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Is Your Partner Truly Sorry? Or just Sorry they got Caught?

How do you know when someone is really sorry? After a relationship betrayal, a heartfelt apology is the first step needed for relationship to continue or heal. If you want to work things out, it’s important that neither partner skip any steps in the healing process. An apology sets the stage for more repair work. So, what is true repentance?
sorry not sorry

How can you tell if your partner is just saying “Sorry” to stay out of trouble, or to cover up a deeper secret? How can you tell if the sorry will stick? Is it safe to trust again? These are the questions that victims of relationship betrayal ask themselves.

A Story About True Repentence

An old Hebrew tradition, I once heard seems to say it best. The story goes like this. Benny and Lucille were next door neighbors. Benny trained sheep dogs on his little farm, and Lucille raised goats. One day, Benny’s friskiest dog chewed out of his pen and attacked Lucille’s baby goat, Abigail and killed it. Lucille was sick about it. She cried and cried over her little Abigail. When Benny discovered the news, he couldn’t believe it. How could his dog do such a thing? And especially to Abigail, Lucille’s pride and joy?

Benny knew what to do, however. He knew he had to make it right with his neighbor. A simple apology wouldn’t do. When he went over to Lucille’s house, he could tell that she had been crying and he knew then just how much her little goat meant to her.

“I know I can’t bring back your little goat, and I’m so sorry that my dog attacked her last night. I’m just sick about what happened. I know you loved your little lamb. I want to make it up to you. I want to buy you two little goats of your choice. One for Abigail and one for our friendship.

Lucille knew that she could never replace little Abigail, but she appreciated Benny’s sincerity so much, she wanted to extend her hand in forgiveness.

“I also found a new home for the dog that did this,” Benny said, “So he won’t be a threat anymore.”

This is just a little story, but it does help to understand what is needed for a broken relationship to feel whole again. The old tradition basically states that the responsible party replaces what was lost, and then adds a 1/5 to restore the relationship. It emphasizes that an apology should not merely be words or sentiment, it must also include an offer to make amends. It should cost something. It must repair the emotional and relational damages, not just the financial.

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If you have sustained an injury, like betrayal or broken trust or damaged reputation- a simple apology may not be enough to repair the relationship. Here are some steps to recognize a sincere apology.

The responsible person:

  1. Recognizes the extent of the damage done, and accepts his/her responsibility
  2. Actually feels some of the pain he/she has caused through empathy
  3. Doesn’t minimize, excuse or justify the wrong-doing
  4. Doesn’t say things like, “I’m sorry, but…” or “I’ll say sorry if…”
  5. Asks, “What can I do to make amends?” and insists on making reparations.
  6. Doesn’t shift the blame to you, reporting that “It is really your fault. If you wouldn’t have….”
  7. Follows through with his/her commitment. This may be a promise to seek support, counseling, rehab, extra accountability, or change bad habits. This usually takes time and consistency.
  8. Helps in other ways, like helping with the house, the finances, the kids, and general willingness to serve.

If you see evidence that he/she is truly sorry for the relationship transgression, you will slowly be able to trust and forgive. However, if you sense that the “Sorry” is half-hearted, lip service or just for show, then trusting again is a big mistake.

And what about you? What is your role in extending forgiveness without losing yourself? Next week, we will discuss the important steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation without bending your boundaries too far.

A Radio Interview with Kate Daniels

Recovery, healing and relationships. I had the privilege of speaking with Kate Daniels of Hubbard Radio on her show dedicated to Recovery. If you download it, you can treat it like a podcast and listen while you’re on the go.

Exploitive and destructive relationships take a toll on their victims, and we discuss here how to recover and rebuild self esteem. Enjoy!

A Strategy for Surviving Emotional Pain

Have you ever felt so shocked, that time stood still? Maybe the phone call was bad news, or the thing you wanted most became impossible, or the rejection you felt was crushing . The emotional pain you feel is overwhelming, and you know you need a strategy to move forward.

You know you have to respond to your situation, but maybe you are unsure of what to do next.

written on it

written on it

Psychologists have found that trouble, trauma and tragedies are not actually the problem. The problem is how we respond to them. We know that trouble, trauma and tragedy cannot always be avoided, and that bad things happen to good people. However, researchers report that those people who can respond to the trouble in healthy ways will be resilient, have shorter recovery times and suffer fewer negative effects.

What to do When You don’t Know what to Do

light unto my path

Some people respond to challenges with emotionally destructive means like blame shifting, addictions, and isolation. It’s tempting to respond to pain by numbing, drinking, self-medicating, inappropriate relationships, or over-shopping. Others respond by taking responsibility, problem solving, and reaching out for support. Those who take the harder, braver path choose to respond to pain by staying alert, present, creative, information seeking, engaged and positive.

How we respond to our troubling event means everything. During seasons of loss and pain, it is important to do two things well:

Do what you can,

Leave the rest.

