Posts Tagged: relationship

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.


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.

Learning to trust is a very long process. It’s ok to take your time to figure out what your next steps are. Sometimes the best solution is to “wait and see” if the changes are short lived or not. You can take all the time you need to discern if the relationship is safe enough to move forward. If the other person is pressuring you to hurry up, that is a strong sign that he/she is not truly repentant.

Feel Like You’re Going Crazy? Could it be your Relationship?

Ever get so confused in your relationship that you wonder if you’re losing your mind? Your partner’s words and actions are so inconsistent, you start to doubt your ability to reason. You may even start to feel anxious or depressed. But what is really going on? Are you crazy?
Or are you living in a crazy system?

Today, and for the next couple of posts, I want to explore what it feels like to be married (or related to) someone mentally or personality disordered. When I hear people talk about their confusing, inconsistent and emotionally irregular relationships, I help them gain insight into what is really going on. When they discover that they are not crazy, that they are just living in a crazy system, they immediately feel relieved and empowered.

I recently finished the fascinating Tara Westover memoir, “Educated”. It is a great example of how people with mental or personality disorders alter the dynamics of a system (in this case, a family system) resulting in extreme dysfunction among the family members. The sane people in the system often begin to question and doubt themselves, and even worse, blame themselves for the disordered person’s infractions. Living in a system ruled by mental illness is like living in an upside down world where things have the illusion of normal, but are governed by nonsensical and even dangerous rules.

Growing up in a disordered world, Tara Westover learned to doubt herself. She wanted, like most children, to believe the best about her parents and siblings. Even when their behavior was erratic, dangerous or unreasonable, she unwittingly saw them as faultless, and herself to blame. However, through self-discovery and education, she slowly learned she had a voice and an opinion worthy of recognition. She learned to trust herself and her ability to reason. Once she recognized reality, she could no longer submit to the upside-down expectations made by an upside-down system.

Maybe you can relate.

Hallmark to a dysfunctional system, is its inability to accept responsibility for the dysfunction. When mental or personality disordered behavior continues unchecked, it establishes itself as the norm. Narcissistic, chaotic, perfectionistic,  or addicted systems exist in a vacuum of secrecy and denial.

As a result, the people in the system suffer from exhaustion, fear, self-doubt and bewilderment. They are faced with the decision to stop and set strong boundaries, or give up and join the circus. The first, they risk losing the other person. The second, they risk losing themselves.

What should you do if you believe you are in a relationship with someone with a Personality or Mental Disorder? Because this is such a big topic, I’ve broken it down into three posts designed to inform you, empower you and give you some options.

1. Feel Like You’re Going Crazy? Or is it Your Relationship? (that’s this one.)

2. Something is Off: Understanding Personality and Mental Disorders

3. Someone I Love Needs Psychological Help

For now, familiarize yourself with what you are experiencing. You don’t have to be in the business of diagnosing or treating psychological problems to have an informed understanding for practical purposes. If you, like Tara Westover think something might not be quite right, get some help from a professional, and tell them what you are experiencing.

Becoming informed will help you recognize disordered behavior and thinking, and how you can improve yourself and maybe even your situation. Counseling can help you discern fact from fiction, set appropriate boundaries, and make informed decisions.

Need Help Soon? Click here to order my recent book, “Losers, Users and Abusers, and the Women Who Love Them.” This book addresses how you can recognize disordered functioning, how to address it, and how to take care of yourself in the process.

Need Coaching? I offer support through life-coaching and consultation by telephone. So, if you’re newly enlightened about your role in the crazy making system, and you need help setting boundaries and goals, you can set an appointment with me here.

Intimacy Unwrapped: How to Improve Intimacy in Your Relationships Part I

Good morning to the Bright and Shining People of the world! I’m pleased as punch that you are joining me this morning.

Have any of you struggled with intimacy in your relationships? (Why did the guys just get more interested?)  Maybe you wonder if you lack in emotional or sexual compatibility? Maybe you carry around a lot of pain due to being hurt by someone you trusted.

 True Intimacy is being seen, known and unconditionally loved. It is the strength of self, surrendering to the safety of another, without fear of being abandoned or controlled. 

happy couple millinials

The Problem with Intimacy

We all, at some level, are afraid of intimacy. Intimacy requires a depth of vulnerability that most resist. We feel self-conscious and silly. We feel weak, exposed and needy. What if we are truly seen, but then seen as “less than?” What if we are truly known, but known as “nothing special?” And what if we make ourselves vulnerable and trusting, only to be controlled or abandoned?

You can see the flow, right? If they truly see the real me, I will undoubtedly disappoint them. And if they know the deep things in my life, (my weaknesses or shame or the ugly underside) then they surely will not stay. And if I am vulnerable to the point of being seen and known, then rejection is likely, if not guaranteed, and I will be more lost, more lonely, and more afraid than I was to begin with.

Often, these are not formulated thoughts of which we are conscious. These are buried beliefs informed by past experiences dating back to infanthood. Becoming aware of these buried fears enlighten us to our blind spots and give us more power to overcome them.


What if he/she isn’t Safe for Me?

This is a real pickle, people. Every step toward intimacy requires risk taking. Sometimes you don’t know if the other person is an emotionally safe person to share with, until you actually share. Sometimes you have to put your heart out there in faith- with no guarantee that you will get it back in one piece. Sometimes you just won’t know if the other person is able to, worthy of, or ready for the intimate sharing of your deepest darkest.

Let your inner People Picker weed out safe and unsafe people. Remember this Key Formula: (WORDS + ACTIONS) x TIME = SAFE PERSON. This just means that what a person says and does must match and be consistent, over the course of time, to determine his/her trustworthiness. If the words and the actions don’t match, and behavior is unpredictable over time, this is not a safe person to trust your intimacy with.

