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Intimacy in Relationships

The word intimacy, depending on who you are as well as your gender, could mean something totally different. The real question is “what does intimacy mean to you?”

Some people may answer that question with:

  • It’s holding hands and kisses for no reason.
  • It’s hanging out and doing stuff together.
  • It’s the look we give one another from across the room.
  • It’s the way we hold one another when we’re together.

Almost every person wants to feel deeply connected to another person on a deep level. They all want the amazing relationship that is built on trust, respect, mutual admiration for one another, and yes, intimacy.

Women, on many levels, have a more emotional connection to the person in their lives. It’s part of their makeup, their DNA. Women tend to love the soft caresses, the little kisses, and the late night conversations while lying on the couch or in bed. Most men, on the other hand, consider intimacy as the moments of playing together, planning a hiking trip together, and the occasional hug. Men and women alike can see intimacy differently. It is not as if the men and women who are not really intimate mean to be. It is just that their definition of what intimacy is may be different than yours.

Intimacy is about building up the relationship and establishing a connection with one another. When looking to build up the intimacy in your relationship, consider the following:

  • Take time to do something simple, yet meaningful, such as drawing your partner a hot bath after a long day.
  • Take a walk together, holding hands and talking about each other’s day.
  • Give each other a massage after a long day.
  • Plan a weekend getaway.
  • Cook a romantic dinner for two.

In order to build an intimate relationship you need to remember that communication is the foundation. Being open with one another is important. It’s also about getting in a comfort zone to where you feel free enough to express your opinions and beliefs. There is something about feeling validated that brings you closer together.

Intimacy in a relationship doesn’t always happen right away. As with anything, it takes time and has to be nurtured. You also have to separate sex from intimacy. Having sex and being intimate are two totally separate things. Can intimacy be intertwined in sex? Yes, but it is still a separate thing from sex.

Too often people associate intimacy with sex and that is what it quickly becomes linked with. You have to know that there can be intimacy outside of the bedroom, and it’s that level of intimacy that keeps the home fires burning.

When you take the time to make even the smallest moments a chance to get closer to your partner, then you will see that the level of intimacy within the relationship will increase. After all, everyone wants to feel needed and wanted. We all want to feel desired. So, take the time to validate your partners’ wants and needs, and intimacy will be something that you naturally have within your relationship.

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Cultivating Communication Skills in your Relationships

It is very likely that you and your partner have many similarities along with many differences. Your similarities are what brought you together in the first place.  As far as differences, you both grew up in different households with different rules, expectations, and experiences.  Along with these things, it is also likely that you grew up learning different communication skills.  It is important to get on the same page with your partner with communication, as it will make a world of difference in your relationship, for all stages of the relationship.

Here are some tips to help improve communication in your relationship.

Speak Your Truth – Talking through any problems you may be having is critical to long-term success in a partnership.  It is common for woman to silence their emotions and for men to lash out, however, it is also possible for these roles to be reversed.  If you are able to get into a pattern where you can both discuss your feelings – calmly and rationally, as they happen in the present moment verses letting them sit and fester, only to be dealt with later when a whole other issue may be boiling as well – you will likely avoid some of the upset and begin to live a more harmonious life.  Try to keep things light by using humor and smiling – which will release feel-good chemicals in the brain.

Tune In – Listening without thinking about how you are going to respond is a great practice to improve your communication skills, and not only with your partner, but with any relationship you have (family, friends, co-workers).  Repeating and paraphrasing what your partner has said before you respond is key to effective communication in your relationship.  Speak up on what you need and encourage your partner to do so as well.  You will likely be better equipped to meet each others’ needs if you are both able to really tune into one another and then apply what has been said and agreed upon to your relationship.

Focus On The Positive – One of the differences between the relationships that succeed and the relationships that fail is the ability to express positive feelings.  If you have a negative communication style that consists mostly of accusations and upset, begin to replace your negative words with more positive ones.

