Trapped in a bad relationship?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Can't stop fighting?

Trapped in conflict?
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Hate your relationship but can’t leave?

Do you feel trapped in an unhappy situation? You know this relationship is not meeting your needs, but you’re not sure that anything else would be any better. One thing we find in marriage or relationship counseling is that people tend to repeat the same mistakes over and over. If you don’t discover what the problem is, it will keep happening.

Sometimes the problem is one partner or the other. If it’s you then you need to change. If at your partner, well, in that case, your options are limited. You can’t change someone else; only they can change themselves. What you can do is change the situation, change yourself, or learn how to accept the situation. You may decide that this situation needs to end.

Very often, however, the reason the relationship is unhappy lies in the space between two people, the way they relate to each other. There are certain things that people do, which keep the relationship an unhappy one. Therapists often see people who end one relationship, subsequently, start a new relationship, only to find they’re having the same problems in their new relationship.

Here are some things that may be happening in your current relationship which you need to learn how to handle if you are ever to have a happy relationship.

Avoiding conflict does not resolve the problem.

In some relationships, one or both partners are conflict avoidant. They don’t want to argue about things, and as a result, nothing ever changes. Conflict avoidance is an especially difficult problem when the conflict avoidant partner never tells their partner what they want.

Conflicts are part of life. A lack of conflict in a relationship does not mean it’s a perfect relationship. It’s not disagreements that damage relationships, but the way in which two people resolve those disagreements. Work on being able to express your disagreement with your partner in a way that they can hear. Work on finding win-win solutions rather than engaging in protracted disagreements over who is right and who’s in control.

What attracted you, may be pushing you apart.

Finding someone with the qualities you lack can be very attractive. Being with a person who is different from you can be exciting. But after you have been in the relationship a while things change, your needs change, and the qualities that brought you together may be the very things that are causing the problems.

That strong partner made you feel safe in the beginning but ends up being controlling. Your partner may have seemed like a lot of fun and helped you get out of your shell. But now you realize you have always been very responsible, and that fun person now looks irresponsible.

You don’t ask to have your needs met.

Don’t think that if your partner truly loved you, they would do things to make you happy. Very few people can read minds. Being deeply in love does not make you a mind reader. People who will not ask for what they want, create impediments to a good relationship.

You can’t win by beating up your teammate.

When aggressive, achievement-oriented people get together, they often end up competing with each other. When you are both hostile and want to win, you end up locked in a constant struggle for dominance and control.

When one partner assumes the one up position, there’s a high risk that the other partner will become resentful. The best solutions to partner disagreements are learning how to create win-win situations in which both people get their needs met. Compromising does not mean both people need to give up or lose something.

Playing the blame game and finger-pointing damages relationships.

Couples in unhappy relationships often begin to blame each other. When one person is criticized, their response is to criticize their partner for other issues. If you want to have a good relationship, learn to tackle one issue at a time. If you did something wrong admit it. Work on making it right. Pointing out all the things your partner has done wrong does not excuse your error, and mutual recriminations poison the relationship.

Needing to be right requires your partner to be wrong.

Insecure people need to always be right. They never want to hear that anything they have done was less than perfect. They often have lots of excuses as to why it’s not their fault. This “right fighting” can lead to endless episodes of arguments. Often there is no resolution. Many couples argue over things for which there is no correct answer. One person prefers one beverage while the other prefers a different beverage. The inability to allow your partner to have a different opinion than yours has resulted in couples locked in an eternal mortal combat.

Needing the last word keeps the argument going.

Once you’ve had your say, stop talking. Trying to always get in the last word doesn’t make you right. Keeping at it results in a relationship with only one topic, “who is right?” Make an effort to hear your partner out.

If you can’t hear what your partner is saying or feeling, there’s no communication.

Lots of couples show up for marriage counseling wanting to improve communication. What that often means is one of them wants the other to do something. Communication is not about being right or about arguing your partner into doing what you want. True communication in relationships furthers understanding. Make sure you’re listening to understand what your partner means. The missing part of communication is often a failure to understand what the partner is feeling.

If what you been doing or saying has been making your partner feel unloved or disrespected what’s needed is not to prove to them how much you love them or how correct you are. The best way to improve your relationship communication is to listen for the feelings behind the words that are being said. Once you get the feelings, the exact words are less important.

How many problems do you have in your relationship?

