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January 2012

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Tara Kachaturoff
Editor | Partners in Life Couples News

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  • You have a good relationship and want to make it great  


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  Ask Our Coaches:
How to argue the "right way"
-- is it possible?

"What can I do to bring more peace to our relationship and to diffuse issues so they don't turn into arguments...."

This column answers questions submitted by our readers. Submit your questions to who will forward them to our coaches all over the world. Each issue, we'll publish a few answers from our RCI coaches.

Dear Coaches,

From time to time, my husband and I argue -- over big things and little things. While he tends to keep his cool, typically I usually get very upset and often say things that I regret. This escalates things and makes it even worse -- for both of us.

I love my husband and don't want to damage our relationship, however I don't know how to "argue" the right way -- if there is one. He says I overreact and create mountains out of molehills. What can I do to bring more peace to our relationship and to diffuse issues so they don't turn into arguments or, if they do, how can I prevent things from getting out of hand? What's your advice?


Nina responds …

You can start being easier on yourself by practicing the thought that you BOTH can be "right." Obviously, he is seeing the subject from a different perspective than yours and it's right for him, just as your perspective is right for you. Think of two people on opposite ends of a piece of paper looking at the number 6 (9). To one of you, it's a 6 and to the other, it's clearly a 9. You're both right.

Any time we make someone else wrong, we automatically lose. Words don't even need to be spoken. Remember that you're never upset for the reason you think, so ask what needs aren't being met for you or for him in the situation. Approach the conversation with curiosity.

Ask him for more details and information to learn more about what his assumptions are or how he is seeing it. Use mirroring to make sure you are understanding him correctly by repeating what you understand and asking him if you're hearing him correctly. Be willing to ask him to repeat what he's hearing you say, too. This alone may help little issues get resolved before blowing up into big ones.

Nina Potter | | 1.651.773.0732

Denise responds …

Martina, most likely something is being triggered from your past. The telltale sign that it is an old wound being opened is when you feel an unreasonable amount of anger that does not parallel the situation at hand. The balance of logic and reasoning is thrown off by a flood of emotions.

Ninety percent of what we react to is in the past, only ten percent is actually happening in the present. That said, when you have a conflict with your husband, be perfectly honest and transparent and have him ask you three things:

1) What do you need that you are not getting from me? Take a couple of minutes to think before you answer.

2) What does this remind you of from your childhood? Take a minute to decide if you are reacting to a conflict with your spouse in the present or transferring an emotional scar from the past to the present.

3) Who did you experience this with as a child or teen? Take a minute to answer and decide if you are projecting someone else's sins onto your husband? (mother, father, ex boyfriend) Exercise repetition with this exercise. After a while it becomes second nature.

Denise Wade Ph.D. | | 1.215.913.7997

Jianny responds …

In an argument, both you and your spouse are trying to be heard. Emotions are high; however, take responsibility for your attitudes and behaviors. Stay away from criticism, defensiveness, sarcasm or any vague communication style that's disrespectful. Slow down.

1. Mirror back what you heard, and
2. Ask if you got it
3. Validate the parts you agree with, and
4. Ask if there is more he wants to share before you reveal your opinions and position on the topic.
5. Invite your husband to reciprocate this active listening exercise until you both feel heard.

Active Listening Exercise:

1. Mirror: "I heard you say that I overreact and create mountains out of molehills."
2. Confirm: "Did I get that?" Wait for response.
3. Validate if he feels understood: "I agree that I usually get very upset and often say things that I regret." If no, ask him to resend the message and repeat the first three steps.
4. Question: "Is there more on this issue you'd like to share?"
5. Reciprocate. If his thought is complete, "Would you listen to my response and make sure you get me before responding? Thank you."

Conflicts are natural to relationships. Remember making-up deepens the love and connection!

Jianny Adamo | | 1.954.495.4566

Jackie responds …

Conflict is inevitable and a normal part of relationship-life. Healthy conflict leads to positive changes; negative conflict saps energy and goodwill. If you remember that conflict is normal and cannot be avoided, you can learn to constructively manage it, minimize it and resolve it.

Seemingly simple conversations can turn into shouting matches because we are afraid of being abandoned; or disappointing our partner makes itself the primary consideration in the conversation. Hearing our partner's opinion or point of view may trigger a feeling of being invalidated, or it may be a signal that ridicule, criticism or judgment is on the way!