Touch – Things such as a playful touch, a knowing gaze, or a gentle smile, are all simple ways that can accomplish more communication than words can at times.  Very few people can come up to you and kiss you or place their hand in yours – a playful little touch like that can be very soothing.  It is a physical connection to one another.

How well you both are able to communicate to one another will factor in how smoothly other things in your relationship run.  Remember that clear and focused communication is a skill and it takes practice and time to cultivate it into your relationship.

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Building Your Marriage on the Four Foundations of Mindfulness

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness are based on the Satipatthana Sutta, one of the most important and widely studied discourses in Buddhism. This fourfold “establishment of mindfulness” was created to help us attain, as well as maintain, moment-to-moment mindfulness in our lives.

The Four Foundations of Mindfulness are:

  1. Mindfulness of your body
  2. Mindfulness of your feelings
  3. Mindfulness of your mind or consciousness
  4. Mindfulness of how your mind operates

It’s important to note that you don’t have to be a Buddhist to benefit from practicing mindfulness in your marriage. As we’ve read in The Mindful Marriage, mindfulness empowers you to become more present to everything in your life, including your relationship with your partner.

Mindfulness of Your Body

The first foundation is mindfulness of your physical body. This base foundation provides a starting point and brings you into the present moment. You can get in tune with your body by doing Mindfulness Meditation or by conducting a body scan.

The intention of a body scan is to simply become aware of and present with your body. It’s nice to relax and it’s great if it happens, but that’s not the goal of this exercise. The goal is to check in with each area of your body in a nonjudgmental way, to feel what there is to feel.

The Mindful Marriage Body Scan
Begin by sitting comfortably. Start to “feel” into the areas of your body that are in contact with your chair in this moment. Feel into where your feet touch the ground. Feel where your legs, your back, your arms, and maybe even your head comes into contact with the chair. You may be feeling tingling or a change in temperature. Notice your breath entering and leaving your body. Remember to continue to breathe easily throughout this entire exercise.

Now, move your attention to your ankles and lower legs. What do you feel? Perhaps it’s the pressure of your legs against the ground or fabric. If you notice that your attention is somewhere else, gently and without judgment return your attention to your legs. Sometimes it’s helpful to imagine that you are breathing into your lower legs – as if your attention could ride on the breath.

Next, move your attention to your knees and thighs. What do you feel? Remember, tingling or even numbness counts as a sensation. Notice that thinking about a specific area or picturing it in your mind’s eye is different from actually feeling it.

Let your focus move from your thighs to your lower trunk, your pelvis and your belly, up to your belly button. Notice any sensations in these areas.

Now, let go and feel into your upper body – your stomach and chest areas, feeling the sensations of the breath here with each inhalation and each exhalation. Feel your spine against the back of the chair. Notice any sensations – or absence of sensations – that are here.

From here, move your attention to your hands and each of your fingers. Then, when you’re ready, move your focus to your wrists and forearms and feel there. From there, move to your elbows and upper arms, noticing any sensations or lack of sensations. Remember, if your mind wanders off, bring it back to the body part you are focusing on.

Move your attention to your shoulders, the back of your neck, and then to your head. Feel your jaw, your face, mouth, nose, cheeks, eyes, forehead, and your entire face.

Now, become openly aware of your entire body again. Imagine breathing from the crown of your head all the way down into your toes and up and out again. Notice all the sensations in body and allow them to be just as they are in this moment.

Allow some movement back into your body, like wiggling your fingers and toes. Stretch your body in any way it wants that feels good. Take a moment to reflect on your experience.

In marriage, mindfulness of your body will help you to become cognizant of yourself before tension can elevate into conflict. For example, if you’re talking with your partner and you feel a knot in your stomach, it may be a signal that you need to express something that you’re holding back. Pay attention to fluctuation in your body temperature, pressure in your head, tension or pain in your joints, and tingling in your hands and feet.

Mindfulness of Your Feelings

The second foundation is mindfulness of your feelings or sensations. As you begin to become mindful of your physical body, your awareness of feelings and sensations also becomes heightened.

