Everything we do and everything we say is a bid for emotional connection. We want a sense of emotional connection with the people we feel close to. We want to know that we matter to them. We would love them to respond by turning toward us, even when our bids show up like anger, frustration, blame, withdrawal, criticism, contempt, or stonewalling. We would love them to see any of these behaviors simply as a request for help, even though it sounds like a demand. “Please, help me get unstuck from this place of suffering and isolation. Please, help me find ways to support my unmet needs in a way that includes your needs as well.”
As the receiving person it might be challenging to have compassion for the anger, stonewalling, criticism until you find the precious person with a beautiful, universal, human need in the behavior you don’t like.
Instead of turning toward by responding with acceptance, empathy, and compassion we might much rather turn against or turn away. “As if you are such a perfect person, asshole that you are!”, we might yell back in despair of the hurt that’s triggered (amplified by our personal baggage). Or we simply walk way, close the door, and shut down our heart to protect us from feeling, hurt, despondent, dejected.
Relationships where partners, friends, siblings, coworkers habitually turn away from each other don’t last long. Relationships where people have a pattern of turning against each other last a little longer, although they end too, eventually. Partners who practice turning toward, no matter the challenges, create long-lasting, intimate, fulfilling, joyous, and stable relationships. (Gottman & DeClaire, The Relationship Cure, 2001, p 1-57). That is not to say that it is easy to turn toward when you are triggered. You might need time alone for self-care. You might need an empathy buddy for support. You might need self-expression to meet your needs for consideration, emotional safety, and inclusion.
And I can promise you: it will improve any relationship.
Which choice are you making the next time your partner, friend, sibling, coworker, or child makes a bid for emotional connection that is hard to decipher? You want help to practice “turning toward” as your new habit? Contact me 512-589-0482 for a free discovery session to see if and how I can help you.
Sharing humor is a great way to build relationships. That’s what Gottman says. Laughing about each other’s jokes, building on each other’s puns, making funny faces. It doesn’t matter what you do or say, as long as it makes you both laugh. Sharing humor creates a sort of capital that you can draw from in case of emergency. It builds a resilience container that can hold you when you’re in an argument, an exit option from a heated discussion. It helps you see the human face of the person you now see as you’re enemy, because somewhere your brain tells you that this is the same guy, who makes you roll over on the ground in a giddy moment.
It is of course the easiest to build up your humor reservoir in times of happiness, trust, peace, connection, and safety. It is harder to change a habit of frowning, sulking, and chagrining at each others jokes, when you are entrenched in enemy images.
Although I think it is still worth a try. As long as you can laugh wholeheartedly, without any condescending tone, about the pun your husband makes (or your friend, sibling, or co-worker for that matter), or make a funny face back to your wife, or mimic their expression, or do whatever builds a relaxed atmosphere of joy and lightheartedness, do it. Even if just once. It is worth the try and it might relief tension.
Creating a sense of shared humor helps with sex too. That’s what I say. Often we feel embarrassed about our sexual desires, maybe even ashamed. When we introduce some playfulness into our love life, we practice hearing a ‘no’ and not taking it personally. We practice seeing ourselves and our partner as human beings, who want to connect even if they’re not willing to comply with each other’s requests. It certainly makes sex a whole lot more fun and relaxed.
Just try it out.
I’m pretty sure you’ll like it.
You want help to bring more humor in the bedroom? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.
Can you write about something when you are failing at it more often than you like?
When I started blogging, I wanted to write about marriage (as in any intimate, romantic, long-term relationship). I am passionate about any relationship, and marriage seems the pinnacle of relationships. Marriage was the topic of my heart.
Image courtesy to Deviantart
As I wrote, I realized that I suck at marriage. I broke up two long-term relationships, divorced once, and now struggle to transform anger, resentment and jealousy into love and compassion. Who am I to think that I can add anything of value about this topic?
I am better at friendships.
Well, of course.
In a friendship you can hide
You feel frustrated and don’t respond to emails. You meet for lunch and only talk about small things. You don’t tell your friend you don’t understand her partner choice, “out of respect”.
In a marriage you have less exit options
You live in the same house, you declared your commitment in public, his/her choices have a direct impact on you. And because of the amount of time spent together, your partner becomes more important. Their opinion of you becomes more important. You get more attached to their approval of who you are and what you do.
That’s why marriage can be challenging.
David Schnarch writes about it in his book Passionate Marriage.
A healthy, happy and safe marriage is a marriage between two differentiated people
People who can balance their needs for togetherness and for autonomy. People who are able to calm themselves down, when their partner loses it. People who are able to hold on to themselves, when their partner pushes to conform. People who are willing to pause their dream to accommodate their loved one. People who are willing to make choices that nurture all needs. People who are willing to love wholeheartedly, knowing they will once lose it all, death is inevitable.
David Schnarch claims there are three routes to differentiation.
- Unilateral self-disclosure: to disclose something vulnerable and important about yourself, without expecting the other person to do the same. A sort of emotional undressing, while the other keeps their clothes on.
- Self-validation: the ability to validate your own experience, when no one agrees, the ability to pursue your own dreams, when no one supports, the ability to believe in yourself, when no one else seems to.
- Conflict: the courage to stand up for your truth and desires, even if you fear disconnection and rejection.
I felt very relieved when I read number three. I have plenty of experience with conflict.
Maybe I’m not so ignorant about this topic after all. I might just be differentiating.
What if that is my expertise?
You want my help to transform conflict into differentiation? Call me at 512-589-0482 or email me to schedule a complimentary, discovery session.
Much on this blog is about me. About an ordinary woman with a big dream. A woman, who passionately wants to create a world where everybody belongs. Where everybody listens in a way that brings connection and harmony. A woman who dedicates her life to bringing joy, love and harmony. Do you?
Much of this blog is about me. About an ordinary woman who stumbles and falls on this path of compassion and mindfulness. And rises again. Like a phoenix from the flame. A woman who never gives up. Not on herself, not on you, not on us. Do you?
Much of this blog is about you. My friends on the path of compassion and mindfulness. Friends who want to leave this world a better place. Friends who are looking for support, encouragement, inspiration. Friends who are willing to give it their all. Friends who understand that changing the world starts with yourself. Friends who see and trust that we are basic goodness. Do you?
Most of this blog is about us. A community which holds on to each other, sees the positive intentions, and supports learning from mistakes. A community which hangs in there, is willing to sit still when the storm races over and dances when the sun comes out. A community which is willing to self-reflect, to make friends with our inner demons, and laugh about them, no big deal. A community which empathizes with our struggles, and rejoices at our successes. We’re enjoying the path of compassion and mindfulness, not striving for results. We love just making this one step towards more compassion, acceptance and inclusion in the world. Do you?