Relationships Articles

The Latest on Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships? Three Types of Responses to Bids for Connection, 2 of 2

Saturday, December 20th, 2014

Kindness0In addition to measuring the physiological responses of partners as they interact with one another, discussed in Part 1, Drs. John and Julie Gottman also reported findings in the same publication from a study of the day to day behaviors of 130 newlyweds. They found a qualitative difference in how both partners in happy relationships, still married in follow-up study years later, responded to one another’s “bids for connection.”

To clarify, a bid for connection is considered either partner’s attempt to initiate in interaction, and can be the smallest of gestures, such as being the first to say “good morning” or make a phone call, to more obvious bids for closeness, such as reaching for the other’s hand, indicating a desire for sex or asking to talk about a concern. In short, bids for connection are thought of as attempts to reach for the other.

A key component of bids has to do with what type of response you receive from your partner, basically, there are three types: a partner may either turn away, turn against or turn toward the other. For example, let’s say one partner came home from work and said, “What a day! Bob was really on my case all day!” Examples of each response type are as follows:

1.  Turn away: “What’s for dinner?”

2.  Turn against: “Are you being paranoid? What did you do to upset him?”

3.  Turn toward:  “Again? Sorry to hear this; how frustrating. Feel like talking about it?”

To really understand how profound your response to your partner’s bids for connection are, it helps to keep in mind that your brain is first and foremost a relationship organ. The human brain of an infant does not survive apart from some semblance of a relationship with a caregiver (however imperfect). In the words of Dr. Daniel Siegel, professor of psychiatry and best selling author of The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are,

“The brain is a social organ, and our relationships with one another are not a luxury but an essential nutrient for our survival.”

Translated to the topic of bids for connection, that means nothing matters more to you and your partner than how loved and valued you feel in relation to (your self and) the …


The Latest on Healthy, Long-Lasting Relationships? Both Partners Cultivate Two Key Traits, 1 of 2

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Kindness1It seems unfair. Of the many couples that get married each year, hoping to find lifelong companionship, lasting joy, friendship and fulfillment, only about 50% will stay married, and of those that do, the vast majority, about 70%, devolve into arrangements that are unsatisfying at best, and dysfunctional or even destructive at worst.

Cheer up, however. These trends are not necessarily bad news, at least not if you think of them as information regarding what works — and doesn’t — to create healthy, vibrant couple relationships! They speak to key elements that relationships need — must have — to stay alive and thrive; and they also point to unrealistic yet prevailing expectations that need to be identified, let go of and replaced. Why? Expectations are life shaping agents. If they form thoughts, beliefs and behaviors that limit the capacity of men and women to nourish and strengthen their love relationship, they are set ups for failure.


Couple Communications: 5 Prerequisites to Unlock Imagination, 4 of 5

Sunday, November 30th, 2014

images-318A healthy, vibrant couple relationship takes two persons working as a team, and as individuals, to change what is only in the power of each to change, more specifically, to unlock their imagination by shifting away from limiting, subconscious perceptions (i.o.w., beliefs, thinking patterns) that act as key hindrances to realizing natural aspirations for a deeper sense of trust, and an increasingly more meaningful love-connection.

Continuing from Part 3, the fourth prerequisite shift turns your focus to the value of creating a healthy couple relationship itself.

4. See the value of nurturing a healthy couple relationship to your personal health and happiness.

This prerequisite shift in perspective invites partners to place attention to nurturing a healthy relationship at the top of their list. In practice this means both agree to be available and responsive to oner another’s emotional needs, and that means to treat one another with dignity and respect, protecting and fostering the sense of safety, value and well-being each feels in relation to one another.


The Paradox of Genuine Love: Why Loving Your Self Equals Loving Your Partner (And Vice Versa)

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

HeartCreative Commons License seyed mostafa zamani via Compfight

The permission to fully love and embrace your self and life with wonder, a compassionate love and acceptance is no small matter. Paradoxically, you need your own love and acceptance to fully and genuinely love your partner (and vice versa..).

Why?

Several reasons. For one, it is impossible to be in a love relationship and not hurt each other. It is par for the course. You are two different persons. You each bring unique strengths, gifts, intelligences and energy to the relationship. Each also brings past wounds, hurts and painful experiences in addition to a “new” build up of unresolved hurts between you. Each yearns to feel valued for their strengths, and yet at some point each tends to get stuck focusing on partner’s faults, weaknesses, lack of understanding, appreciation, etc.

Second, nature seems to love to bring together two persons in a couple relationship that have seemingly opposing approaches in several areas, especially when it comes to how they react to pain or stress. Pain is not the problem however. Pain is part of growth, learning, and stretching out of old comfort zones to realize new possibilities. The cliche “no pain, no gain” is more than a guideline; it is law of physics. The real problem has to do with how each partner reacts (defensively) when dealing with pain, i.e., extremes of either wallowing or detaching from pain.


The Shadow Side of Falling In Love: The Power That Drives Addictions to Love, Sex and Romance

Sunday, November 16th, 2014

Forever-April-1__97671_zoomWhereas genuine love fosters a mutually empathic connection between two persons, one that nourishes the mental, physical and emotional growth and capacity for compassion and self-actualization of each, the neurochemistry of love relationships can morph into a dangerous mix of drugs more difficult to part with than alcohol, cocaine or heroine.

Notably, we use many of the same words to describe the personality shift observed in those (our self included) we experience to be “in love” and those with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, such as: impulsive, foolhardy, dependent, obsessive, compulsive, heedless, cavalier, negligent, reckless, irresponsible, and so on.

A meta-analysis study by researchers at Syracuse University revealed for example that the state of “falling in love” takes only about a fifth of a second to occur, and is potent enough to impair the higher thinking areas of the brain. Its potency lies in its ability to elicit the same euphoric feeling as cocaine.

