By: Lisa Firestone Ph.D. | August 27, 2022
"As much as being in love can feel like a natural state we either experience or don’t, we have much more say in it than we may think. Research has shown that taking more loving actions can make couples feel more in love. In this way, there’s much truth to the notion that love is more a verb than a noun. The more we express love, the more we ignite it in our partner and cultivate it in ourselves.
Thinking about how we show love can be a powerful practice for keeping our feelings alive and well in a relationship. The key isn’t to solely focus on our feelings of affection but to think about what our partner perceives as love. In other words, what actions would that specific person experience as loving?
It’s common and fairly instinctual to give love how we would feel it. For some people, that means showering their partner with cards and gifts, expressing lots of affection, and frequently saying “I love you.” For others, love is something more low-key, a quiet appreciation of the other person wherein you give them space to do their own thing.
Many relationship issues can center on misunderstandings or miscommunications about what makes each person feel loved. For instance, one person may expect their partner to know instinctively what they want and need. They may feel hurt by their partner when they inevitably get it wrong, thinking things like, “I would do this for them. Why wouldn’t they do that for me?” The answer may be that their partner just doesn’t see that particular action as meaningful or desirable in the same way. They simply have different things they categorize as expressions of love.
For example, a couple I worked with often got into heated arguments around their anniversary. For one partner, the day meant a lot, and she wanted to celebrate by doing something together. She thought of the occasion as an excuse to tell her husband how she felt about him and what she loved about their relationship. She liked to plan getaways and romantic dinners and was often disappointed that her husband didn’t put the same effort into celebrating.
For her husband, the date itself didn’t hold as much meaning. While he often bought her a small gift or flowers for their anniversary, he didn’t see the point in making a single day such a big deal. He felt like what mattered most was that he appreciated his wife and their relationship every day. He believed romance should be more spontaneous and not overly planned.
Their two perspectives inevitably left one of them disappointed. While she was feeling hurt and rejected, he was feeling pressured and disregarded. What finally helped them reach an understanding was each of them taking time to put themselves in the other’s shoes and recognize that the things that made their partner feel loved and appreciated were different from their own.
Once they accepted that simple reality, they saw their actions as part of a goal to make the other person feel valued instead of a sacrifice that bent them out of shape. Because each of them desired to make the other happy, they could be more open about what that meant for their partner. However, they realized that love boiled down to different actions than they imagined.
The husband realized that kind and acknowledging words, affection, and gestures meant much more to his wife than gifts that weren’t as personal. The wife started to understand how much it meant to her husband to let things happen naturally. She let their anniversary unfold more spontaneously and did not place as much pressure on just one day of celebration. Instead, she could appreciate her partner's loving ways throughout the year.
All kinds of factors determine what each of us experiences as love. Yet being curious and open to our partner’s unique way of feeling loved can make us better, more attuned partners. So, how can we “get better” at knowing what our partner wants and needs?
1. Listen to what they’re saying.
When we spend a lot of time with someone, on the one hand, we may feel we know them better than anyone else. On the other hand, we may stop noticing certain things about them as they become more familiar to us. This isn’t because we’re not interested or don’t care. It’s often just because our lives can get busy, routinized, or comfortable, so we stop actively getting to know the other person.
Paying attention to what our partner says sounds like the most obvious advice we’ll ever hear, but it’s something we have to remind ourselves to keep doing. Make a mental note of when they mention something that matters to them or something that excites them. Encourage them to be vocal about and ask for what they want."
By: Lisa Firestone Ph.D. | July 24, 2022
"Many people have only heard the term “collaborative communication” used in the context of company culture and teamwork. It’s basically defined as a method of exchanging information that helps people work toward a common goal. Yet, it’s not just businesses that reap the rewards of this type of relating.
Studies have shown that couples who practiced collaborative communication experienced more overall relationship satisfaction. When you get into the steps of collaborative communication, it’s clear how it can be a powerful tool for improving interpersonal relationships. Here, I break down what it entails and why it makes such a difference to the quality of a relationship.
What is collaborative communication?
Collaborative communication does not just refer to the words that come out of our mouths. Rather, it encompasses all the intricate ways we communicate through tone, expression, body signals, etc. Most of us aren’t even aware of all the messages we send on both verbal and non-verbal levels. Many conflicts between couples arise from misreads, misunderstandings, and lapses in our communication.