Do What you Can. Doing what you can does not mean doing everything, or doing what other people should be doing but aren’t. When bad things happen, some may be tempted to “over do it” or “over function” or “take over” but this is not always the best thing to do. Doing what you can means being clear about your role and responsibility and doing that thing the best you can. Don’t do other people’s things, just do your thing. You don’t have to have all the right answers or a plan etched in stone. You only need to exert your power, influence and choice in a way that is beneficial. It is important to decipher what you can control, and what you cannot.

amy's coffee

Doing any helpful thing in the midst of trouble is not only good for you and for other people, it is good for your resiliency too. Trauma research shows that people who find something useful to do during a troubling event, fair better with fewer trauma symptoms. Whether it be encouraging, attending, guarding, problem solving, helping, protecting or directing, exerting some personal power in big or small ways is helpful.

Leave the Rest. Leaving the Rest is an acknowledgement that not everything can be done quickly or by you. Releasing yourself from taking care of others’ responsibilities is brave and necessary. Leaving the rest means engaging in a waiting period with hope. You know how dog trainers will say, “Leave it! Leeeeave it,” to their dogs when tempted or distracted? We may be tempted to argue, convince, lecture, shut down, or bargain our way out of the pain or guilt. But these are not helpful options for the long run. We must let go of the things we can’t control, and do something about the things we can control.

“Leaving the Rest” actually takes more energy than “Doing what you can.” Resisting the temptation to over-function or to be a control freak takes a lot of self-control. When you are actively taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to tell yourself things like, “Don’t take the bate,” and “This ain’t your circus, these ain’t your monkeys,” and “Don’t buy a ticket for that crazy train,” and “You can let it go.”

 

Waiting can cause a powerless feeling, but waiting with purpose, hope and a plan is very different. “Leaving the Rest” does not mean “Wait and see what happens,” as much as it means, “Wait for the right time to move forward.” For the waiting period to be manageable and positive, there are Waiting Exercises that I will cover in my next blog.

If you are in the middle of a dark season, take the small steps to Do What You Can, and the faith steps to Leave the Rest. Every small step in the right direction counts.

Kavanaugh and Ford: and the Struggle to Discern What’s True

If you opened this, then you are probably interested in how this drama is going to play out over the next few weeks. I realize this could be construed as a political post, and I’d like to assert, that it’s not. I have a very specific response to Thursday’s hearings, and it’s not a political one, but an observation that will help you in your relationships.

My response to Thursday’s hearings is an observation of two people- two people I will likely never meet, or know or having any opinion of beyond how they presented themselves on Thursday during the hearings. We had a very brief glimpse into the life of both Christine Blasey- Ford and Brett Kavanaugh, and saw how they conduct themselves under pressure and questioning. But each came to the hearings with very different demeanors. That is what was of interest to me.

Since I meet with people for a living, listen to their stories and try to help them move forward, I  practice the art of listening, watching, and understanding. For hours at a time, every day, for years.

So, during Ford and Kavanaugh’s testimonies, I watched, listened and tried to understand what they were truly saying. I took in not only the words, but also the tone, the body language, and the facial expressions. Nonverbal communication tells you just as much, if not more than the spoken word.

Here’s my run down.

One, Christine Blasey-Ford came with composure, a vulnerability, a willingness to follow procedure, and quiet strength. Her voice was timid at first, but seemed to grow in confidence as she went on. Attentive, confident, and patient. She stayed on point, and submitted to the process.

The other, Brett Kavanaugh came with anger, volume, twisted facial muscles, and disrespect for the time and structure of the process. Interruptions, impatience, and blame. Angry, rude, and combative. He was unwilling to submit fully to the process, but attempted to control it with retorts, sarcasm, tears, and shouting.

I was convinced MORE of Kavanaugh’s guilt AFTER he testified. His demeanor sent up too many red character flags.

How we respond to an accusation tells a lot about our own character. We show our true selves when faced with our failures, our shortcomings, our weaknesses and yes, even our guilt. I don’t have any idea what truly happened 35 years ago in their lives, I only know what these two witnesses conveyed for me. We don’t often have video screens playing of people’s lives to corroborate the stories they tell about themselves. We often have to make judgments and decisions about who we trust, who we work with, and who we marry without the luxury of character witnesses, surveillance cameras and lie detectors.

So we rely on what people say, how they act, and how congruent those two things are. Why did Kavanaugh send up red flags for me? Because what he was saying (I’m innocent) and how he was acting (I’m combative.) Those two things were incongruent for me. They didn’t jive. I chalk the incongruence up to one thing: PRAT

Personal Responsibility Avoidance Tactics

Personal Responsibility Avoidance Tactics often show up in marriages and families and work places. They are not isolated to Republicans or men or Right Wing Evangelists or Left Wing Liberals or long time tv stars. They are tactics used everywhere by all kinds of people who don’t want to be held accountable for their actions. They are defense mechanisms against shame. If you’ve ever been in an argument with someone who uses PRAT (Personal Responsibility Avoidance Tactics) it’s enough to make you bonkers. PRATs are used to convince you that “there’s nothing to see here,” and “you’re the one with the problem, not me,” and “if you keep pressing me, I’ll make it worse for you.”

