Posts Tagged ‘Arguing’

Keeping emotions in check can help people choose positive outcomes in conflict. Anger management skills lead to developing an objective frame of mind leading to appropriate responses. This is achieved before a person’s emotional anger takes over creating a strong reaction. When a person is in control of their anger they they have control over the choices of how to respond to anger. The choice is how to think it out first, then proceed.

Anger management is just that, managing anger. Anger is a normal emotion but it’s what we do with it that makes a difference. When other people around us get angry the tendency is to react with anger as well, especially when it is directed at us. When two people get angry at each other it can escalate into an argument or worse. However, in a moment when anger is directed at us there is a choice. For example, to use a fishing analogy, a fish has a choice to go for a baited hook or not. Sometimes they bite and sometimes they don’t. Think of an angry person in the same manner, the other person’s anger is like a baited hook and it comes down to choosing whether or not to bite into that anger.

So what can a person do when confronted or being around angry people? Here are a few tips that can help a person choose an appropriate response without getting wrapped up in someone’s emotional situation.

1. Check first to make sure whether or not the other person may have a legitimate point. Allow for appropriate ownership and if necessary make amends of the wrongdoing before responding, apologize if necessary. Most people who perceive an injustice calm quickly when others take ownership of their behavior. However, stay objective and make sure the perceived wrongdoing is appropriate.

2. Use rolling resistance. Rolling resistance is about not taking things personally and working with the angry person to explore more about what they are angry about. Get curious with their anger but make sure you stand your ground, stay objective to be able to agree or disagree with the condition of their anger.

3. Hear it out and let it go. Sometimes there is no need to do anything either way. A few head nods, uh-huh’s and walk away.

4. If the person’s anger is extreme and/or attacking anger then call them on their behavior. This is bordering on bullying and more about stopping abusive behavior.  Make sure to use “I” statements in this scenario to prevent the perception of attacking back. For example, “I don’t appreciate being talked down to like that,” or, “I am not going to listen/stand here/talk to you unless we can have a decent conversation.” The idea is to get the other person to see how inappropriate their behavior is and to let them know you are not not going to tolerate demeaning or abusive behavior, from them, or anyone. Most people cower and just try to get out of a situation like this. That does not teach the other person anything except that they can be mean and abusive and get away with it. Standing up to this kind of behavior signals that next time they may think twice first.

5. Being human means sometimes we get angry. If the anger does get to you a good way to relieve it is to walk it off. Go to a park, feed the ducks, toss out a fishing line, watch a funny movie, pray or indulge with spiritual activities, socializing, exercise or learn relaxation skills. This list can go on and it’s takes some creativity to create distraction and get the mind off of dwelling on the trigger that is creating the anger.

A cautionary note regarding anger. There are some people in this world who have psychological anger issues. This is often found in clinical diagnosable conditions such as Intermittent Explosive Disorder. Other conditions such as narcissistic, borderline and antisocial personality disorders can also present with uncontrollable anger issues. In these situations typically long term therapy is needed to resolve underlying issues related to the anger and other symptoms commonly associated with these conditions.

Brian Murray holds a Master of Science degree in Counseling Psychology from Palm Beach Atlantic University-Orlando Campus. He currently works at the ECC Counseling Center of Central Florida as a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern.





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Man stressWhy do men struggle with going to a counselor? Often they feel it is a threat to their masculinity, counseling is for wimps, or it will make them less of a man. Okay, if a man is so tough then why run from counseling? Face your fears, turn into the fight, enter the battle. Anxiety produces fight or flight, so what is going to be tough guy? Fight or flight? That’s right, I’m calling you out! What are you afraid of and hiding from? Join me, we’ll enter that fight together!

Running away from problems never works. It doesn’t work because it is a simple formula, wherever you go so there is your problem with you. It’s like those little hitch-hikers you get on your pants after walking through tall grass. I recall walking in the woods one day and I looked down and I was covered in these little thorny stickers. Not only was I unaware I was picking them up along the way, but when I tried to remove them they stuck me in the fingers. After trying to pick a few off my friend says to me, “such is life.” Reflecting on that situation it became apparent that is life. We pick up sticky annoying things along the way and don’t even realize they are there until we stop, look down and do some self examination. We find things we don’t like and try to remove them only to find out it’s painful, sticky and don’t like it. The easy way out is avoidance. To go somewhere else, ignore the problem, suffer silently, make excuses but inevitably sooner or later the problem has to be dealt with.

