Communication Styles that Kill Relationships

Recently a friend shared that she noticed a shift in her relationship with a good friend. She expressed concern that their once fulfilling friendship has become draining. She noticed that she feels on guard during their time together and no longer feels comfortable sharing her thoughts and feelings. She hates that the dynamic of the friendship has changed drastically but feels it would be too difficult to address. She decides to avoid her friend for a while until the awkwardness dies down.

How many times have we experienced a disagreement or a misunderstanding with a friend? If you have friends you have known for a while, you know this can often happen. When problems arise, communication is vital to reaching a solution. The ways we use communication reflect our goal in a relationship. Our goal could either be to foster connection or disconnection. Connection is developed through vulnerability. Disconnection is maintained through avoidance of vulnerability.

Deep down we all long for others to accept us, to choose us and to desire our friendship. Memories of rejection or manipulation by others could lead us to create strategies to protect ourselves from future pain. If we grew up in an environment in which others validated our thoughts and feelings or experiences, we are more likely to develop confidence that our view matters and that we are valued as individuals. This confidence allows us to be vulnerable with others and still feel secure in who we are. On the other hand, if we grew up in an environment in which our thoughts and feelings were invalidated or ignored, we are more likely to believe that our view does not matter and that we do not have value as individuals. If we believe that our thoughts and feelings are not important, we probably won’t value the opinions, thoughts, beliefs or feelings of others.

A critical environment creates a sense of fear of judgment and shame for who we are. We don’t feel secure to speak our mind and share what we think and feel. Fear and shame begins to motivate unhealthy communication styles such as: passive communication, aggressive communication and passive aggressive communication.

Passive Communicators keep their real thoughts and feelings to themselves. These communicators are extremely agreeable in an effort to avoid judgment. They can be described as people pleasers. They never allow others to see them upset and they may discount their own desires for the sake of others. They want to matter, but to risk trusting someone else with their thoughts and feelings is so scary that they choose to avoid it all together. It does not take long until this communicator begins to resent the other person for the one sided relationship they have created.

Aggressive Communicators desire to have all the power in a relationship. They maintain control by intimidating the other person and invalidating their thoughts and feelings. Any time they perceive their power is threatened, they become more aggressive. If a disagreement arises, aggressive communicators refuse to gain understanding but instead focus on getting the other person to agree with them.

Passive Aggressive Communicators avoid being vulnerable in relationships but still hold people accountable for any offense they perceive. They may withhold attention, affection, forgiveness or love in order to punish the other person for hurting them. The other person may sense something is wrong but because the passive aggressive communicator refuses to admit any hurt the other person has no opportunity to make amends.

The healthy approach to communication is Assertive Communication. Assertive communicators speak to gain understanding. They value others opinions and are not threatened by different points of view. They don’t tell people what to think, they ask people what they think and genuinely desire to know. A power struggle does not exist in this style of communicating since both individuals are secure in their worth as individuals.

As you read the descriptions of unhealthy communication styles, you may have had a few people come to mind. Maybe you thought about a friend or your parents that are unhealthy communicators. It’s easy to recognize these styles in other people, but I want to challenge you to see if you, intentionally or unintentionally, use one of these styles in your relationships. We cannot change other people but we can absolutely change the way we communicate.  If you notice that you are a passive aggressive communicator and your goal in relationships is to connect, something needs to change. The first step to change is to explore the ways that your communication style keeps you from intimacy in your relationships.

Blue Vs. Pink

I recently attended the Love & Respect conference by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, who has his doctorate in Child and Family Ecology. His book, Love & Respect, introduces the idea that in a marriage, women are motivated by love and men are motivated by respect. This idea, he explained during the conference, is based on the biblical command in Ephesians 5:33 that says “However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (ESV).” Dr. Eggerichs explains that by disobeying this command we activate the Crazy Cycle in our marriage: “without love she reacts without respect and without respect he reacts without love”. He elaborated that although we all need love and respect in our relationships, the primary need for men is respect and for women is love. He presented differences in perspectives using colors: men see the relationship through blue lenses and women through pink lenses…”neither is wrong, just different” he says.

