• Cari Sans, Coach & Therapist

Step Up in Your Relationship


Are you turned off by the idea of having to work to make a relationship work? You are not alone if you do. Many people believe that when there is love you should not have to work at your relationship. This is a myth.

By turning the work into just part of what you do naturally with each other, you will see a relationship improve, but it does take effort. What surprises me the most is that those that don’t want to put in the effort, usually will not because they don’t believe it should be that way, and end up wasting a lot of energy fighting or being unhappy. This is a low-level relationship where either it is all about “I” or about trading (i.e., I will give you this if you do this for me). Neither good for the relationship.

Being in a relationship is a great way to personally grow. You can learn so much about yourself. For instance, when two perfectly imperfect people are in a relationship, their differences trigger in each other stuff they do not like about themselves, and have either rejected or projected on to the other. These things are connected to our emotions, old emotional triggers, like the stuff that goes back to our childhood and our earliest decisions about life were constructed.

Being able to recognize your emotional triggers is part of becoming a more conscious individual and taking responsibility for yourself. Being aware of your emotions and changes will better allow you to know when a situation is good or bad so you can decide how best to proceed. This is called taking ownership for yourself and being responsible for your part in the relationship dance. Do you decide to ignore, attack, use sarcasm or maybe humor? How you proceed after being triggered is critical to the relationship.

Stepping up in your relationship is going to require that you begin to think about the “We” in a relationship. A few questions to explore may include: What does the other person need to help make us better? How have I contributed to the relationship problems? What could I do differently? How can I give unconditional love? What boundaries do I need to set?

Sticking around and through relationship challenges can be difficult, but it can be very rewarding. This is not true of an abusive relationship.

Here are some things you can do to make a non-abusive relationship interaction more productive. During an encounter, pay attention to how you respond to the other person. If you feel attacked, it would make sense that you would jump on the defense; however, this is only going to trigger a counter attack from the other party. Now the two of you are playing this defend-attack game and wasting precious energy.

Don’t get hooked into this dance. Instead, recognize that you have been triggered and identify the feelings you are experiencing –to yourself take note that you have feelings (own yourself), but keep that separate from what the other person is feeling. Just because she or he is angry and wants to let you know, does not mean you have to get angry too.

If you react, you are in the game. The ball was hit to you and you just hit it back. Instead, keep the ball from coming into your court by not playing.

Get Out of the Game

If the other party hits the ball in your court, don’t react quickly without thinking about what could happen next. Use your emotions as an alarm that something is wrong and you need to stop and think. Then keep the ball from coming into your court by reflecting what you are hearing from that person. Simply letting the other person know you hear them can lower that individuals defend-attack stance.

Lowering the defenses or softening the other person will allow you to hear what is really going on for him or her. The other party can then begin to take in what he or she is saying and own their words and feelings. Once it does not feel like an attack and you can get a better sense of what the other person is needing, you can work together to come up with solutions—as a “We.”

Going low can be easy when we feel attacked. It is our basic human instinct to go into a fight or flight response. You can work at not functioning in your relationships at this level and step up to create an experience of growth and connection with your partner.

Best wishes!


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