In order for two people with two completely different minds and two complex personal histories to live harmoniously, there needs to be a certain amount of balance and understanding. Collaborative communication offers a pathway to achieve just that by helping people become more aware of all the ways they communicate and guiding them to make an effort to align themselves with the other person in order to achieve a shared understanding.
How can we cultivate collaborative communication in our closest relationships?
Communicating collaboratively means taking actions that draw our partner out and trying to understand an interaction from their perspective. Our goal is to align our state with theirs, so we get a fuller picture of their experience separate from our own. When we do this, we often have to fight our own impulses to come from a more reactive, defensive, or combative place in ourselves.
Successful collaborative communication further focuses on how we can express our own perspective in a manner where we are more likely to be heard by our partner. Enhancing our ability to communicate with more vulnerability, openness, and empathy creates more trust in the relationship. Couples can form much stronger connections where each person feels known and understood by the other.
The specific techniques we can work on to achieve this type of communication with a partner include:
1. Becoming a better, more attuned, and less defensive listener
In order to be on the same team, we have to work on our listening skills. Tuning in to our partner and aligning our state with theirs is crucial. We can do this by really hearing them out without interrupting or arguing with their perspective. This doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything they say, but our goal in this moment is to understand where they’re coming from as best we can, put ourselves in their shoes, and empathize with their unique experience. This is part of creating a shared understanding.
2. Separating our past from the present
In order to press pause on our immediate reactions, especially those that are exaggeratedly emotional or defensive, we have to do some reflecting on why we get triggered by certain interactions. Some of us get set off by a partner’s exasperated expression or instructive tone. Others feel provoked by hearing a series of complaints or getting any sort of feedback.
Understanding that both what we hear and how we react during conflict is influenced by the lens of our past helps us recognize that what we’re reacting to in real time isn’t always fully to blame for the big feelings that emerge within us. The more we get to know and recognize our triggers, the more we can resist falling victim to them. Rather than blindly following our flared-up reactions, we can be mindful and choose how we want to respond to our partner.
3. Expressing ourselves in ways that allow our partner to know and feel for us
Our tendency to feel like we need to protect ourselves often leaves us using more defensive or combative language. Instead, we should focus on expressing how we think and feel in a way that doesn’t lay blame on the other person but rather invites them to know and feel for us. For example, instead of saying, “You never listen to me. You only care about what you want,” you could say, “I feel hurt when I don’t feel listened to. I really appreciate when you take time to hear me out and take my feelings into consideration.”
4. Repairing after ruptures in communication
Let’s face it, we all make mistakes and are bound to have moments when we’re not at our best (to say the least) with the people we care most about. The best thing we can do to get back on the same team is to repair. Acknowledge what took place, accept responsibility for your part in it, and try to find a more balanced way to communicate your thoughts, feelings, wants, or needs. Listening to our partner’s experience of the rupture is also essential. Making space for them to express their perspective helps them feel heard and allows for healing."
By: Mark Travers Ph.D. | July 14, 2022
"To love someone is to accept them fully, blemishes and all. We all know this definition of love. Over the years, certain behaviors, rituals, and symbols have become synonymous with this all-encompassing notion of an eternal bond, such as the institution of marriage.
However, such a binary and rigid view of love can cause us to ignore its many gray areas. We can start indulging in behavior that is to our detriment and allow for behavior that is obviously problematic.
Mental-health research has proven time and again that love can look and feel different from the way it appears in books, movies, and music. Here are three common mistakes people make when they view their intimate relationships too rigidly.
1. You’re too quick to make sacrifices for your partner.Yes, sacrifice is inevitable in most relationships. And yes, it is honorable. But is it always necessary? Research says not really. “It’s certainly honorable to put aside one’s own self-interest because of your partner or your relationship,” explains psychologist Francesca Righetti. “However, our research shows that there is a difficult aftermath for both the giver and the recipient.”
According to Righetti’s research, this is what the aftermath often looks like:
While sacrifice has this effect on both partners in a relationship, women are more likely to experience lower well-being after sacrificing because sacrifices are often viewed as their duty instead of their choice. This means they may especially experience the costs of sacrifice, but few of the benefits.
To avoid the pain sacrifice can cause in a relationship, Righetti advises partners to follow these two steps:
2. You’re too lenient in letting things go.Sometimes our loved ones may behave in a manner that is unethical and/or potentially harmful. These situations require us to be completely honest with our partners and ourselves – but it is possible that we fail to do so because we love them.
