Make this “Your Year!” An Intention Setting Guide for Couples and Individuals

blog - go for it now

I’ve heard clients, friends, and family make comments such as, “this is going to be my year,” “last year was not my year,” “I’m hoping that this will be my year.” I’ve noticed that making it their year is contingent on some sort of achievement or gain. It often sounds like: “this year I plan to get in shape,” “I hope to get a promotion,” “I will become a homeowner,” “I plan to find a partner,” “I’m hoping to get engaged,” etc. What do you need to experience, see, or accomplish to consider this “your year?”

Are you goal oriented? So, what are your goals for the new year? If you’re a goal oriented person, that question will not bother you, in fact, it may stimulate you. You may be able to fire those goals out to anyone who asks in a manner that exudes an eloquent confidence with specifics around steps and dates within the year in which you plan to achieve those goals. Congratulations, on your ability to focus, create detailed task lists and actually complete them! Being goal oriented supports many people, some people thrive from setting goals, competing, and healthy stress. For those of you out there that embrace the word, “goal,” who turn that energy into action, (and I say this sincerely) yay you!

For many others (the vast majority), the mere word, “goal” brings with it feelings of pressure, anxiety, stress and expectation (immediate migraine). I have observed clients show signs of distress during session, such as fidgeting, rapid heart rate and speech when the word, “goal” is brought up since there are various cognitions and feelings attached to it. The thought of having to sit down and come up with a “plan” around achieving your “goals” for the new year can feel like going on a job interview when you have just been laid off! In which there is a lot riding on what you do, you fear judgment, and there is a belief that you have to get everything just right in order to be considered a success and worthy of being on the team! You either get the job or you don’t. You either pass or fail.

The idea of setting intentions seems so much friendlier, when the word intention is shared during session, clients usually breath deeper, become pensive , speak softly and share in a more concise way. The word intention is soothing, it evokes hope, a gentle nudge. Rather than the idea of sitting across from someone in a stuffy suit on the other end of a desk in an unfamiliar setting who you feel will judge you, I encourage you to envision a cup of hot chocolate or tea in hand, perhaps a glass of wine or beer and sitting back on a comfy sofa, legs propped up, sitting next to an encouraging family member or close friend and discussing some things that you would like to do or have always dreamed about doing and then envision making that a reality. Think about how you can create the life you want in the new year, and yes, I mean this year!

A goal is measurable, it places value, either you achieve your goal or you fail (that seems harsh)! It is often born in the rational, 3-D mind, is black or white and can be non-forgiving

Intentions come from within, your deepest desires, the song in your heart and the energy of your soul coming together to create an intention. Intentions are compassionate, forgiving, ever growing, and evolving.

be happy

How to Set Intentions for yourself:

Step 1: Commit to/Set aside time to relax and be fully present with yourself. Some people find this works best while they meditate, however if meditation is not something that you believe works for you, finding a quiet place where you are comfortable works just as well.

Examples for quiet time/a quiet place: Sitting in a warm bath (a lavender or vanilla scented candle, bath salt or bath gel can enhance the experience), drinking a warm beverage in your favorite chair, sitting in nature (in the park watching the birds, squirrels, the leaves sway in the trees, at the beach, the ocean waves, the stillness of a lake, in your car parked under a tree, in NYC you can park by the Hudson or East River, etc). Give yourself at least 60 minutes, turn electronics off, let your loved ones know you will be unavailable and prioritize listening to yourself.

Step 2: Take deep breaths (to calm your heart rate) and allow thoughts of what you enjoy most in life to surface, what about life makes you smile, what makes you feel like moving freely and laughing, when do you feel like the most authentic version of yourself, what would you like to create, and what do you wish you had more time to do?

Step 3: Once you have created the opportunity to think, reflect, and envision, write down the questions above and write down what your thoughts are about them. The act of writing them down is cathartic, it supports bringing thoughts and feelings that may have been residing dormant within you to the surface. Once brought to the surface they bring with them the awareness necessary to support intentions to manifest. In other words, writing brings with it an awareness of your deepest thoughts and feelings which you may have been unaware of, having this awareness will empower you to bring about the change you seek.

declare intentions

Examples of Individual Intentions:

I intend to recognize at least one positive thing in every situation. (this will support elevating mood, and appreciation).