Good communication is telling your truth about YOU to your husband and being congruent inside yourself. Being congruent is a process in which you value yourself; you take ownership of your thoughts and feelings, and your resources and choices; honor and express your deepest knowing about yourself and be sure that what you say and how you say it match what you are feeling.

Co-create a safe and supportive place to tell each other the truth mindfully, responsibly and respectfully. The foundation of your relationship is built on good will, good intention and good communication. All the best!

Dr. Jackie Black |

Doris responds …

There are many proven ways to "fight fair." Examples: Avoid blaming your partner or playing the role of a victim or martyr. When we blame and shame, both of us feel dis-empowered. Decide to focus only on the topic at hand instead of detouring down memory lane, dredging up past unresolved issues.

Focus on solutions and the strengths of your partnership instead of on problems. Your courageous question makes me think you're ready to resolve the underlying issues that are triggering arguments you later regret. My guess is that unmet needs are driving your behavior.

A qualified relationship coach can help you identify your true needs and feel safe and comfortable expressing yourself in more effective ways. Many coaches are trained to help you calm your emotions and reprogram the repetitive pattern that's trapping you in a vicious cycle.

You'll discover how to shift a focus on negative thoughts to an image of your ideal outcome. A couples coach can help both of you quickly end arguments with enjoyable techniques like "Spoon Breathing." This will help the two of you recalibrate before you sit down to resolve issues . . . and it's fun!

Doris Helge, Ph.D. |

Feature Article:
How to Get Your Needs
Met in a Relationship

By Doris Helge, Ph.D.

Do you know anyone who feels helpless or frustrated because their needs for love and connection aren't satisfied? Instead of directly addressing the problem, many people try to manipulate their partner. A temporary win, like "Pat felt guilty enough to buy me a present," is shallow and short-lived. Unhappiness multiplies like bacteria on spoiled meat in the heat.

This is because unhealthy beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes that produce partnership pain haven't being addressed. The unhappy person who chases a quick fix throws away a golden opportunity to express their needs in a constructive way. Because they don't take steps to prevent the problem, it pops up perpetually, like a nagging windshield wiper that won't stop dragging across the window when the sun is shining.

How many people do you know who try to stamp out relationship pain with sarcasm, shaming, blaming or criticism? We use these attempts to dis-empower someone when we feel powerless. When we feel lovable and capable, we communicate with kindness and compassion. We're as curious as a famous inventor about the best way to resolve a challenge. We wouldn't consider blaming someone else for our self-created circumstances.

Whether we try to satisfy our unmet needs by manipulation, rejection, tyranny or withdrawal, attempts associated with feelings of powerlessness or desperation create self-sabotage. With the joy of self-awareness, you can remove the roadblocks that separate you from the people with whom you crave a cozy, meaningful connection.

Your Hardwiring … friend? … or foe?

When you're so passionately attracted to someone that you feel like your souls are stitched together with Super Glue™, how could your needs not be met? When we're jolted by a relationship conflict, we often torment ourselves with questions like: Did I choose the wrong partner? Are they flawed in some way? Instead of blaming our partners, we can blame our hardwiring.

Here's a distressing fact that you can eventually use to set yourself free: Compliments of our hardwiring, we are unaware of over 90 percent of what goes on in our lives. Our brains are busy processing billions and billions of bits of information every second.

For efficiency and survival, we are programmed to consciously experience only a teeny-tiny fraction of those billions of bits of information. Pause to ponder: We perceive fewer than one-millionth of the potential clues we are provided. It's a miracle that we correctly perceive even a small part of our world!

All of us have blind spots that are much more significant than the blind spots that challenge us when we try to back up in a car. We unconsciously create illusions as a result of our unexamined thoughts, beliefs, prejudices and preferences.

When there is a conflict between what exists and what we believe "should be" reality, our minds dutifully report to us what we think should be. For better or worse, our rational minds shelter us from a great deal of information that doesn't match our beliefs.

At the same time, we are driven by our needs, particularly those that are unconscious. This means it's critical that we discover the hidden needs that are yanking us forward with a painful ache for a rewarding relationship.

Sometimes we confuse needs and desires. Desires are like dessert; not necessary, but delectable. Needs are essential; like a dinner entrée. When our needs are unmet, we become as cranky as a child who eats candy all day. Eating sugar non-stop creates cavities. Unmet relationship needs produce partnership decay. We crave something we cannot identify. We know it's essential because our hunger is intense and unrelenting.