“When someone close to us behaves unethically, we face a conflict between upholding our moral values and maintaining our relationship,” explains psychologist Rachel Forbes of the University of Toronto in Canada.
Forbes’ research found that people often experience a deep ambivalence when responding to a significant other's unethical actions – possibly because of people’s tendency to share a sense of identity with their loved ones:
The costs of this ambivalence are twofold:
For people who might be struggling with being honest about a loved one's misbehavior, Forbes has the following advice: “The ambivalence we feel when confronted with close others’ bad behavior is difficult to reconcile. When faced with a loved one’s unethical behavior, it’s important to reflect on our moral values and whether the act itself fits within those values.”"
"If you were warned that a perfect day at the beach would end with you soaking wet and miserable, under dark storm clouds, would you still pack your bag and go?No one expects perfection to end in gloomy weather—especially when it comes to love.
Love stories gone bad can be addicting. I have a growing to-do-list and a neglected pile of laundry to prove it. The infamous Amber Heard and Johnny Depp defamation trial has left many people around the world hypnotized by testimony warning us about the dangers of entertaining toxic love too long.
In over 27 years as a therapist and mental health educator, I have not seen anything tie human beings into more complex knots than love turned ugly.
A former client stated, "I'm a shell of what I used to be. I'm fighting to get back to normal." He talked about his divorce as if it were as fresh as farmer’s market organic milk. Surprisingly the divorce had happened over seven years ago. Yet he was still having flashbacks about the emotional abuse that took place in the relationship and problems sleeping some nights. He commented, " Sheila, I follow her on social media. She is living with this guy and looks no worse for the wear. I haven't been right since it ended."
I invited him to step into a deeper level of healing during several therapy sessions. He confronted himself and acknowledged there were a number of signs that pointed to a doomed relationship from the start. He recalled, "She had a nasty temper and could ignore me for days without flinching. I suffered when we fought. It bothered me when we did not talk. She seemed to revel in the dysfunction."
When I asked him why he ignored what was happening, his answer made sense—in a dimly lit way. He shared, "She had a sweet side and I wanted things to work out."
The desire to see a relationship work out despite clear signs that it may not leads many people to turn a blind eye to information that could be the difference between finding happiness or fleeing misery.
In nearly three decades of supporting men and women through healing journeys, brought on by the fallout of traumatic relationships, I’ve counseled individuals to be mindful of the five following behaviors that may predict a relationship will go dark:
1. Cheating early in the relationship. Cheating, particularly early on in a relationship, is an indication of poor boundary management and signals a lack of self-control. Looking the other way when your partner cheats is a form of reinforcing disrespectful behavior.
2. Taking no responsibility when the relationship derails. Relationships hit rough patches. When a partner says or does something that is hurtful to their significant other, the ability to say "I’m sorry" and assume responsibility for the injurious behavior is part of healthy communication and establishing trust. When someone lacks the ability to do this, he or she is announcing, "I can do what I want, and don’t expect me to apologize when I’m wrong." This relationship dynamic can be emotionally damaging because genuine healing is not possible absent trust and accountability.
3. Cruel fighting, that hits below the belt. Words are powerful and they can be almost as painful as physical injuries. I recall a former client sharing, “When we argue he brings up deeply painful and personal things I’ve shared about my past. He mocks me and makes jokes about my suffering.” Cruel fighters lead with the intention to use what they know to emotionally wound their partners. It’s a dangerous dynamic that can lead to long-lasting psychological scarring.
4. Abandonment in times of distress. Emotional security and grounding inside a relationship is made possible when you feel as though your partner has your back. Emotionally unavailable people often leave their partners to fend for themselves in times of distress, such as losing a job, the death of a loved, or illness. When cycles of abandonment continue unchecked, the relationship erodes and becomes toxic due to stress and high levels of resentment."
By: Steven Ing MFT | June 7, 2022
"As children, we hated when our parents fought, when the ugliness of domestic conflicts boiled over into yelling, name-calling, door slamming and crying. For some of us, it got a lot worse than that. So it's perfectly understandable that, as children, we came to believe that conflict in a relationship was a problem to be avoided.
Later, in our adult lives, this experience from our earlier years translated into an active effort to avoid engaging in conflict with the ones we love.
You may have found yourself saying something like, "Can we not fight about it, please?" or "Let's never fight, okay?"