So often men struggle in this way. They just try to grit it out, suck it up or if the problem is ignored long enough it will just go away. Part of this is society expectations. Men are often raised to treat problems like water to a duck, just let it roll off. If only it were just that easy. Common long term effects from this thinking are depression, anger, ulcers, high blood pressure, worry, fatigue and what some “male therapists” call “Dead Men Walking.” Men become discouraged and hopeless and give up on life. The weight of all that emotional baggage begins to wear them down. They become compliant to the demands of their jobs, wives and society. They walk around feeling low, beaten and get an attitude of “whats the use, nothing changes.” It is amazing what can happen to a man when he takes the time to talk to another man in a confidential professional setting and work it out. The idea is to be men for an hour, talk like men, act like men, enter the wound and fight it out.


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arguing coupleArguing, who likes it? Some people might say that they like to argue and will do so over some of the most trivial things. I suppose this could be a maturity issue if the topic of argumentation is somewhat meaningless. But that is all subjective and based on interpretation of the content being argued. At the beginning of an argument is can be difficult to stop for a second and weigh the purpose and possible outcome of entering an argument to begin with. Arguing with some people can be like trying to deal with a 3 year old who is whining and screaming to get their way. Other times the argument is valid and calls for us to do a little self examination before more damage occurs. Sometimes it is best to walk away and let them work it out on their own.

Being approached by argumentative others can elicit defensive emotions primarily anger. This can cause a person to want to say a few things back in defense, but hold on a minute. Before striking back there are a few things a person can do to self dialogue their way out of an argument. The idea is to respond to other person and not react.

This is about self control and anger management. Anger is often the culprit when two people are arguing and each person feels they have to defend themselves. It is like each person’s ego has entered into a wrestling match with the other. There is a way out and a way to defeat the other person’s attacks when their ego is attempting a hostile takeover of a conversation. Simply put it is about self management and here are 5 ways to do that.

  1. Stay Objective! This is the hard part by taking a step back and listening and not letting the emotions take charge. Emotions can be good counsel and provide information about what we are experiencing but they make poor leaders. Letting feelings take charge of us can lead to a highly volatile situation. Understanding this about others can go a long way toward de-escalating a situation by remaining calm.
  2. Take Ownership of Thyself! Often arguments are grounded in fear of something and so there is an element of control and power involved. The first person to get control of is thyself. This can be accomplished by knowing that the thoughts and feelings being experienced in the moment belong to the one who is experiencing them. Others are not responsible for how we feel any more than they are responsible for what we say. This is not an excuse to go around kicking others and then saying “it’s your pain, deal with it.” If you have made hurtful comments to others take appropriate ownership of them. Statements such as “you make me etc…” are projecting the displeasure being experienced onto others. Feelings and thoughts are property, manage them.
  3. Eliminate the use of “You”! The use of the word “you” in an argument creates a defensive posture in the other person. The underlying message insinuates that the other person is the cause or fault for what is happening. Self empowerment is through the use of “I” statements. Stating something un-pleasurable or an injustice from a personal position is about communication and not verbal assaults. A word of caution when learning how to use “I” statements, many people start by saying “I don’t like it when you…” and begin to use “you” again and enter right back into the power and control paradigm. Something more helpful might sound like “I don’t like it when I am criticized, belittled or yelled at.”
  4. Walk Away! Having a sound internal dialogue helps by drawing a boundary with someone who is angry or being argumentative over something trivial and has absolutely nothing to do with you. Whatever the other person is experiencing let them own it and simply walk on. Remember, it’s their property to manage. Helpful internal dialogue may sound something like “It’s their anger, it’s their stuff, and they own it.”
  5. The Kill Shot! The kill shot (not physically) is about not letting the argument go anywhere with you in the first place, period! It kills the argument. Let the other person say what they have to say and respond in an unemotional way by saying something along the lines of “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “wow, I had no idea you felt that way” and say nothing else. If the person persists then go back to item #4. Sometimes a person looking to argue or pick a fight tries to throw out, in a metaphorical sense, a baited hook. It draws another person into the argument and if the other person goes for it then they got hooked. In a sense it validates the angry person’s anger by giving it worth or value when it is responded to. Responding to the person’s comment, or baited hook, but not buying into it leaves it squarely with the other person. They own it, let them manage it.

