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Is Your Outlook on Life Positive or Negative?

Your outlook on situations and experiences can be broken down to be defined as either a positive outlook or a negative outlook. The left prefrontal cortex in a resilient person can be 30 times that of someone who is not as resilient – this means that there is a a pretty big difference in brain activity within people who are clinically depressed and those who are not clinically depressed. For people who suffer from depression, activity in the right prefrontal is much higher. For people who are healthier and have an overall positive outlook on life, activity is the left prefrontal is greater. In other words, left side activity equals positive and right side equals negative.

The thing to remember about these specific findings is that everyone has ups and downs in their lives, so the left and/or right asymmetry can change. This relates back to the first style – adversity – under certain difficult periods of people’s lives, they may behave and/or react differently during these times. This is simply just part of the ebb and flow of life as a human.

Dr. Richard Davidson has been doing research on the emotional styles of the brain for over twenty years. Dr. Davidson’s research has been on all kinds of walks of life, including everyday hard-working Americans, undergraduate volunteers, children and infants, and also a Tibetan monk community. These monks lent their time and brains to science by having Dr. Davidson run MRI’s and EEG’s on them. In his findings, Dr. Davidson has found that these monk’s left prefrontals were off the chart compared to his other findings making this evidence for the stark difference in the brain activity that underlie emotional and personality differences. The monks are constantly smiling, people of good will and constantly help one another. And their brains can prove it.

Photo courtesy of Ambro and www.freedigitalphotos.net

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What Make Us More Resilient?

It would be nearly impossible for any of us to get through our human lives without some sort of setback. What really distinguishes people in terms of their success is whether or not they are knocked back on their heels by these setbacks. Resilience is a product of two specific regions of the brain: one is the prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) and it sends signals to the amygdala, (the fear center of the brain).

The thinking part of the brain is front and center in our emotions. Prior to our technologically advanced society, say ten to twenty years ago, neuroscience thought that the emotional brain and the cognitive brain hardly ever met. However, research has found that not only do they meet, they are great friends and collaborators. With resilience, it turns out that the ability to send signals from the prefrontal cortex, which is the region just behind your forehead, to the amygdala, which is more in the center of your brain, means that the strength of those signals and the frequency of those connections determine how resilient you are.

The amygdala is the region that sends out signals that you may interpret as be afraid, be depressed, or be aware of potential danger. When these kinds of signals are going full blast, it is very hard to be resilient. The prefrontal cortex basically says to the amygdala “shhh!” When it is able to be quiet, people are able to be resilient. The prefrontal cortex is basically modulating the amygadala and vice versa.

The amygdala also sends signals to the prefrontal cortex (which has been known for many years). It perceives the information, sends the information to the prefrontal cortex – which again is the more thinking, planning, executive function part of the brain – and the prefrontal cortex then takes the right evasive action or figures out the situation to keep you out of danger. What is new here within the last ten to twenty years is the idea of the prefrontal cortex (the thinking part of the brain) communicating with the amygdala (the emotional part of the brain).

 

Photo courtesy of Sira Anamwong and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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How is your Resilience to Adversity?

The brain is the source of all our emotions and behavior. Although humans have known for many years that all our behavior, feelings, and thoughts come from the brain, there has not been much progress in learning exactly how it works until recently. Researchers have been looking at many aspects of our emotional life and tracing them to specific patterns in particular regions of the brain. In this research, they have found that one size does not fit all. In other words, you have to take into account the individuality of the patient which can often be determined by DNA and also previous circumstances that may have happened during the patient’s lifetime.

The first emotional style is resilience to adversity. The adversity can be a wide range of so-called setbacks – from the most trivial things such as someone cutting you off in traffic (but if this happens at the beginning of your day, it could trigger negative emotions starting off your day) to the more significant setbacks such as the passing of a loved one. Under certain difficult periods of people’s lives, they may behave and/or react differently during these times.