In distressed relationships, it is important to take a good look at the things you could do to improve your current relationship. Until you have learned good relationship skills, whether you stay or leave, any relationship you get into is likely to have the same problems.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

Why can’t you say something?

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Old phone

Bad Communication.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Do you find it difficult to speak your mind?

For good or bad some people have little or no difficulty saying what is on their mind. Others find it next to impossible to speak up even when they have something really important to say. Not expressing yourself can impair your relationships, both personal and professional.

Inability to speak up can be the result of a number of things you have been telling yourself. It is often a case of low self-esteem or it can be a sign of a more serious anxiety disorder. Try the corrective tips below. If after you try these things you are still struggling with speaking up consider working with a counselor to reduce your anxiety and improve your self-confidence.

What are some of the common reasons people hesitate to say what they are thinking and how can you overcome these issues? How many of these excuse do you use to keep from saying your piece?

You are silent because you don’t have the facts.

It pays to be sure you have your facts straight. Telling yourself this too much inhibits your ability to communicate with others. Unfortunately, people never have every possible fact. Sometimes you need to form an opinion based on the information you have. You also will have times when you need to express your preferences and feelings. There is no such thing as the “correct” way to feel or think. Some preferences may make your life easier but your preferences are, after all, your desires. If you don’t express them you make it unlikely that your wishes will be taken into consideration.

Negative self-talk inhibits expression.

Do you have a running commentary going on in your head? One that questions your judgment, tells you to stay silent because you could be wrong? Negative self-talk can lower your self-esteem and reduce your ability to take action. Tell those runaway thoughts to stop running away with your self-esteem.

Early in life, many people fell into the habit of calling themselves “stupid” or “dumb.” You may have developed this habit because others called you names or this may have arisen because you felt embarrassed about making mistakes. Repeatedly calling yourself names results in your brain trying to make these things come true. This self-created commandment “though shalt not express your thought” gets to be the default setting in your brain.

Positive affirmations can help alter this mental conversation. Tell yourself that your thoughts matter. “I have the right to express my feelings.’ Look for positive affirmations that improve your self-confidence and self-esteem.

Thought-stopping can also be used to get those unhelpful thoughts to leave your head. When your child does something that you do not want them to do we quickly tell them to “stop that.” Learn to tell that voice in your head, the one you are creating through your negative self-talk, to be silent and see what happens.

Your need to be liked gets in the way of being you.

People who only like you when you agree with them are pretty shallow. Mature relationships leave plenty of room for two people to disagree and still be friends. People who matter will like you for you. If you start speaking up in an assertive not aggressive way, you will find that others will respect you and want to hear what you have to say.

If your life is full of people who are only your friends if you agree with them, take another look at how healthy these friendships are. Some people, family, in particular, you may need to just accept that is the way they are and leave it at that. Other people are not worth you’re being fake to yourself to be liked by them.

You don’t believe what you have to say is important.

You are an important person, just like every other person. You will never know what kind of valuable contribution to a conversation you might make until you make it. Those people in your life should want to hear what you have to say. Some of those closest to you have been waiting for you to express yourself. Close friends and partners may have been wondering why you were not willing to share what you thought with them.

Become a part of the conversation and see how much closer and more connected you will become.

You are deathly afraid of conflict.

Avoiding conflict by not being and not feeling is no way to be. You won’t avoid conflict by not expressing yourself you will just hide it. How would others know what you wanted and liked if you fail to express it?

Unexpressed differences of opinion keep people from connecting on deeply personal levels. Let others know how you feel and who you are deep down on that essential level. The way to resolve conflicts is to get them out in the open, work through them and find solutions that work for all involved.

You are afraid of rejection.

Some people will reject you if they don’t like the things you have to say. Are those people really worth the effort if you need to be a fake person to be around them?  People who matter, the kind you would want for friends and intimate partners are unlikely to reject you because of what you say.

Test this out. Start by expressing small things, what you like and where you want to go. See how others respond to you. You may well discover that others in your life will appreciate this new, more communicative person you are becoming.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.

8 Ways to improve your couple’s communication.

By David Joel Miller, MS, Licensed Therapist & Licensed Counselor.

Talking to yourself

Communication.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Improving couples communication takes time and practice.

Problems communicating is a common complaint in distressed couples. To improve communication between you and your partner will involve a lot more than simply spending more time talking with each other. If your communication is conveying the wrong message more of the same is only rehearsing the problem.

