Tag Archives: relationship advice

Assertive people are able to ask for what they want without demanding it or infringing on the rights of others (Positive and Negative cycles in Relationships: Part 1 – Increasing Assertiveness)

Based on research, PREPARE/ENRICH have discovered there is a positive cycle linking assertiveness and self-confidence and a negative cycle linking avoidance and perceived dominance.

In the positive cycle, as a person uses more assertiveness, their level of self confidence tends to increase. As a person’s self confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.In the negative cycle, when one person perceives their partner as dominating, a common reaction is for that person to avoid dealing with issues. As a person uses more avoidance, they will often perceive more dominance in their partner.

Often a goal of marriage and relationship education is to increase the assertiveness and active listening skills of one or both partners. This series of posts discusses assertiveness and self-confidence and avoidance and perceived partner dominance.

As partners in a relationship improve their assertiveness and active listening skills, their self-confidence will increase. This is the positive cycle of more assertiveness increasing self confidence. Increasing assertiveness also tends to decrease avoidance and partner dominance, which is a common negative cycle in couples.

Assertiveness: Assertiveness is the ability to express one’s feelings to their partner and the ability to ask for what they would like.

Assertive communication involves the honest expression of one’s thoughts, feelings, and desires. Assertiveness is self focused and, therefore, is marked by use of “I” and “me” statements rather than “you” statements.

Assertive people are able to ask for what they want without demanding it or infringing on the rights of others. Assertive people tend to feel better about themselves because they are able to express themselves.

One important goal in working with a couple is to try to help both people become more assertive with each other. Increasing assertiveness will positively affect the other three relationship dynamics assessed in this section of the inventory. If each person becomes more assertive, this will increase a person’s self confidence, reduce the partner’s dominance and reduce the tendency to use avoidance.

When both partners are assertive with each other, this tends to increase the level of intimacy because they are able to share their honest feelings and ask for what they want and, thereby, increase the probability they will connect and understand one another’s needs.

As a person’s self confidence increases, their willingness and ability to be more assertive increases.

For more details on this exercise, refer to the Couple’s Workbook.

#PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.

Tune in for more tips next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.workofheart.net.www.workofheart.net.au

More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

For married couples, a focus on how they resolve conflict, react to daily stressors and interact with each other can reduce stress – significantly

In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. Stressors being external events which cause an emotional or physical reaction can be handled in 2 basic ways:

  1. Eliminate the stressor or
  2. Change one’s reaction to stress.

When a stressor cannot be eliminated, it is important to look at how one reacts or copes in response to the stressor. Learning and using healthy coping mechanisms can help individuals respond to stress in healthier ways.

Married Couples and Stress 

Note the item rated as the number one stressor by married couples is Your spouse. This was the number one stressor cited by both men and women.

Married couples who take PREPARE/ENRICH are often being seen in a counselling situation. It is not uncommon for individuals experiencing relational conflict to believe their problems would be solved if their partner would only change. Not only do they believe this, they often express it. Experienced counsellors are used to the finger pointing which often accompanies the initial sessions of marital therapy.

Unfortunately, one partner cannot change the other and this approach leaves individuals totally disempowered in the relationship. In fact, the more one individual focuses on the other person’s behavior, the more resentment, anger, and resistance they typically receive in return.

It is much more productive to help these couples work on things that are in their control including the way they speak to one another, the way they resolve conflict, and the way each individual chooses to react to their daily stressors and interactions with their spouse.

In practice:

Good communication and productive ways of handling conflict depend on couples carefully listening to one another. Active listening involves listening attentively without interruption and then restating what was heard. Acknowledge content AND the feelings of the speaker. The active listening process lets the sender know whether or not the message they sent was clearly understood by having the listener restate what they heard.

Examples of Active Listening:

“I heard you say you are feeling ‘out of balance’, and enjoyed the time we spend together but that you also need more time to be with your friends… and you want to plan a time to talk about this.”

