Archive for Relationships

It Happens All the Time in Heaven

One of the things that hap­pens in rela­tion­ships that cre­ates dis­con­nec­tion from each oth­er is too much focus on what is irri­tat­ing us about the oth­er per­son — and let­ting them know. It’s impor­tant to feel safe enough and take the time to talk about what’s both­er­ing us. It’s also impor­tant to let the oth­er know what you appre­ci­ate. Having an atti­tude of look­ing for ways to be kind and appre­ci­at­ing the ways your part­ner is being kind can help shift the focus to a more pos­i­tive one.

A poem by Hafiz about kind­ness, “As It Is in Heaven” touch­es me deeply. I occa­sion­al­ly share it with cou­ples as some­thing to remem­ber and aspire to. I think if we woke up every day and thought about this as an inten­tion­al way to be with our part­ners — or with every­one real­ly — our rela­tion­ships would be more mean­ing­ful.

It hap­pens all the time in Heaven,
And some day it will begin to hap­pen
Again on Earth –

That men and women
Who give each oth­er light,
Often will get down on their knees

And, with tears in their eyes,
Will sin­cere­ly speak, say­ing,

My dear,
How can I be more lov­ing to you,
How can I be more kind?”

—Hafiz

What’s Preventing You and Your Partner from Connecting More Deeply with Each Other?

If you rec­og­nize that you tend to be self-critical (as most of us are), chang­ing that can address neg­a­tive pat­terns in your rela­tion­ship. It is easy to feel dis­ap­point­ed and dis­con­nect­ed with our part­ners and as a result become crit­i­cal of our part­ners and con­se­quent­ly of our­selves. Kristen Neff describes why that hap­pens:

Because self-critics often come from unsup­port­ive fam­i­ly back­grounds, they tend not to trust oth­ers and assume that those they care about will even­tu­al­ly try to hurt them. This cre­ates a steady state of fear that caus­es prob­lems in inter­per­son­al inter­ac­tions. For instance, research shows that high­ly self-critical peo­ple tend to be dis­sat­is­fied in their roman­tic rela­tion­ships because they assume their part­ners are judg­ing them as harsh­ly as they judge them­selves. The mis­per­cep­tion of even fair­ly neu­tral state­ments as dis­parag­ing often leads to over­sen­si­tive reac­tions and unnec­es­sary con­flicts. This means that self-critics often under­mine the close­ness and sup­port­ive­ness in rela­tion­ships that they so des­per­ate­ly seek.” ― Kristin NeffSelf-Compassion: Stop Beating Yourself Up and Leave Insecurity Behind

10 Hot Tips for Surviving (and Enjoying) Being Single on Valentine’s Day

Pink rose in the shape of a heart to represent Keeping Love Alive relationship workshop

If you are recent­ly divorced, not in a sig­nif­i­cant love rela­tion­ship, or have been sin­gle for a while, Valentine’s Day may bring up feel­ings of lone­li­ness, empti­ness, and feel­ings of self-doubt.

If this is your expe­ri­ence, you are cer­tain­ly not alone. Honoring these feel­ings and avoid­ing activ­i­ties that trig­ger them is impor­tant. The good news is there is anoth­er way to look at this day ded­i­cat­ed to love that can give you a whole new per­spec­tive.

Here are some tips for enjoying Valentine’s Day as a single person:

  1. Don’t com­pare your­self to oth­ers who are cou­pled up. Just because a cou­ple is out cel­e­brat­ing doesn’t mean they are expe­ri­enc­ing the “bliss” of romance on Valentine’s Day. They may be expe­ri­enc­ing as much dis­ap­point­ment as you for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.
  1. Catch up on past friend­ships. Go out with a friend of your choice, com­mis­er­ate, eat, drink, and do what­ev­er you want.
  1. This year, you get to dress for your­self. Wear your most out­ra­geous or most casu­al out­fit.
  1. Have a par­ty with oth­er sin­gles or look for com­mu­ni­ty gath­er­ings. There are many activ­i­ties list­ed in the news­pa­per and online.
  1. Take a dance les­son or go danc­ing. It’s a great way to meet oth­ers, revive your mind and body, get in touch with your sen­su­al­i­ty, and just have fun.
  1. Honor your own feel­ings in ways oth­ers may not have. Let your­self feel how­ev­er you do and not have to jus­ti­fy them to any­one.
  1. Stay home and watch a great DVD of your choice with­out hav­ing to check to see if some­one else likes or has seen it.
  1. Get out of your head and into your heart by vol­un­teer­ing. There is a huge drop off in vol­un­teers, but not of those in need, after the hol­i­days. Soup kitchens and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions still need your help.
  1. Devote the time, car­ing, and mon­ey you might oth­er­wise spend on some­one else on your­self. Buy your­self gourmet choco­lates of your choice, get a mas­sage, take a bub­ble bath, go for a walk in nature, or go to the coast alone or with a friend, whichev­er makes you feel good.
  1. Rediscover and spend the day with the hottest, smartest, and most inter­est­ing per­son you know — you!

See Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends for details on my sup­port group.

Attachment Theory

Attachment TheoryI want­ed to share this arti­cle on Attachment Theory and its sig­nif­i­cance to adult rela­tion­ships. It’s impor­tant to under­stand how the rela­tion­ship you have with your par­ents as a child affects your abil­i­ty to be in a healthy rela­tion­ship lat­er.

A secure attach­ment changes the way a baby sees the world because they learn that they’re not alone,” author Sue Johnson says. “Adults are the same. A sense of con­nec­tion changes one of the most basic ele­ments of the brain, which is how you per­ceive threat. It changes the world into a safer world.”

Clinical Psychologist Sue Johnson is the author of Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships.

Check out Relationships First for more arti­cles on build­ing healthy rela­tion­ships.

Everyday Mindfulness and Brain Integration

I think it’s impor­tant that my clients under­stand the phys­i­ol­o­gy of rela­tion­ships and the sig­nif­i­cance of an inte­grat­ed brain in build­ing healthy rela­tion­ships. Dr. Dan Siegel is at the fore­front of the lat­est neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy research on how brain inte­gra­tion shapes rela­tion­ships and rela­tion­ships shape the brain. One of the ways you can cul­ti­vate a more inte­grat­ed brain is through mind­ful­ness tech­niques.

Here are some tools to help foster this symbiotic process:

Dr. Siegel’s Hand Model of the Brain

Breath Awareness

See Dr. Siegel’s web­site for a guid­ed expe­ri­ence through this reflec­tive process.

Breath Discussion

Dr. Siegel also shares an audio clip on the Wheel of Awareness Practice.

What Couples Who Stay Together Do Differently from Couples Who Don’t

Open and Honest Communication

What Couples Who Stay Together Do Differently

  • Talk and con­nect every day
  • Practice lis­ten­ing with the intent to under­stand
  • Work at under­stand­ing their partner’s world
  • Show respect rather than con­tempt
  • Assume their part­ner has a legit­i­mate point of view
  • Ask them­selves, “Do you want to be right, or do you want to hap­py?”

Everyday Demonstration of Caring Behaviors

Find out their partner’s “love lan­guage” and which of the fol­low­ing he/she needs to feel loved, then prac­tice doing them.

  • Words of affir­ma­tion
  • Spending qual­i­ty time
  • Doing acts of ser­vice
  • Giving phys­i­cal touch
  • Giving gifts

Ask their part­ner:

What is one thing I could do dif­fer­ent­ly that would make the biggest dif­fer­ence to you?”

Tell their part­ner:

Something that would make me hap­py is…”

Relationship Inventory

Take Time to Talk Intimately with Your Partner

Relationship Satisfaction Inventory

Happy CoupleFill out this inven­to­ry and give it to your part­ner to do the same. Then set aside some time to com­pare and talk about how each of you has rat­ed each cat­e­go­ry. Look for the strengths in your rela­tion­ship as well as iden­ti­fy the areas that could be enhanced, to make this the kind of rela­tion­ship you would like it to be. Set a goal togeth­er to make this hap­pen.

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being very unsat­is­fied and 10 being very sat­is­fied, rate each of the fol­low­ing:

  • Communication skills
  • Creative use of conflict/crisis
  • Common goals and val­ues … what are they?
  • Agreement on gen­der roles
  • Cooperation and team­work
  • Sexual ful­fill­ment
  • Money man­age­ment
  • Commitment to growth, yours and the rela­tion­ship
  • Giving and receiv­ing appre­ci­a­tion and affec­tion
  • Time togeth­er
  • Family mat­ters … par­ents, in-laws, chil­dren
  • Decision mak­ing skills