When our diets have an adequate balance of protein to carbohydrates, most of us stop craving sugar. When your relationship needs are met, non-essential desires dramatically decrease. You are satiated by the peace and contentment of knowing you are lovable, loved, special, important, needed and wanted. How sweet it is!

The Adventures of Amy and Alan

When Alan and Amy signed up for relationship coaching, they both complained that their needs weren't met. They were frustrated by tip-of-the-iceberg issues. They hadn't taken a peek below the icy waters they were treading. Comments like "I feel controlled," "I'm not being heard," "I need more respect," and "My partner's friends have become more important than I am" made it clear that Amy and Alan weren't aware of their hidden needs.

Rather than falling into the trap of storming on the surface with "He said," "She said" and draining their energy with destructive blame games, Alan and Amy agreed to explore the benefits of a light, playful problem-solving approach.

Their defensiveness gently disappeared when we used a proven strategy to separate them from the problem. We identified their true needs, priorities and the inherent conflicts between what the two individuals needed. This empowered us to discover their strengths and the smartest, easiest ways to negotiate win-win ways to ensure that both partners' needs were met. Amy and Alan were delighted with what they gained from this unique way to resolve challenges that I'm now sharing with you.

A Proven, Playful Way to Discover Your Hidden Needs

Use the two exercises below to discover some of your hidden needs and values (what's most important to you). When you and your partner compare your results in a playful way, you'll gain rich "Aha's" without grabbing swords and shields.

You'll avoid the common trap of labeling each other as needy or inadequate. Instead, you'll discover missing pieces of your partnership puzzle. You'll understand and appreciate each other much more because the exercise searches for both of your highest intentions when you face difficulties.

1. After reading each challenge below, write down the first thoughts that emerge. Please don't edit your responses because your first ideas will be the most valuable.

• Pretend you're a single person suddenly stranded on a remote desert island with a person of the opposite sex. You have never met this person before and you know nothing about them. You have no idea if, when or how the two of you will be rescued. The island presents you with readily available food, water, shelter and other items that are essential for survival. Both of you are healthy. Neither of you are injured. Write down three items you want from the other person on the island so you can be happy and fulfilled.

• Imagine that your current, real-life partner is being required to serve their country in an essential, highly-respected position. They will be required to fulfill their patriotic duty in an unknown location. The two of you will not be able to communicate for at least three months.
What three things do you need from your partner to ensure the strongest possible relationship while they are gone?

• While you are apart, it is inevitable that both of you will grow and change. Because tensions normally arise when partners reconnect after long absences (after an initial honeymoon period), what three things will you need from your partner to ensure a trouble-free relationship when you reconnect?

2. Re-read the items you listed as needs and priorities when you completed the exercises above.

3. Notice patterns. Examples: Which is most important to you: safety and security . . . or fun and adventure? Do you trust that everything will turn out for the best or do you feel compelled to create a strategic plan? How do you want to be assured that you are loved, valued, appreciated and needed by a partner?

How important is self-sufficiency to you? Teamwork? Companionship? Privacy? Do you feel dependent on another person to encourage you to thrive when you face challenges? How do you want to use your relationship as a tool for personal growth?

4. What do your answers to question #3 tell you about your core needs in a partnership?

5. Compare your results with your partner's answers.

6. Which of your needs are complimentary and easy to address?

7. Identify the conflicts between your needs and your partner's needs. Examples: One person's need for close connection may conflict with the other's need for privacy. One of you may be an optimist, trusting your intuition, knowing clues will emerge on a need-to-know basis. The other person may tend to worry and be pessimistic.

8. In a playful, thoughtful manner, design an action plan for meeting both of your needs in your current partnership. Which needs will you meet within the relationship? Which needs will you address externally?

9. Rate both of your abilities to ask for what you need in a constructive way. There will be some challenges for each of you, although they will be different in some ways. How will you support each other during the times when it's difficult to ask for what you need?

10. What will you do to begin implementing your plan today?

The happiest, most stable couples enjoy light, playful problem-solving approaches that bury defensiveness like a speck of dirt in a mudslide. How much more peaceful, productive and powerful will your partnership be if you make discovering and expressing your needs a fun game?

Are you Experiencing a Relationship Challenge?

The exercises in this article are just one example of hundreds of ways a qualified relationship coach can help you strengthen the vulnerable spots in your relationship so your partnership becomes a primary source of stability and joy in your life.

Copyright ©2012 by Doris Helge, Ph.D. Excerpted with permission from "Transform Your Painful Relationship Into a Powerful Partnership" by Doris Helge, Ph.D. All rights reserved in all media.