I intend to take ownership of my role in situations, understanding that everyone plays a role in an outcome. (this will promote self-awareness and internal growth)

I intend to practice trust in the outcome of everyday and identify a lesson/positive even when things do not go according to my plan. (this will support letting go of rigid attachments, and decreasing anxiety)

I intend to do more of what makes me smile, such as reading and spending more time with friends. (this will support happiness and a sense of fulfillment)

I intend to use my natural gifts more often to support myself as well as others. (this will support self-esteem, self-worth and sense of purpose)

I intend to lead an active lifestyle, to keep myself as healthy as possible to be around for my loved ones. (this promotes elevated mood due to the release of endorphins and a sense of accomplishment)

I intend to acknowledge when fears are limiting me and make a decision to practice trust around my own ability to handle any outcome. (this will decrease anxiety and support growth and self-esteem)

I intend to recognize when past wounds are influencing decisions and move towards making decisions rooted in love and trust to create a life of fulfillment in my authenticity. (this will support healing and self actualization)

I intend to practice appreciation everyday for the life I am already living (this supports gratitude, happiness, and contentment)

trust fingers

How to Set Intentions for your Relationship:

Step 1: Discuss your desire to come up with intentions for your relationship in a collaborative manner. Each of you can identify what tool you will be using to begin (a notepad, phone app, or in a word document) so that you can refer back to the questions and answers throughout the year and also provide a copy to one another.

Step 2: Think/Reflect around what type of relationship you would like to create. Answer the following questions: When was I happiest in the relationship? When did I feel safest? How do I enjoy receiving love? How do I enjoy showing love? What do I still want to do individually? What do I want to do with my partner? Do I believe we are working as a team? When do I feel most connected? How are we connecting? What are our couple strengths? What areas would I like us to grow in?

Step 3: Once you have both written and reflected on the questions above, schedule a time to sit together and share your responses. Use this time to truly connect, view it as a positive experience, and rid yourselves of all distractions (electronic devices). Allocate at least a couple of hours to the conversation, perhaps while sharing a meal. Together you can gain insight around your partner and set intentions for your relationship which you are aligned with and both take ownership around.

Examples of Relationship Intentions:

We intend to listen to one another from a place of love and trust in an effort to practice empathy, compassion, and validation. (this will support arguing less)

We intend to recognize old coping mechanisms and make a decision to be unguarded and vulnerable. (this will support conflict resolution, de-escalating, and connection)

We intend to continue to grow our relationship based on how we relate to one another and the place we have in one another’s hearts and not be influenced by the expectations and views of others. (this supports overall happiness, stepping away from roles imposed by family and society)

We intend to share our truth, views, and opinions with our partner to promote understanding, and not impose those said views and opinions on them. (this will support safety and connection).

We intend to spend quality time together being fully present and engaged. (this will support connection, intimacy, and trust).

We intend to continue to get to know one another as we recognize that we are individuals who continue to grow, evolve and change. We will not assume to know what the other is thinking or feeling, we will approach one another with love and curiosity. (this will promote intimacy, attraction, and connection)

We intend to create a safe space for one another by communicating in a validating, compassionate manner, being mindful of our tone and body language. (this will support intimacy and safety)

Ready? you Set your Intention…now, Go!

So now that you have created your individual and/or relationship intentions, come up with ways to ensure those intentions come to fruition. In order for intentions to manifest, you must not only think about them, you must have a deeper awareness of the fact that they exist and then practice something different.

If one of your individual intentions was “to recognize when fears are limiting me and make a decision to practice trust around my ability to handle any outcome.” The action would be the awareness around what you are fearing. Example: Let’s say that you are not going out socializing because you do not have as many friends as you once had. You have convinced yourself that you just do not want to go out, you are an introvert, do not really need or like people and just want to stay to yourself. While this may be true for some people, for many people it is not and the recognition may be around the fact that you are fearful that you can not make new friends, that you are not interesting, that others find you boring and that you will have a difficult time. Once you are aware of that fear, the next step is practicing something different. You can join a meetup with people who have similar interests, join a club, begin a new healthy hobby such as walking or jogging, all with the intention to meet new people. If that seems overwhelming to you, you may make a decision to go to therapy to work on shyness and discover social anxiety may be what has been standing in your way. You have increased your awareness and decided to do something different, you are being intentional.