Feelings can be classified into three tones:

  1. Pleasant
  2. Unpleasant
  3. Neutral

These tones correspond with your emotions and help you to see things as they really are.

It’s not unusual to see things differently than your partner. For example, if you both watch the same movie, one of you may love it and think of it as a pleasant experience while the other may really dislike it and perceive it as an unpleasant experience. Your different “feelings” about the movie can result in a disagreement that escalates and leads to conflict.

Coming to terms with your feelings and emotions, especially when they’re unpleasant, can be downright uncomfortable. Given the choice, most of us would prefer to avoid them and push them under the rug. This is unhealthy. Instead, take time to understand your feelings and label them – pleasant, unpleasant, neutral. Remember that these tones aren’t judgments or thoughts. They are merely a way to classify what you are feeling and sensing so that you can comfortably “be” with things as they are.

Mindfulness of Your Mind or Consciousness

The third foundation is mindfulness of your mind or consciousness. Another way to think of this foundation is to be mindful of your mental state without making judgements. This foundation focuses on turning your attention towards your mental activity (those thoughts and emotions running rampant in your head) and offers up a different lens to see them as objects that can be observed in a non-reactive way.

Just like your feelings and sensations, your various states of mind come and go, depending on what is happening in your relationship and your life in general. Sometimes you are restless and discontent, sometimes you are happy and full of positivity. These thoughts, feelings, and states of mind can pull you into a narrative that may not be accurate. This only serves to distract you from the present moment.

As you learn to observe your mental states without judgment or opinion, you can start to disentangle yourself from unbeneficial thoughts. Mindfulness of your mind with this awareness will empower you to approach your marriage with a newfound perspective.

Mindfulness of How Your Mind Operates

The fourth and last foundation is mindfulness of how your mind operates. This foundation focuses on opening yourself up to the world you experience.

This asks you to look at your subjective experiences as a gateway. It prompts you to ask questions like, “What am I identifying with or resisting that keeps me tied to this suffering?” or, “What is the origin of this suffering?” Being mindful of your experiences in this way allows you to get to the root of your subjective experience, allowing you to become fully aware and open.

For example, if you’ve had a regrettable incident with your partner, you’re likely feeling sad, angry, misunderstood, tense and/or irritable. You may launch into negative thoughts and judgments about yourself or your partner and how you both reacted. You might be thinking, “Why was he/she so mean? Nothing ever seems to work between us!”

If you can be mindful of how your mind operates, unpacking the experience so it doesn’t remain a ball of confused emotions, sensations, and mind states, then you are more apt to reduce gridlock in your relationship. This allows whatever is arising in your body in response to conflict – that tension or shortness of breath you’re experiencing – to come and go with an attitude of friendliness, openness, and understanding. In this state, you become more self-aware and can resist the urge to stonewall.

Putting these Four Foundations of Mindfulness into practice will ultimately put you in touch with your body, feelings, mind, and how your mind operates, helping you to wake up to yourself, your partner, and the needs of your marriage.

 

Article source: The Gottman Blog

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Positive Emotions in your Relationships

By now, most of us have heard about surrounding ourselves with as much positive as possible verses negative – but what does that mean when it comes to our relationships?  First we have to look at the quality of our thoughts in general.  Do you tend to think “I can’t do that” or “I can do that”?  Becoming knowledgable on which side you lean towards is the most important step as it creates the awareness of where you presently stand.

The next thing to look at is our emotions.  Are your emotions mostly happy, angry, or a combination of both?  If we look at a wide range of positive emotions—from awe to amusement to interest to inspiration to gratitude—what they all have in common is that they are responses to your current state or experience at that time.  They are usually not a permanent state, only feelings that fluctuate.  This is true for all emotions, however the positive emotions tend to be more temporary, as we do live in a very busy, sometimes overwhelming, world.  Often, we are not aware of the positive emotions due to our tendency to see the negative ones.

Positive emotions are also desired states.  Not only do they feel good, but we desire to feel them, as often as possible.  Some people might say it feels good to be angry, and at times anger can be useful or productive, but generally, people do not desire to feel angry.  Positive emotions can make us healthier and happier if we take time to cultivate them.