Dr. Doris HelgeWith over 20 years of experience, Dr. Doris has a proven track record of helping singles and couples like you turn painful relationships into powerful partnerships.



Bonus Article:
New Year Resolutions for Couples – Timeless Advice for a Great Relationship

by Tara Kachaturoff

Simply mention New Year's resolutions and most will roll their eyes and sigh. Face it, most people don't want to make commitments because that means they'll need to take action, make changes, and do what they said they would do. Contrary to Madison Avenue advertising, TV and movies, life doesn't magically happen; it actually does takes effort!

When it comes to your relationship, commitment is what it's all about. Relationships demand that you keep your word – or at least good ones do. Honesty, telling the truth, and doing what you say you'll do is how you build a foundation of trust – the setting for a strong relationship. Relationships also take effort. They don't just happen and they're not straightforward.

You have two people, two personalities, expectations, pre-programmed behaviors from childhood, random life circumstances, and a mix of stressors – both good ones and bad – all mixed up. Together you need to untangle, unwind, understand and successfully navigate your relationship through all of this stuff. That's what makes it fun and challenging and that's also what takes its toll on your emotions. You've definitely got your hands full.

What Can You Do?

What can you do? What can you control? You can only be responsible for that which you can control. When it comes to relationships that means one thing – you. And, that's a good thing because that's a great place to start. You can do a lot to positively influence your relationship. As they say, the change you want to see begins with you.

While you might not be up to setting New Year resolutions, it's worthwhile to remind yourself about what you can do to make your relationship the best it can be. So while you might not want to make resolutions for yourself, they might be the best investment you could ever make with your partner. These timeless recommendations will help you remain centered on what matters most and, most importantly, what you can control – you!

Relationship Resolutions

#1 Love. Love makes the world go 'round. It enriches our experiences, deepens our relationships with others and shows us the way to a meaningful life. We think we know what it is because we can all say the words, "I love you." But it's more than that. Think about what love means to you and what you think it means to your partner. Then take it another step forward. Ask your partner how and when they feel loved and then see how you can bring that love to them in a way that is meaningful and understandable to him or her.

Resolution: I love and value my partner. I resolve to do everything with my partner and for my partner from a place of love in a way that is meaningful to me and to him or her.

#2 Communication. What does it really mean to communicate? It's that perfect mix of listening and speaking. It's about creating a safe environment where each of you can communicate your truth fully. It's about respecting each person's point of view and, at the same time, finding ways to reach consensus when the circumstances dictate.

Resolution: I resolve to cultivate communication skills that bring my partner and I closer together. I listen more than I speak. I seek to understand and to create an environment where my partner feels safe to say what is on his or her mind.

#3 Kindness and compassion. We always have a choice. When we get up in the morning, we get to decide how we want to be in the world that day – and every day. In the beginning, our partner was the most important person in the world to us. We were kind, in love, passionate and compassionate. What about now?

Resolution: I am kind and compassionate to all. If I don't feel like I can express kindness at a particular moment, I take a break until I can rethink my words and intended actions so as not to be hurtful or harmful to my partner.

#4 Honor Time. We've just said goodbye to one year and have welcomed in a new one. It seems as we get older, time goes by more quickly. As we grow older, realistically, we have only so many years left so we must make choices about what we most want to do with our time. It's not about cramming still more things into our day. Instead, it's about deciding what brings us the most happiness in life and then doing those things with gusto! If your relationship is a priority in your heart of hearts, make sure you invest in it – now and in the future.

Resolution: I know that I only have so much time and energy to put towards things I value deeply. I choose to invest in my partner and in our relationship together.

#5 Be present. Life occurs in the now. The past is gone and cannot be changed. The future is still yet to be lived. We can only live life today – right now. When's the last time you gazed into your partner's eyes and just appreciated him or her for who they are? When's the last time you held hands and it warmed your heart to know how fortunate you were to have them in your life?

Resolution: I enjoy my partner in the here and now. My love flows where my attention goes and that would be to my partner and our relationship. I enjoy my partner in the here and now – fully!

Copyright ©2012 by Tara Kachaturoff. All rights reserved in all media. Used with permission.

Tara KachaturoffTara Kachaturoff is a Master Certified Coach for Singles. Since 2003, she has coached hundreds of single men and women to create better dating relationships through her onsite and teleseminar courses. Tara is also the newsletter editor for the Relationship Coaching Institute (RCI). Her personal site is

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