Thursday, December 30, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #59-Being the Best PartnerYou Can Be-Part 7 - Listen with an open heart and open mind

How easy is it to listen to your partner with an open heart and mind? Depends on what is being discussed. Naturally, it is hardest to listen when it is something about you or something you have done or not done.

Listening with an open mind

1) Consider that although it is hard to face and you are near perfect, your partner's concern may be valid.
2) Do not jump to conclusions-keep an open mind until you have heard all the information and taken some time to consider it.
3) Your partner may know more about you than you realize
4) We all have blind spots
5) Just keeping an open mind to your partner may be enough to re-establish your connection

Listening with an open heart

1) Remember, this is the person you love not the enemy
2) Keeping your heart open will reassure your partner that you are not the enemy
3) It was probably just a few minutes before this conversation when you felt happy to be with your partner
4) An open heart makes even the most difficult situation easier
5) Love is what you both want and whatever is being said is only taking a moment in time

Friday, December 24, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #58-Being the Best Partner You Can Be-Part 6

Express your concerns about the relationship in non threatening ways-definitely easier said than done. Whether you speak softly or loudly, accusing or accetping responsibillity for part of what does not seem right to you, your partner knows that you are unhappy about something and it has to do in part with his/her behavior or attitude. Thus, no matter how you frame it, your concerns will most likely be interpreted in some way as an attack-especailly if your partner believes that she/he has been working really hard to meet your needs.

That said, there are some steps you can take that will enhance the chances of reaching your partner:

1) Wait until you have examined your own frustration or anger about the particular issue before approaching your partner and you have taken time to calm yourself down.
2) Be prepared for a defensive response no matter how you present your concerns.
3) Be prepared to listen to your partner's explanations without getting defensive yourself.
4) Start out by saying that you know it might be hard for your partner to hear what you are saying and you would like him/her to at least hear you out before responding
5) Try to be concise and to the point. The longer you talk the harder it is for your partner to listen.
6) Try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
7) If you are asking for some change, try to be specific about what it is that she/he could do that would make you feel more connected or loved
8) If your partner does become defensive, ask that she/he take a day to think about what you have presented and than talk about it the following day when you are both calm.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #57-Being The Best Partner You Can Be-Find fun Activities to share-Part 5

In today's world of both partners working, increasing financial pressures as well as the demands of being good parents, it is very easy for the couple's connection to be put on the back burner.

How often do you make time for just the two of you?
Are there activities that you both enjoy and can share together?
When was the last time that you were relaxed and felt close to one another?

In my opinion, spending alone time at least once a week is the minimum for maintaining a strong connection. I have often heard couples complain that they do not share the same interests. It has always been hard for me to believe with all the hobbies, activities and options for learning and playing that exist in our society that a couple who wants to develop a shared interest cannot find one.

Try this exercise if you are having trouble agreeing on something to do together:

Separately, each person write down twenty activities that he/she would like to do as a couple.
When finished sit down and compare your lists. Obviously, if there are any matches, you have a starting point. If there are no matches, ask if your partner would be willing to give at least one or two of your choices a try and you offer to do the same.
If you still have not agreed on an activity, then each take the next week to come up with twenty more experiences that you would like to try. Do research on the internet, ask friends and family what they like to do for fun. Allow yourself to be creative.
Most importantly do this with a positive spirit and willingness to have a good time with your partner.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #56-Being the Best partner You Can Be-Understand your own defensiveness-Part 4

Even the best communication regarding some issue with which your partner is unhappy, can cause you to become defensive. Why is that? If you are being the best partner you can be, wouldn't you want to know what distresses your partner so you can try to address it and alleviate any pain that she/he might be experiencinng.

Unfortunately, the human brain does not work that way. Any criticism or unhappiness is first experienced as an attack on our being. The reptilian part of our brain warns us that we have to protect ourselves and that instinctual message is sent before the neo-cortex part of our brain can remind us that this is not an attack on our life but simply our partner wanting some help for her/his distress.

What we can do about this automatic response that usually is the beginning of an unsatisfying arguement?

1) Use the age old suggestion of counting to 10 before responding. This allows you to get your neo-cortex in gear and remind yourself that this person with whom you are about to go to war, is our partner whom you were loving just moments ago and not your mortal enemy.
2) Ask yourself why i am getting so upset about my partner's opinion or wishes. I do not have to do anything about what she/he is saying at this moment. I can take sometime to think about it. If it is a criticism or request for change, this does not mean that he/she no longer love you or will never love you agian
3) Is there any truth to what your partner is saying. Take some time to take an honest look at what you might be doing to contribute to the issue that is being raised. This is very difficult but can be accomplished with practice.
4) Think about your own insecurity and your need for other's approval in order to feel okay. Is this what is fueling your defensiveness.
5) Does your sensitivity to criticism come in part from too many negative messages from your parents or early caregivers or teachers?
6) Consider that your partner is only one person in the world and her/his opinion or displeasure may be also caused by some stresses other than your behavior of which he/she may not be aware and your willingness to listen may be all that is needed.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #55-Being the Best Partner You Can Be-Giving the benefit of the doubt-Part 3

How many of us really give our partner the benefit of the doubt? Often as a result of many negataive experiences with our partner around certain issues we begin to assume the worst when similar situations arise. This is certainly normal as no one wants to be taken for a fool or be hurt for the umpteenth time. Why shouldn't we protect ourselves? We aren't the ones at fault.

The problem with this approach of guilty until proven innocent is that it is almost guaranteed to cause the opposite of what we want. What we really want is for our partner to be honest with us and stop the particular behavior that we are finding hurtful.

So what can you do?

1) Calm yourself down before confronting your partner. Remind yourself that this is the person who you love and who loves you even though his/her behavior may not support that feeling in the moment.
2) Consider that the particular behavior may be more complicated than you are aware. Your partner may have an addiction, or mental illness or an unconscious or subconscious behavior pattern of which she/he is not fully aware.
3) Take a position of being your partner's best friend rather than prosecutor, judge and jury.
4) Consider that your partner may also be in pain and not have a decent way of expressing it
5) If you want your partner to be honest, you have to be willing to hear his/her point of view even if it sounds like an excuse or an unwillingness to take responsibility for his/her behavior
6) Ask yourself what is my goal in confronting this situation. How will i accomplish it?

If you have a more caring attitude going into your conversation, you will be better able to use some of these phrases as starting points for giving "the benefit of the doubt".

1) "You may have not realized that what you did was hurtful to me."
2) "You may not have remembered that i spoke with you about this before."
3) "I know that what i may be asking may be hard for you to do."
4) "Perhaps i was not clear about this issue in the past,"
5) "I do not believe that you would want to do something hurtful on purpose."
6) "I know that this is a touchy subject which we do not seem to have fully resolved."