Re-posted from Redbook magazine http://www.redbookmag.com/love-sex/blogs/sex-stories/signs-youre-in-a-toxic-marriage#comments (Sept. 12, 2014)

1. You don’t respect each other.

When you start dating someone, you’re head over heels. But eventually, you discover their flaws, weaknesses, and the totally random stuff that drives you crazy. “You have to respect that people get to be who they are,” says Megan Hunter, author of Bait & Switch: Saving Your Relationship After Incredible Romance Turns Into Exhausting Chaos. “Remind yourself that your brains are wired differently, and asking your partner to change that is like asking someone to change their skin color.” It’s all too easy to resort to a disrespectful or condescending tone when we’re not getting our way, but research shows that speaking with contempt can be a big reason for a marriage imploding, adds Hunter. “When I see spouses begin to change their tone of voice and really pay attention when their partner is talking, I typically see that relationship become stronger again.”

2. You’ve unconsciously uncoupled.

Over the years, couples can devolve into more of a management team than a married pair, thanks to overwhelming to-do lists that include everything from managing a mortgage to caring for kids and aging parents. “By year 10, many relationships come to resemble that of two roommates,” says Debrena Gandy, author of The Love Lies. “Your communication becomes focused on the business of your lives, rather than meaningful topics related to the two of you.” The easiest solve? Date night. But making that a priority amidst other tasks can be tough. “I recommend that couples have a standing date night each month. Switch off planning, block it off on your calendar, and make a rule that if it needs to rescheduled, the other person must first agree,” says Gandy. “As time goes on, it becomes an integral part of the relationship, which both partners value and mutually support.”

3. You’re not putting in the extra effort.

Remember when you first started dating—you spent hours getting ready and he both shaved and put on cologne. “You stepped up your game to be in each other’s company,” says Gandy. “We call it the ‘honeymoon phase,’ but the fact that we identify the time when passion and interest are high as a phase suggests there is an underlying belief that these things are expected to eventually decline.” That can lead to your taking your spouse for granted and losing respect for each other, which in turn can spur emotional or physical infidelity, resentment, and frequent conflict. “The word respect is based in seeing the other again,” says Gandy. “By striving to see your partner anew each day, you’re committing to the idea that passion doesn’t need to fade, but can instead continue to grow deeper.”

4. You’re playing the blame game.

In a marriage, things happen—someone misses a credit card bill, someone forgets an anniversary, and so on. “But the more you get into that it’s-all-your-fault mentality, the more you stop taking responsibility for your own actions,” says Hunter. “When you’re not looking inward and trying to improve yourself, it can start to erode your marriage.” In a tense situation, you want to connect with your spouse on two levels, says Hunter: verbally, by saying something like, “I think I understand what you are trying to say,” and nonverbally, by using a calm voice or kind eye contact—anything that shows you’re paying attention. “The next step is to help the other person, and maybe even yourself, shift into problem-solving mode. Once you’ve dealt with the emotional aspect, you might say something like, ‘What ideas do you have to resolve this?’” suggests Hunter.

5. There’s no intimacy.

If your marriage has been reduced to an exercise in management, one of the first things to go is intimacy. “Marriage isn’t just about sharing your body, it’s about opening your heart,” says Gandy. “When those moments of closeness—both in terms of physical proximity and emotional bonding—disappear, the consequence can be accusing your partner of not meeting your needs, which can then be used to justify infidelity.” But if you’re not getting what you need in either area, the fix may be as simple as speaking up. “As women, we resist asking for what we want because our faulty gender programming tells us that our husbands should be doing it without us having to ask,” Gandy says. “Men respond well to action-based requests—even if it’s just for an extra hug or making time each night for a real conversation.”