“If I understand what you said, you are concerned because you want to go skiing next winter. But you think I would rather to go to the beach. Is that correct?”

When each person knows what the other person feels and wants (assertiveness) and when each knows they have been heard and understood (active listening), intimacy is increased. These two communication skills can help you grow closer as a couple.

Tune in for part 7 next week.

Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.

Tune in for more tips next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.workofheart.net.www.workofheart.net.au

More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

Take the Couple Checkup

Simply click on the Register button below relevant to your relationship – it couldn’t be easier. Once you have finished the questions you should receive your comprehensive personalised report in about 30 seconds.

The Couple Checkup generates deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations restore insight and understanding about one another. The Couple Checkup can help to revive a relationship and increase intimacy. 

The Couple Checkup is an online couple assessment based on the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventories. The Checkup assessment and Checkup report are designed to go directly to couples at any stage of their relationship (dating, engaged or married). The online system allows for dynamic customization of the assessment to each couple based on how the couple answers background questions. The goal is for the Couple Checkup to reach a more diverse group of couples, to empower couples to deal with issues on their own and to emphasize prevention over remediation.

For more information on the use and analysis of the Couple Checkup or to simply use the tool, please contact: www.couplecheckup.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #couplecheckup #relationship

For married couples, exploring your spending habits and values with regards to finances can reduce stress

In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. For married couples, external sources of stress around work in and out of the home and income are overriding stresses that couples try to deal with. Communication and functional ways of handling conflict are also vital.

Based on results from the first 20,000 couples to complete PREPARE/ENRICH, the top 5 stressors for married couples were: 

  • Married Couples: 
    1. Your spouse
    2. Your job
    3. Feeling emotionally upset
    4. Inadequate income
    5. Too much to do around the home

    Often times finances are an area of concern and/or stress for couples. More often than not, one or both partners are reticent about sharing their financial resources. This can provide a catalyst for discussing the meaning of the ‘giving’ of one to the other (as usually expressed in the marriage vows) and a ‘shared married life’.

    Couples may find it difficult to reconcile independence, (frequently expressed as a control of money) with the mutuality and compromise that are characteristic of marital harmony.

    Discussion: Use these questions to explore your spending habits and values with regards to finances:

    • What are your spending habits now?
    • What were the spending habits of your family?
    • How do both of you believe money should be spent? Do you agree or disagree?
    • What factors influence how you spend money?
    • What will happen 15 or 20 years down the road if there is no change in your spending habits?

    We haven’t decided how to handle our finances yet.

    • Who will make the decision in regards to how you handle your finances?
    • How will you set up your joint account(s)?
    • How do you plan to spend, save, and/or give away a portion of your income?
    • How can you work toward a financial plan?

    Are you concerned that your partners is more of a spender than you? These can become serious issues in relationships and the earlier they are tackled, the better your relationship is likely to be. PREPARE/ENRICH has several resources to help you unpack and mine the assessment results around money.

    Tune in for part 6 next week.

    Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.

    Tune in for more tips next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.workofheart.net.www.workofheart.net.au

    More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

    Take the Couple Checkup

    Simply click on the Register button below relevant to your relationship – it couldn’t be easier. Once you have finished the questions you should receive your comprehensive personalised report in about 30 seconds.

    The Couple Checkup generates deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations restore insight and understanding about one another. The Couple Checkup can help to revive a relationship and increase intimacy. 

    The Couple Checkup is an online couple assessment based on the PREPARE/ENRICH couple inventories. The Checkup assessment and Checkup report are designed to go directly to couples at any stage of their relationship (dating, engaged or married). The online system allows for dynamic customization of the assessment to each couple based on how the couple answers background questions. The goal is for the Couple Checkup to reach a more diverse group of couples, to empower couples to deal with issues on their own and to emphasize prevention over remediation.