In your couple relationship, if you intend to “recognize old coping mechanisms and make a decision to be unguarded and vulnerable” what does that look like in awareness? Example: You and your partner have a disagreement, he wants to go out for dinner and you want to stay in. He begins to say that you always want to stay in and he is bored staying in. You hear that as him calling you boring. You may get defensive. Your defensiveness may look like shutting down (not saying anything), lashing out (name calling, screaming), walking away, beginning to laugh (deflecting with humor or passive aggressive sarcasm), use of exit language (I can’t deal with this anymore, I’m going to pack my bags and leave, I think we should get a divorce). Those are all coping mechanisms aka guards, aka defense mechanisms.

Do you know what yours are? (once again, awareness). Ask yourself, what are my  defense mechanisms? How do I protect myself? If you do know what yours are, you now have the opportunity to do something different. If you usually internalize what people share and shut down, make the decision to share differently, stating, “that was a trigger for me, I heard that as you calling me boring.” In that simple statement you are now doing something intentionally different and giving your partner the opportunity to show up differently as well. If you are prone to lash out, escalate the argument quickly, engage in name calling, start to yell and blame, then your something different will come in the form of learning how to self-soothe. Recognizing that you have been triggered and turning inward to feel better. Sharing, “I’m upset and need to take a few minutes to calm down before we continue to have this conversation” will be the intentional change needed for a different outcome. The awareness will lead to increased intentionality.

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Begin with a quiet space,  a restful heart, and a quiet mind. Set your intentions and practice awareness. When awareness and intentionality exist simultaneously, the desires from within are able to manifest. Set your intention, hold yourself accountable, do something different and allow life to unfold.

The fact is, that every year is your year.

This is already your year,

How will you decide to experience it?

 

 

 

 

Couples: 3 Ways to Start Arguing Less by putting Ego to Rest, Today!

Ego-judges-and-punishes.-Love-forgives-and-heals.

Ego, ego, my ever present ego, although I constructed thee with the help of society, I no longer want you to be a part of me. I get to discover the truth in me, the soul of me, the authentic beauty of “we” –  TDK

What if this blame/shame game could really come to an end? Why do we have such a hard time hearing and understanding one another? Is it your partner’s fault? Are you waiting for your partner to change? How about doing something different? How about changing something about yourself?

In order to do so, keep one thing in mind, it will not be easy. In fact, it will probably be one of the toughest things you do in life, primarily because the force to be reckoned with is not your partner, what is at the root of the communication glitches is not necessarily you either. It is something much more complicated, oh yes, though part of you, it does not have to define you….IT’S YOUR EGO!

It is impossible for things to stay the same if you change. If you do not show up to a conversation relying on your old script and playing out your role the same way you have in the past, it is impossible for the conversation to stay the same. Yes, of course, when individuals within the couple relationship work on themselves while simultaneously working on their couple relationship, the results can be outstanding and real change can happen at an increased rate. However, this does not mean that you have to wait until your partner makes the first move (your ego may have you convinced that your partner is the one that has to make the changes, not you!).

I currently work with couples who are both working on communicating differently, however the clients I see for individual therapy are also experiencing shifts in their couple relationship due to the changes they are making and the work they are doing on an individual basis around putting their ego to the side and practicing more vulnerability.

How about this? How about coming to the table with the intention that YOU will show up differently? That you will rewrite your script (same old way you have been communicating) and include validation, acceptance, and understanding in your responses? What about not internalizing what your partner shares, because although the ego would like you to believe it is always about you, rude awakening for most of us is, it is not always about us and we do not get to own everything!

Sometimes it is about our partner and the external variables in their lives, outside of us, which are causing them to respond to us differently. Oh fragile ego, step aside and allow me the ability to see things solely from my partners perspective. What an amazing concept. When we put our ego to the side and allow ourselves to understand the perspective of our partner, it opens up the door to understanding, safety, and connection.

3 Healthy and helpful tools to expedite change, to place your ego aside, and to connect with your partner that will lead to healthy communication:

  1. Set your intention for how you would like to show up for the conversation. What is it that you are working on and working towards and how will your actions/words support your goal during the conversation. You are not only doing this for the sake of the relationship, this is a growth opportunity for individuals. Your intentions should be rooted in something you recognize you would like to change about yourself in order to become a more effective communicator. Examples of what you can do: “I set my intention to (________)” and create your personal intention which can be filled in with, “not interrupt my partner when they are speaking,” “validate my partners feelings prior to sharing my thoughts and feelings,” “not blame my partner,” “give my partner eye contact,” “not walk away,” “let my defenses down/be more vulnerable,” etc. 