6. Your union isn’t the centerpiece of your marriage.

Of course your children are hugely important to you. But if you’re able to make your relationship with your husband the number-one priority of your marriage, they too will benefit. “The health and vitality of that partnership creates a home environment in which kids are fed emotionally,” says Gandy. It’s easy to get caught up in the age-old societal construct, where the woman does all the work at home and the man becomes relegated to the sidelines. “As a result, the husband becomes increasingly disengaged and passive, and the wife becomes resentful from overexerting herself,” explains Gandy. “Try to ignore the instinct to constantly take on more, and instead work on building up your asking muscles. People around you—especially your husband—will feel closer to you when you let them help you out. And you’ll find you have time for your children and your relationship.”

7. Someone has control issues.

“The number-one sign of a toxic relationship is if one partner feels they have the right to check the other’s email, texts, and Facebook messages,” says Hunter. It’s a modern version of a tried-and-true-problem—the feeling that you can’t talk to friends or family, or that you must report what you’re doing and where you are at all times. “When someone feels trapped or stuck in a marriage, like they’re walking on eggshells, it’s a very toxic situation.” If that sounds familiar, it’s important to get a professional involved immediately.

8. You’re not willing to adapt.

Between years seven and 10 is when many marriages hit the rocks, according to Gandy. “That’s when a marriage is calling for a transformation, and we don’t know how to navigate it.” But really, it’s the ideal time to acknowledge that there has been a shift, and develop the skills to move forward. “The mark of a healthy, strong marriage is that you’re willing to adjust it by recognizing that there are stages where you may get bored or annoyed with each other; however, it’s at those times that you need to remind yourself why you married your husband, the ways you support each other, and the feeling you had when you first fell in love,” says Hunter. “Accepting that marriage isn’t always be rainbows and sunshine helps you keep a realistic perspective on the relationship as it progresses.”

9. There’s chronic emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse is just as serious as physical abuse—and it’s unacceptable. But, as women, we sometimes disregard our inner knowing for too long in hopes of bringing things back to the way they once were. If that sounds familiar, you’re not in a good place to make the best decision for yourself—or to extricate yourself from the situation. However, if you’re in a toxic marriage and this has gone on for years, you do need the help of a trained professional and a support network that can help steer you onto a clear, safe path.

Megan Hunter is a speaker, trainer, consultant and CEO at Unhooked Media. She is co-founder of High Conflict Institute and was a Family Law & Child Support Specialist at the Arizona Supreme Court. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone whose relationships are forever changed by the shootings in Santa Barbara.

Blame abounds. Who or what is responsible? Video games, lax gun laws, a seriously flawed mental health system, garbage movies and video games, the parents, a kid suffering from Affluenza and narcissism?

Apparently, the shooter was a lost, lonely kid who we believe was mentally ill, but do we know his diagnosis? Schizophrenia? Antisocial Personality Disorder? Who knows? But his self-admitted ‘pining for his mother’ speaks volumes about the ugly seed growing in him. This guy experienced a lot of loss in his formative years.

Loss 1 – Parents moved him from Europe to the U.S. at age 5 = Loss of culture, home and possibly extended family

Loss 2 – Parents divorced at age of 6 = Loss of family, safety, and stability

Loss 3 – Dad quickly brought new woman into his life = Loss of hope of family reunification, loss of time with Dad

Loss 4 – Mom moved back to Europe = Loss of primary relationship…and hope.

Most kids, depending on their temperament, could handle this.

Instead of pointing all fingers at the shooter, we could take a look at a narcissistic society that lacks emphasis on commitment to marriage and family. I’m not blaming the parents for doing what most have done. Sometimes dissolution is unavoidable but in many or maybe even most cases we could make it work. Maybe we ought not to rely on the common thinking that we shouldn’t stay together for the kids. Maybe we should.

Here are a few suggestions for help in dealing with building a strong marriage, or helping kids cope when divorce is the only answer.

