Tagged ‘Communication‘

Naked Truth: Do Both Partners Have to Work on the Relationship Together?

Naked Truth: Do Both Partners Have to Work on the Relationship Together?

Naked Truth: Do Both Partners Have to Work on the Relationship Together?

I recently started coaching a couple I’ll call Jake and Ashley. Jake can sometimes be a bit aggressive in the way he gives Ashley feedback. When he does this, Ashley gets reactive because she feels she’s being attacked and blamed for something she did wrong. On numerous occasions in our sessions Jake has sworn this isn’t the case. He isn’t “mad” at her. It’s just that he often doesn’t always have the wherewithal to approach her in a gentle way. He’s working on it, but he admits that he can come across somewhat anxious and abrasive at times.

Recently, Ashley came to see me for a private session. She had a list of incidents where Jake had “attacked” her and set her off. She was also hurt because she felt that this was Jake’s issue. He was the one who was abrasive. So, why did she have to be the one to stop reacting? Shouldn’t he be coming to coaching to work on himself?

Here’s what I told her:

  1. This isn’t an either or situation. Jake should work on his delivery just as much as she needs to work on her reactivity. Both are true.
  2. Usually in a couple, there is one person with a higher level of emotional intelligence. Often that person is the woman. Women are more naturally inclined to focus on their personal and emotional growth. This doesn’t mean the other partner should get a hall pass and not have to work on himself, it just means that one partner is able to grasp issues in the relationship faster and that partner is more likely to be the one to make the changes that are needed to balance out the emotional dynamics in the couple. In this case, Ashley is that person.
  3. It’s not true that two people have to work on a relationship together. When one partner makes changes, the other partner is also forced to change. So, just because one partner doesn’t like going to coaching, it doesn’t mean that the relationship is doomed. Each partner in a relationship has different strengths. You want to leverage those strengths. If one person is the primary breadwinner, the other person can focus more on maintaining the emotional stability in the relationship. Susan Page, one of my favorite authors, wrote a book on this very subject: How One of You Can Bring the Two of You Together.
  4. Finally, I offered Ashley this solution drawn from my own rather peaceful marriage. Whenever my husband is giving me feedback and I start to feel defensive, I calm myself by reminding myself of the following:

He chose me out of all the women in the world to be his partner, he loves me dearly, and I need to trust that his intentions are good and that any feedback he’s giving me is for the betterment of us and our relationship.

One of the many things I admire most about Ashley is how open and coachable she is. She agreed that she has more of bandwidth for personal growth than Jake. She was also willing to let go of the idea that they both had to be working on the relationship. They still come in for joint sessions, but she is also coming in once a week to do some additional work on her own. In our last joint sessions, when I filled Jake in on what Ashley and I had talked about, he said, “I really liked that part about what you said say to yourself when you start to feel defensive with your husband. When Ashley starts to get upset with me, I am going to remind myself that she loves me, that she chose me out of all the men in the world to be her partner, and that she means well.” When I looked over at Ashley, she was beaming.


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A big issue with online dating is that people often stop communicating abruptly and for no apparent reason.  Most of my clients just figure that the other person lost interest or that they must of done something to turn the other person off, and they give up.  As hard as it is not to take this stuff personally, you can’t let it get to you.  People stop writing for all kinds of reasons, none of them having to do with you.  Maybe they lost a job, are dealing with family issues, or just got bored .  Let’s be real.  Most of us don’t finish everything we start, especially when it comes to online dating.  When pressed, the same clients who complain about how other people dropped the ball on them admit that they have emails in their inbox that they haven’t answered.

So, let’s say that you started communicating with you were really excited about, and he or she stopped writing.  What can you do.  You can blow them off and just move on which is what a lot of people do, or you can say something.  If you felt like there was potential why wouldn’t you give it a try?  I wouldn’t suggest sending a second email, but one is worth a try.  The thing is that I want  you to stop playing it so safe and take some risks.  The fun in dating is being able to play and not be perfect all the time.  What better place to practice than in emails.  You have nothing to lost on a dating site with someone you’ve never met.  So get online, go through your inbox, and start emailing all those hot men and women who fell by the wayside.

Here are two examples of email threads from clients.  Hope they give you some inspiration.  They worked because they are provocative and playful.  That kind of energy is irresistable!


Since I haven’t heard from you, I thought you might have gotten kidnapped by pygmies and might need some help planning your escape.


Hey!  I was just thinking about you last week, while bound and gagged!  How are you?  Can I give you a call on Monday?


LOL!  Just the way I like my men!  😉 You can reach me after 9pm.  I want to hear the whole story!

Hi, in case you hit your head and have temporary amnesia, I thought I would remind you of the cute, funny girl you were messaging…that would be ME!
OMG, I did have amnesia.  Thanks for reminding me.  Can you ever forgive me?
If you take me to a nice dinner or buy me gifts, I am sure I can forgive anything.  But you have to hurry up and ask me out.  This email has an expiration date and will self-destruct within one week.  :-)

PLEASE post your comments below! And if you would like to set up a free sample session click this button to be directed to my online calendar:





NAKED GARDENING:  The moment a relationship becomes even a little bit complicated, many of my people run for the nearest exit.  This can happen within the first date or so.  They might have had a few nice email and telephone exchanges leading up to the date and then one incident happens, it can be something relatively insignificant, a simple misunderstanding or an small social indiscretion—and they end the relationship before it has hardly begun.

