in our relationships.

Some choices don’t feel like choices because they are entrenched bad habits that our culture is saturated with. Couples sitting in restaurants, both on their phones instead of making conversation is just one of my least favorite. Watching hours of tv & not turning it off or hitting pause in order to talk. Another bad habit is carrying on both sides of a “pretend” conversation only in your own head without risking a real conversation. All of these are choices about not doing the work of sharing who you are…choices that go unrecognized because they are all too ordinary habits. 

Let’s examine the choice to people-please others. People-pleasers go along to get along & the pay off is that they are well liked. The other side of the people pleaser coin is that they can be untrustworthy because they say what makes you happy & are afraid to risk the truth. People pleasers need to exchange the value of being liked, being nice for the value of being more authentic & therefore more trustworthy.

One way to tackle the people pleaser bad habit is to experiment by new choice would be for the closing your eyes so they don’t focus on your partner. Try to dig down inside of yourself & see how you feel about something first before clocking your partner. Another choice to interrupt people pleasing would be to read The Disease to Please by Harriet Braiker which will improve your self-awareness.

People-pleasers are not the only ones who choose to avoid hard topics like sex or money. There is the choice to talk about hard things which is one of my favorite things to rattle on about. The choice to be more authentic about the things that really bother you so that you are truly known by the people you love.

So many people leap into relationships, as if a relationship will rescue them from their own lonliness. Your life vastly improves when you accept responsibility for clutching at a relationship. This clutching is the choice to believe a relationship is the way to solve your own emptiness inside instead of figuring out how to stand on your own two feet & be less dependent which is life enhancing. 

Desperation is the Mother & Father of bad choices. LET ME REPEAT THAT: Desperation is the Mother & Father of bad choices.

When you are chasing your partner anxiously and if they seem to have a pattern of distance then you need to decide look at yourself & figure out how to be a more secure attacher. Make a choice to educate yourself by reading Attached by Amir Levine. Information is power & can help you recognize your part in the problems in this repetitive pattern.

You have the choice to change a negative narrative about your partner. Is a negative narrative a tired, bad habit that you’ve begun to find comforting…How might you change it? Begin by asking yourself what you might get out of the comfort of blame? Listen to episode #83 my interview was all about making more positive choices in how you think about your partner. Often our anger is manipulative in order to shift blame to someone else & let ourselves off the hook..

Blame lets us feel self-righteous & keeps us comfortable. There is the choice we all make too often to stay comfortable instead of the risk to be uncomfortable.

The choice to take the easy way out is part of staying comfortable. No one can grow unless they are willing to be uncomfortable. It is always uncomfortable to begin something new.

Just one example of a negative narrative in their head about their partner……”She/He doesn’t understand me.” is just one example.  It’s a whole lot easier to tell yourself a story that makes you the victim or the one who deserves sympathy. Instead make the choice to explore whether or not you’ve done enough to make yourself understood. Also make the choice to know that being understood does not mean being agreed with. 

Make the choice to handle/cope with disagreement. So many power struggles in couple it’s a whole lot easier to tell yourself a story that makes you the victim or the one who deserves sympathys are about winning. It’s learning to listen to an opinion you don’t like that improves your ability to negotiate. There are a lot of partners who are very Black/White without any grey or 1/10 without 4,5&6. This attitude is very Top Dog, meaning I am right & will win. Negotiating is a skill that helps couples last for decades. When 2 voices are recognized then it’s more likely 2 people will be happy & there will be less resentments secretly piling up, which always guarantees trouble down the road.

The choice to deal with resentments instead of letting them pile up in a secret stash that you then feel entitled to cash in which creates an ugly destructive distance in relationships. Dealing with resentments requires the risk of being uncomfortable & talking about what bothers you. You have to decide being uncomfortable is worth it to co-create a relationship that works for both of you. This co-crreation choice leads to relationship longevity.

Another Top Dog choice is overreacting people who suffer a lotting with anger which is most often a selfish way to get what you want. Responding instead of reacting means seriously taking into account someone else’s opinion. Disagreement while messy is honest & is a normal part of any healthy relationship. 