An evidence-based online program for kids whose parents are going through divorce. Children of Divorce – Coping with Divorce. Kids who take this course during their parent’s divorce, or maybe even after, have a far better chance at sustaining good mental health both now and into their adult lives. Highly Recommended

A helpful book on building a strong marriage: Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart

Great gift for anyone having a baby:

Becoming Attached: First Relationships and How They Shape Our Capacity to Love

FINAL_DSC_7171-819x1024Mediating divorce cases can be stressful and draining on the mediator. But what happens when a case shifts gears suddenly and becomes a classic “high-conflict” case in which tensions rise, and you quickly feel like you’ve lost control of the mediation and may not be able to rescue it.

What can you do?
Building structure within each basic mediation step
Step 1 : Signing the agreement to mediate
 spend more time bonding with clients during this stage
 establish that you will have tight control over the mediation process
 thoroughly explain the process and rules of communication
 let them know you’ll pay equal attention to their concerns and proposals
Step 2 : Making the agenda
 have clients raise the issues – not you
 emphasize that it is the parties’ dispute and decisions to be made, not the mediator
 encourage each party to look at and speak to the mediator instead of each other
Step 3 : Making Proposals
 begin the proposal process earlier than usual mediations, to keep highly intense emotions from taking over
 focus on understanding a proposal before allowing the other person to respond
 manage the process with a very direct approach, while not taking responsibility for the outcome
Step 4: Finalizing Your Agreements
 remain calm and remind yourself and the parties that you are responsible for the process, not the outcome
 remember that high-conflict cases may take twice as long to reach final agreement
solving and the other is focused on relationship defensiveness – this may cause them to go round and round several times before signing the agreement
It is possible to help parties in high-conflict cases reach agreement and develop solid parenting plans by using a highly-structured method like this new resource

New Ways for Mediation: More Structure, More Skills and Less Stress for Potentially High-Conflict Cases

Is Divorce Mediation for You?

 

About Unhooked Books
Unhooked Books is the one place for people to find the best and most current information and resources available on personality disorders, high-conflict personalities, divorce, parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance relationships, prevent relationship disaster and handle relationship transition. Her firm belief is that with just a little education, most people can resolve most relationship issues.

Safe Kids, Smart Parents

November 1, 2013

Halloween is over and the kids are back to school. Here’s to hoping that everyone had a fun and safe trick-or-treating night, but it leads us to think about educating your kids about stranger danger, after having allowed them to ring a stranger’s doorbell and accept a treat.

In Safe Kids, Smart Parents, authors Rebecca Bailey, PhD and Elizabeth Bailey, RN, BC, offer a chapter called “Be alert. The World Needs More Lerts”. They advocate teaching your child to think critically, which includes assessing a situation and deciding how to respond appropriately, and the authors even provide games for you to play with your children that help them do that.

The book is filled with everything you need to know to keep your kids safe, including an age-specific chart on when to tell your kids specific safety-related information, and “the safe kid kit” that is written directly to kids and meant specifically for them. It includes:

I. Just For Older Kids

Ages 12-15

Age 15 and Up

II. More Just for Kids Age 12 and Up

A Word to the Wise, and You Are Wise

What’s a Girl to Do

III. Just for the ‘Tweeners

Ages 9-12

IV. Just for the Younger Kids

Ages 6-9

Ages 3-6

V. The Safety Agreement

For Older Kids

For Younger Kids

VI. Safety Equations

VII. The Safe List

VIII. Resources and Information

IX. What to Do if a Child is Missing

Get your copy while it’s on sale here!

About Unhooked Books
Unhooked Books is the one place for people to find the best and most current information and resources available on personality disorders, high-conflict personalities, divorce, parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance relationships, prevent relationship disaster and handle relationship transition. Her firm belief is that with just a little education, most people can resolve most relationship issues.

Aren’t you sick and tired of hostile emails, personal attacks and social media meltdowns?

Layout 1This webinar teaches a simple, but powerful 10-question model for coaching anyone to write responses that are Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm. They can totally turn the conversation around or end unnecessary hostilities. High Conflict Institute has taught the BIFF method for over six years and it is changing the conversation in divorce cases, in the workplace, between neighbors and among family members. This Webinar will include videotape examples of coaching everyday people to use the BIFF method. It’s not as easy as it looks! This training session should help you improve your BIFF skills and your coaching skills. For anyone working with people: lawyers, counselors, teachers, managers, healthcare workers, administrators, government officials and so forth.