Common Tactics to get out of Responsibility

  • claim to be the victim,
  • evoke sympathy by crying,
  • change the subject,
  • shout louder,
  • interrupt,
  • list all the good things you’ve done,
  • counter attack with new complaint,
  • make stuff up,
  • give the silent treatment,
  • misrepresent what others are saying.

Trying to have a conversation or worse, disagreement with someone who avoids personal responsibility is exhausting and crazy making.

You and I have nominal power over how these hearings play out. But we do have power over how we respond, and what behavior we tolerate in our own lives. No matter what this Senate Judiciary Committee decides, the real questions are with all of us: do we use these tactics to avoid personal responsibility? And do we tolerate the behavior of those who do?

Want more information? I’ve written a book just for you! Check it out here to have more clarity and confidence in your relationships. You can get the clarity you need to have the strong relationships you want.

Click here for more information on how to have healthy relationships.

 

 

Crazy Making Relationships

You know something isn’t right. Maybe it’s the baffling mood swings. Or maybe it’s the way your partner is cruel one day, then sweet and loving the next without explanation. Or maybe it’s the lack of self-awareness your partner has when it comes to how they affect those around them.


Last week, we talked about how sane people living in crazy family systems, end up feeling crazy themselves. Click here if you missed it. If you think you may be in a dysfunctional relationship with a dysfunctional person, reading it will help you feel less out-of-control and more grounded in reality.

What is a Personality Disorder? For our purposes, I’m going to condense a BIG and COMPLICATED topic with diagnostic considerations into a tiny little definition.

A Personality Disorder is a pattern of lifelong maladaptive behaviors.

Want to read that again?

A pattern of lifelong maladaptive behaviors. Basically, ineffective behaviors practiced over and over again for the span of life.

Personality disordered people are sometimes tricky to recognize. They may look, act and talk the same as everyone else you know, but at second glance, have some glaring problems. Maybe its the string of failed jobs, wrecked relationships, run-ins with the law, sporadic and unpredictable behavior, or addictions. These things are red flags to the casual observer, but if you’re in a relationship with a Personality Disordered person, you’ve heard 100 excuses for each one.

 

TRAITS OF PERSONALITY DISORDERED PEOPLE

 

My hope is that after reading this, you will be able to feel less guilty, less self-doubt, and less blame for the craziness in your relationship. By recognizing common traits of personality disordered people, you can  get the support you need to make changes in your relationship. Here are common traits among all the Personality Disorders (For the folks who like the deets, here ya go! All Personality Disorders like Narcissistic, Borderline, Obsessive Compulsive, Antisocial, and Histrionic, but except Avoidant or Schizoid Personality Disorders- those are different.)

 

  • Self-Awareness Deficit: don’t recognize how their dysfunctional behavior may be negatively impacting others.
  • Self-Absorption: Consumed with their own pain or needs, they don’t value the importance of other’s pain or needs.
  • Unwillingness to Admit They May be Wrong: Defending, excusing and justifying themselves are constant mechanisms to keep avoid personal accountability.
  • Entitlement: feel entitled to and vehemently demand preferential treatment.
  • Compete Instead of Cooperate: there always seems to be a win/lose or one up/one down scenario. They use power plays with others to show dominance in intelligence, wealth, beauty, popularity, or power. They are unwilling to collaborate or cooperate.
  • Disinterested in Reality: Creating their own, unchecked and often self-righteous world view, unwilling to see things from other’s perspectives.
  • Emotionally Dysregulated: unpredictable mood swings, outbursts, cold silence or agitated anxiety keeps others walking on egg shells.
  • Lacking in Empathy: this trait goes hand in hand with superiority. Having empathy is the ability to metaphorically walk in another’s shoes and relate to how another is feeling. Empathy is beneath them.

With this line up, you can see how maintaining relationship with a Personality Disordered person can take quite a toll on partners and family members.

Partners and family will often feel exhausted being their constant source, anxious trying to keep the peace, and crazy with the mixed signals.

So what should you do?

The first step is to get some professional help. A counselor or coach who is knowledgeable about personality disorders will be able to help you set boundaries, communicate your needs, and follow through. Read the difference between counseling and coaching here, and sign up for an appointment here.

Next week, we will talk about the specifics steps needed in order to change the dynamics in the relationship. Stay tuned! (But if you need more help FAST, click here for more help on living with personality disordered peeps.)

My “Relationship Savvy” blog gives you tips, advice, and flippin’ fantastic feel-goods to help with your most difficult relationship challenges.

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