This may sound very appealing, to never fight and live in peace with the ones we love. However, the conclusions we came to as children might need a tweak or two.
The Truth About Conflict
As kids, many of us confused conflict, or fighting, with the abuse that accompanied it. We equated the notion of two people having a problem they needed to resolve with yelling, name-calling, crying, throwing objects, and, in some instances, hitting.
The fact that most everyone confuses conflict with abuse is rather obvious because we see conflict become abusive in business, politics, religion, and, of course, relationships. This leads many of us to conclude that the real problem is conflict, but it's not.
Abuse Is the Problem, Not Conflict
No matter how many times you may have witnessed or experienced conflict with abuse, the fact remains that other people have learned to engage in conflict without abuse. Instead of all that yelling, they have learned to confront one another in a way that allows them to address their issues with their loved ones, resolve them in a peaceful and respectable manner, and move on.
Now, you have to realize that, if they can do it, so can the rest of us.
Think About It
If you hate arguing, there are probably two reasons why:
This last idea refers to the fact that often, even two highly successful individuals, after forming a strategic alliance, suck at becoming an effective team. Upon encountering a problem, they are unable to resolve the problem that has each person unhappy. These two people don't technically suck as people; what sucks is their skill in resolving conflict.
Abuse Is Optional
Abuse, at the end of all the confusion, anger, and hurt, is optional. We can all learn to fight without being abusive to those we love.
Conflict resolution, or as I prefer to call it, "fair fighting," is a learned skill. We are not born knowing how to do it, but we can learn it and get better at it with practice.
If we want to have successful loving relationships and teach our children to do likewise, we have to learn how to fight fairly because conflict is an essential and inevitable part of every intimate relationship.
Recognize Your Patterns
To end the cycle of abuse in your relationships, you (and your partner) must first accept that conflict is an essential and inevitable part of every intimate relationship. Second, you (and your partner) must remove all abusive behaviors during conflict: yelling, door slamming, name-calling, eye-rolling, etc."
By: Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. | March 19, 2022
"Do you and your partner ever spend time deliberately talking about the “good old days” when you first started seeing each other? How about the high points in your relationship’s history, such as a particularly romantic getaway or an action-packed vacation? If you’re not engaging in these conversations on a regular basis, new research suggests you might want to give it a try.
According to the University of Siegen’s Mohammad Reza Majzoobi and Simon Forstmeier (2022), “Memories couples have about their ongoing marital relationship appear to be one of the decisive interpersonal variables in their close relationship” (p. 8). Their study delved into the existing published literature to understand just how decisive these old memories could be in helping partners legally committed to each other become and stay close throughout the course of their time together.
How Can Couple Memories Help Improve a Long-Term Relationship?
When understanding the role of memory in your own mental health and well-being, it might strike you that aside from helping you function better in the world, your recall of your past life helps stitch together the various events and experiences that shape who you are today. As the HBO Max series “The Tourist” illustrates (with an amnesiac main character), people without long-term memory lose all sense of their identity. Whether accurate or not, your memory of who you were forms the basis for your awareness now of who you are.
Indeed, in the words of the German authors, “Just as memory serves as the knowledge database of the self, memories couples have about their close relationship are also expected to operate as their relational identity database” (p. 8). When you are your partner reminiscence about the early days of your relationship, you’re digging into that “database” in a way that can promote the intertwining of your identities as individuals but, more importantly, as a couple.
It's possible, of course, that relationship memories can become sources of tension and disagreement. What if your memories of a past shared experience differ not only in the details but also in their emotional associations?
That adventurous vacation may have been harrowing for you but exciting and deeply fulfilling for your partner. You might not even agree on when you took the vacation or where you went. Such divergence could either be a symptom of problems you and your partner have in your relationship now, or could start a snowballing process as each of you starts to question how well you understand each other.
Relationship Defining Memories and Their Impact on Couples
As the term implies, a “Relationship-Defining Memory (RDM)” has the quality of being highly specific, significant, and closely connected to emotions. That awful vacation (from your point of view) might not meet those standards, so it could remain a chronic sore spot unless, or until, it’s thrown into the back of your relational database.
The University of Siegen researchers used the technique of meta-analysis (looking at results of previously-published research) to identify, from a pool of 285 studies, a final set of 19 considered acceptable in terms of the study topic, the nature of the sample, and coverage of such topics as autobiographical memory or reminiscence in connection with either positive outcomes of satisfaction or distress. Because the authors chose married heterosexual couples only (for the sake of uniformity among studies), this is something to consider when you interpret the findings.