When you have a setback, and we all do at some point, how do you bounce back from it? Is it pretty quickly or do you wallow in anger, unhappiness or jealousy, or any other negative emotion? Everyone will vary in how well and how quickly they are able to recover from such adversity, and also depending on how significant the setback may be. On one hand, people are resilient – look at how we as humans have survived on this planet for thousands of years. Yet with the more significant setbacks, your resilience could be thwarted (which is completely acceptable), so the resilience relies on the circumstance. Researchers are now seeing particular patterns of brain activity in particular regions that actually show the ability to quickly and easily bounce back or the difficulty to bounce back.

The second emotional style is outlook – meaning whether you have a positive or negative view on life. Do you tend to think that things will work out for the better regardless of the situation? Or are you more of an Eeyore with a gloomy cloud over your head with no hope for better days? There are also particular brain patterns and brain activity at play here that underline whether you have a positive or negative outlook in life.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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What Makes Relationships Work? When the Simple Things Matter Most

No one enters into a new relationship thinking about how it might end. Most new relationships are filled with excitement, anticipation, and hope. Even years down the road, unless love and compatibility is lost, or serious issues creep into the relationship, few people actually want to see things end. In fact, many couples who believe the end is near have allowed certain vital aspects of a strong relationship to fall to the wayside, and they are desperate to figure out where they have gone wrong and to rekindle that fire that will save them from the end.

Relationships take some effort to maintain. This is not to say that love itself is “work,” but neglecting any aspect of your partnership can result in miscommunication, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and resentment. And often, even the most communicative of couples will suffer in silence, avoiding talking about their concerns simply because they blame themselves or do not want to start a fight or hurt their spouses feelings. It’s only when those held back feelings are compounded that the bomb explodes and simple issues become major problems. Many factors go into making a relationship work; however, in this article, we are discussing the subtle and simple things that can make a significant difference to you and your partner.

Mind Your Manners
Few of us made it out of childhood without knowing the value of saying please and thank you.

We also learned early on that duties are better shared than left to one person. These values do not fly out the window when we reach adulthood. Never take your partner for granted or let them even think this is the case. If you have a request, say please and talk it over. Don’t just make the decision on your own, leaving your partner out in the cold without any input or choice. If your spouse does something for you, around the house, etc., thank them. Gratitude shows your appreciation, making each task or special effort much more worthwhile. To further show your undying appreciation, share the duties of your life together. Don’t embrace gender roles and leave certain tasks up to one or the other. If something needs doing, get in there and do it, offer to help, or join forces and complete tasks as a team.

Ask and Listen
If you work outside the home, you know that your days can become hectic, stressful, and nerve wracking. The same goes for your spouse. And if one of you happens to be a stay-at-home parent, a homemaker (even without children), or self-employed/working from home, your days are no different from a partner working a conventional job. Each partner should be genuinely interested in the others thoughts, feelings, and activities. Take the time each day to ask your partner about his or her day, and spend some time listening and even talking about concerns, stress, etc. Communication is key to any relationship, and this type of open communication conveys genuine care, concern, compassion, love, and appreciation. By sharing your daily but often separate lives with one another, you build a strong bond of friendship and can rely on one another as confidantes. Even if you have the type of job that requires confidentiality, you can still discuss your concerns and activities in a general way that allows your partner to be a part of this aspect of your life.

These two simple acts make a huge difference in your relationship. Communication and relationships go hand in hand. You must communicate your sincere appreciation, love, and concern on a regular basis. Neglecting to do so can leave your spouse feeling unloved and uncared for. Don’t let such misunderstandings lead to destructive resentment when it is so easy to just take the time to think about your partner and to show them the simple things that matter most.

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6 Steps to Mindfully Deal With Difficult Emotions

Let’s get real here. For most of us – myself included – life is fast-paced and chock full of family, relationship, and work stressors. This reality, along with the ever-increasing pressures of technology and society at large, can really take a toll on your marriage. As a result, difficult emotions like anger, confusion, fear, loneliness, and sadness, just to name a few, can arise. Emotions like these are often the most present and powerful forces in your life.