 

  1. The accountability factor. You get to own your role! When you own your role in how you and your partner reached the point to where you are arguing/feeling disconnected, start the conversation with what you recognize you did to contribute to the current state of the relationship. In doing so you are practicing self-awareness, you are taking ownership, and you are creating an opportunity for your partner to let their defenses down because they are not feeling blamed. Recognizing and sharing your awareness of your role creates a shift in a conversation because couples go from pointing the finger at one another to looking inward in a compassionate way. It is not about being wrong or right, it is about recognizing how you ended up where you are and how you can both do something different to have a different outcome next time.

 

PP Image time out

  1. Ego, you are being placed in a permanent time out!  Imagine placing your ego in time out and allowing your defenses to go down, in an effort to practice vulnerability and not make what your partner is sharing about you. The ego has a funny way of drowning out what your partner is trying to share with you by going into self-preservation/survival mode, the ego gets so loud it becomes impossible to navigate both your ego and your partner at the same time. Visualize seating your ego somewhere else or compartmentalizing your ego for the length of your conversation with your partner. The mistake most of us make is that we internalize (that’s your ego again) what our partner is sharing. We think about how things are going to impact us and about what it means about or for us. In our vanity, if our partner is behaving distant, we must have done something wrong, if our partner is happy, it is because we “make” them happy, if our partner is angry, we must have triggered them. The most important piece is that you are able to hear and listen to understand your partner and their perspective. You may have triggered them, there may be something you did that is triggering them to behave a certain way, however it may also have nothing to do with you. Be open to hearing your partner, and trust what they share, otherwise known as their truth. If you internalize, and make it about yourself, it will be impossible to hear your partner in an open, loving, and unguarded way. A way in which we all deserve to be heard.

When couples practice the tools provided, whether one or all three, growth and genuine change happen. Even if your partner is not entirely bought in, if you practice the tools, the dynamic will change.

Living in possibility that you can create the relationship you desire. If two people are equally invested, with the courage to learn more about themselves and in doing so, learn more about their partner they will be able to have more productive conversations, which will create a stronger connection and lead to couple satisfaction and fulfillment in your relationship. Continue to drown out the voice of the ego and listen to the voice of your partner because that is the voice that speaks directly to your soul and to your heart

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Validation Do’s and Don’ts for Couples: An Essential Component to Finally Feeling Understood!

interracial couple hetero

“Listen to me, indulge me, allow yourself to be immersed into our process and together we will come to understand the power of “we.” TF

Ever feel like screaming “Validate me!!!!!!?”

It probably sounds more like, “You just don’t get it,” “you don’t understand me,” “I give up trying to make you understand.” “Can you just listen to what I am saying.”

How many times have you and your partner had the same argument?  Many disagreements have occurred so often that individuals can predict their partner’s responses, as if the argument were scripted.

So many couples get stuck in what feels like Groundhog’s day, that same old argument and it can be about the same or different topics, the issue is the process, not the content. In other words, it is not about what you are disagreeing about, it is about how you communicate with one another.

The same old same yields the same results, yet so many of us continue doing what we are accustomed to doing. There is one sure-fire way to change the conversation, one sure fire way to feel heard and understood, one sure fire way to feel like your partner finally gets it. That sure fire way is validation!

It shows up in the therapy room quite frequently, at least 8 out of 10 couples are struggling to validate one another.

Top reasons why people find it difficult to validate their partner:

  • They do not feel as though their partner understands their point and they are not going to validate them, until they are validated.
  • They believe that they must agree with their partner to validate them and usually they do not agree. In fact, some people feel as though the other person is completely wrong and if so, can refuse to validate their feelings
  • They do not believe their partner should be experiencing the feelings that are coming up for them and try to convince their partner how come they should feel differently

Usually when someone shares something that they are experiencing strong emotions around, they do not want advice, they do not want someone to come up with solutions, they do not want to feel judged/as if they did something wrong, and they do not want someone to tell them not to feel that way. If the person would like advice, they will usually ask. Providing unsolicited advice without validating first and empathizing can leave a person feeling misunderstood, dismissed, and/or invalidated. Most non-validating responses are said with noble intent, however, to the person on the receiving end, they can still feel frustrated and misunderstood.