It’s a simple enough idea, and assuming you agree with it and you and your partner are on the same page, the question arises, how do we practically apply it? Shouldn’t he start loving me more and then I’ll respond with respect? After reading some reviews on the book, I realized that a few men and women were offended by his simplistic explanation of what makes marriage work. Their interpretation of his idea became, “I’m supposed to respect my husband even though he doesn’t deserve it so then I can get the love I’m yearning for?” or “I’m supposed to love my wife even though she doesn’t deserve it to get the respect I’m yearning for?” Dr. Eggerichs was very strategic during the conference addressing the possible skeptics in the audience, wondering how this could be applied to their marriage. He explained that it takes one mature person to step up and break the crazy cycle. Mature people understand that they are in control of their reactions and responses to others. They can choose to be kind, loving and respectful. I could already imagine the skeptics challenging that statement with, “but he or she makes me be unloving or disrespectful!” According to Dr. Eggerichs, that would be a response coming from an immature person. To be honest, I understand the skeptics. It’s nice to read an idea on paper about how fulfilling our roles in marriage will create this Energizing Cycle described by Dr. Eggerichs as “His Love motivates Her Respect,” but reality is much more complex. Individuals who lack boundaries or present with maladaptive ways of relating to others (in a dysfunctional or abusive marriage, for example) may need to address other primary issues before venturing into this love and respect journey. It’s important to be wise and to know when enough is enough. Clearly, Dr. Eggerichs is not encouraging a woman being abused to respect her husband in the midst of it and to merely be a doormat for more abuse. His strategies should be applied once the abusive or maladaptive behaviors has been dealt with.

For those couples who are ready to apply his methods, the obstacles that keep this type of intervention from working could be a past hurt that hasn’t been healed, trust that has been broken, a heart that is too tired to try again or even hope for change. It takes faith to decide to expose oneself and show love and respect to the other person without knowing what will result. It also requires a forgiving heart to give someone something they haven’t earned or deserve. Throughout the conference I felt like a pendulum, agreeing on one end and disagreeing on another. It was as if the worldview and the Godly view were at war within me.  Wanting to believe that God’s plan for marriage is a perfect one but knowing that even in this perfect plan there are challenges. Is it all worth it? I truly believe that God has placed our spouses in our lives to re-create or redeem us into the versions of ourselves that God intended…in other words, to become more like Christ.

It’s very difficult to address all marriages because they are all different and complex. We can’t assign the same formula to every marriage and expect the same result. There are couples that are ready to start trying something new to better their marriages, and there are those who have already given up hope. Are you struggling but still wanting to work things out, or are you so wounded that you have no energy to even consider things could get better? Although reading books on marriage can be extremely helpful, it can be even more beneficial to have a counselor look into your relationship and facilitate a healthy dialogue to help begin the healing process in both of you. Once healing comes, you both will be strengthened and encouraged to show one another the forgiveness, love and respect that marriage was designed to display.

Five Ways to Help Your Child through Divorce

Divorce is hard. Divorce is hard on you. Divorce is hard on your spouse. Divorce is hard on your children. There are many factors that contribute to the difficulties during the divorce process, including very intense emotions. It can be especially difficult to think of effective ways to help your child through this process while in the middle of your own grief and pain. While divorce is unique and complicated by different personalities, legalities, and mixed emotions here are some practical tips to keep in mind while communication with your children.