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Controlling Behavior in Relationships

Controlling Behavior in Relationships

Being in a relationship with someone who is healthy creates good feelings of wanting to move forward with that person. In the process of relationship maturity there are certain characteristics to look out for that will help identify how things will play out in the long run. Sometimes unhealthy behavior can begin to raise little red flags in the mind that maybe something is not quite right. This is usually indicated by feelings of reluctance to spend time with the other person leading to avoidance issues. Wanting to isolate or getting away from the other person can be an indication of wanting to sort out thoughts and feelings about the relationship.

When sorting out these thoughts and feelings there are certain behaviors that signal there may be something to further evaluate. Whether married, engaged, dating or single; here are a few suggestions for self evaluation in a relationship.

  1. I can express my emotions, thoughts and feelings freely without judgment or criticism. Nurturing a relationship built on safety and trust goes a long way. Someone who is always criticizing or being judgmental about thoughts and feelings discourages growth and maturity and eventually other areas of the relationship, for example intimacy may begin to suffer. Healthy people respect each other, not criticize, even if they agree to disagree on certain subjects.
  2. Watch how the other person treats their close family members such as their parents and siblings. Are they being treated with respect or are they being negative and sarcastic? Often how these people are being treated can be a clue as to how people in a relationship will eventually be treated as well. When a relationship is new it can be exciting and most people want to present their best. As time goes on the real person begins to emerge and expose their true character. Conduct an early check by watching how they treat family.
  3. Be on the lookout for controlling behavior. Areas that are frequently used to control others are by getting aggressive regarding money, sex, anger and time spent with others. With money it is usually an issue by criticizing how you are spending money, making frequent suggestions on how to get more and then using manipulation to get it from you. In the case of marriage, money is controlled by restricting access to it and using intensive questioning about how it will be used. With sex, it is often withheld or the opposite occurs by being abusive and forceful when it is non-consensual. Anger is used to control the behavior response from others and is very highly prevalent with addictive behavior. Using anger to control is all about the controlling person which implies that “if you don’t do what I want then you will have to deal with me being unpleasant.” Finally, time with others, if a person questions or gets upset that time is being spent with others often presents an issue with jealousy. Jealousy can be an inroad leading to more complicated issues later in the relationship.

While this is not a comprehensive list of things to look out for in a relationship it can be a starting point or way to evaluate a few areas that may be of concern. Relationships can be complicated and involve many moving parts that go into the overall equation. Healthy relationships involve feeling comfortable with safety and trust with the other person. Safety and trust are foundational and allow for other areas of the relationship to grow such as maturity and intimacy. This is a kind of intimacy that goes beyond sex in the form of a deep knowing of the other person. Intimacy and maturity are lifelong endeavors in any relationship and really never stop growing. It takes time to get to really know someone.

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mcx-cheating-spouse-blog-mdWhy did my spouse cheat on me? While there is no simple answer to this question there is no doubt about when the news hits someone about a cheating spouse there is a flood of emotions that come with it. After the initial shock and emotions have subsided they begin to search for the answers as to why it happened. Some personal blame may begin to creep in, or guilt and shame that there could have been something done to prevent it from happening. Initial reactions typically run through the entire list of painful negative emotions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, worry and fear just to name a few.

Looking for answers, the non-cheating spouse will often try to rationalize the behavior or search for meaning as to why the affair happened. Sometimes the answer can be simple but usually there is something going on that is more complex. Here are 5 reasons as to why a spouse can have an affair.

