Hey yall! Its been a while. So Sorry! Holidays, New Year, activities, volunteering, planning, the list goes on. Lets get to it! Story Time!!
I say all the time that value my relationships. Even ex romantic relationships. Although a romantic relationship may end badly, somehow we still end up being friends years later. Its a gift and a curse. But you have to know how to have good boundaries. Ah boundaries. My favorite. One of my strengths is being a good listener. Chile, these men test my listening skills often. A couple months ago I received a call from an ex that I hadnt heard from in years. I was out with my family but I stepped away to answer it because we hadnt talked in forever. I really just answered to have a 30 second conversation and then tell him I would call him later. NOPE! Homeboy ended up talking about his issues with his children, baby mom issues work issues and the list goes on. How do you call someone and just dump your issues on to them like that?! I was in public so I was choosing my words carefully. Trying not to offend him. Quickly told him I was out with family and that I had to go. Of course he apologized but he also was inconsiderate and didnt ask if I could talk before he unloaded his problems.
Fast forward to a couple days later, he texted me asking if I had time to talk. Ok, better. I responded that we could talk but I did not have the emotional capacity to be his therapist tonight. Boom. Ladies and Gents that is effectively how you set boundaries. The first conversation he caught me off guard. I was prepared this time.
We have to be careful to not others weigh us down. Too many times, my friends and I trade stories about men who will randomly call and then all of sudden you feel weighed down by their problems. I cant carry your emotional baggage sir. I have my own.
I guess youre wondering what did the guy say when I told him I couldnt be his therapist? He said danngg I wasnt calling to do that. Why would you say that? I told him how thats exactly what happened the last time and I wasnt going to allow it to happen again. We talked about other things and the conversation went smoothly.
Setting boundaries doesnt come easy. It takes practice and some feelings may get hurt. Remember to always say things in love and kindness.
As promised, I am going to give you guys the scoop on some of the activities we did while in couples therapy. Obviously, communication was a big part of our problem. Although we talked often, we weren’t communicating effectively. Man we received soooo many tools. This part of therapy was awesome. These are skills I will keep for the rest of my life. I dont remember the order of the activities of when we completed them, but they were all useful. Lets divulge.
We had been together so long that things just became complacent. We were well into year 5. We were basically just doing the every day things to go through life. One of the first activities we did while looking at each other, we had to list reasons why we loved the other. I know I know. It sounds cliche. But you would be surprised how much time you can let pass by without telling your partner specific reasons why you love them. This was hard for me because I was in a state of Eff him Lol. But it can really soften your heart. When is the last time you said to your partner, “I love ___ about you.”
We were challenged to be intentional about dating. Prior to this task, we were in the habit of hanging with friends, or just hanging at home. We barely left the house to hang out with each other. Maybe once every 3 weeks. We started being intentional with date night again. Thursday night movie nights were our thing for new releases. We started to have so much fun by including things like bowling to bike rides to jazz clubs. This is how we built the friendship again.
We had to practice being intentional about our words. Sure its easy to say, I appreciate you. But it means so much more when you say I appreciate that you cooked dinner tonight. Thank you for ironing my clothes. Even just saying Im sorry. Sure its easy to say, Im sorry. But it means so much more when you say, Im sorry for yelling at you. Im sorry I wasnt listening. I apologize for not calling those people when I told you I would. Man this part is so humbling. Its so next level. You are forced to put your pride to the side.
Speaking of apologies. Did you know that people receive apologies different ways? There are apology languages just like there are love languages. https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/apology-quiz/ Heres the website. My apology language is to accept responsibility. Yes and that was spot on for me. You have to admit that you were wrong for me to accept your apology. The other ones are 1. Requesting forgiveness 2. Genuinely repent 3. Expressing reget and 4. Make restitution.
The Five Love Languages is always paramount. My love language is acts of service. I think my mom created this in me. My mom used to help me with everything. Even in adulthood, my mom would cook for me and help me pack. When people help me out, it means the world to me. Take that quiz also. https://www.5lovelanguages.com/quizzes/
We were challenged to serve each other. Who can out give each other? This was so good. It changed my mindset into working with a partner. This isnt about gifts at all. Its about being a helper to your partner. We started to love doing things for one another. It didnt feel like one person was doing more than the other. It felt equal. It was small things like getting my charger when my phone was dying or me getting up to get him a bottle of water. This was such a raw expression of love.
Lastly my all time favorite. The Four Horsemen from the Gottman Institute. Dr John Gottman is like the godfather to relationships. The Four Horsemen is an approach to identifying conflict in relationship. These are the 4 things you need to identify like right now in order for your relationship to survive. They are 1. Criticism 2. Contempt 3. Defensiveness 4. Stonewalling. The last one was big for me. It means shutting down and withdrawing. I did this all the time and it was causing a major tiff between us. I had to work through which was not easy. I had to allow my partner to call me out when I would resort to this behavior. That was difficult too. Here is the link. https://www.gottman.com/blog/category/column/the-four-horsemen/
I hope these tools have been helpful. Put them in your toolbox and pull them out when you need them! Comment below and tell me what you think.
I came across this video posted by comedian David Arnold on Instagram. He told a story about how he ended up in couples counseling over an argument about oatmeal! I laughed so hard because that is seriously how it happens sometimes. The last straw may seem so petty!
I ended up in couples counseling over toilet paper! No lie. The toilet paper was the argument that broke the camels back. Let me paint the picture. We were watching a movie and he went to the bathroom. He went to grab the toilet paper but was annoyed that I accidentally bought paper towels instead of toilet paper. Oh Baby! He was sooo mad. He wanted me to leave the house at 8 at night in the winter to get him some toilet paper pronto. Nah fam. I wasnt doing that. You all know that its gets pitch black dark at 3p in the winter. Besides, we were watching a movie. So I suggested that he go downstairs to the lobby and use the restroom. Nope, homeboy wasnt having it. So we ended up arguing because I wouldn’t go to the store and he wouldn’t go downstairs. Needless to say, the night was ruined. And that, ladies and gentlemen had us in front of a therapist.
I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into when we went to therapy. Therapy was his idea actually. Im a social worker so I was totally in agreement with going. But chilleee someone should have told me to buckle up for that ride. I literally had no idea that our relationship was in such turmoil. Hanging on by a thread. Im pretty sure I cried at every darn session for months. I thought we would go, talk about feelings, chat it up. Nah son. Sis had us pulling back layers and layers. Hurtful things were said. But a lot of healing was done.
You have to be emotionally prepared for this. I was not. Its a safe space for both partners to express how they feel. Ask yourself some questions before going. Give yourself a pep talk that you will be receptive to what your partner says even though it may cut deep. And most importantly, you have to commit to doing the work. In the future, Ill talk about some exercises we did. Keep tuning in.