  1. Be Realistic: Sometimes in an effort to avoid their own pain a parent might hyper-focus on their children’s pain. Although paying attention to your child’s hurting and finding help when needed is appropriate, the expectation that you can somehow remove all pain from your child is not realistic. Grief is part of the process. Instead of trying to “fix” your child’s feelings allow them to express them in safe ways. If your child is angry then let them be angry as long as their anger is not being expressed in ways that are harmful to themselves or others.
  2. Communicate Change Timely and Effectively: Change can happen very quickly in a divorce and sometimes these changes are not communicated effectively to children. If schedules are changing discuss what those changes will be like and ask for suggestions from your children. Make sure you communicate ahead of time so that they have a week or two to process the changes prior to a major move. Always take responsibility for the final decisions but take into account how these changes might affect their daily lives as well. Your therapist can help you create age appropriate schedules and charts to help your child wrap their minds around new routines.
  3. Be Reassuring: Depending on the age of your child their ability to process very complicated emotions is limited. When children have complicated emotions they do not always understand how to express them and may act out angrily or ask disconnected questions such as, “Will I get a new Mommy and Daddy now?” It can be very easy to simply say NO or brush off the question because you don’t know what to say. I encourage you to ask them more questions and keep the conversation going to find out more details about what kinds of emotions are going on inside. Reassure them that regardless of what is happening now in their lives you will always be their Mom and Dad. They may continue to ask these types or questions, keep reassuring them.
  4. Control Your Emotions: This might seem like an impossible task to ask of you when every day might be full of emotion for you, however, children are experts at soaking up the emotions around them (NOT experts at processing those feelings, though) and can read you better than you think. Children will begin to internalize their own emotions for fear of burdening you with theirs. I am not encouraging you in any way to not express your own emotions – it is absolutely VITAL for you to do so preferably with a counseling professional. I do encourage you to wait until your children are away or asleep to have a breakdown.
  5. Take Care of Your Family: If there is ever a transitions in which you should seek professional help for you and your children it is in the midst of a divorce. The effects of a divorce can be lifelong and life changing for all involved. Additionally, attempting to take care of others while in such a raw place emotionally can prove to be futile. Get help. Reach out to a doctor, therapist, pastor, or group to give you professional emotional support through this difficult time. 

We at Heritage Behavioral Health Consultants are here to help you and your family through this emotional time. Please reach out when you need help through a divorce or during any other time of change.

Know The Lyrics

I was listening to the radio when the song ‘Every Breath You Take’ by The Police came on.  Of course I sang along with the radio because it’s such a catchy song.  As I was singing, I actually began to pay attention to the words and freaked out a little. Just in case you don’t remember, here are the words:

“Every breath you take; every move you make; every bond you break, every step you take I’ll be watching you.”

A little stalker-ish right? So I researched the lyrics to check my hypothesis and I indeed was right. Sting did not mean for this song to be a love song frequently played at weddings. He actually wrote this song after separating from his wife and it is about a possessive lover! Yikes!

Of course it is meant to be sinister. Who would perceive it otherwise? Well I did, along with many others judging from how many times this is played on love song stations and in weddings. Just goes to show how we sometimes fail to distinguish healthy from unhealthy. The words are the same, the tune in the same, but our perception is based on observation, awareness and insight.

If it’s hard for us to recognize healthy versus unhealthy song lyrics, then it’s probably extremely difficult to distinguish between healthy and unhealthy relationships, especially when those relationships are family relationships or friendships.

So what makes a healthy relationship? Lots of things including good communication, mutual respect, trust, and honesty.  You are in a healthy relationship if that relationship brings about more joy and happiness than tension and sadness.  If that statement doesn’t ring true in one of your relationships then it is unhealthy.

Signs of an unhealthy relationship:

  • You often put yourself on the back burner for someone else.  You neglect your dreams, passions or even just basic self-care for the sake of another.
  • You feel forced to be or act differently.
  • Your relationship causes you to have low self-esteem.
  • You are not free to express your true thoughts and feelings without fear of repercussions; you find yourself walking on eggshells.
  • You build walls of defensiveness to protect yourself.
  • You are discouraged from growing other relationships with friends or family.
  • You do not trust the person you are in relationship with.
  • You experience abuse – verbal, physical, mental or emotional abuse.

Seek help for your relationship when:

  • You know you need help but you are embarrassed or fearful to ask for help.
  • You are unhappy in the relationship and you are having difficulty getting out.
  • You realize you are staying in the relationship because of fear of being alone or because of guilt.
  • You consistently find yourself in unhealthy relationships.