  1. They chose to have one. Let’s just cut right to the chase. Regardless of the underlying reason, on the surface there was an opportunity to have the affair and they chose to move forward with it. There is always a choice whether to have one or not and to speak a simple truth in love is to expose how somewhere along the way that choice was made to have sex outside of the marriage. Like any decision in life there is a choice involved when faced with situations that are within a person’s control.
  2. Unmet emotional needs. One of the most common reasons is unmet emotional needs such as safety, love and nurturing, feeling supported and validated so that the other person feels special and important. When the need is not met then they begin to search for it outside of the marriage. Often this is a feeling or emotion that is running in the background and often not right on the surface and yet there is something that feels unfulfilled. The missing piece is unfulfilled love and intimacy which often becomes confusing by thinking sex is the cure. Feeling the need for sex outside of the marriage is a clear signal that help is needed in order to process through what is going unfulfilled in the relationship.
  3. Unresolved conflict. Marital discord creating anger can manifest outward in a dysfunctional way. Unresolved conflict can lead to feelings of fear of approaching the other spouse leading to perceptions of rejection in an attempt to avoid negativity. The spouse becomes angry and resentful of the spouse and seeks to get consoled elsewhere.
  4. Self pre-occupation. A spouse can feel left out of a marriage because the other spouse is too busy with themselves. This includes working, spending time with other friends and hobbies and a big issue today is spending too much time on the computer and social websites. This becomes an issue with the ignored spouse dealing with loneliness and seeks relationship elsewhere. An increasing factor of marital affairs are due to hook-ups on social websites. Marital affairs have doubled in the past 20 years of which most of it is attributed to people connecting on the internet.
  5. Poor counsel. Where is God in the marriage? What does God’s counsel say regarding marital affairs? Proverbs 13:20 (MSG) “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” In other words, the choice of poor company to hang out with creates a negative influence on the marriage. If a spouse is hanging out with a crowd of people who feel indifferent or think that marriage infidelity is acceptable, then watch out, it is conflict with the values that are reflective of what God has created within the context of marriage. The idea is to hang out with like minded people who support marriage and the values that honor the marriage. Listening to God’s word and accepting it covers a multitude of issues regarding marriage. For any marital affair, God’s wise counsel says it plainly in Hebrews 13:4 (NIV) “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.”

On a final note, sometimes an affair is suspected because of behavior that appears to be non-committal toward the relationship. If there is suspicion that the other spouse might be having an affair then a trust issue has developed. Seek help through a licensed professional who has training with marriage related problems. Through discovery many of the unmet needs that are going unfulfilled in a marriage can be addressed before it becomes a real threat to the marriage.


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Before Moving into Forgiveness, Maybe It’s Time to Get Angry!


“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
― Viktor E. Frankl

Is it possible to be overly forgiving of another person? For example, when another person does something in a marriage, such as adultery and then running off with the adulterer, at what point does the person who is left behind stop thinking of themselves as a victim of circumstances? Often times we hear stories about how a long time marriage ends with a spouse running off with a lover. The other spouse is left feeling abandoned, destroyed and reeling with all kinds of emotions and questions. Sometimes the person left behind will somehow hold themselves responsible for the decision the other person has made to run off.

There are a couple of dynamics going on with a scenario like this. If the the spouse who has been betrayed feels responsible then guilt is at play over what has happened. There must have been something they did that caused the other person to do this. The reality of the situation is the spouse who ran off did so as a result of a decision and choice they made on their own. It had nothing to do with the other spouse as they were not included in the decision making process. Sometimes a spouse will announce their leaving but this is about the type who suddenly and abruptly takes off. This type of story as it unfolds often and quickly becomes evident that a plan has been in the making for months.

The second dynamic has to do with integrity and character. Integrity is about honesty, values and ethical orientations that indicate a person’s morals regarding their lifestyle. When a person’s integrity is consistent with their actions and behaviors their character is portrayed actively demonstrating their integrity. When people are saying one thing within the context of a marriage and then abruptly run off with another lover then guess what? The character and integrity of that person is aligned with being an adulterer/adulteress and a liar. They are lying to their spouse while secretly scheming to create another life. It is an inconsistent story both internally and externally. Many cliches refer to this as “living a lie.” So, what to do about it?

Problems begin when the person who wants to remain in the marriage tries to forgive the other person and reconcile and their spouse will not. When this happens one of two things can happen. The most common response is emotional pain followed by grieving the loss. Grieving takes time and  it will need to run its course. Grieving time is different for everyone and there are multiple stages a person will go through. However, there are times when a person stays stuck in a pattern of wanting to forgive and reconcile to the point that it begins to destroy the person’s life. When this happens often changing the perception of the situation can help greatly.

Getting angry with the cheating spouse can go a long way toward recovery and overcoming self victimization. Anger is also commonly the missing stage in the grieving process that is not being allowed to happen (5 stages of grief: Denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Ref. psychcentral.com). There is nothing wrong with getting angry by recognizing the lack of integrity and the faulty character behavior of a cheating spouse who has run way with their lover.

One last thing to remember, forgiveness is not about accepting the transgressions of others, it about letting go of the power the transgression has over the self. When this occurs, self empowerment returns and life resumes in a new direction.