Chloe came to me because she was having trouble getting to a second date.  I just assumed that it was the men who weren’t asking her out again.  She was an attractive blonde in her mid-thirties, slim with big, bright green eyes and an inviting smile.  I could see why men would find her attractive.  She was currently communicating through an Internet dating site with a tall, dark-haired accountant from Great Britain named Ian.  After their first date, we talked about how it went.  From what I could gather, she liked Ian very much and had a very good time on the date.  She had even practiced several of the Naked Dating skills I’d given her in previous sessions while they were at dinner.  “Does he want to see you again?”

“Yes.  I’m almost certain he does,” she said.

“That’s great.  So, you’re going to go out with him, right?”

“No, I don’t think so,” she said.

I felt very confused.  “Aren’t you attracted to him?” I asked.

“No, he’s really cute,” she answered.

“Then, what’s the problem?”  If they had fun and he wanted to have a second date, why she didn’t want to see him again?  Maybe they had sex.  “You can tell what happened.  I’m not going to judge you.”

Chloe took in a long, slow breath, and her big green eyes growing even bigger.  “I know this sounds ridiculous, but he did something that really annoyed me.  He had this terrible habit of correcting my English.  It happened several times on the calls and, then, again on the date.  It made me feel stupid and self-conscious.”

“I can see how that would have been awkward.  Did you tell him how you felt?”

“Oh my God!  No!  I couldn’t do that!” she cried, suddenly straightening in her chair.

“But why not?  This is exactly the sort of thing you need to learn to talk about with a man.”

“But we’ve only been on one date,” she said.  “If I said something, he would have thought I was…”

There it was.  The thing we are all so afraid of.  Chloe was afraid to get emotionally naked and vulnerable for fear of  sounding needy, desperate, or insecure.  It was easier to walk away and not say anything, then to stay and tell him how she felt.  But if she didn’t learn how to tell a man she was hurt, she would keep running and she would never get to a second date or, for that matter, a relationship.

The truth was that Ian’s behavior had upset her.  Whether they had been on one date or one hundred dates was beside the point.  She needed to learn how to stand up for herself and tell Ian or any man how she felt.

I coached Chloe on exactly what to say to Ian, giving her a very simple, graceful approach that she could use to have these kinds of sensitive conversations with a date or anyone else, for that matter.  Here is what I told her:

The Naked Garden

When you are trying to grow a relationship and need to have a difficult conversation, one where you need to tell someone that he or she hurt or disappointed you, you might think of that conversation like planting a garden.    When planting a garden, you can’t just take the seeds (of change) and shove them into the hard, dry soil.  You must prepare and fertilize the soil so that it can receive them.   You also need to plant the seeds a certain distance apart.  If you try to plant too many seeds or ideas all at once, they won’t have room and space to grow.  Once the seeds have been planted, you need to care for the garden, watering and weeding it regularly.  Finally, you need to have patience and give the seeds time to sprout and grow.

Step 1.  Preparing the soil:  Before you can present your side of things, you want to open up the heart and mind of the person you are speaking with so that he will feel receptive to what you have to say.  You do this by letting him know that you understand that he didn’t intentionally do anything wrong or mean to hurt you. As much as you can, you want to let him know that you understand his perspective and are not blaming him for how you feel.  You want to make it very clear that what you’re feeling is not his “fault.”  You say, “I know that things happen.  You probably were very busy this weekend and needed to get things done. I know you haven’t had a lot of free time lately.”

Step 2.  Fertilizing the soil:  Now you use the word  “AND,” not “BUT.”  If you use the word but, it will negate everything you just said.  His defenses will come up and he will no longer be receptive to what you are about to say.  If you say, “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me BUT I feel hurt,” you’ve just undone everything you did in step one.  If you say, “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me AND I feel hurt,” the other person won’t feel defensive.

Step 3.  Planting the seeds:  Without pointing fingers or blaming him, you say how you felt about what happened.  “When you did _______, I felt __________, and I told myself ______________.”  ” And, when you didn’t make time to see me this weekend, I felt sad and angry, and I told myself that you really don’t care about me or this relationship.”

Step 4:  Tending the garden:  Do not push for an answer.  That would be like over-watering you garden.  You will drown the other person.  It can take time for someone to absorb critical or emotional feedback.  You need to give a few days or even a week before you revisit the subject.

Step 5.  Harvesting:  When you check on the garden, say, “Have you give any thought to what we talked about?”  Again, do not push.  Just listen to what he says.  Most people cannot be forced into coming around to your way of thinking.  The harder you push they more they will resist.  You need to let them come around in their own way.  If you never get a satisfactory answer and this happens over and over again, you need to explore whether or not his is the right person for you.

Example:  Here is what Chloe said to Ian:

  1. Preparing the soil:  “There is something I wanted to share with you.  Several times when we spoke and on the date, you corrected my English.  I don’t know if you even realize it was happening, and I am sure you didn’t do it to hurt me.”
  2. Fertilizing the soil:  AND
  3. Planting the seeds:  “When this happened I felt put-down and self-conscious, and I told myself I might not be smart enough for you.
  4. Tending the Garden:  At this point, Ian started laughing, not a Chloe but at himself.  “I didn’t even realize I was doing that ,”  he said.  “That’s horrible.  I’m so sorry!  I’m so glad you said something.”   In Chloe’s case, she didn’t need to wait for an answer.  She tended her garden by acknowledging and thanking Ian for being so open and receptive.
  5. Harvesting:  Chloe sat back and observed Ian’s behavior.  It did happen once more, but this time she was able to remind Ian of their conversation.  From that point forth, it didn’t happen again.

As Chloe told me the conversation, I could see that her attitude towards Ian had  changed considerably.  She said that it was adorable how apologetic he became, and that she the conversation had helped her feel closer and more trusting of him.  Instead of running, Chloe stopped, planted some seeds, and she started to grow a relationship.   Last I heard, Chloe and Ian’s relationship continues to blossom.


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