When people increase their daily doses of positive emotions, they find more meaning and purpose in life.  They also find that they receive more social support—or perhaps they just notice it more, because they are more attuned to themselves and others.  They begin to show mindful awareness of the present moment and increased positive relations with each other, especially true within your relationship.

SIMPLE STEPS TO CULTIVATING POSITIVE EMOTIONS 

A positive emotional relationship begins with believing in yourself and also in your relationship.  Know that you are both good people who are deserving of each other’s love and kindness.  If this is something you have doubts about, it would be helpful to think about what your needs and wants are along with your partner’s and reaffirm your connection with one another.  If the two of you believe in one another and both of you want a positive lifestyle, you may need to learn how to make the commitment to do your best to maintain a positive demeanor and start with small baby steps.  Being aware of what brings you gratitude, joy and happiness and to notice on a daily basis what actually makes you feel good is the first step of being mindful of positive emotions.

An example would be if you come home from work, exhausted, and take notice that your partner has neglected to do the dishes that have been sitting in the sink all day.  Your partner hands you a cup of tea and suggests you relax.  You have a choice in the moment to either react and get angry at the neglected dishes or take a breath and realize the positive verses the negative.

What is required is the willingness to make a change for the better, being aware of your patterns that are not working, adjusting your thoughts and attitudes toward life and each other.  This process is one that takes time and it will likely take more than a moment for you to see and feel the results.  Much like compassion, positivity is an ongoing process.  As part of that process, you will need to accept that sometimes we experience positive and negative emotions, which is part of life.  We want to be able to understand and accept our negative emotions while not getting caught up in them.  Being aware of the pattern in your relationship gives you the opportunity that your negative thoughts and emotions sometimes serve a purpose on what we can learn from them and what we would like to change to live a happier and healthier life.

Cultivating positive emotions and allowing that feeling to flow through your relationship is a great way to go through life with the one you love.

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Transforming Everyday Relationship Issues

Marriage is not pleasant all of the time, but certainly you will 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 marriage problems that are considered “good” problems that will not 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 are healthy. Having an imagination allows you and your partner to open up more emotionally and physically with one another. Of course, you should not act on these fantasies.

Going Out with the Guys

Many women get defensive or feel their husband is leaving them out when they go out for guy time. Interests and maintaining friend relationships outside of the marriage 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 do not 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 do not attack one another, productive arguing can strengthen your marriage. Also, avoid recycling old arguments – meaning try not to bring up an argument that happened last week. Once it is over and resolved, it is 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 is not uncommon to have limited time for intimacy or anything else. Try scheduling a time for intimacy rather than waiting for that magical “spark” so that you have fun – it is something to look forward to and you get that testosterone and mojo moving again.

A healthy marriage 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.

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Having Holiday Self-Compassion

During the holiday season, we sometimes find ourselves emotionally distraught, distressed or just run down due to the overwhelming amount of events going on.  We likely will turn to others (partners, friends, parents, children) for comfort and guidance, and visa versa as the relationships we have with one another are one of our most important sources of well-being.  A great way to navigate dealing with any holiday stress is to have compassion.  Not only compassion for others and the situation, but compassion for yourself.

Self-compassion is when you are aware and honest, with a willingness to be non-judgemental, towards yourself.  No one in the world knows your feelings as well as you do. Because of this, you are the one most qualified person to bring compassion to yourself, which includes care, sensitivity, warmth, awareness, and kindness.  Having compassion for yourself will help you to bring compassion to others and your relationships with acceptance, unconditional love, and understanding.

Having Self-Compassion During The Holidays

Remind yourself to slow down.  
Take notice of when you become irritable or angry, maybe at a large line in the toy story or in rush hour mall traffic.  Especially take notice if you are angry towards yourself.  Meeting yourself where you are in the moment will help to you to accept the situation, calm yourself, and slow down.  Also remember to breathe!