The key to overcoming these difficult emotions is mindfulness! Practicing mindfulness enables you to calm down and soothe yourself. In this state, you have space to reflect and thoughtfully respond, rather than react.

Following these six steps will help you to understand and deal with your difficult emotions in a mindful way:

1. Turn toward your emotions with acceptance
Once you become aware of the emotion you are feeling, notice where it is in your body. You may feel it as a stomachache, a tightening of your throat, the pounding of your heart, or tension somewhere. Sit with this anger, anxiety, depression, grief, guilt, sadness, shame, or whatever emotion you are experiencing. Become aware of it and don’t ignore it. If this is difficult, get up and walk around or get a cup of tea.

The key here is to not push the emotion away. Bottling it up inside will only cause it to bubble up and explode later, resulting in more difficult emotions or even a complete emotional shutdown. Listen to your difficult emotions. They are trying to help you wake up to what is going on before a major crisis occurs.

2. Identify and label the emotion
Instead of saying, “I am angry”, say, “This is anger” or, “This is anxiety.” In this way, you’re acknowledging its presence, while simultaneously empowering you to remain detached from it.

When my husband was in the hospital before he passed, I felt a deep sense of uncertainty, anxiety, and fear. I needed to acknowledge and identify the emotions and say to myself, “I know that I am experiencing anxiety and fear right now and I don’t know what will happen, but I am going to just ‘be’ with it.” Although it remained an extremely painful experience to the end, identifying and labeling my emotions in this way allowed me to take some of the pain out of what I was feeling. This, in turn, allowed me to stay in the present, versus catapulting me into the future, or trapping me in the past. Being thrust in either direction would have only caused me to blame myself. I can just imagine how that critical voice would have rung out, “If only you would have done something different, maybe there would have been a different outcome.”

3. Accept your emotions
When you are feeling a certain emotion, don’t deny it. Acknowledge and accept that the emotion is present, whether it is anxiety, grief, sadness, or whatever you are experiencing in that moment. Through mindful acceptance you can embrace difficult feelings with compassion, awareness, and understanding towards yourself and your partner.

Think of a friend or a loved one who might be having a hard time. What would you say to them? Bring the scenario of what you would say to them into your mind’s eye. Now, say the same thing to yourself: “I am ok. I am not to blame. I did the best I could.” Hold these images and phrases within yourself with loving kindness and compassion. Extend this act of kindness toward yourself and become aware of what is going on within you. In this way you will gain the power to not only calm and soothe yourself, but also your partner.

You will soon come to realize that you are not your anger, fear, grief, or any other difficult emotion you are feeling. Instead you will begin to experience these emotions in a more fleeting manner, like clouds that pass by in the sky. Opening yourself up to your emotions allows you to create a space of awareness, curiosity, and expansiveness that you can then apply to your relationship, as well as any other aspect of your life.

4. Realize the impermanence of your emotions
Every one of your emotions is impermanent. They arise and reside within you for a time, and then disappear. It’s easy to forget this when you’re in the midst of dealing with difficult emotions.

Allow yourself to witness and observe your emotions with kind attention and patience, giving them the latitude to morph, and in many cases, completely evaporate. To embrace this process, ask yourself: “What and where is this feeling? What do I need now? How can I nurture it? What can I do for my partner? What can my partner do for me? How can we, as a couple, turn toward one another with acts of loving-kindness?” Asking these focused questions and responding in turn will go a long way to promote empathy, compassion, and connection within your relationship.

5. Inquire and investigate
After you have calmed and soothed yourself from the impact of your emotions, take a moment to delve deeply and explore what happened.

Ask yourself: “What triggered me? What is causing me to feel this way? What is the discomfort I’m experiencing and where is it arising? Was it as result of my critical mind, or was it in reaction to something my partner said or did?”