The key to a healthy relationship is to stop singing along with the music just because you are familiar with the words. Pay close attention to the words; assess your relationships often. Stop and listen, listen to your gut. Are you happy? Are you safe? Are you free? If the answer is no, then seek help and change your tune.

5 (Psychologically Beneficial) Reasons to Make Love to Your Husband Tonight

We have all been there – it has been THE longest day at work and you came home to cook dinner, give baths, do homework with the kids, and clean up.  You are utterly exhausted and you finally get your head on the pillow fully expecting to go into a sleep coma for the next 8 hours when you feel your husband curl up next to you with his signature “let’s get it on” move. You respond in the same way your husband has heard so many times before, “Honey, I’m so tired, later, I promise.” Your husband rolls over, disappointed.

This scenario is so common place in many marriages and relationships.  I hear this story in my office with struggling couples all of the time.  Despite the overwhelming research about the benefits of sex in a marriage and how healthy marriages require intimacy, over and over again we choose to forego sex because we are tired.  The truth is-we ARE tired.  More and more we add to our plates in order to keep up with the pace of today’s society.  We prioritize the children and work and church and friends and family but don’t prioritize our sexual relationships with our spouses.  Genetically our husbands are more likely to be ready to “go” despite how overworked they may have been that day.  So what is the difference? Why is it so much easier for us, as women, to put it off? Well, we are built differently than men are.  For many of us it takes much more intentionality than it does for our husbands.

So, why? You’re clearly worn out, burned out, and have another full day of the same tomorrow! Why choose sex over sleep tonight? Here are some good reasons to give in and enjoy rather than call it a night, even for the busiest of us.

  1. Ladies, when your husband is getting sex on a regular basis he is like a well-oiled machine. He can literally see the world more clearly.  He will be more willing to help out and he will take on the world with a new attitude.  Men feel like they can take on any obstacle when they know that their wife finds them sexually attractive and “wants” them.  A positive outlook on life can be life changing for the both of you.
  2. Sex improves your libido. When you have sex with your husband you will eventually begin to desire sex more often.  Remind yourself how good it feels to make love to your husband regularly by starting somewhere, tonight.
  3. If you are tired, having sex will assist in getting you a better night’s sleep. It is easy to lay in bed and start thinking about the day you had and all of the things that you have to do the next day, these anxious thoughts are very likely to keep you up at night and disturb your sleep.  Sex has the opposite effect on you – it relaxes your body and therefore allows for better sleep.
  4. It reduces your stress level. Studies show that having sex lowers stress related blood pressure.  So a bit of fun under the sheets may actually help you deal with that busy next day better than if you skipped it.
  5. Sex makes you feel better about yourself. Some psychologists say that regular sex even improves your self-esteem.  Naturally, feeling wanted and desired by somebody you love and care for improves positive feelings about yourself.

So go ahead, give it a roll in the sheets tonight and take a look at the benefits it will have on you and your marriage.

Vital Facts About Bullying

In the previous article we discussed known risk factors that characterize both individuals who become victims and aggressors who become bullies. In addition to these risk factors researchers have been successful at garnering a number of vital statistics that demonstrate the prevalence of bullying, who is being bullied and how those individuals are effected, as well as common methods used, including the use of emerging technologies. The statistics presented here are not meant to overwhelm but to inform and provide the opportunity to create a dialogue with family and friends based on real data. The more we can educate ourselves about bullying the better prepared we will be to spot it when it occurs and to take the right steps to ensure that it is stopped.

Overall Statistics

  • Over 3.2 million students are victims of bullying each year.
  • Approximately 160,000 teens skip school every day because of bullying.
  • 17% of American students report being bullied 2 to 3 times a month or more within a school semester.
  • 1 in 4 teachers see nothing wrong with bullying and will only intervene 4% of the time.
  • By age 14 less than 30% of boys and 40% of girls will talk to their peers about bullying.
  • Over 67% of students believe that schools respond poorly to bullying, with a high percentage of students believing that adult help is infrequent and ineffective.
  • 71% of students report incidents of bullying as a problem at their school.
  • 90% of 4th through 8th graders report being victims of bullying.
  • 1 in 10 students drop out of school because of repeated bullying.
  • As boys age they are less and less likely to feel sympathy for victims of bullying. In fact they are more likely to add to the problem than solve it.
  • Physical bullying increases in elementary school, peaks in middle school and declines in high school. Verbal abuse, on the other hand, remains constant.