Here are 8 tips to see that your communication with your partner takes you in the direction you want to go.

1. Develop a “fund” of positive feelings in your relationship.

If all you ever hear from an important person in your life is negativity, you stop listening. Your relationship needs to include lots of positive communication with your partner when times are good.

Create happy interactions as frequently as possible to carry you through the times of conflict. If the only time you communicate with your partner is when you “need to talk” talking becomes painful and eventually stops.

It only takes a few angry hurtful statements to wash away the love in a relationship. Make sure you have communicated the positive messages frequently so that they do not get lost during the conflicts.

2. Discover ways to make your partner feel loved.

Communication can’t be restricted to the verbal channel. What your partner sees you doing and how you act carries a lot of the communication burden. Some people feel really loved when they receive gifts. But if you work all the time to pay for presents, your lack of presence in the relationship can damage your ability to communicate.

3. Ask for what you need.

If your relationship is not meeting your needs, consider that it may be because you are not asking to have your needs met.

Far too many people believe that their partner should know what they need and provide it without them asking. Unfortunately, we often have difficulty figuring out what we need and want, let alone know how to meet our partner’s needs.

Very few people are successful at reading their partner’s mind. Thinking that your partner should have that ability if they really love you will result in poor communication.

4. Fight fair – do not criticize your partner.

Many couples use a scorched earth approach to their disagreements. When there are conflicts limit your communication to the topic at hand.

The goal should be to resolve the disagreement not to see how much damage you can inflict on your partner. Keep your comments to the behaviors you want the partner to change not global descriptions of their character.

Saying that you feel more loved when he cleans up after himself can be helpful. Telling him he is a pig, was raised in a barn and his mother is the biggest sow around, are all the sort of personal attacks that will cut off communication.

If you try to destroy your partner during conflicts, your relationship, along with your couple’s communication will be collateral damage.

5. Look for win-win solutions to improve communication.

Winning arguments at the cost of your partner losing results in an impoverished relationship. Work on finding ways you both can get your needs met in the relationship rather than keeping score on who is winning the most.

Listening to really understand your partner’s wants and needs will improve communication. Finding solutions to disagreements where you both win will make your relationship a winner.

6. Make “I” statements to improve communications.

To improve communication talk about how you feel.  Rather than saying that your partner “makes you feel -” Let them know that you feel sad, hurt etc. when they do a particular action.

Own your feelings and your partner will learn how you are feeling. More understanding is the road to empathy. More criticism and blame will not improve your couple’s communication.

7. Avoid going for the jugular when you two disagree.

When conflicts grow heated and intense the temptation is to say and do the thing that will hurt your partner the most. It may feel good at the moment to get even and inflict some pain on your partner but over the long run, the thing that gets destroyed is your relationship.

8. Pick a good time for important communications.

When you partner is running late for work is not the time to start a serious conversation. Just before lovemaking is not the time to bring up your complaint about their behavior. When people are under stress, are sad, depressed, hungry or feeling other intense emotions they will find it hard to consider their partner’s point of view.

Pick a time when you two can have a leisurely conversation to work on areas that require deep communication.

If you discover that your joint life is always full of hurry and conflict? What then? Do you just keep putting off that communication? You shouldn’t. Many relationship failures are the result of conversations that couples should have had but never got around to.

Set a time and stick to it. This joint problem solving to set that time to discuss couples communication may be just the impetus to get your communication back on track.

If you have been trying to get your couples communication on track but it does not appear to be getting better consider seeing a professional relationship counselor. Seeing a couples counselor does not mean your relationship is over. It may be just the thing you need to repair the breaches.

Staying connected with David Joel Miller

Two David Joel Miller Books are available now!

Bumps on the Road of Life. Whether you struggle with anxiety, depression, low motivation, or addiction, you can recover. Bumps on the Road of Life is the story of how people get off track and how to get your life out of the ditch.

Casino Robbery is a novel about a man with PTSD who must cope with his symptoms to solve a mystery and create a new life.

For these and my upcoming books; please visit my Amazon Author Page – David Joel Miller

Want the latest blog posts as they publish? Subscribe to this blog.

Want the latest on news from recoveryland, the field of counseling, my writing projects, speaking and teaching? Please sign up for my newsletter at – Newsletter. I promise not to share your email or to send you spam, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse, and Co-occurring disorders see my Facebook author’s page, davidjoelmillerwriter. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com.