In a word, the wiring of our sensory brain and body — when not modulated by our ability for conscious-mind awareness to influence decision making — can leave us susceptible to falling in love with the state of “falling in love” itself. It has to do with the power that certain sensory cravings have to switch off the frontal cortex (ability to consciously think and make optimal choices). This explains why an addiction can be such a controlling factor in a person’s life (and relationships).

Biologically, the human body is wired to gravitate toward what produces comfortable, feel-good sensations in us — and correspondingly to avoid what produces pain and discomfort. Conceivably, the highest purpose of this design feature is to prompt us to stay on track (to both survive and thrive). Ideally, our body reminds us, on the one hand, to avoid what is unhealthy, harmful or a threat to our survival, and on the other hand, to keep reaching to fulfill core drives to matter and live meaningful lives.

In the state of falling in love, these sensory signals consist of a potent mix of chemicals, which have the power to relegate our otherwise amazing human brain and body — a sophisticated communication system like no other — into a slave driver that steals our ability to make healthy choices (consider costs) with vehement and …


Couple Communications: 5 Prerequisites to Unlock Imagination (And Get Out of Stuck Places), 3 of 4

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

images-846When it comes to healing your couple communications and relationship, there are at least five prerequisite shifts in perception that are critical to help you unlock your imagination, and galvanize the energy you need to take action — to break out of stuck places and let go of old comfort zones (thus making it more likely your partner will do the same).

Continuing from Part 2, the third prerequisite shift in perception allows you to take 100% responsibility for how you respond to life events, and thus who you become (and what you create) as a result of your responses.

3. See your self as fully equipped and capable captain of your life (thus own body’s relaxation response).

This is a choice you make to see your self as capable of creating a fulfilling life — i.e., making good decisions, learning from them, thoughtfully connecting to your wants and needs, handling emotions along the way (triggering ones in particular), etc.

You know that repeated actions form habits, or emotion-command neural pathways, that are automatically activated by the subconscious mind as “default” options. Old habitual responses must be unlearned, retrained or replaced by new optimal ones.


A Meditation to Awaken Whole-Hearted (Conscious) Love

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

images-769Meditation and mindfulness are practices proven to strengthen our connection to emotions of the heart, in particular our ability to more easily and efficiently navigate the stormy seas of painful emotions, allowing us to thoughtfully respond rather than defensively run away or go into attack mode.

Based on recent findings in neuroscience, poets have been right all along: Love is the only antidote to fear, conscious love that is.

Brain research in the last decade inform us that empathy and aggression share the same brain circuitry, and that there is an inverse relationship between the two, in other words, when one goes up in intensity, the other goes down.

It takes love, a consciously empathic love for self and life at minimum, to stay present in the moment when a triggering fear shows up. Practicing empathy works to lower aggressive impulses (and, the opposite is true: a habit of aggressive reactions inhibits the capacity to respond with empathy).

The good news is that there is an array of positively charged emotions, rooted in love, ever willing and ready to refresh and strengthen us. Meditating on love-emotions of the heart empowers a uniquely insightful experience that can open up new possibilities to experience our self and life around us more fully, with our whole-heart rather than the limiting view depicted by fear (which one do you wish to be in control your imagination?). This comes in quite handy, considering that negatively charged emotions can also be great teachers, for example, telling us much about who we are and are not as human beings, what we’re capable of realizing, what we most yearn to contribute as unique individuals, and more.


Wired to Heal and Create Love-Connections: Four Stages of Building New Competencies

Monday, October 27th, 2014

iStock_000001216907XSmallEmpathy is a listening and talking skill that is critical to healthy relating. It creates a love-connection, a buffer of sorts that serves to absorb some of the shock or impact of a painful experience (emotions…). Without empathy (for self and another), we are less likely to feel safe enough to prevent our body from unnecessarily activating its survival system.

We are social creatures, whether we think of ourselves in these terms or not, simply because our brain is a social organ. We naturally move in the direction of increasing our sense of mattering in relation to life in and around us, an emotional connection that frees us to engage and grow, to heal and learn how to restore inner sense of peace, balance.

In moments when we feel securely connected, we have access to our brain’s reflective processing capacity (frontal cortex), and thus are free to consider optimal choices (self-regulate). When our frontal cortex is in learning or online mode, we feel safe enough to make eye contact, to touch or be touched, to love and be loved, to accept and feel accepted for who we are, all of which are emotions communicated by looking into the eyes of another.


Couple Communications: 5 Prerequisites to Unlock Your Imagination (And Get Out of Stuck Places), 2 of 4

Monday, October 13th, 2014

couples comYes, resolving conflict is a worthy goal, and understanding “the problem” is also important. The biggest obstacles in couple communications, however, more often have to do with unlocking the heart and imagination of each partner to want to hear or listen to what the other says, to want to understand where each is coming from, and so on.

As discussed in Part 1, what you “see” subconsciously in your mind when you think of your partner and your relationship, or your “discussions” for that matter, may just be what you get.

There are are at least five prerequisites to unlocking your hearts — and subconscious minds — to break free of images and mindsets that keep each of you locked in reactive patterns, defensive showdowns, and the like.


What You See Is What You Get: 5 Prerequisites to Re-Envision Your Couple Communications, 1 of 4

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

COUPLESIt cannot be said too often to couples: choose words (and nonverbals) carefully in sensitive discussions, more specifically, to opt for ones that energize optimal emotional states. This can mean letting go of triggering words or actions, and breaking old habits is not easy. What if the life and health of your relationship depended on it however?

The fact is, words produce images in your mind. Images produce emotions, and emotions shape behaviors. 


 

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