Source: 11 Facts about Bullying

https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-bullying

Cyber Bullying Statistics 

  • Depending on the age group, up to 43% of students have been bullied while online. 1 in 4 have had it happen more than once.
  • 35% of kids have been threatened online. Nearly 1 in 5 have had it happen more than once.
  • 21% of kids have received mean or threatening e-mail or other messages.
  • 58% of kids admit someone has said mean or hurtful things to them online. More than 4 out of 10 say it has happened more than once.
  • 53% of kids admit having said something mean or hurtful to another person online. More than 1 in 3 have done it more than once.
  • 58% have not told their parents or an adult about something mean or hurtful that happened to them online.

Source: The Issue of Bullying: Cyber Bullying Statistics http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/about-bullying-and-cyberbullying/issue-bullying/

 Many Forms of Bullying

Of those bullied:

  • 19% are made fun of, called names, or insulted
  • 16% are subject of rumors
  • 9% are pushed, shoved, tripped, or are spit on
  • 6% are threatened with harm
  • 5% are excluded from activities
  • 4% are forced to do things they didn’t want to do
  • 3% Had property destroyed

Who Is Being Bullied?

  • 25% of males and 20% of females said they had been either bullied, bullied others, or both 2-3 times a month or more.
  • Males & females experience similar rates of verbal bullying, threats, damage to property
  • Males are more likely to experience physical bullying.
  • Females are more likely to experience bullying through rumor-spreading and exclusion.
  • Boys are typically bullied by boys, while girls are bullied by both boys and girls.

What Is the Impact of Bullying?

Kids who are bulled are more likely to have:

  • Depressive symptoms
  • Headaches, backaches, and stomach pain
  • Sleep problems, poor appetite, as well as bed-wetting
  • Harmed themselves
  • High levels of suicidal thoughts
  • Attempted suicide
  • Decreased academic achievement—GPA and standardized test scores—and school participation. They are more likely to miss, skip, or drop out of school.
  • A very small number of bullied children might retaliate through extremely violent measures. In 12 of 15 school shooting cases in the 1990s, the shooters had a history of being bullied.

Kids Who Bully Others

Kids who bully others can also engage in violent and other risky behaviors into adulthood and are more likely to:

  • Abuse alcohol and other drugs in adolescence and as adults
  • Get into fights, vandalize property, and drop out of school
  • Engage in early sexual activity
  • Have criminal convictions and traffic citations as adults
  • Be abusive toward their romantic partners, spouses, or children as adults

Kids Keep Silent about Bullying

  • As children age, the percentage of those who do not report bullying climbs: 18% of 3rd graders do not report which increases to 47% of 11th
  • Those who are silent do so for reasons such as the negative messages they previously received about tattling and snitching, concern about retaliation, and lack of confidence in adults’ actions.
  • 90% of 3rd – 5th grade students said they felt sorry for students who are bullied, but sympathy often does not translate into action.

Source: bullying—what you need to know http://www.stopbullying.gov/images/what-you-need-to-know-infographic.jpg

Source: Effects of bullying

http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/index.html

CONSIDER

If you or someone you know has experienced bullying or if you are currently being bullied, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, and you should continue to ask until you get the help you need. By opening up to someone you trust, you avoid the isolation that comes with being unsure, and you create the opportunity to receive guidance from those who can ultimately help.

