Saturday, March 28, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #13-Self Soothing

Self soothing is one of the most important skills to help improve your relationship. When your partner says something that you do not agree with or feels threatening in some way, you will probably notice that your mind may start to race with thoughts to combat his/her point of view or evidence to prove her/him wrong. Your muscles may tense up as if you are in a fight and you have to run or attack back. Your heart may start to pound as you anticipate a struggle of some sort. In this physical and psychological state it is highly unlikely that you are going to be thinking clearly or making comments that are helpful to the couple.
This is where you need to do the following to calm yourself down:
1) self talk: Remind yourself that this is just your partner's opinion and you are entitled to have your opinion. You do not have to do anything with which you do not feel comfortable even if your parter gets angry. Both of you have been angry at each other in the past and you are still together. The best time to talk is when you are calm and not in the heat of the moment.
2) breathe deeply: this will slow down your heart beat and help you to relax even though you are feeling stressed by the interaction. It is not helpful to exaggerate your deep breathing to your partner although you do not have to hide it and if asked about why you are doing it, a good response is "i want to be calm so i can best hear what you are telling me and be able to give it the consideration it deserves."
3) remove yourself from the situation if you know that you are not going to help the situation with what you have to say. Try to do this gracefully and not by slamming the door-You might say: "I think i need to take a walk and calm down so i do not say anyting that will not be helpful or i will regret later.

By self soothing, you will have a better chance of having a positive interaction than if you start to tell your partner to calm down as you will be serving as a model for how to deal with difficult feelings.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #12-To agree to disagree-Part 2

In my last blog, i described some of the reasons it is so hard for us to be rational and simply "agree to disagree". Today, i will offer some ways of creating a space for the couple to achieve this state of mind.

1) When you are not in a state of conflict or tension, have a conversation about whether you can agree to create a space that either member can activate by stating that he/she experiences that whatever is being dicussed clearly has two sides and rather than argue about it, she/he is calling for a moratorium on the conversation and acknowledging that this is an area that the couple "agrees to disagree". That ends the conversation for now with an understanding that it can be revisited in the near future to see if either has changed his/her mind about the topic.
2) It is important for at least one person in the couple to keep in mind that almost any issue being discussed is not as urgent as it seems and the willingness to not force a decision upon one's partner creates a more fluid situation for change to take place in the future.
3) Keep in mind that your willingness to respect your partner's point of view even though it may make no sense to you will create a sense of trust in you and will most likely return that respect though not necessarilly in the immediate moment.
4) Every time you are able to "agree to disagree", you are strengthening your own boundaries as an individual since you are recognizing that there are two people in the relationship.
5) If your partner is not able to "agree to disagree", try to soothe yourself and not allow your anger to stop you from understanding that she/he may feel so strongly about the particular area of discussion that he/she cannot be at ease with two points of view at that particular moment.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #11-To agree to disagree-Part 1

Why is it so hard "to agree to disagree" with your partner even though it seems as if it is the rational thing to do?

1) It feels so much better when we agree with each other.
2) If i just point out the error of his/her way, surely she/he will agree with my point of view.
3) She/he surely can't believe what he/she is saying.
4) If we don't agree i won't be able to get my way.
5) It would hard for me to be close to someone who believes that.
6) How can we solve this problem if we don't come up with something we both agree upon?

These are some of the many reasons why couples continue to argue with each other over an issue when there are clearly two different points of view about an issue or challenge they are facing.
Next week, i will present a different way of looking at "agreeing to disagree" and how couples can integrate this important concept into their relationship.
Stay tuned.