I Hate My Partner!

Forget about love being gone. You’re way past that. You hate your partner and you want out.  You hate your partner because he/she: stifles your identity; you feel crushed; you no longer know who you are is cheating says things that really cut, often insisting he/she didn’t mean to hurt you neglects you; you feel invisible controls everything until you have no energy left to stand up for yourself I am here to tell you three things: First, your feelings are normal. Second, underneath your hate is love. Third, you have the power to transform the relationship. FIRST, YOUR FEELINGS ARE NORMAL If you believe in evolution, you could say that we must survive. In order to survive, we must protect our Self. In order to do that, we must reject whatever is toxic to that Self. That means that if we perceive that we are being mistreated, that’s a good first step. It identifies the toxic substance. To perceive it and then reject it makes perfect sense. That’s basic survival. From a spiritual perspective, it’s even clearer: Your soul has been injured and as the Talmudic statement goes, “Words from the heart enter the heart.” This is true for kind words and mean ones. They are potent healers and they can be incredibly corrosive. Corrosiveness kindles hate just as healing kindles love. This is how our most basic emotions function. SECOND, UNDERNEATH YOUR HATE IS LOVE Love is composed of many things. Hate is also composed of many things but “the absence of love” is not one of them. A feeling cannot be the absence of something–with the...

DrDeb’s Book Review: Difficult Conversations

“Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” by Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton, and Sheila Heen are from the Harvard Business School, of all things! But that is precisely why we can benefit from listening to what they have to say. Let me explain. We can be sloppy with how we talk to our loved ones. We feel we have to be “honest,” right? And then what happens? Well, I don’t have to tell you: It generally doesn’t work out so well. But business! Ah, that’s a different thing. When money is on the table, everyone wants to be careful. Not only careful as in “diplomatic,” but careful as in “getting the outcome that I want.” Yeah, in business, we are usually smart. If we want to make a sale, we nurse the customer. But with our families, we are just as liable to shoot ourselves in the foot, unfortunately. So what can these three people tell us about conversations that we didn’t already know? A lot, apparently. I have to tell you *I* was impressed because they break down conversations even more than I thought I did. (Yup. That’s right. I don’t have to have a big ego about this.) As a manual of how to work with people — or your family — it is great. Let me give you a bunch of great examples, pages I dog-eared just for you. “When Blame Is the Goal Understanding Is the Casualty” (p. 64) “Even in situations that require a clear assignment of blame, there is a cost. Once the specter of punishment – legal or otherwise – is...

How To Block People Who Argue — And Get What You Want

   Why is it that people insist on trying to win arguments by shooting themselves in the foot? Adam: “I did NOT say that I would go to your mother’s for dinner.” Sally: “Yes you did. And I don’t appreciate your letting me down.” “And you never let ME down?” Do you see where this is going? No where. And why? – Because when you try to win, it means someone else loses. Which means they will fight to the death (metaphorically speaking) to not lose. Which means they have to win. See? But…… If what you want for a result is to get whatever it was you wanted to get, there’s a much better way: Just say what you want. Plain English (or whatever language you speak in). Oh, and add in one really smart — and nice — thing. Let the person you are arguing with know that you heard them. Here’s why: I would venture to bet — and I am not alone on this (I’ll be doing a book review in a couple months on a book written by Harvard Business School people who say the same thing) — the reason people argue so much is because they don’t feel heard. Think about it. Think about all the arguments you’ve been in. And all the times you kept going round and round. You felt like you weren’t getting your point across. Think about the times you did not want to argue but the person you were arguing with would not let go. Now, remember back to those moments. Did you ever once let him or...

The Surprising Role of Body Language in Assertiveness

How does it get this good?…. “My wife and I are together, and expect to be forever. We’ve learned to deal with one another and learned to identify and control our bad habits. I’ve learned why I was an abusive man and how to not be an abuser. “Sometimes I see my old habits in others and feel empathy and compassion – and wish they had the advantages of a hundred or so sessions with Dr. Deb. Thanks so much for your help. Our time together was an investment worth more than anything I’ve ever done in my life. I believe that I owe my life to your help – certainly, I didn’t realize that I could be this happy again.” –Florida Well, of course I was pleased as punch to receive an email with this nice news. After all, YOUR happiness is what I get up for in the morning! Every day! But I was also curious. I wanted to know, how all this came about. Why was I hearing from him now out of the blue? So I wrote him back. And here is what he said: “Your assertiveness worksheet became a habit. Instead of playing intellectual one-upsmanship games with clever dialogue with a goal of “winning” some non-existent, delusional contest, I trained myself to be honest and ask myself, ‘Why am I thinking this?'” And I have to tell you, I’ve heard so many good things about my Assertive Sheet that I decided to share some of it with you here on my blog. Here goes . . . Part I of my Assertive Sheet is...