 Common Non-Validating Responses:

“Well, let me tell you about how bad my day was and then you’ll see that yours wasn’t so bad”

“How many of your friends wish they had a provider like me, so I missed our anniversary, I have a lot on my plate”

“Well you work hard for us, you’re supposed to work hard, you’re the provider”

“You’re too sensitive”

“You should have handled it differently, next time try to do it like this”

“Sleep on it, tomorrow is another day, let’s not talk about this now”

“I can’t believe you are that angry about something that doesn’t matter”

Some of the above are well intended attempts to “make” the person feel better, other responses sound dismissive, mean, and blaming. They are all equally non-validating. Have you said any of the above? Have people in your life responded to you this way? If so, how did that make you feel?

Then there are the attempts at validation such as:

“I get it, but…”

“I hear you, and….”

“I understand what you’re saying, so….”

The above ARE NOT validating statements, they come across as, “I hear you, and let me tell you why you shouldn’t feel that way.” Step one, slow down.

What Validation is and How to Validate Your Partner:

  • For starters remember, you are validating feelings and EVERYONE’S FEELINGS ARE VALID. The reason why they feel the way they do is not as important as addressing the feelings that they are expressing to you. Once you are able to let go of the content (which you may not agree with) and focus on how they are feeling (which is always valid), you will be able to support them.
  • Validation is the affirmation, recognition, and acceptance that another person’s internal experience aka FEELINGS are valid. 

 

What can I do? What can I say?

1. Listen, listen, listen. Listen to understand how they are feeling, do not internalize and make it about you, do not get defensive, do not try to solve. Again, listen to understand and be there for them. Simply being present and patient. You will have to let your guards down to be able to listen unfiltered. It is a practice, practice listening to your partner. You will have your opportunity for them to validate you later.

2. Empathy goes a long way. Again you may not agree with the content, however, you can empathize with the emotions they are feeling.

  • “It can be difficult to focus on the children, when you are feeling so hurt by what I said”
  • “I understand that our arguments drain you, it really bothers me when we argue as well.”

3. Repeat what they share in their own words or rephrase their words to show them that you are paying attention and that you understand. Ask questions about their feelings, to show genuine interest and gain a better understanding.

  • “So when I told you I was tired and wanted to go to sleep, you felt as though I was bored of your company”
  • “I am so sorry that when I did not pick up my phone when you called it brought up feelings of anxiety for you”
  • “I did not realize that when I walk away when we are arguing it brings up feelings of abandonment and makes you feel angry, I can see why that would upset you and I am sorry those feelings come up for you”

4. Normalize their feelings by sharing that most people would feel the way that they do if they were in a similar situation. Share with them that their feelings are “normal” given the circumstances.

  • “Anyone would probably feel hurt if their partner forgot their anniversary”
  • “It makes sense that you feel lonely, anyone who has a partner that travels as much as I do would”

5. See it through their eyes. Try to see the situation from your partner’s perspective and think about other times similar feelings have come up for them, or other times they shared their feelings with you and you might have missed them.

  • “This reminds me of last year when I forgot our Anniversary and you felt as if I do not share your values, I am sorry for forgetting something that is important to you”

6. Touch them. Physical touch is one of the 5 love languages. Sometimes a simple, gentle gesture such as taking their hand, rubbing their back, stroking their hair, or giving them a hug can be all your partner needs. During conflict, this may not be the best time to get physical, however if you are discussing the situation calmly, it can be an opportunity to connect.

7. Use your Body Lean in, make facial expressions that match theirs (if they look down, you look down, if they shake their head, you shake yours). Do not stand with your arms crossed; do not look away when you do not agree. Stay open to your partner and they will be more inclined to stay open with you.

When couples do not see eye to eye, it can be challenging to validate. It is important to remember that both partners, regardless of their stance, deserve to have their feelings validated. It is a reciprocal process, which can turn that same old argument into a brand new effective way to communicate! Validation creates a feeling of safety and trust. Validation allows defenses to go down. You both deserve to feel heard, loved, and understood. The tools above will support that process. Find a method or methods that you feel most comfortable with and feels authentic to you, and then put it/them to practice!

Wishing you the best in creating the relationship you deserve and desire!