Measuring marital outcomes was a relatively straightforward process for the studies included in the meta-analysis but the qualities used to define an RDM required more imagination. Think about your own RDM’s. If they involve the first time you met, what words would you use to describe them? And what would those words have to be in order to count as a “match” to your partner’s recall of the same event (or perhaps even a different event altogether)?"
By: Roxy Zarrabi Psy.D. | March 9, 2022
"Have you ever looked back at a previous relationship and wondered, “What was I thinking?” It may feel surprising to look back and realize how unhealthy a relationship was and wonder how you endured it for as long as you did. That’s why hindsight is 20/20.Perhaps you haven’t been in an unhealthy relationship yourself, but you’ve wondered why a friend or family member stays in a relationship that is clearly making them unhappy. Similar to a smudged windshield, it can be tough to see what’s right in front of you until the gunk is wiped away.
Often, it’s not a lack of awareness that keeps people stuck in unhealthy relationships; deep down inside there is a voice calling for their attention urging them to face the truth but it’s being buried due to underlying fears. If you’re having difficulty letting go of an unhealthy relationship, consider whether any of the following reasons are playing a role:
1. You fear being alone and assume being with anyone is better than being alone.
For many, the fear of being alone, and low self-worth, are powerful motivators for remaining in relationships past their expiration date. However, when you’re in a relationship with someone with whom you’re not compatible, you will often feel alone because you’re not being loved and cared for in a way that is aligned with your needs.
2. The relationship is activating an attachment wound, so letting go feels like a significant threat to you and feels impossible (even though it isn’t).
Adults raised by an inconsistent caregiver or whose emotional needs were not met during a crucial stage of development are more likely to be drawn to a partner with similar qualities simply because it feels so familiar — as if they’ve known the person “forever.”
If you learned early on to associate love with high conflict, volatility, or inconsistency, there may be a part of you subconsciously holding onto hope that maybe this time, things will be different. As a result, letting go of this type of relationship can feel like a threat to your attachment system because it’s forcing you to let go of this fantasy which can bring up a lot of resistance and anxiety. People who have an anxious attachment style may be more susceptible to having a difficult time letting go of an unhealthy relationship.
3. You’ve already invested a significant amount of time and energy in this relationship and fear starting over.
The sunk-cost fallacy refers to the phenomenon in which someone is hesitant to quit something they’ve started because they’ve already spent a significant amount of time and energy on it, despite it being in their best interest to change course.
The sunk-cost fallacy may be playing a role in your difficulty letting go of an unhealthy relationship if you’ve already spent a significant amount of time and energy on it and a part of you is pushing to see it through due to the fear of starting all over again."
By: Kaytee Gillis, LCSW-BACS | February 19, 2022
"Children who experience trauma and dysfunction in their household often struggle to learn the same boundaries and behaviors that so many others seem to take for granted.
As a child is growing and developing, they look to their caregivers as examples of how to interact with the world around them. If those caregivers behave in dysfunctional or unhealthy ways, chances are high that children will learn to mimic these same unhealthy behaviors, even if unintended. “For many, the effects of abuse manifest in dysfunctional interpersonal relationships as the result of attachment disruptions at pivotal points of childhood development.” (Kvarnstrom, 2018)
Going back to childhood and adolescence usually sheds some light on adult behavior. The ways in which our caregivers interact with us, as well as each other, shape our view of the world and those around us. This will, in turn, affect three fundamental structures: our sense of self, the way we communicate, and how we form relationships. Unless we do the work to develop more self-awareness of our behaviors, we will usually repeat these same patterns into adulthood.
Following are 10 of the ways that childhood trauma manifests in adult relationships:
1. Fears of abandonment. Children who were neglected or abandoned by a caregiver often struggle with fears of abandonment long into adulthood, even if they are unaware of these fears on the surface level. While the underlying fear is that the partner will eventually leave, these thoughts often reveal themselves in everyday situations such as getting scared when a partner goes out by themselves, or being unable to self soothe if a partner leaves the room during an argument. This fear is also often manifested as jealousy, or in extreme cases, possessiveness.
2. Getting irritable or easily annoyed with others. When we grow up in environments where we are frequently criticized, or witness others being criticized, we learn that this is a natural way to express our displeasure in relationships. We learn that our imperfections and quirks are intolerable, and project that intolerance onto our partners or others around us.