About the author- Brian M Murray is a devoted professional helping people overcome difficult obstacles in life. He is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern located in Orlando and Winter Park Florida working as a counselor in a private practice setting at The LifeWorks Group. http://therapists.psychologytoday.com/rms/prof_detail.php?profid=135390&sid=1353537584.3393_2139&state=FL&lastname=Murray

Reprint Permission– If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. “Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005″


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By: Brian M Murray, MS


In the news headlines over the weekend is a story about NFL player Jovan Belcher who killed his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then killed himself in a murder-suicide. The news was devastating to the families of Jevon and Kasandra as well as team members of the Kansas City Chiefs. According to an NBC news report, the families of both Jevon and Kasandra knew that that the couple had issues and there was conflict in the relationship, especially after the arrival of their newborn 3 months ago who now unfortunately has been orphaned.

This is very sad and high profile people get media attention when things like this happen, however the unfortunate truth is domestic violence does not have boundaries. Intimate partner violence is not affected by socioeconomic status, it can and does happen in every race, culture and economic setting. Whenever this type of news comes out it serves as a reminder that sometimes what people see from the outside of a relationship is not always what is happing on the inside. Intimate partner violence is not limited to just men or women, it happens to both as well as the children.

By definition domestic violence is a pattern of coercive or forceful behavior whose aim is to maintain control and manipulate the other person. There are several forms of abuse including emotional, psychological, verbal, physical, and sexual that can and often lead to physical and sexual assault, harassment, threats, blaming, name-calling, screaming, isolating the abused person from family and social contacts, withholding money and or sex and the list goes on.  The Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Partner Violence in the U.S. reports there were over 900,000 intimate partner violence reports in 2010 alone. This is only what is reported. There are estimates that this figure is less than half of what is really occurring. Some figures estimate total violent incidents as high as 2.1 million during the same time period.

Being involved in a relationship or marriage that is potentially dangerous or even deadly there are steps to take to get away from it. One of the biggest hurdles is getting past the controlling nature of the abuser. The abuser often leads the abused person to believe that if they try anything they will pay the penalty for non-compliance. Nobody deserves to be threatened or physically assaulted in any way.

What the abused person can do is to create a safety plan. A safety plan is a carefully thought out secret preparation that allows for the escape from the abuser. This is about stealth and building a network of resources with trusted people to the point that when the abused person is ready to go they just go. No warning, no notification or any of the sorts, just get out and execute the plan.

Planning is essential to the success of a safety plan. To get an idea, here are a few suggestions that a person may use to get prepared.

  • Finances: Open a checking or savings account in your name alone.
  • Personal: Leave cash, medications, extra clothes or packed bag in a safe place or with someone you know. Often a highly trusted friend or co-worker can be a good resource. Communicate to them at some point they could get a call to meet up unexpectedly.
  • Open a personal Post Office box in your name only to get mail.
  • Identify a safe place to go and have someone in place that can drive you to an undisclosed location.
  • If caught in the middle of a violent or abusive episode, stay in rooms with access to an exit such as a door or open window. Some victims have been known to leave selected windows unlocked.
  • For children, devise a code word that signals them to go with you immediately without questions or comments like a fire drill. Don’t forget to pack them a bag too.
  • If possible, make copies and bring originals of important documents such as children’s birth certificates, legal papers, sentimental items and pictures, insurance papers, passports etc.

Remember, the idea of a safety plan is about starting completely over without having to return for anything. Once gone, stay gone! Once gone the abuser is going to feel a loss of control and may try to track the victim. This is an effort to regain control. Stay on the lookout. Use of stealth when making the plan is very important. If the abuser senses or feels that the victim wants to leave the abuse often gets worse as they fear the impending loss of control.

The following information is an excellent resource with more detailed information if needed.

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)



About the author- Brian M Murray is devoted to helping people overcome difficult obstacles in life. He is a Registered Mental Health Counselor Intern located in Orlando and Winter Park Florida working as a counselor in a private practice setting.

Reprint Permission– If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. “Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005″


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By: Brian M Murray, MS

Anger is a natural emotion that all people experience at one time or another. How people handle anger is what can make the difference between a constructive outcome or destruction. Often getting in the way of handling anger are cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are the result of automatic thoughts that occur when we experience events in life. These distortions can and often create a false reality. A false reality can be construed in different ways such as feeling the need to always be right about topics of discussion or life events. This can lead to magical thinking of how things are supposed or should be leading to maladaptive beliefs.