The choice of learning to make disappointments bearable…. or to feel every disappointment exquisitely like the fairytale where the princess felt the pea under a giant pile of mattresses. Part of this choice is to have a lot of expectations about how life is supposed to be, the more “shoulds” are stuck in your head the more unhappy you will be. Asian culture is more accepting that hardship is a part of life. Flexibility in accepting this truth about life is critical to success. My favorite quote about exactly this is from Abraham H. Maslow “People who suffer a lot, often times do so, because they are cognitively wrong about what they think they have a right to expect.”

Anxiety/Obsessiveness is so powerful most people feel they do not have a choice about the burden of it. In truth there is a choice to do the hard work of interrupting the power of fears. You can wear a rubber band on your wrist to shift your attention or work at bringing yourself into the here & now by focusing on your 5 senses which brings you back to the present. Fears are usually about the past or the future.

There is the choice to stay stuck in boredom or to explore the other side of boredom which is creativity. It’s too easy to feel bored with your partner and not consider how to introduce some creativity into your life. In so many couples one person goes sideways into having an affair which adds the sparkle instead of sharing there is a problem with their partner. Exploring together how to have more novelty in a life hamstrung by routine is a part of all relationships.

All bad choices, bad habits are comforting & soothing in some way, like eating junk food. We  do things to make ourselves feel better. Take a moment to consider how easy it is to fall into the habit of criticism. 

When we are judgmental or critical of others we get this sneaky pleasure of feeling superior in some take a moment to consider how easy it is way. Being critical is another way to feel like the Top Dog. So what is a different choice to ward off criticism? Try being curious, maybe someone you’ve judged as being terrible in what they wear is someone who spends their money on traveling instead. Maybe you’ve decided your partner is annoyingly anxiety ridden, have you wondered what their growing up was like?…… Perhaps with an alcoholic unpredictable parent.

I want to talk about HOPE as a choice. As a therapist I am often about the business of installing hope, when someone is in major depression it seems as if there will never be an end to it especially if figuring out the medication is complicated. Hope is crucial for all of us during hard times. People also make the mistake of hanging onto hope when it is misleading & sets them up to be victims: the abusive partner who promises never to do it again is just one example. Grief becomes gigantic when hope is extinguished; the daughter’s dead body is found, recognizing your dream of being a film maker or actress is just too difficult to turn into reality…..Hope is a tricky commodity and requires a lot of reflection in order to know when the choice to let go is the right one. We all fool ourselves with hope.

My ultimate favorite choice is the choice to talk about hard things. Too many couples make the choice to avoid problems like sex, money or I feel so disrespected because they don’t want to “hurt” the other person. This is short term thinking because when human beings are hungry they get their needs my ultimate favorite thing to talk about met. 

The choice to find the courage to be more authentic about the things that really bother you is NEVER a mistake because it is the only way always to be truly known by the people you love. When you value being more authentic then you are less likely to go sideways & have an affair to get your needs met.

One tip for greater bravery to talk about hard things is to start with your own experience: “This is really hard for me to talk about, I don’t want to hurt you but I need to tell you how things are not good for me in our relationship. I really need you to listen & not interrupt or yell at me. I want you to know how things are so we can make them better.” 

Relationships flourish when there is a foundation of respect. Couples get divorced/break up when respect dies. Choices that feed disrespect are the need to be Top Dog/win, criticism, stashing resentments, people-pleasing, & squelching disagreement. Respect builds on truthful authenticity, negotiation, responding & curiosity. Everybody makes some bad choices, it’s impossible to erase bad choices from our life. It is the process of paying attention to having choices that makes you mentally healthy. Bad ha I hope that helps people grab onto a little more couragebits are not choiceful, they are shortcuts that comfort. Examine patterns that take a toll on your relationship, it’s patterns of bad choices that are a big problem.

[STINGER] My challenge for you today is to pick one bad habit that you need to interrupt to be a better person for yourself & pick one bad habit to improve your relationship. Ask your partner to listen to the episode & then have a conversation with your partner about what bad habit bugs them the most.

Thanks for visiting my podcast today. I’ve created a self help book for kids 4-10 to help them understand their amygdala called Dancing with Your Lizard Brain for sale on amazon for $7.75. 

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About the Rhoda Mills Sommer

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