3. Needing a lot of space or time to yourself. Growing up in a chaotic or unpredictable environment creates a lot of stress, and often leaves children’s central nervous system in a constant state of hypervigilance. Then they become adults who need a lot of time to themselves in order to calm these symptoms of anxiety, nervousness, and fear. Staying home, where you can control your surroundings, feels safer and allows you to relax. In extreme cases, some adults even have traits of or meet criteria for social anxiety or even agoraphobia.
4. Unequal financial and household responsibilities. Sometimes this can look like a reluctance to rely on a partner at all due to fears of depending on another person. Other times it takes the form of taking complete financial and/or household responsibility in a partnership, or fully taking care of the other person to the point where you are taken advantage of. The opposite — relying too much on them to the point where they take care of you — is also a result of unmet childhood needs.
5. Settling and staying in a relationship much longer than its expiration date. When we grow up in unstable environments, with caregivers who struggle with drug addiction, mental illness, or even illness or death, children often develop a sense of guilt that comes from wanting to end a relationship before we have been able to "fix" the other person. Staying with someone who is not a good fit for us sometimes feels safer than being alone."
By: Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. Ph.D. | July 14, 2021
"Decisions are a part of life. You may need to choose the best vacation spot, job candidate, babysitter, or place to live. However, your most important decision may be identifying your best romantic partner. Relationships matter – a lot. They have implications for your health, your reactions to stress and even how you look at the world. How can you determine if your current partner is the best of the best? It’s hard to know what factors truly matter and what to ignore.
Gut Reactions Add Nuance
There are two general ways to make assessments: data and your gut feeling. As Malcolm Gladwell famously observed in his book Blink, snap judgments can have surprising accuracy. As a psychology professor myself, one example that always amazes me is that student assessments of a professor based on a 30-second silent video clip matches students’ evaluations based on the entire semester.
Relying on gut feelings isn’t perfect. But intuition is an important component of decisions, especially social ones. Clearly, people rely on instincts in a variety of situations, such as deciding which job to take, which daycare is best, and who to date. Trusting your own feelings is sometimes necessary because expert information is hard to access – published research articles are often locked behind paywalls, for example, and not typically written in a way that aids comprehension. And of course, the very nature of science and statistics is to focus on what is most typical in a population, not what’s best for any one individual.
Experts also aren’t perfect and research shows that people have a sense of when to value nonexpert opinions over experts. In fact, some experts admit to using intuition themselves: A study revealed that marriage therapists acknowledge using their intuition and consider it a valuable tool in clinical settings.
Is Your Relationship Hall of Fame Worthy?
Perhaps with the value of instinctive evaluation in mind, famous baseball statistician Bill James created the “Keltner List.” The list is a way to assess a baseball player’s Hall of Fame viability, and it's named for a seven-time All-Star with borderline qualifications. To be truly Hall-worthy, numbers may not tell the whole story; the judgment should be almost visceral. A true Hall of Famer would be clear based on a few key questions. While James is a statistician, his Keltner List is intentionally nonscientific. It’s a collection of 15 questions anyone can quickly answer to help guide an overall assessment of a player’s worthiness for the Hall. (Example: “Was he the best player on his team?”) The answers are not meant to provide a definitive conclusion, but rather to force a careful consideration of the most important information.
Back to relationships. A similar process can help you determine whether your current romantic partner is Hall-worthy for you. Inspired by the Keltner List, I’ve put together a list of 15 questions to highlight what matters most. Like James's list, my assessment is intentionally not scientific and has not been tested empirically (though that isn’t a bad idea for future research). That said, I consulted the existing research to ground each question in the science of what contributes to a healthy relationship. Note that this list isn’t about helping you pick the best Tinder date, hookup, or short-term fling. The questions focus on what matters for serious, long-term, sustainable love. To benefit from this exercise, you need to be honest. If you lie to yourself, you won’t gain any insight — or as computer scientists say, “garbage in, garbage out.”
A Keltner List for Relationships
Consider each question and answer truthfully with a simple yes or no:
By: Rubin Khoddam Ph.D. | January 23, 2022
"Are you looking for some new techniques to strengthen your relationship? If you’re interested in integrative behavioral couples therapy (IBCT) but don’t seem to be able to fit it into your busy schedule, many couples are utilizing teletherapy as a simpler way to make time for their relationship. Scheduling a teletherapy session with an experienced therapist is convenient and can help you work through relationship issues, but why wait? Here are five tips to get started today.