Perhaps you had a hard day at work or difficulty dealing with your family. Maybe you feel unappreciated, lonely, or disconnected as a result of your interactions with someone. Whatever the cause or trigger, look at it closely and ask yourself, “What is happening here?”

Consider what was said or done and compare it to your values. What were your expectations surrounding the situation? What reactions or judgments caused you to become angry or anxious? Is this a pattern that keeps arising?

Asking yourself these critical questions and investigating the root of your difficult emotions will help you gain empathy and insight into what you are experiencing.

Taking yourself off autopilot and trusting your deepest, authentic self to answer these questions about your situation will create a space to see things with a different perspective. This will ultimately allow both you and your partner to be more present and connected with each other.

6. Let go of the need to control your emotions
The key to mindfully dealing with your difficult emotions is to let go of your need to control them. Instead, be open to the outcome and what unfolds. Step outside of yourself and really listen to what your partner is feeling and what he or she has to say. Only then will you truly gain an in-depth understanding of your emotions and the interactions surrounding them within your relationship.

Mindfully dealing with emotions is hard and it takes time. Be kind, compassionate, and patient with yourself and your partner. You’re in this together! As Dr. John Gottman has said, “In a good relationship people get angry, but in a very different way. The Marriage Masters see a problem a bit like a soccer ball. They kick it around. It’s ‘our’ problem.”

We are fortunate that we live in a world where you and your partner can take the time to explore, discuss, and learn about mindfulness and your emotions. Take nothing for granted, for life is fragile and fleeting!

Resource: Gottman Blog
Photo: Courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici on Freedigitalphotos.net

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How to Switch Off Relationship Autopilot

It’s 6:30 am and your alarm goes off. Although you’d love to stay wrapped up in the warm coziness of your blankets, everything that you have to do today floods your body, causing you to jump out of bed.

Autopilot has kicked in.

You begin moving through your day like you are speeding down a highway, driving along as if hypnotized, going from one thing to the next. You drop the kids off at school, go to work, attend meetings, navigate conflict with a coworker, pick the kids up from school, run to soccer practice, get home to make dinner, help the kids with homework, feed the dog, clean the kitchen, half-listen to what your spouse is telling you about their day, and put the kids to bed.

You pause for a brief moment and collapse back into your bed, only to start it all over again at 6:30 am the next morning. You can feel anger and resentment bubbling to the surface.

“Is this really my life?”

This is your life on autopilot: half-awake, frustrated, disconnected from yourself and those around you. Of course you need and want to “be there” for your children, your spouse, and your co-workers, but your inner voice can’t help but cry out, “There has to be a better way!”

How do you get yourself off autopilot so you can really live? It all starts by shifting your focus. The key is to become aware of your feelings, habits, patterns, and general “busyness” so that you can learn to mindfully step outside yourself the moment you notice you’re engaging in your usual autopilot behavior.

Below are three strategies to disengage autopilot and live an awakened life:

Tune in to your body.
The first step to an awakened life is to tune in to what you are feeling. Take in and become aware of everything your body is sensing. For example, as you take a shower, focus on how the water feels as it runs down your back. As you drink your morning coffee, tea, or juice, take a moment to enjoy each sip instead of gulping it down. Pause throughout your day, really focusing on how you feel as you interact with your friends, coworkers, and those you love. Be aware of bids for emotional connection and turn towards them. The point here is to become mindful of what you feel, hear, see, and smell. Become aware of each and every sensation, paying close attention to any faint whispers from your “gut instinct.”

As you begin to get in tune with your body, you will begin to identify when autopilot is taking over. From this space, you can choose what you want to focus on, for yourself and within your relationships.

Identify and set your intention.
Focusing on your relationship with your partner, take a moment to tune in to what you want. What is your intention when you are with them? Your intention might be to listen more deeply, let go of blame and criticism, or simply to be more honest, vulnerable, or present. Whatever your intention, set aside a few minutes at the beginning of each day to reflect on your desired outcome.