Registrants are entitled to a discounted price of $9.95 plus shipping on Bill Eddy’s book: BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Personal Attacks, Hostile Emails and Social Media Meltdowns  A link for ordering the book, along with the participant’s discount code, will be sent in a follow up email along with the Webinar participation details.

Participating in the Webinar:

After registering, you will receive an email invitation from Cisco WebEx with a link and password that allows you to join the meeting when it’s time. Save this email! You will need this information to join the meeting. Be sure to check your Spam folder!

Register now or contact Trissan Dicomes at tdicomes@HighConflictInstitute.com or call 619-221-9108 if you have any questions or would like more information.

Need more information about webinars? You can attend the webinar by PC, Laptop, Smart Phone or other mobile device, Learn more at: http://www.webex.com/products/web-conferencing/mobile.html. Headsets are recommended for the best audio experience. If you prefer to listen in by phone only, a telephone number will be provided after registration. Not familiar with webinars? Click here to watch a short tutorial video http://www.webex.com/how-to/index.html  and/or you can join a test meeting here: http://www.webex.com/test-meeting.html  (recommended)

About Unhooked Books
Unhooked Books is the one place for people to find the best and most current information and resources available on personality disorders, high-conflict personalities, divorce, parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance relationships, prevent relationship disaster and handle relationship transition. Her firm belief is that with just a little education, most people can resolve most relationship issues.

faultfrontJuan Martinez is in the middle of closing argments in the Jodi Arias murder trial. His theme — according to the Defendant, absolutley nothing is her fault!

We know she lied. She admits she lied. Soon it will be up to the jury to determine whether they believe her or not.

I’m not going to debate the case and whether she deserves the death penalty or not.

I am going to say that Jodi’s behavior patterns in her relationship with Travis Alexander illustrates very clearly the traits of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). I am not a clinician, nor is this a rendered diagnosis, nor is a diagnosis what interests me.

What does interest me and should interest everyone is the behaviors that were displayed in her relationship with Travis and how we all need to understand this in our own relationships. BPD is known as a “relationship disorder”. While some see it as complex, it’s really quite simple when viewed in the context of connect/disconnect. Some people with these relationships disorders have a strong need to connect, to be in a relationship. It becomes the most important thing to them, and with some it reaches a level of obsession.

They mold themselves into the other person’s life to become indispensible and shape themselves into the exact vulernable spots of the other person. This is not intention. It is the operating system of this relationship disorder.

When disconnect or even the perception or threat of disconnect occurs, a frantic anxiety and fear of abandonment may occur, leading to behaviors that may go to extremes to avoid the disruption of that connection.

Did this happen with Jodi and Travis? It appears so, although we can’t be 100% certain.

Why is this important for us to know?

Because approximately 2-6% of the U.S. population may have Borderline Personality Disorder, according to a study done by the National Institutes of Health. Because people with this disorder do not know they have it – it’s as natural to them as drinking water to everyone. Because I receive phone calls and emails every day from people who are confused and hopeless about their relationship with someone whose behaviors mimic Jodi’s, and whose lives are hellish. Because we need to be able to identify these behaviors before we make permanent commitments in dating relationships. Because we need to help people whose relationship behaviors seem extreme and outside the norm, seek treatment.

The thing about Jodi. She claims that nothing is her fault. We know that’s clearly inaccurate, but here’s the thing……if she does have BPD, I put forward that it truly is not her fault as it truly is a mental illnes she did not request. However, she does deserves the consequences that may be handed to her by the jury. The whole event is sad and we have to learn from it to prevent this happening again. Learn more about personality disorders at www.pdan.org.