Ask yourself how can you be happy right now.  
Enjoy what you want for the fact that you like it or the activity of it.  This brings in self-compassion by helping bring more awareness about yourself and what makes you happy.  Counting the things that you are grateful for is also another wonderful way to stay present.

Keep a sense of humor.  
Remember that all of the holiday stress you are under now will likely lighten up as soon as the holidays are over, and back to your more regular schedule.  If things go a little awry, try to laugh with it and keep it light.

Learn to generate a kind voice in your own head.  
Think of something that you do not like about yourself – as if you have a critic.  What is the critic saying and what emotions are rising as you hear them?   Invite and acknowledge all of these feelings and emotions, whatever they are – anger, sadness, fear, resentment, envy.  Try not to judge any of it as they are simply just thoughts and feelings moving through you. It is neither bad nor good, just awareness.  The compassionate self must be built – this is a great awareness exercise for building it up.

During this holiday season as you practice self-compassion, you will likely discover the awareness of being present.  You will feel more freedom to show up as you are and a greater sense of well-being, for yourself, your work, and  your relationships – which will benefit everyone involved.

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What Makes Relationships Work?

To achieve optimum physical and emotional health, we must have rewarding and enjoyable relationships in all locales of our lives. Humans function best when they have an understanding and accommodating relationship environment. Single people search for the ideal mate, and those who have a partner seek ways to make the relationship work. This relationship advice allows you to nurture your relationship and find a balance in your life so you and your mate will be better satisfied.

Rules, Roles, and Rituals
Many of society’s social and cultural rules and taboos have already been broken down. Some of these guidelines are not even feasible for a multi-cultural society, much less a modern relationship. However, to have emotional security and safety in our relationship, we must have boundaries and rules. For many couples, relationship needs go unstated, leaving one or the other partner guessing. An principal rule to have is that each person expresses what is needed from the other. Another rule that is a crucial part of this relationship advice is that you respect what your partner requires, compromising when necessary and negotiating when possible.

Roles must be well-defined and distinct in a successful relationship. Each person is essential to the other and should have an individual role in the liaison. While age and sex determine some tribal roles, ability and inclination determine today’s modern ones. Once past the initial part of dating, gender roles become more evident. Some men and women grow up in ‘traditional’ homes, while others are reared in gender-bender environments. Make sure that you understand what your partner expects your role to be and express what you feel comfortable doing. Many times, a person’s sexuality depends on his or her role within a relationship.

Another vital piece of relationship advice is realizing the rituals that bind you together as a couple. These rituals are a glue that bonds two people together. In trying times, rituals tend to be forgotten. So, make an effort to consciously keep these personal practices going. Also, every now and then, make up a new one and stick with it. Incorporate sexuality and erotica into these personal rituals.

Commit to Love
Once you have committed to love the other person, be sure to actively express this love frequently. While infatuation is the spark that begins a lasting relationship, deciding to love the other person allows your devotion to maintain. If you refrain from expressions of love, the devotion could dissipate. Also, be mindful of your partner’s sexuality. Choose times for love-making when your partner is ready.

Establish and Maintain Trust
Trust should be established on all levels. This mutual trust should allow you to understand and respect one another and should be founded in loyalty and respect. Be sure to keep your word and fulfill your promises. This will allow your partner to feel the much needed security for which he or she longs.

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
The best piece of relationship advice available involves communication. Communicate about everything and anything. Have conversations that allow you two to share your wishes, needs, hopes, and dreams. Be sure to encourage your partner’s ambitions and goals, celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and discuss values and beliefs regularly.

Sex and Relationship Advice at Midlife
When you have been with the same individual for a while, it is critical that you get to know your partner once again. Sex and relationship advice at midlife may sound silly to some, but middle-aged couples often find their relationships dull and unfulfilling. An essential thing to do is to check in with your partner on a daily basis. Make sure he or she is aware that you are truly interested in hearing what they have to say.  Also, keeping sex exciting allows for the two of you to maintain a healthy relationship. Try new sex positions, watch erotica videos together, and explore toys and alternative devices.

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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