With kindness and self-compassion, take responsibility for and release what is preventing you from fully engaging. Without judgment, be mindful of what is happening. For example, if your intention is to deepen your sense of connection with your spouse, start by sensing the situation between the two of you.

Have a daily ritual of connection with your partner.
With this newfound focus on your feelings and intentions, identify one daily activity or routine with your partner where you would like to be more awake, mindful, and engaged. For example, have a stress-reducing conversation where you only talk about stress outside of your relationship. Actively listen and pay close attention to what your partner has to say. Whatever your chosen routine or daily activity, commit to giving it your full attention and focus. Ask yourself, “What really matters here?”

Getting stuck on autopilot happens to the fittest of relationships, so be patient and stay focused on your desired outcome. In addition to these these three steps, disengaging from autopilot and leading an awakened life also involves mindfully having compassion for yourself and others, practicing forgiveness, and living with an open heart.

Switching off autopilot allows you to see life from a fresh perspective and frees you to make different and more mindful decisions. As you begin making choices in this awakened state, you’ll notice your actions naturally begin to align and become more consistent with your desired outcomes – in your relationship and in your life. Learning to connect from a place of deep presence will enable you to hear what your heart is saying, ultimately empowering you to respond rather than react.

 

Resource: Gottman Blog
Photo: Courtesy of  Feelart on Freedigitalphotos.net

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Negativity and Relationships The None-Too-Subtle and Destructive Force of a Negative Attitude

Negativity is like cancer. Even if you do not notice the negativity from the start, it eats away at you, inside, until it affects every aspect of your life. Once this happens, it is difficult to find peace, contentment, or happiness, or even to see the bright side of a gloomy situation. Negativity not only ruins your mood and outlook, it adds undue stress that can lead to an untimely demise, and negativity has a lasting effect on your relationship as well. Negative and relationships is not a good mix. A negative attitude influences your life, but it also affects those around you. Your bad attitude can influence anyone you encounter, potentially ruining his or her attitude or whole day. And if your negative mood can ruin the mood of someone you are not close to, imagine what it can do to the people you are close to – especially your spouse or partner.

Negativity and Brain Science
Negativity destroys your own mind – thoughts, moods, attitudes, etc. – and it can be difficult to recover from long-term negativity. This pattern in thinking becomes a habit, and over time, it is nearly impossible to remember how to think optimistically or to change the pattern from negative to positive. That’s not to say it cannot be done; many people have successfully defeated this monster, but it takes time and effort to change your way of thinking. Most people, however, are so caught up in their pessimism, brought on by circumstances and poor coping skills, that they fail to consider or realize the influence their sharing of these thoughts has on others.

Negativity shared with another person not only brings them down as well, potentially destroying their mood and thought pattern; it also has a physical effect on the brain. The hippocampus – the section of the brain responsible for problem solving – shoulders the burden caused by negativity.  It takes a mere thirty minutes of listening to someone’s complaints and negative thoughts to begin destroying neurons within the hippocampus. Essentially, those exposed to the negativity find it difficult to think, learn, or concentrate, and the scientific explanation is that this destruction of neurons turns the brain to “mush.” In a manner of speaking, exposure to just half an hour of negativity makes people dumb. The destruction of neurons has some effect on intelligence, ability to focus, ability to reason, and problem solving skills. And even if a person’s intelligence doe not noticeable diminish, their brain is still affected by the dominance of negativity. It’s not really fair to expose others to your negative thoughts, given the effects they are bound to experience.

Negativity vs. Valid Concerns
Negativity and valid concerns are two very different things. Negativity is wrought with ‘poor me, pity me” words such as “impossible” and “never,” and inaction. Negative complainers rarely want to take action and make the effort to change things; they simply want to complain for the sake of complaining and for some attention. The old adage that “Misery loves company” is true, even if the Negative Nelly in question does not consciously intend to bring others down. Valid concerns differ because they are not wrought with negativity. They come in the form of advice-seeking questions or the need for a compassionate ear, followed by gratitude and a plan of action. It’s okay to voice valid concerns to your partner for the sake of their compassion and input. It’s the constructive strategy used to voice those concerns and the follow-up efforts employed that distinguish valid concerns from negativity.