Stay tuned for… What You Can Do about Bullying

When bullying escalates and becomes a criminal offense

To some bullying may be thought of as a “natural part of childhood” or as simply as “kids just being kids.” Some may also be under the misguided belief that “bullied kids need to learn how to deal with bullying on their own.” These and other misconceptions minimize and excuse the serious nature of bullying while simultaneously contributing to the creation of a hostile environment where bullying can go unnoticed and uncorrected. Moreover, if we willingly relinquish our responsibility and involvement to stop malicious behavior, in effect we allow it to perpetuate and silently communicate that it’s o.k. As a result, the victim may feel he or she has no viable recourse.

It is important to consider the following myths because bullying does not target certain individuals nor is it confined to certain locations.

  • Bullying Doesn’t Happen at My Child’s School.
  • Bullying is Mostly a Problem in Urban Schools.
  • Bullying is More Likely to Happen on the Bus than at School.
  • Children and Youth Who Are Bullied Will Almost Always Tell an Adult.
  • Children and Youth Who Bully are Mostly Loners with Few Social Skills.
  • Words never hurt.
  • Some people deserve to be bullied.
  • Bullying will make kids tougher.
  • Telling a teacher about bullying is tattling.
  • It’s only teasing.
  • Boys will be boys.
  • Girls don’t bully.
  • Children and youth who are bullied will almost always tell an adult.
  • Bullying is easy to recognize.
  • Ignoring bullying will make it go away.

By acknowledging the conditions and inaccurate thinking that contribute to bullying, we can effectively take steps to remove barriers and to reset the standard for what is considered appropriate behavior. Yet, sometimes in spite of our best efforts, there are occasions when bullying escalates and subsequently becomes a criminal offense. Bullying becomes a crime when the offender:

  • Physically assaults someone
  • Harasses someone especially if the harassment is based on gender or race
  • Makes violent threats
  • Makes death threats
  • Makes obscene and harassing phone calls and texts
  • Engages in sexting
  • Engages in sextortion which is sexual exploitation
  • Is involved in child pornography
  • Is stalking someone
  • Commits hate crimes
  • Takes a photo of someone in a place where they expect privacy
  • Is involved in extortion

Please note: Specific legal consequences, policies, and laws regarding the above offenses may vary by state. For more specific information regarding your state’s governance process access the following nationwide map and click on the state of your choice: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html.

The specific laws for the state of Texas can be found at: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/texas.html.

Additional information can be found at the Texas Education agency website: http://tea.texas.gov/Texas_Schools/Safe_and_Healthy_Schools/Coordinated_School_Health/Coordinated_School_Health_-_Bullying_and_Cyber-bullying/.

CONSIDER

If you or someone you know has experienced bullying or if you are currently being bullied, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. There is no shame in asking for help, and you should continue to ask until you get the help you need. By opening up to someone you trust, you avoid the isolation that comes with being unsure, and you create the opportunity to receive guidance from individuals who can ultimately help.

Sources:

Myths about Bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/resources-files/myths-about-bullying-tipsheet.pdf

Common Views and Myths about Bullying: http://www.pacer.org/publications/bullypdf/BP-1.pdf

When Bullying Escalates and Becomes a Criminal Offense: http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/about-bullying-and-cyberbullying/when-bullying-and-cyberbullying-become-crime/

Policies and Laws: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/index.html

Texas Anti-Bullying Laws & Policies: http://www.stopbullying.gov/laws/texas.html 

Stay tuned for… Who is at Risk?

Psst…….Is it just me or is marriage REALLY HARD????

(Spoiler: It’s not just me)

Do you ever feel like you are the only one out there that is having issues in your marriage? We can all look to other couples and say, “So and so has the PERFECT marriage! They are always happy in front of others and they never have anything negative to say about their marriage when just us girls or guys get together”. We all know that marriage can be hard for others, but…..what does it mean when it turns out that is true for us? Does it mean that we are failing? Does it mean that we married the wrong person? Does it mean that we are the problem? Does it mean we should call it quits? While of course there is no black and white answer to any of those questions, the reality is that we ALL experience hardships in our marriages.

