De-Stressing Relationships: The Art of Asking for What You Want

relationshipstress-stencilRelationships…can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em.

That’s how people sometimes feel about their partners. Relationships and partnerships can be wonderfully energizing and supportive, yet the truth is that they can also be stressful.

In my work with people, I find that relationships are particularly distressing when people don’t know how to ask for what they want in a caring and assertive way.

So they tend to do one of two things: 1) they don’t ask and ultimately end up feeling resentful and unfulfilled, or 2) they communicate in an aggressive way that leads to conflict.

Assertive vs. Aggressive

The word “assertive” has varied definitions. The definition I like means direct, confident, positive, and self-assured. This is very different than “aggressive” which tends to be more forceful, demanding, competitive or even pushy.

Asking for what you want (and setting boundaries around what you don’t want) in an assertive way is a key life skill, and a key to less stressful relationships.

 

Here are four tips for developing your assertiveness in a way that can actually strengthen, deepen and enrich your relationship:

  • Get Clear

Being assertive starts with knowing what you are (and are not) willing to be, do, or have. For many of us, coming to this knowledge is a real task unto itself. Here, it may be useful to ask:

“In an ideal world, what would I like to happen?”

Focusing on an ideal outcome opens your mind, prevents you from falling into passivity or “victim-thinking.” It helps you get really clear on what you want and don’t want…NOT what you think others want of you, but what you really, really want.

  • Set Boundaries

Once you know what outcome you need (or want), share it with your partner. Pay attention to the way stating your boundary feels in your body. With practice, it can feel really pleasurable, even exhilarating, to express your needs or desires out loud. Initially it may feel uncomfortable if you’re not used to doing it.

Be willing to state calmly and clearly what isn’t working for you, while maintaining a desire to stay connected with your partner while you jointly create a solution that will work for both of you. Be ready to clearly state what would work better you, and then be willing to discuss options and negotiate something that would work for each of you.

  • Make a Regular Habit of Stating Your Needs and Desires

You can build your assertiveness the same way you build any muscle: exercise. Practice speaking up about your needs, big or small, on a daily basis.

When you speak up about things that are less controversial (such as where to go to dinner, requesting help unloading the dishwasher or what TV program to watch) both you and your partner get used to your assertiveness. It becomes easier for you to practice and for your partner to hear.

Also, when bigger issues come along, you and your partner will have a healthy process in place for dealing with differences in needs and wants. You’ll also have greater confidence in the resilience of your partnership.

  • Give Respect

Assertiveness is a two-way street. If you want your boundaries to be respected, you must return the courtesy to your partner. If she doesn’t want you to use the bathroom when she’s in the shower, don’t. If he asks you to give him a half an hour after work before you talk and connect, respect that.

When it comes to following through on a partner’s reasonable request, actions really do speak louder than words. Be willing to lead by example.

couplehappy-stencilOf course, there is no single (or simple!) answer to de-stressing relationships. Being clear on your own boundaries and communicating them in a caring and assertive way is a valuable way to start down that path.

Tapping Your Troubles Away With EFT

     Q:  What is the biggest thing that blocks our flow of energy and
          causes all sorts of distressing emotions and dis-ease?

     A:  How emotional issues are held in the body.

How Can EFT Help?

 
EFT is a natural healing technique: a three-minute process that’s easy to learn and can bring immediate and satisfying emotional release. It helps the body let go of old patterns that have been keeping you stuck in any sort of distress or dis-ease.
Tapping the brow point

Also referred to as “tapping,” EFT helps release release distressing emotions, leaving you with increased calm and confidence.

I use EFT with my clients because it is especially helpful in reducing anxiety, stress, worry and fears of all kinds.

With EFT, you can:

  • Avoid getting stuck in distressing emotional states
  • Increase positive thinking and focus on positive solutions
  • Reduce fatigue and have more energy
  • Get better sleep
  • Have more satisfying relationships
  • Feel better about yourself!

How Does EFT Work?

Tapping the collar bone point

It’s like an emotional version of acupuncture – without needles! By tapping on various energy points on your body you can release negative energy, distressing emotions and thoughts, as well as physical issues.

Just like Reiki and other forms of energy healing, EFT is based on the idea that there is a “life force energy” flowing through all living things. This vital energy of life is called “ki” or “chi” or “prana” in various Eastern traditions.

When this vital life energy is balanced and flowing freely through you, you can achieve a happy, healthy state of well-being. However, blockages or imbalance in your body’s energy system can lead to pain or dis-ease.