1. Express Appreciation
Understanding what makes your partner feel the most appreciated is a step in the right direction. Over time, we may stop expressing appreciation in our relationships because what was once novel has become routine. Maybe resentments have built up over the years, or we assume our significant other already knows how we feel about them. But when we notice and appreciate the little things, people often go out of their way to be even more thoughtful. This doesn’t require big gestures, although it can. Often, simply acknowledging what other people do for us is enough to make any relationship warmer. In fact, I often encourage couples to end the day by listing at least three things they are grateful for from that day about their partner or even about the day itself. Knowing that you will have to express your appreciation for things at the end of the night will make you more mindful of things to appreciate during the day.
2. Practice Reflective Listening
Practice might not ever make perfect, but it sure helps. It’s common for people to mistakenly believe that if they withhold approval or affection, their partner will change in the ways they want them to. While this might cause your partner to change, it probably won’t be in ways you like. Practicing reflective listening is one of the best techniques to improve communication in your relationship. So what does it mean?
This is something that a skilled couples therapist can walk you through during your session, but essentially it means that you listen to what your partner says and then repeat it back to them in your own words. You can try a simple reflection where you basically repeat back what’s been said, perhaps paraphrasing a little or you can try a complex reflection where you might infer a feeling or an experience based on what was said. This accomplishes two things. It validates what they’ve said because they know they’ve really been heard and it also clarifies any confusion. Instead of waiting for our turn to speak, we’re actively listening to what is being said and trying to understand what they’re telling us.
3. Schedule Important Conversations
On a related topic, there are some conversations that are tough to have no matter how skilled we are at communicating. So, when it comes to sensitive issues, it can be helpful to set aside time to discuss them. I call these “relationship business meetings.” For example, maybe your partner wants to have a baby but you’re not sure if it’s a good time for you to start a family, or if you even want children. This is a situation that could quickly escalate into an argument, particularly if the topic comes up in a moment when you already feel stressed out about work or money or any number of other things.
Instead, consider setting aside a weekly meeting for an hour to explore the idea or any other hot-topic relationship issues. Choose a time when you both have the mental and emotional bandwidth to be fully present, and keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to find an answer at this time. The intent is to simply get the conversation started when you’re both in a calm and receptive state of mind—maybe even over brunch. You can always schedule a follow-up for later on, which will give you time to consider things in more depth.
By setting aside a weekly time to meet, you consolidate arguments into a single episode rather than have them bleed into the relationship throughout the week. It also allows time and space for each partner to reflect on their experience and opinions, and to come to the conversation more thoughtful and respectful of their needs and their partner's.
If you’re still finding it difficult to find your way through an issue, bring it to your teletherapy session. Your couples therapist will be able to offer you a fresh perspective and some useful insights into your current dynamic."
"Even babies notice differences like skin color, eye shape and hair texture. Here's how to handle conversations about race, racism, diversity and inclusion, even with very young children.
A few things to remember:
By Meredith Goldstein
"I've been the relationship advice columnist at The Boston Globe for more than a decade. That means I've answered thousands of letters from the lovelorn.
But when friends and family ask for advice, it's more complicated. It can be fraught-sometimes I know too much and it can be difficult to remain objective.
Also, if I don't get it right, I could hurt someone I love.
I think it works that way for a lot of us. Helping a stranger can be easier than advising someone we've known forever.
That's why I teamed up with Life Kit to figure out some best practices. Turns out, good advice is often about loosening the body, opening the mind and, more often than not, keeping your mouth shut."
By Guy Winch
"At some point in our lives, almost every one of us will have our heart broken. Imagine how different things would be if we paid more attention to this unique emotional pain. Psychologist Guy Winch reveals how recovering from heartbreak starts with a determination to fight our instincts to idealize and search for answers that aren't there -- and offers a toolkit on how to, eventually, move on. Our hearts might sometimes be broken, but we don't have to break with them."
Photo: Strelka Institute/Flickr/Attribution License
According to a study conducted by University of Kansas professor Jeffrey Hall and published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, you can forget about fast friends. The path to becoming BFF’s requires time-and not just any hours will do. “For working adults, more time at work was associated with less closeness in friendship,” Hall says. “Instead, time spent in leisure, at home, or at play really mattered.” In all, you’ll have to dedicate 50 hours to graduate from acquaintance to “casual friend,” 90 hours to jump to “friend,” and 200-plus hours to claim “close friend” status. The good news? That gives you plenty of time to finish making those friendship bracelets.