Intimacy Builds on Itself

Once you’ve determined that your inner People Picker has trusted a safe person, you can give yourself permission to try a little more intimacy. Here are some steps to increase emotional intimacy in your relationships.

  • Structured Exercises: Small Groups, Support Groups, Bible Study, Marriage Groups, Retreats, Work-out Groups, etc. offer a structured and guided opportunity to help people engage in shared experience, spirituality, and growth together.
  • Marriage Counseling: Facilitated and mediated communication can help improve a couples’ ability to truly hear one another, problem solve and draw closer in a safe environment.
  • Consistent Meet Ups: Whether you’re seeking intimacy with your spouse or your friends, putting something on the calendar with some frequency is a pro-active way to prioritize intimacy in your relationships.
  • Daily Devotionals: Spending quiet time each day with yourself and with God is paramount in keeping yourself centered, focused and open to closeness with others. When you feel safe and confident with yourself, you will be more able to take intimacy risks with others.

Let me know what steps you are taking to increase your intimacy quotient with yourself and with others. Check out my new book if you want to dig a little deeper. It will help you explore your relationship hang-ups and make a plan to get the love and intimacy you want.





More Like Roomates than Romantic Partners?

Sometimes partners in a long term relationships end up feeling distant and cold toward one another. This could be because of their demanding professions, busy schedules, or children’s many activities, but more often than not, marital distance stems from a fear of real intimacy.

When couples get close to the vulnerable edge of intimacy, they often become afraid and defensive. True intimacy requires that each person share their weaknesses, fears, and failures. Emotionally distant couples take turns fending off getting too close, too vulnerable, and too exposed. Partners can often feel inadequate when their partner expresses emotion or asks for more heartfelt communication. Not knowing what to do, how to connect, or how to make their partner’s tears stop, they can mistakenly react in anger or withdrawal. This can shut down intimacy all together.

If you’re in an emotionally distant relationship, you will feel…

  • Hopeless. Sometimes you feel like you are trying to draw water from an empty well.
  • Dismissed. You feel unimportant and not taken seriously.
  • Unloved. You take your partner’s emotional withdrawal as silent disapproval, rejection, or disinterest.
  • Anxious. Because they keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves, you constantly wonder how they truly feel about you.
  • Self-doubt. Because your emotional needs so often go unrecognized in your relationship, you wonder if you’re just too needy or if he’s just too immature.
  • Desperately Alone. Oftentimes a person feels they are lonelier in their unhappy relationship than they would be as a single person in no relationship.
  • Abandoned. You feel like the person who is supposed to love you the most rejects you at your core. You feel like your partner is either unable or unwilling to love you the way you need to be loved, and that you must do what it takes to just survive.
  • Frustrated. You both use sarcasm, joking and passive aggression to communicate, but just skim the surface of what’s truly important. This repetitive dysfunctional cycle results in unresolved issues and broken communication.

Want to know more about this, and how to feel more like romantic partners than roommates? Click here to take a short relationship quiz, and get tips for improving emotional intimacy.

Married and Lonely: Does this describe you?

Couples come to my practice for all kinds of reasons: communication breakdown, complicated circumstances, reconciliation after marital mistakes. But one of the hardest obstacles to overcome is a lonely marriage. You may feel rejected, forgotten or un-important. You may even feel hopeless at ever making it better. I’ve heard many people say that their lonely marriage is so painful, it would be better to be alone and lonely, than married and lonely.

a wall between them

What is a lonely marriage, and how is it created? A lonely marriage consists of two well-meaning people who respect and love one another, but lack the skills or understanding to be deeply connected and intimate.

Symptoms of a lonely marriage look like:

  1. focusing on the kids’ and their activities but avoiding close contact.
  2. staying busy with work and personal goals, but letting the marriage take a low priority.
  3. trying to communicate about marital issues results in big fights and silent withdrawals without real resolution.
  4. forgetting what it feels like to have common interests, fun together, or stimulating conversations.
  5. decreased frequency and enjoyment in sexual or romantic experiences.

If you see these symptoms in your marriage, you may be married to a Loser. A loser isn’t the couch potato, it’s someone who loses out on really knowing you. Because they fear the vulnerability of intimacy, they hide their fears, weaknesses, and true feelings. You may find yourself doing the same.

Take a short quiz here to find out more about your marriage, and if loneliness is an issue.

A loser isn’t the couch potato, it’s someone who loses out on really knowing you.

Characteristics of a Loser

  • They avoid sharing personal feelings, thoughts, or ideas because emotional intimacy makes them uncomfortable.
  • They may be unable to have emotional closeness because they are emotionally immature- hopelessly stunted in their emotional development.
  • They may say things like, “You shouldn’t feel that way,” or “Why do you always make a big deal out of things,”  or “I’m just not an emotional person. I don’t know how I feel.” They will say almost anything to avoid emotional  vulnerability and intimacy.
  • They feel pressure to fix problems for you instead of empathize with you.
  • When asked if something is bothering them, they deny that anything is, and shut the conversation down.
  • They may be successful in many areas of their lives, but when it comes to close relationships, they use various  tactics, like withdrawal, humor, passive aggression, etc. to keep an emotional distance.

You may feel like you’re married to a Loser. Or maybe you feel like you’re the Loser, and you want to learn a different way to relate in your marriage. If you want to find out more, click here to take a short quiz. Though living in a lonely marriage can be painful, it is also an opportunity to make necessary changes inside yourself and your marriage.

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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