    For more information on the use and analysis of the Couple Checkup or to simply use the tool, please contact: www.couplecheckup.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #couplecheckup #relationship

    For engaged couples, planning a wedding provides the first big set of decisions a couple will make together

    In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. For engaged couples, external sources of stress around work, career, income and wedding planning are overriding stresses that couples try to deal with.

    Based on results from the first 20,000 couples to complete PREPARE/ENRICH, the top 5 stressors for engaged couples were: 

  • Engaged Couples: 
    1. Your job
    2. Financial concerns
    3. Cost of wedding
    4. Lack of exercise
    5. Lack of sleep
  • Engaged couples are typically embroiled in the countless details of planning their wedding service and reception. They are also faced with the pressures of a very high price tag.
  • In many ways, planning a wedding provides the first big set of decisions a couple will make together and tests their ability to function as a team. From finances to family, and communication to conflict, the wedding preparations trigger many of the issues a couple will face throughout their married life providing a symbolic practice field for their relationship.

    In looking at data of PREPARE/ENRICH engaged couples, the cost of the wedding is the number 3 overall stressor for engaged couples. Two other items from the wedding items also made the top 10; Decisions about wedding details was number 7, and Feeling overwhelmed by wedding details was number 10 out of the 25 stressors reported by engaged couples.

    Differences and disagreements are as inevitable in wedding planning as they are in marriage itself. This is a good time to learn how to deal with them. Here are some strategies you might find helpful to work through with your wedding plans or to discuss with the couple you are working with:

  • Consider the Big Picture
  • The standard tools of effective communication taught in PREPARE/ENRICH are particularly important when there is tension between couples. Examples are speaking for yourself using “I-statements” rather than attacking the other person, listening to understand before proposing solutions, and choosing the best time and place to talk about difficult matters. Everyday communication patterns might be fine for everyday matters, but when you are negotiating a wedding, it’s good to be at your best!
  • PREPARE/ENRICH has several resources to help you unpack and mine the assessment results around stress, money and wedding planning.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    For dating couples, work and finances are key sources of stress, or external events which cause an emotional or physical reaction

    In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. For dating couples, external sources of stress around work, career and income are overriding stresses that couples try to deal with. When relationships are new and with compatibility high, relationship stressors or issues with their partner are ordinarily lower down the priority list.

    Based on results from the first 20,000 couples to complete PREPARE/ENRICH, the top 5 stressors for dating couples were: 

      Your job
    1. Feeling emotionally upset
    2. Inadequate income
    3. Your partner
    4. Too much to do around the home

    For dating couples, work and finances are key sources of stress, or external events which cause an emotional or physical reaction and changing one’s reaction to stress is often the only option. When a stressor cannot be eliminated, it is important to look at how one reacts or copes in response to the stressor. Learning and using healthy coping mechanisms can help individuals respond to stress in healthier ways.

    An Australian study has shown that there is a strong link between experience of financial hardship and personal psychological distress (Creed, et al, 2006).

    One point made by the authors is that financial distress reduces a person’s capacity to plan and interferes with planning for a meaningful future. It is this that primarily reduces psychological wellbeing.

    A question that emerges from the findings is to what extent are financially troubled cohabiting couples affected by their financial distress? Is it possible that their relationship satisfaction is reduced by financial stress?

    An analysis of a sample of 520 PREPARE/ENRICH couples reveals that individual income is positively and significantly correlated with couple positive couple agreement scores in a number of key categories. The greater the income the higher the couple satisfaction.

    This seems to indicate that financial hardship (associated with lower levels of income) interferes with and inhibits planning and implementation of activities and goals that are finance-related or costly. For lower income couples, setting up and managing budgets becomes difficult and couple conflict becomes more likely. Also, engaging in costly leisure activities and spending time with friends and family in such activities becomes more difficult for financially troubled couples.

    PREPARE/ENRICH has several resources to help you unpack and mine the assessment results around money.