Marriage IS hard, as is life. There is no perfect marriage, as there is no perfect human. We are constantly changing and evolving and as we do so, we are asking the person we are sharing our lives with to come along for the ride and change and evolve with us!! That is NOT a simple process nor is it a simple request of our partner! This request comes with MANY expectations and fantasies of what “should” happen and unfortunately unrealistic expectations often land us in a place of hurt, anger, and resentment. So if it is true that life AND marriage are hard, that we are not perfect, and that we as humans all suffer from setting unrealistic expectations….why don’t we talk more openly about how hard marriage can be? Admitting that marriage is hard does NOT mean that you are not happily married. Admitting you both have things you would like to work on does NOT mean that you do not have a solid foundation. Admitting you are in counseling to seek guidance on how to improve your marriage DOES NOT MEAN YOU ARE FAILING!!!! I would counter those explanations with an alternative idea that perhaps it means that you are willing and motivated to claim a stronger, more connected state of being which takes strength, courage, and honesty! So the next time you find yourself beating up on yourself and your marriage because it feels so hard and you feel you cannot communicate this to others, please try to remember a few things:

  • Take it easy on yourself and your marriage. You are not perfect nor is your marriage, and it just frankly wasn’t designed to be that way. Having problems (as we all do!) may create an opportunity for you and your partner to grow.
  • Try not to compare your marriage to others. As grandmother use to say, “We all have dirty laundry, and I don’t want yours and you don’t want mine”. Even though others may appear to have it better than you or claim their marriage to be “better than ever”, that does not mean they are without problems and it does not mean that because you do have problem that you are failing. We are all very reluctant to admit when marriage is hard, perhaps due to the fairytales we all grew up believing or perhaps because we aren’t quite sure what it means when it is hard.
  • Manage your expectations. Because we all did grow up watching the fairytales where marriages end up “happily ever after”, we often have expectations that are not realistic of ourselves and our partners. It can be helpful to identify what expectations you have and look at whether or not these are realistic or just based on some unrealistic “should”, “ought” or “must” that someone somewhere said was what defined marriage and happiness. We can then start to differentiate between fantasy and reality, which can help us to not set ourselves or our partners up for failure.
  • Seek guidance from a trusted source BEFORE you feel you have no alternatives. Asking for help does not mean you have failed. It means you have the courage, strength, and honesty to admit you are not perfect nor is your marriage BUT you would like to learn ways to improve. Too often we wait until we feel like giving up to ask for help. While help certainly can be rendered at this point, why not start BEFORE that so we don’t feel our goal is so far away? Renowned marriage researcher John M. Gottman claims that the average couple entering marriage counseling has experienced marital difficulties for over six years. Experiencing serious problems for an extended period of time without seeking guidance can mean you unintentionally incur and inflict many unnecessary traumas on each other and the marriage. Why not avoid this damage to yourself and your partner? You, your partner, and your marriage are worth it! If we could shift the concept of “marriage counseling” from asking for a life raft to asking for ways to enhance our love and commitment, wouldn’t that make it easier to ask for help?

Types of Bullying

In March we discussed the definition of bullying. Now, let’s look at the various types and what each involves.

Physical bullying is the most obvious form of intimidation and involves intentionally or deliberately hurting a person’s body or taking/destroying one’s possessions. Physical bullying includes:

+ Hitting/kicking/biting/pinching/hair pulling

+ Spitting

+ Tripping/pushing

+ Taking or breaking someone’s things

+ Making mean or rude hand gestures

Additionally, this form of bullying can involve making threats to do physical harm if the bully’s demands (ex: giving up your money, other valuables, etc.) are not met. 

Verbal bullying, which often accompanies physical behavior, is someone saying or writing inappropriate things about another person. Verbal bullying includes:

+ Persistent teasing, taunting, name-calling

+ Inappropriate sexual comments

+ Spreading rumors

+ Threatening to cause harm

Social bullying, sometimes referred to as relational bullying, involves emotional intimidation where the bully intentionally aims to hurt someone’s reputation or relationships by:

+ Deliberately excluding someone from a group activity such as a party or school outing

+ Telling others not to be friends with someone

+ Spreading rumors about someone

+ Embarrassing someone in public

Racist Bullying involves making racial slurs, spray painting graffiti, mocking the victim’s cultural customs, and making offensive gestures. 

