connection Posts

Creating We-ness

It is important to your partnership that you pay attention to the level of your we-ness. Some couples have difficulty with differentiation and others have difficulty with we-ness. If you have difficulty with we-ness, it is important to attend to this in your partnership. There are always transitions in relationships and when you are having a transition and you are distant with each other, your relationship can become troubled. So if you do not naturally have interests in common, what do you do? You create interests that you can both connect with. You may need to be sacrificial in this when your partner is into something that is very important to him or her and you are not interested in the least in that area. Couples who do not pay attention to this can find themselves separating and then the person who is not wanting the separation suddenly understands that they needed to attend to what was important to their partner. Many times it is too late for their relationship. Do whatever it takes to be interested in things together.

Remember that being known is akin to being loved. When a friend is interested in what we love, it makes us feel cared for. If you have been a parent, you may have watched many a baseball game or other game that you did not necessarily enjoy. I am a grandmother and I am on my second round of baseball, knowing that when I go, it is important to my grandson and my love for him, that I am there. There is a child in all of us that needs the validation of what we do and the knowledge that our interests are important to our partner just because they are important to us. Cheering us on, telling others how great we are at whatever it is, cements our partnership at any age.
Then if we are fortunate enough to genuinely love things together, we are blessed. Rather then looking at the circumstances that suggest that we are so opposite, look at all the things that you do enjoy together. For instance, a good roasted coffee, enjoying a sunset, having dinner out. Sometimes it will be necessary to compromise. For instance, when one person is an active outdoor bike person and the other is a walker, planning a holiday can be a challenge. One has to get creative. Perhaps a walking European holiday with bike rentals when you stop at a town or village you take time to ride around exploring on your bike. You can think of lots of possibilities if you never give up. The couples who have lost their we-ness have given up looking for possibilities. Remember I am not saying that you must convert to being your partner, just that you find ways to increase the we-ness in your relationship. Choose something today to move towards we-ness. Go forth and be wonderful!

Defensiveness in Relationships

John Gottman’s research found that defensiveness was one of 4 important ways that relationships break down. If you are the person in the relationship that is defensive, it is so important that you take care of this in yourself so that the relationship is not damaged. Often when one person in the relationship brings up something negative, (more…)

Spice Up Your Relationship

I love September. Maybe it is a leftover from having kids going back to school but it seems to me it is like New Years. A time of opportunity and change. I get re-enthused about my blogging and want to start some new courses for the fall and develop new programs to help you. One of the coming programs is an on line course based on John Gottman’s research and his book called ‘Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work’ that I am currently putting together. More to come on that. This morning it was foggy for the first time, a sure sign of fall where I live. It adds a bit of mystery to the morning world and I was thinking how fun that was. Variety is important to us as humans and keeps our brain healthy. I wondered what newness, mystery or opportunity you can facilitate in your relationship and your life for this season? Sit down together and pull out the calendar. Without this step it is not likely to happen. Brainstorm some possibities that you might like to do together this fall. Perhaps you can go away for the weekend or join a class together. You are really only limited by your brainstorming so go for it! Use the momentum of the natural change in the season to spice up your relationship and tune up the connection between you! Do something different and add some health and mystery to your relationship. Mark it in the calendar! Go forth and be wonderful!

Hierarchy of Relationship Needs

Hierarchy of Relationship Needs:

Recently I have been challenged to write down exactly what I do in couple’s therapy and in relationship coaching. It is a daunting task. When you have been counselling couples for more than 20 years, it seems more like an intuitive art. I am continually being educated every year with new research and I am a voracious reader. This adds to the complexity of what I actually do! I decided to use the model of Maslow’s hierarchy of need and make a hierarchy of committed relationship building skills (or needs – haven’t decided on a name yet) . The theory of Maslow’s hierarchy is that you must have the bottom of the hierarchy fulfilled before moving up the hierarchy. The bottom of the hierarchy is about survival needs such as food and shelter and moves up the hierarchy to the top which is self actualization. It is a useful concept and helped me to put down on paper what I actually do intuitively.

Let me give you an example that might help you in your own relationship. When a couple comes to see me, they are often in high conflict and may even be separated (research shows that couples often come to counselling 3 years too late!). They want help with the conflict but they have walls of self protection that are so high there is not a hope they can work together until they go back down the hierarchy. The bottom of the hierarchy is about creating a secure friendship, one that supports trust and a mutual attachment. Often I am sending the couple away with homework that begins this process by simple non threatening acts that speak the other person’s love language every day until we see each other again. The hope that there may be a possibility of feeling other feelings besides a numbness or anger helps to set the stage for the next level in the hierarchy. This first level includes all that we know about friendship in marriage from research, including, creating a culture of appreciation, creating a space in your mind for knowing your partner and staying up to date on their changing feelings, dreams, expectations, beliefs and perceptions about their world, choosing a positive mindset about your partner, creating emotional safety and of course, creating fun and romance together. Some couples dismiss this layer of the hierarchy and let time pressure and other pressing needs take over their lives (so easy to do) to the detriment of their relationship. One of the lines that I hear often when enquiring what this week’s date night might be in a couple who is just barely hanging on to their relationship is, ‘I haven’t really thought about it’. It is not just chance that the research talks about this first level as the foundation of relationships that actually work.

You might be much higher on the hierarchy then this first level, in fact, you may be at the top, where you are creating a legacy as a couple, deciding what you will give back from your life together. You still need to come back to this level when you notice distance occurring in your relationship or you are going through a difficult time. As in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, many today find themselves in financial difficulty, worried about their survival needs. In the same way, you may come back to this place over and over as life challenges you in your couple relationship in a variety of ways. In other words, when you are having difficulty in your relationship, go here first and make some changes at this foundational level. Go forth and be wonderful in your relationship today!

An Opportunity:
I am creating a course called, “Creating Exquisite Moments of Connection in Your Relationship” and need a small group of couples to do a smaller version of the course. This will be no cost and will require you to be available for 4 calls and time to do some activities with your partner. Please connect with me to see if your needs and the study are compatible.

 

 

The Spiritual Aspects of the Season

Take time to be in the moment of the spiritual aspects of Christmas/ Hanukkah. What does the season mean to you? Start to articulate that for yourself. Some people complain that Christmas is just a commercial venture and then they behave like scrooge instead of taking the opportunity to make the season meaningful. Our culture sets you up to help with that by having days off which give the opportunity to connect and relate in love. Sit down together with your partner for a couple of hours, inside the house or around the tree, or outside of your home in a coffee shop. Let each other know what is great about the season for you and why? Open the conversation to “God talk” or “higher power” or ?. Christmas, like love and marriage are spiritual themes. As people age, they often change their beliefs and become open to the spiritual aspects of life. Although you may not be on the same page, adopt an attitude of curiosity and openness to know where your partner is in this. Talk about how you will find ways to make room for the spiritual this season, for each other.