In many situations when maladaptive beliefs are challenged it can stir up angry feelings of which one of the biggest culprits is feeling disrespected. A good question to challenge a maladaptive belief about what a person might be thinking or feeling in a situation is to get to the bottom of  “what is it that I believe about this situation that makes me angry?” This question addresses emotional reasoning that if a person feels angry then it must be true.

Sometimes what people say and do may feel like disrespect or create feelings of being challenged. However, could it be possible the other person is simply discussing the subject and would like some further information? The underlying message of interpretation of the offended person is unfair treatment from others. This can be a slippery slope and this line of thinking can lead a person down the road of despair and that life in general is not fair. The reaction response which is anger is “I will not stand for it and I am going to fight.” Unfortunately there are times when people drift off into a negative mind set and that everything in life has be dealt with forcefully and angrily.

Okay, hold on a minute. Before we don our boxing gloves, ring the bell and the fights on, let’s slow things down and look at some resolutions on how to defuse an anger time-bomb. The first is split second thinking and this is often the hardest part. Catching our initial thoughts in mid-stream before reacting to a situation is of utmost importance. This is literally the very first split second thought. There is this teeny window of opportunity that allows us to catch ourselves and think to the self “hold on, what am I reacting to, and what is the threat?” Before reacting, think of how to instead respond. There is a difference between reacting and responding. One is about aggression and the other is about being assertive. Reacting, especially in an explosive manner, is aggression and responding is being assertive.

A balloon is a good example of how this works. Adverse events come to us in our lives and each time this happens it adds a little bit of air to the balloon. When we respond to the event, we are asserting ourselves, it lets some of the air back out of the balloon. This is how the anger is managed, air comes in and some of it gets let back out. When the air goes into the balloon and does not get let out it keeps building and expanding until it can no longer hold the volume of air and it reacts, an explosion occurs. As human beings there is only so much we can hold. The idea of defusing and managing anger is to be more assertive by responding to others and events. This can be done is a respectful manner where feelings and thoughts can be expressed and easing the building tension and anger inside of us.

Reprint Permission– If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. “Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005″

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By: Brian M Murray, MS

One of the hallmarks of a great marriage or relationship is being involved with a person who values the other person’s feelings in a respectful and caring way. Validation in a relationship is kind of like a relationship health check. It is the ability to communicate thoughts and feelings that are accepted by the other person. Healthy relationships do not criticize or belittle the other person for expressing their feelings. Whether intentional or not, being critical or belittling the other person can send signals that what is being expressed implies the other is wrong, or somehow it makes them a bad person. Invalidation is negative behavior that can and often turns the overall mood of the relationship sour. The initial gut response to the negativity is often anger and resentment. The anger and resentment are the result of feeling the pain of the invalidating comment.

Emotional support is very important as it validates each other’s feelings by communicating the importance of how valuable the other person is. There are certain characteristics or “checkpoints” that a person can look for in a relationship. Like anything else in life, once in a while it is good to have a check up. While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some points to ask for a quick self check. In parenthesis are examples of invalidation.

  • Are you open to each other’s ideas, thoughts and feelings and implement active listening? (looking or walking away when they talk)
  • When discussing feelings and emotions is the other person non-critical of you for having them? (stop crying, or, don’t be such a baby)
  • Do you both accept the fact that your feelings and thoughts are your own without being judgmental toward each other? (oh, just get over it, get to the bottom line and stop digressing)
  • Are you both able to ask for help and support from each other without worrying about how the other person will respond? (not my problem, you’re on your own)
  • Are you both able to talk trusting that the other will empathize with you and have an understanding ear to your concerns? (you are too sensitive, why are you so sensitive about everything?)
  • Do you both feel accepting of each other with positive regard and have a general sense of mutual support for each other’s endeavors? (I hate it when you come to me with this type of junk, you are all talk and no action)

Congratulations if you answered yes to all of these questions as these are some of the hallmarks of a great marriage and relationship. For the ones answered no it might be worth it to take look and see if there is something can be done. These questions serve as guidelines that indicate mutual respect by honoring each other. In other words, they become statements where one person validates the other by setting the self aside for a moment while the other person is valued in the moment. Validation is important for the relationship to grow and mature where each person has the freedom to be themselves without condemnation, criticism and judgment from the other.