    For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: www.prepare-enrich.com.au or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich #strongerrelationships

    Reference:

    • Creed, P.A., & Miller, J. Psychological distress in the labour market: Shame or deprivation? Australian Journal of Psychology, 2006, 58, 31-39

    #PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

    The Top 5 Stressors for Couples: Married couples report higher stress levels than dating or engaged couples

    In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. Stressors being external events which cause an emotional or physical reaction can be handled in 2 basic ways:

    1. Eliminate the stressor or
    2. Change one’s reaction to stress.

    When a stressor cannot be eliminated, it is important to look at how one reacts or copes in response to the stressor. Learning and using healthy coping mechanisms can help individuals respond to stress in healthier ways.

    Top 5 Stressors for Couples 

    Based on results from the first 20,000 couples to complete the PREPARE/ENRICH Customised Version, the top 5 stressors for each relationship stage are listed below. Overall, married couples report higher stress levels than dating or engaged couples.

    Dating Couples

    1. Your job
    2. Feeling emotionally upset
    3. Inadequate income
    4. Your partner
    5. Too much to do around the home
  • Engaged Couples: 
    1. Your job
    2. Financial concerns
    3. Cost of wedding
    4. Lack of exercise
    5. Lack of sleep
  • Married Couples: 
    1. Your spouse
    2. Your job
    3. Feeling emotionally upset
    4. Inadequate income
    5. Too much to do around the home

    Tune in for part 3 next week.

    Do you need help with an issue or problem? Our approach helps to generate deep and productive conversations that couples would not otherwise have about their relationship. These conversations can restore insight and understanding about one another.

    Tune in for more tips next week… or contact me Shane Smith shane@intentional-relationship.com or @ www.workofheart.net.www.workofheart.net.au

    More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

    It seems impossible to avoid stress in our lives: 2 basic ways to cope with stress

    In today’s fast paced society, it is impossible to avoid stress in our lives. A recent survey of Australian adults found that 1 in 4 respondents reported moderate to severe levels of stress, highest amongst 18-25 and 26-35 age groups. Almost 1 in 5 (17%) reported that current stress levels are having a strong to very strong impact on physical health (Australian Psychological Society, 2014).

    Stressors are external events which cause an emotional or physical reaction. The impact of the event depends on whether one views the event as positive or negative. When stress levels are high or chronic, it is common for physical symptoms (headaches, backaches), psychological symptoms (anxiety, anger) and relational issues (conflict, disconnection) to emerge.

    There are 2 basic ways to cope with stress:

    1. Eliminate the stressor. Some stressors represent things that are controllable (working too many hours). In some cases, it is possible to make choices that actually eliminate the stressor (change jobs).
    1. Change one’s reaction to stress. When a stressor cannot be eliminated, it is important to look at how one reacts or copes in response to the stressor. Learning and using healthy coping mechanisms can help individuals respond to stress in healthier ways.

    Stress and Couples 

    A study of 82 couples demonstrates how high stress levels can negatively impact marriages (Neff & Karney, 2009).
    The greater the stress levels, the more strongly partners react to the normal ups and downs of life. In other words, when stress levels are high, we experience perceived stress more intensely.

    The study also suggests high stress levels make it more difficult to effectively use one’s positive relationship skills such as communication and conflict resolution abilities.

    Finally, couples are more likely to evaluate their relationship negatively when they are experiencing prolonged exposure to stress. High stress negatively colours a couple’s perceptions of their marriage.

    References:

    • Australian Psychological Society (2014): www.psychology.org.au
    • Neff, L.A., and Karney, B.R., (2009). Stress and reactivity to daily relationship experiences: How stress hinders adaptive processes in marriage. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 97 (3), 435-450.

    Tune in next week for part 2.

    More tips at Intentional-Relationship.com

    For more information about PREPARE/ENRICH, contact: https://www.prepare-enrich.com.au/for-couples or call is on (02) 9520 4049.

    PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.