EFT works on your Energy Meridians

Energy “Meridians”
 
Thousands of years ago, the Chinese mapped out the energy pathways of the body into a system of energy “meridians.”These meridians are central to Eastern wellness practices, acupuncture, acupressure, and a wide array of other healing techniques…including EFT.

EFT works by stimulating your energy meridians, allowing emotional and energetic releases.

When our energies are allow to flow freely, the body has amazing abilities to heal itself.

The Critical Connection:

EFT is based on the premise that there is an emotional contributor to all dis-ease and distress.

It just makes sense that if you spend a long time carrying around anger, fears, grief, traumas, blame, guilt, resentments or other emotional pain, the body becomes stressed.

Stress can eventually show up physically in the form of pain and dis-ease. The medical community is increasingly telling us that in order to improve conditions such as anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, acid reflux and more (!), that we need to reduce stress.

EFT is a tool to help you get to the root cause of whatever is bothering you. EFT works at 2 levels:

  1. EFT provides immediate relief so you can feel better in minutes
  2. More importantly, EFT also works deeper to help release and heal the root cause of the problem

Learning EFT

There are plenty of resources on the web (including my website   www.wellnesscounselingmilwaukee.com/eft) where you can learn more about EFT and the basic EFT tapping technique. Even the most “basic recipe” for EFT is helpful! Additionally, I can recommend any of Gary Craig’s books. He’s the creator and founder of EFT. (Check out the selection at Small Stones in Brookfield.) You can also see lots of tapping on YouTube, or come to one of my EFT workshops.

Tapping the karate chop point
But EFT is more of an “art” than a science.

To learn the art of applying EFT for yourself, it’s best to work with an EFT practitioner (like me) one-on-one. You’ll not only learn the nuts and bolts of the tapping process (the “science of EFT”), but more importantly you’ll learn how to most powerfully customize EFT to help you resolve your particular issues (the “art of EFT”). After working together for a few sessions, you’ll have what it takes to continue clearing issues on your own.

EFT: Try it on everything!

 

Here’s Exactly What You ‘Should’ Do

You really should pay attention to what I’m going to tell you next.

You should be able to understand it easily, and you should start practicing it immediately.

You really should…. Shouldn’t you???

My message to you: You really should stop “should-ing” on yourself!

Imposing “should statements” on yourself is stress-inducing and guaranteed to keep you anxious, tense, and feeling bad about yourself. Should statements lower self-esteem and self-confidence. By shoulding on yourself, you constantly remind yourself of all the ways that you are falling short…

  • I should be totally self-reliant.
  • I should be able to do it right.
  • I should have done a better job.
  • I should make more money.

Black and White Thinking

Shoulblackwhite-stencild statements are rigidly focused on how you think things ought to be, rather than focused on the reality of how things are.

Shoulds are often laced with extreme “all-or-nothing thinking,” which makes success difficult, if not impossible, leaving you with the extreme opposite: failure.

Therefore, shoulding on yourself is often a setup for feeling guilty, wrong or not good enough… 

  • I should exercise every day and always eat right.
  • I should never get tired or sick.
  • I should never make mistakes.
  • I should always know the right thing to do.

Shoulding on Others

When you direct should statements at other people, you are guaranteed to feel angry and frustrated since others will invariably do things you don’t think they “should” do… 
  • They should act their age.
  • He should stop making me so angry.
  • She should wear nicer clothes.

Shoulds Represent Rigid Thinking

When you rely on “should statements,” you tend to have rigid rules or standards (mostly set by yourself), that always need to be followed. It’s difficult to see flexibility in various circumstances, and trying to live up to these self-imposed expectations adds considerable stress to life. Each time you have a should thought, you add a small weight to your shoulders.
 

Shoulds are Perfectionistic

Shoulding on yourself is an example of perfectionist thinking. Perfectionism is an irrational belief that everything must be perfect. Why is this irrational? Can anything in life really be perfect? Do we all agree on the definition of perfect anyway? Perfectionistic thinking is a setup for disappointment. It can also lead you to the belief that “life is difficult.” After all, with the weight of all kinds of “shoulds” on your shoulders, life would be difficult!
 

How to Shift Your Shoulds  should-dreamstime_xs_45710292

1. Catch Yourself In the Act. First, notice how often you (and others) use should statements. You have to really listen for it. 