Reprint Permission– If this article helped you, you are invited to share it with your own list at work or church, forward it to friends and family or post it on your own site or blog. Just leave it intact and do not alter it in any way. Any links must remain in the article. Please include the following paragraph in your reprint. “Reprinted with permission from the LifeWorks Group weekly eNews, (Copyright, 2004-2012), To subscribe to this valuable counseling and coaching resource visit www.LifeWorksGroup.org or call 407-647-7005″

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By Christine Hammond and Brian M Murray

Shopping at a big box chain store with numerous displays for Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

Her.  [Oh, I forgot to tell him about the party we are hosting Thanksgiving week for our friends who are leaving the country.  I’m going to miss them so much and can’t wait to spend the day with them and several other close couples.  I already put the party on the calendar and scheduled with everyone but I’m haven’t told him yet.  He’s going to flip again. Oh well, too late, it’s scheduled.]  “Honey, did I mention that our friends are coming over during the Thanksgiving Holiday just before they leave for China?”

Him.  [I knew it.  I could see the scheming look on her face, she does this every year.]  “No, dear, you didn’t.  When were you going to clue me in?”

Her.  [Obviously that was bad timing, well at least we are in a public space so he can’t get too angry and yell at me.  It’s already scheduled so there is nothing he can do about it and if he had it his way, we would never do anything but sit at home and watch TV.  I’m so sick of watching football all the time.]  “Well, it’s on the calendar like you asked me to do and I just assumed that you would be looking at it.  Besides, I knew that you would want to see them and we had to make plans quickly so that nothing else got scheduled.”

Him.  [Here she goes again; I thought the calendar was going to fix this.]  “So when exactly is this little party of yours.”

Her. [Little, there is nothing so little about 30 people coming over for dinner and that was just the last count.  We still have not heard from two other families so our “little” party maybe pushing 40 by the time everything is counted.  The problem is that my friend makes too many last minute decisions and the numbers could change again.  So I’ll leave that little detail for another conversation.]  “It’s the Sunday before Thanksgiving, won’t that be great?  The kids are going to have so much fun.”

Him. [Oh my gosh, I’m having another panic attack.  She better not be having 50 people over.] “Ok, whatever.  What our plans for Thanksgiving Day?”

Her. [There he goes again.  Well, if I tell him that I changed my mind again, he’s going to flip even more.  First we were going away and then that plan changed.  Then we were going to our friend’s house but that got changed to us hosting them on Sunday.  Then we were going to work at a food bank but they didn’t need any volunteer.  Then I was going to have the kids help with cooking Thanksgiving but they couldn’t even empty the dishwasher without complaining.  Then we were going to a buffet but I didn’t like the prices.  Then we were going to carry out a Thanksgiving meal but I never really liked that plan.]  “I’m still working on it, don’t worry we’ll do something.

Him.  [I can tell this isn’t going to end well, it never does.] “Just out of curiosity, how many more plans do you have swimming around in your head?”

Where is this going? Often in a marriage there are two perspectives in a situation and coming to an understanding of the other person’s point of view can be a challenging process especially when what is thought is often not what is said.  It’s kind of like shooting at a moving target, just when you think have your aim, the target moves.  Let’s explore how each spouse could have better handled the situation before, during and after.

Before.  Instead of ambushing your spouse about plans that you have made, mention to your spouse that you updated the calendar and they need to look at it.  By making gentle reminders about periodically checking the calendar and making sure that the information is complete and accurate, you can reduce anxious moments such as this.   Another suggestion is to have weekly meetings with calendars, budgets and other details that need to be discussed so such matters come at more expectant times.

During.  Pay attention to how your spouse reacts to your comments with non-verbal body language.  If they are stressed by your comments, agree to table the discussion for another time when tempers are not so likely to flare up.  When you know that there is a holiday decision that needs to be made, be proactive and involved instead of letting one spouse make all of the decisions.  When you feel out of control or that you are being controlled by others, strong intense feelings of anxiety are likely to occur.

After.  The holidays bring enough stress with last minute plans and agendas.  Instead of expecting things to go as planned, expect the unexpected and learn to roll with it.  This is only temporary and is not a pattern for everyday of the year so don’t make it to be more than it is.  It’s all in your perception of the matter.

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