Sexual Bullying is unwanted sexual advances in the form of physical contact, abusive comments, gestures, actions, or attention that is intended to hurt, offend, or intimidate another person. Sexual bullying focuses on things like a person’s appearance, body parts, sexual orientation, or sexual activity.

Cyberbullying – with the proliferation of electronic devices cyberbullying allows a person to target, torment, threaten, harass, humiliate, or embarrass another through the of posting personal information, pictures or videos. What differentiates this form of bullying from other types is the far-reaching and instantaneous impact it can have due to the various electronic platforms that are shared by all people: social media sites, email, chat rooms, instant messaging and texting. To a great extent cyberbullying is also persistent (24/7) because the information is live and remains continually accessible to all. Additionally, the offender is readily able to continue this form of bullying since it takes seconds to post offensive information online.

CONSIDER

If any of the information above is resonating with you because it seems a friend or family member is experiencing some of the same behaviors, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t have it in our ability to fix the situation for one reason or another or, perhaps, we may be unsure that bullying is actually taking place. Either way, by opening up to someone we know, we can avoid the isolation that comes from being unsure. Moreover, creating a dialogue also creates awareness and provides the opportunity to receive guidance from individuals who can ultimately help.

Sources:

Types of Bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html

Forms of Bullying: http://www.stompoutbullying.org/index.php/information-and-resources/about-bullying-and-cyberbullying/forms-bullying/

Cyberbullying: http://kidshealth.org/teen/school_jobs/bullying/cyberbullying.html?tracking=T_RelatedArticle

Stay tuned for… When bullying escalates and becomes a criminal offense

Bullying: An Introduction

Is it my imagination or does it seem like there is a surge in reported incidents of bullying? I was led to this question because the topic of bullying appears to be frequently covered by the news media and reports can range from children bullying out on the playground to teens and young adults engaging in targeted harassment carried out online. In fact, a quick Google search for 2015 news articles related to bullying among children, adolescents, and teenagers netted several thousand results. Additionally, my brief search returned another somber finding: a recent meta-study now indicates a connection between bullying and suicide. As I began reviewing page after page of results, questions began flooding my mind: Who is this happening to? What are the warning signs? Where does bullying mostly take place? Why is this still happening, and how can we prevent it?

Bullying pic

“Will I ever be… (accepted, liked, left alone)?”

I’m sure the same questions race through the minds of others after reading a news article or watching a TV report about the latest bullying incident. In an instant the desire to protect our loved ones wells up in us and simultaneously we feel compassion and want to help end these tragedies. Yet, we are all so busy and life seems to have a way of redirecting our thoughts back to our most immediate and pressing needs. Also, based on the number of Internet search results alone, it would take tons of time to sort through and dissect all of the information that is available and, understandably so, most of us are currently too tapped out for that kind of time commitment.

Thus, it is my goal to provide you with helpful facts you can quickly read and readily use. Since this topic has many pathways of information, I will try to pair it down to what is most relevant and will include links in case you want to read further.

Therefore, to begin we must understand what bullying is and be able to distinctly identify the nature of the behavior.

Definition:  Bullying is unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.

In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:

+ An Imbalance of Power: Individuals who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.

+ Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once.

Bullying includes actions such as:

+ Making threats

+ Spreading rumors

+ Attacking someone physically or verbally

+ Excluding someone from a group on purpose

CONSIDER

If any of the information above is resonating with you because it seems a friend or family member is experiencing some of the same behaviors, talk with someone you trust and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t have it in our ability to fix the situation for one reason or another or, perhaps, we may be unsure that bullying is actually taking place. Either way, by opening up to someone we know, we can avoid the isolation that comes from being unsure. Moreover, creating a dialogue also creates awareness and provides the opportunity to receive guidance from individuals and resources that can ultimately help.

Source: “What is Bullying?” http://www.stopbullying.gov/what-is-bullying/definition/index.html

Stay tuned for… Types of Bullying