Negativity and Relationships
Negativity often starts small; internal thoughts that dominate your mind until you implode or explode. Eventually, that negativity is shared with others, most commonly your spouse or partner. Moreover, if this pessimism continues, it will permeate your environment, even disrupting or destroying the best of relationships. Those with already difficult relationships may not be capable of recovering from such a blow, at least not without professional intervention. Listening to your negativity not only destroys your partner’s brain, it also leads to disagreements and eventual resentment. Your partner may tire of hearing your pessimistic attitude and after dealing with it for a time and even attempting to be encouraging, they may find it stressful. At this point, they will probably wash their hands of the issue, resigning to live with it or to cut and run. If they choose to just live with it, odds are they will not be happy. And if they run, well, much of this may have to do with some resentment.

Negativity is selfish. It is not encouraging or uplifting to your partner, and this self-absorbance leads many partners to believe that their significant Negative Nelly is not ambitious or action oriented and has no desire to change their way of thinking and no desire or time to consider their partner’s thoughts or needs as well. Even when love is present, negativity is a devastating blow that must be conquered or lead to reevaluation of the relationship.

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What Makes Relationships Work? Good Problems Couples Should Have

A relationship is not pleasant all of the time, but certainly you’ll have more happier than sad times. It is natural to have those moments where you question if this is the right situation for you – your partner will do the same. There are, however, those situations that never make it work, like cheating or deal-breaking behaviors. But, believe it or not there are relationship problems that are considered “good” problems that won’t mess up your relationship and should never be considered deal breakers.

Fantasizing about Others
A lot of couples who are looking for answers to what makes relationships work are concerned about their fantasies or their partner’s fantasies for someone other than their significant other. Believe it or not, these fantasies are nothing to worry about – in fact, they’re healthy. Having an imagination allows you and your partner to open up more emotionally and physically with one another. Of course, you cannot act on these fantasies.

Going Out with the Guys
Many women get defensive or feel they’re husband is leaving them out when they go out for guy time. Interests and maintaining friend relationships outside of your partnership are key in finding what makes relationships work. This break from the relationship allows each partner to miss one another, engage in activities and release any steam that could create tension down the road.

Arguing
You may have fights, but fights don’t mean your relationship is over or even close to over. Fighting is a way for partners to share how they feel with one another – meaning you both trust one another enough to get it all out in the open. As long as you both don’t attack one another, arguing can strengthen your marriage. Also, avoid recycling old arguments – meaning don’t bring up an argument that happened last week. Once it’s over and resolved, it’s done.

Being Too Tired for Sex
Intimacy is important in any relationship, but there are times one or the other may be too tired to engage in sex or other intimate activities. Today’s couple is often over-scheduled and it isn’t uncommon to have limited time for intimacy or anything else. However, the less a couple is intimate, the lower their testosterone is, which means they will have less desire for intimacy in the first place. Therefore, try scheduling a time for intimacy rather than waiting for that magical “spark” so that you have fun, it’s something to look forward to and you get that testosterone moving again.

A healthy relationship can be full of “good” problems. Often couples assume these good problems are detrimental to the success of their relationship and they begin to pull away. As long as you are open, honest and willing to work through your issues, you and your partner will understand what makes relationships work faster than any other couple in the neighborhood.

 

Photo Courtesy of: David Castillo Dominici from FreeDigitalPhotos.Net

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Tips for Breathing Life Back into Your Relationship

When a couple first gets together everything is new. There’s an excitement that can make the relationship feel like it will never end, like things will never change. However, as time goes on and life gets in the way, the dynamics of the relationship changes and we have to look at the sudden distance that has surfaced.