Self Esteem, Selfishness and Selflessness

Okay, here’s a question: Do you put yourself first or others first? Here’s another question: What is the right thing to do regarding the first question? Third question: Who told you that? Where did that message come from? And the final question: Where does self-esteem come in? Does putting yourself first demonstrate self-esteem? How about if you put others first? Is This Selfish? David walked into the house hungry. He’d had an incredibly difficult day. Things did not go well with the partners in his new business. They didn’t believe his year-end predictions and they wanted more data than he could give them. He was really annoyed about that, angry actually. He was in a huff as he walked in. “Hi,” Doris said as he came in. No matter how challenging it was, she always tried to be pleasant. But she didn’t get a reciprocal greeting. “Where’s dinner?” was all David said. We don’t need more information than this to say that it appears that David is selfish or self-centered. He seems to put himself first, but more than that, his wife wasn’t on the list at all. Well, I shouldn’t say that. David has learned that in order to get some of the things he wants he must attend to others – to a point. So there might be a time when he gives a gift or a “Hello.” That logic still filters events through “Me” as the operator: If it’s in my interest, then I will cater to others. This approach keeps the behavior in the category of “selfish.” Is there a time when this is right?...

How to Be Assertive and Get Treated Like an Equal

You may remember I was letting you peek into the lives of Cally and Tim. Tim was a busy, focused man and when he needed something from Cally, he would simply give her marching orders. His demeanor, though cold, was not rude, and Cally could not put her finger on why it bothered her. I explained why in my post, Two Simple Secrets of Assertiveness. I then suggested what she tell Tim to get him to start out nicer, but what I did not discuss in that post was how to get Tim to see Cally as an equal, how to get him to value her work as a mother of very young children. The No-No of Assertiveness One thing that must underlie Cally’s conversation is not to try to explain how badly this makes her feel. Do you remember Spok from Star Trek? Presumably, he didn’t comprehend feelings. I am not suggesting that Tim doesn’t have feelings, but what I’ve noticed is that an awful lot of people are far more sympathetic to their own feelings than to those of other people. So if Tim’s friends who need to borrow his drill don’t call up and say, “Hi, how are you?” before spitting out their request and if Tim does not think that’s unusual or cold, then he will not understand why it should be hurtful to Cally. On the other hand, if at work, a colleague maneuvers so as to get a deal that should have been Tim’s, oh boy, will Tim’s feelings be hurt! He will be mad. See how this works? And by the way,...

Two Simple Secrets of Assertiveness

Cally was rushing. She was making something that had to get put in the oven in just 15 min in order to come out on time for her to dash off to do carpool. Hopefully, the baby wouldn’t mind being awakened from her nap at that point. Her days—and nights—were always like that: rushing from one task to another with little time to think, prepare or, it seemed, breathe. What Dismissive Behavior Looks Like Just then the phone rang. She had to take it. It was Tim, her husband. His voice was deep and strong, a voice she had once thrilled to hear. But lately it had a coolness to it that set off a wave of anxiety. He was calling from work, a place that made her hectic life seem tame. In spite of that, he never lost control. He seemed to float above the anxiety. One of the tricks he used to survive was to delegate. And he never shied away from delegating to Cally. “Cally,” he said, without a “Hi” or a “How are you?” “I need you to look up something for me on my computer. It’s information that I would not put in my work computer; it’s sensitive. But I need it now, okay?” Cally couldn’t pinpoint what was wrong with his request, but it was as if a scaffolding collapsed raining down concrete and sheetrock. Cally couldn’t say why she felt that way and she just breathed a sigh, telling him she needed to get dinner into the oven right now so that Jason would have it when she got him home from...

Assertiveness Gets What You Want

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish Journal “Boy, what he did to me infuriates me,” Jack told me as his face turned red. “No, that isn’t enough,” he went on, “I want to do him one better. He deserves it. Getting even isn’t good enough for him.” “You should do one better,” I commented. “You should be assertive.” “What do you mean?” Jack asked. “You should have said, ‘I’m not having this discussion right now. Go calm down and then we can talk.” “Are you kidding?” Jack asked incredulously. “That’s not one better. That’s wimpy! That doesn’t even deal with the issue.” “That’s the point,” I explained. “When someone is as obnoxious as he was, you don’t deal with the issue. You change the subject completely to focusing on his awful behavior. That way, you don’t have to deal with someone who is just a loose cannon. You let him know your boundaries, your limits. That makes you a better person than he is. You’re civilized and he’s not.”   Jack wasn’t satisfied at all. I can empathize. After all, how satisfying is it to be a gentleman when what you really want to do is haul off and punch the guy in the kishkes? You don’t want to rise above it all; what you really want to do is sink below the other guy’s level and hit below the belt. You want to get his attention. You want to send a message that he’ll never forget. I totally understand. I sympathize with Jack’s frustration and I tell him so:   Getting Even Backfires – You’re Still In...
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