Read more about BPD and high-conflict personalities in It’s All Your Fault! 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything by Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

About Megan Hunter

meganMegan Hunter is founder and CEO of Life Unhooked, a speaking, training and consulting company that provides a fresh perspective and approach to help companies and individuals identify and overcome the damaging behaviors of high conflict personalities. She was co-founder of High Conflict Institute, founder and CEO of UnhookedBooks.com, and CEO of High Conflict Institute Press. Her life goal is helping people ‘unhook’ from bad behaviors and bad relationships. She is a past member of the Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners, appointed by Governor Janet Napolitano and re-appointed by Governor Jan Brewer.

About Unhooked Books

Unhooked Books is more than an online bookstore. I opened Unhooked Books after seeing a need for one place for people to find the best and most current information available on personality disorders and borderline personality disorder in particular, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. After 15 years in divorce and child support law in a county prosecutor’s office and the Arizona Supreme Court, I co-founded High Conflict Institute which helps people in high-conflict disputes of any kind. This bookstore stemmed from the needs of the people who contacted us out of desperation. Our books are written by people who are experts in their fields. I’ve personally met and worked with most of them, and those who I haven’t met, come highly recommended by those whom I have met. Enjoy perusing our bookstore and contact us with questions or comments.

abc of bpdThere may be some misconceptions about Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) resulting from the Jodi Arias trial. Whether she has it or not, understanding what BPD is and is not, needs to be clarified. A complex disorder that afflicts anywhere from 2-6% of the U.S. population, BPD is a serious condition that the sufferer most often doesn’t even know they have. Everyone needs to better understand this disorder so that those who have it can seek needed help, and those around them can learn how to deal with them differently. It’s a world of opposites that can be understood and managed.

In Randi Kreger’s The ABC’s of BPD: The Basics of Borderline Personality Disorder for Beginners, author of best-seller Stop Walking on Eggshells, we get a simple and practical explanation about BPD. This is a great place to start learning about BPD. The authors (Randi Kreger and Erik Gunn, co-author) interviewed more than two dozen mental health professionals, people diagnosed with BPD and those who have a family member with it.

In Part 1, the authors say, “People with borderline personality disorder are unstable. They lavish affection on loved ones one moment and then lash out at them the next. They’re intense, impulsive, and reckless.” And later, “People with BPD are hard-wired to feel love, hate, and everything in between intensely, in most situations and with most people–especially the people who love them. And they’ve been that way for many years.”

This book includes excellent resources. Chapters include info about:
What is BPD?
Familiar Relationship Patterns
Causes of BPD
How BPD behavior affects non-bp’s
Treatment of BPD, (finding therapists)
BPD Behavior can be abusive
Rages: Everyone Gets Angry, but acting out Borderline rages are unique and frightening because the BP is usually irrational and totally out of control.

Read more about The ABC’s of BPD, Learn more about Borderline Personality Disorder at UnhookedBooks.com.

About Unhooked Books

meganUnhooked Books is more than an online bookstore. I opened Unhooked Books after seeing a need for one place for people to find the best and most current information available on personality disorders and borderline personality disorder in particular, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. After 15 years in divorce and child support law in a county prosecutor’s office and the Arizona Supreme Court, I co-founded High Conflict Institute which helps people in high-conflict disputes of any kind. This bookstore stemmed from the needs of the people who contacted us out of desperation. Our books are written by people who are experts in their fields. I’ve personally met and worked with most of them, and those who I haven’t met, come highly recommended by those whom I have met. Enjoy perusing our bookstore and contact us with questions or comments.

Megan Hunter is also founder and CEO of Life Unhooked, a speaking, training and consulting company that provides a fresh perspective and approach to help companies and individuals identify and overcome the damaging behaviors of high conflict personalities. Most importantly we help you ‘unhook’ from these peoples’ behaviors so that you can make the right, next decisions – cleanly and clearly.

Thanks for stopping by!
Megan Hunter Unhooked Books megan@unhookedbooks.com