2. Write Down Your “Shoulds.” As you become aware of times you should on yourself, write them down. Review each one and write down how it feels when you think each of those should thoughts. Restrictive or Expansive? Closed or Open? Negative or Positive? When you think that thought, how do you feel: Mad, Sad, Glad or Scared?

3. Question: What am I really telling myself when I should on myself? Do I really want to do this to myself? Do I really want to stay upset?

4. Switch your language. Try substituting COULD. This demonstrates that you and others have choices and options, which is more empowering and less judgemental. [I could make more money. She could wear nicer clothes. I could exercise every day.] This will work for some of your shoulds.

5. Turn it around. Write down alternative counterstatements to the should thoughts. Find something more rational, positive, flexible, or self-supportive. [I could be totally self-reliant but that’s not really necessary because there are plenty of people who would help me out. I did my best in that situation and I learned a few things as well. It’s OK to make mistakes because I’m human like everyone else.]

6. It’s OK to accept who you are. What if you let go of what you “should do” and how you “should be” and simply allowed yourself to be who you are today? You’re OK. In fact, you’re magnificent. You just have to allow yourself to see it that way.

Need a little more clarity?  Check this out…

 

For Couples Only: Tantric Intimacy

Do you want to feel closer to your partner? Want to rediscover and expand the magic and romance? How about more of that special, snuggly, affectionate connection? Most couples I know would answer “YES!” However, many couples are challenged with finding time to reconnect intimately. We can get caught up in all the day-to-day “busy-ness.” And we somehow forget that deepening the intimacy in our relationship can be a continual evolution and expansion.

Intimacy implies having a close, familiar, affectionate or loving personal relationship. We sometimes confuse intimacy with sexual connection by using the phrase “being intimate with” to refer to sexual activity. True intimacy means so much more.

In-To-Me-See
I prefer to see Intimacy as “In-to-me-see.” Looking at the concept this way implies a closeness that comes from such deep caring and trust that we could allow ourselves to be truly seen by our partners as who we really are…all beauty and all warts, all strengths and all vulnerabilities. And what a delight and celebration for our partners to honor us by allowing us “In” to see who they really are. This is a real heart-to-heart connection, with respect, love, trust, and a sense of understanding and being understood. Intimacy.

Tantra
There are many paths to greater intimacy. One of these is Tantra. Many have heard of “tantric sex” which can be one aspect of Tantra, but the practice of Tantra is so much more. Tantra is an age old Eastern spiritual practice requiring no belief or faith, but rather an openness to our embodied experiences (i.e. our experience as human beings in human bodies in the present moment). It is a personalized path which allows for the duality of being human, and at the same time, being part of a Divine energy.

Tantric intimacy is not the same as tantric sex. Western views of sexuality typically focus solely on the physical body experience. Tantra adds much more by including emotion, sensuality and “spirit,” all as part of intimate relationships. Truth and authenticity are central to Tantra. By inviting us to be completely authentic with our partners, Tantra can open the door to improved communication, understanding and compassion in our relationship. All of this increases intimacy and can add a deeper dimension to your relationship.

Energy and Our Senseschakras
To apply some of the tantric wisdom to our Western relationships, we need to be somewhat open to the experience of subtle energies within our human bodies. We all have energy flowing within and around us, and there are also energies flowing between two people in relationship. Tantra invites us to realize our own divinity by attuning to our natural energies. Such energies are usually brought into our conscious awareness through our human senses: Breath, Movement, Sound, Visualization and Touch.

Thus, practicing “sensate focus” (deliberate and conscious focus on your physical body senses; being “sensual”) is one way of connecting more intimately with your partner. Sensate focus requires taking time to notice what you sense when you hear your partner, see your partner, touch your partner.

Try This…

Just sit silently with your partner for 10 minutes, holding hands, noticing what you sense and feel. If you feel uncomfortable or silly after some time, just notice your discomfort and then breathe and keep sitting with your partcouplehappy-stencilner. We’re not used to slowing down and sensing like that. Just BE with your partner. Notice how your hands feel. Notice how your partner’s hands feel. Notice what else you sense in your body. Notice your breath. Silently send loving thoughts and energy from your heart to your partner’s heart. Recall a fond memory of a loving time you and your partner shared. Take turns touching and exploring each other’s hand, noticing what your partner’s hand feels like…the skin, the fingernails, the knuckles, the curves, the lines on the palm of the hand. Notice how it feels when your partner touches your hand. Remember what it’s like to look deeply into your partner’s eyes. What do you feel and sense? This is tapping into tantric wisdom on the way to creating greater intimacy and “In-to-me-see.”