The closeness that was once there seems to have withered away. The gentle hand-holding or even the casual public displays of affection are becoming a memory. Where has the time gone and why is the relationship fading? You ask yourself, is the end approaching, do I need to get relationship tips from someone specialized? You know you love your partner and you know that each and every day wouldn’t be the same without them in it. So if that’s the case, then why do you seem further apart?

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and look at the relationship for what is it. In most cases the relationship is not over even though it may seem that way. Instead, you simply need to breathe a little life back into your relationship. The foundation has always been there, but over time so many things have gotten in the way and the two of you have forgotten about the basics that brought you together in the first place. That love and ultimately that connection need to be remembered because it’s those things that make you the couple that you are.

Remember these great little tips to breathe life back into your relationship:

L – Laugh

Laughter is one of the best remedies when it comes to rebuilding a connection with the one you love. Take time to be silly. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, laughter makes you feel good.

I – Instill

Instill confidence in one another by remembering the best qualities that you bring to the table. Why do you love the one you’re with? What was it that made you fall for them? If it was his/her sparkling personality then remind them of how special that is. Instill confidence in them that they still make your clock tick.

F – Forgive

Forgiveness is hard to do but if you’re holding onto any anger, hostility or resentment then in order to truly make a fresh start you need to forgive them. It’s the only way you can truly wipe the slate clean. Without it, you never will truly reconnect.

E – Embrace

Don’t ever forget that there is power in a single touch. When you’re hurting or sad, a simple embrace can feel so good and make everything seem ok. It also reminds you of how good it feels to be so close to the one you love. Take time to hold one another and remember that connection and how good it feels. Sometimes the best remedies don’t involve words but more of a touch.

Breathing life into your relationship doesn’t mean years of counseling and therapy. Sometimes you just have to remove all the obstacles and get to the heart of what used to be and what can be again.

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What Makes Relationships Work? The Keys to a Healthy Relationship

When you have found that special person, you find yourself psyched. Each day is an adventure and you just feel yourself falling further and further into love with that person. As the relationship progresses, those flutters can fade, but not in a bad way. However, some people fall into looking at their relationship with blinders on, which makes them ignore what makes relationships work in the first place. To make sure your relationship is healthy, consider these keys to a healthy, happy relationship.

Respect on a Mutual Level
You should know who your partner is and your partner should know you. You both should respect one another mutually. That means understanding and respecting one another’s boundaries and morals. Neither of you should challenge one another or force the other to do something they wouldn’t want to do. Respecting boundaries is the key to a healthy relationship.

Trust
Trust is important when looking for what makes relationships work. You both should trust one another fully. While you can show that occasional jealousness toward one another – especially when you see your partner talking to the other sex – if it turns into mistrust, you may need to reevaluate why it is you cannot trust your partner to speak to someone of the opposite sex without worrying so much about it.

Honesty with One Another
Honesty is very important in a relationship. Couples should never lie to one another and instead should have a full disclosure between both parties. If you feel compelled to hide things from your partner, you may want to investigate why you cannot be honest with him or her.

Support
A partner shouldn’t just support you during the rough times – you should feel supported at all times. There are times when people shine while others are falling apart, but they tend to neglect offering support when things are good. A healthy relationship is one where both partners can lean on one another regardless of how severe the problem is.

Keeping a Separate Identity
When people start to date or even get married, they start to morph their identities into a couple, rather than working on their individuality. While it is important to work together and act as a couple, each person still needs to remain true to themselves. Couples should still keep in touch with their friends, take up hobbies they enjoy and maintain their separate interests – along with things they do as a couple.

Communication
If you’re curious about what makes relationships work, the biggest factor is communication. Couples should be able to speak to one another, keep things open and say what is on their minds. It is important to never bottle feelings or concerns up – these can explode later on. Even if you are worried about how your partner will react, keeping the lines of communication open at all times is important. Even if you need to take some time to think about what you’re going to say before sitting your partner down, that’s fine, just as long as you both communicate with one another.