By: Dr. Emily Esfahani Smith, TED talks
"I used to think the whole purpose of life was pursuing happiness. Everyone said the path to happiness was success, so I searched for that ideal job, that perfect boyfriend, that beautiful apartment. But instead of ever feeling fulfilled, I felt anxious and adrift. And I wasn't alone; my friends -- they struggled with this, too.
Eventually, I decided to go to graduate school for positive psychology to learn what truly makes people happy. But what I discovered there changed my life. The data showed that chasing happiness can make people unhappy. And what really struck me was this: the suicide rate has been rising around the world, and it recently reached a 30-year high in America. Even though life is getting objectively better by nearly every conceivable standard, more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. There's an emptiness gnawing away at people, and you don't have to be clinically depressed to feel it. Sooner or later, I think we all wonder: Is this all there is? And according to the research, what predicts this despair is not a lack of happiness. It's a lack of something else, a lack of having meaning in life
Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but I came to see that seeking meaning is the more fulfilling path. And the studies show that people who have meaning in life, they're more resilient, they do better in school and at work, and they even live longer."
Watch video below to hear more about the pillars to building a more meaningful life.
By: Azriel ReShel
"We seem to do it naturally for others, but what does it mean to do it for ourselves? For me, holding space means becoming the container to experience myself; to grow, to feel, to express, to test out, to live. It is being present, treating yourself with care, consideration, kindness, compassion and love. Hearing the needs of your body and mind, feeling your emotions, and listening to the yearning of your soul. It’s a way of being, a lifestyle, a profound choice and a stand you take. It’s not a belief system, but is rather a way of being with yourself and meeting your own needs. This can be lifesaving in intimate relationships, where we can ruin a good thing by trying to make the other meet all our needs. We spend every minute of the day with ourselves. How much of it is good, supportive, and kind?"
Click on the link below to read a more in-depth description on 9 examples of how you can shape your life for the purpose of 'being there' for yourself.
9 steps to holding space for yourself:
1. Embracing your imperfection
2. Saying no
3. Developing boundaries.
4. Communing with yourself
6. Reaching for support
7. Being authentic
8. Being a good parent to yourself
9. Developing supportive rituals
By Brene Brown
"Brené Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk at TEDxHouston, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity."
In her talk she says, "vulnerability is the core of shame, fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it's also the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging and love."
By Dr. Roni Beth Tower, ABPP
"A romantic relationship can be easily recognized by its intense and sometimes irrational driving force of emotion. Passion fuels our behavior, guides or distorts thoughts, changes physical and chemical functioning, and alters lives.
The romance might begin with a “coup de foudre," or the lightning bolt that we think of as love at first sight. The attraction can seem to have no earthly reason or explanation, and may appear to emanate from another planet, lifetime, or dimension. It could be the sort of experience that compels someone to abruptly stand up in the middle of a meeting and follow an invisible beam pointing to a person standing across a room.
Romantic love can also arise more slowly, building on a firm foundation of friendship. A base of shared history allows reason to remain in control for at least an initial critical period. It doesn't matter how you found your perfect partner; you typically know when he or she has arrived—and the rest is in the details.
But you must tend to these details to make your relationship flourish. These 10 strategies will help you nourish and sustain a close, romantic relationship."
by Dr. Robert Waldinger
"What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life."
Robert Waldinger is a psychiatrist and the Director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the most comprehensive longitudinal studies in history.
by Amit Chowdhry
Do you find yourself spending a lot of time on social media? Have you ever noticed that it can negatively impact your mood? Research is consistently showing that there is a direct relationship between social media usage and depression. More specifically, research is showing that the more time spent on social media or frequency of visits may increase a person's likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms. Continue reading to learn how social media can lead to depressive symptoms...
by Brene Brown and The RSA Animations
by Robin Shreeves
"Scruffy hospitality means you’re not waiting for everything in your house to be in order before you host and serve friends in your home. Scruffy hospitality means you hunger more for good conversation and serving a simple meal of what you have, not what you don’t have. Scruffy hospitality means you’re more interested in quality conversation than the impression your home or lawn makes. If we only share meals with friends when we’re excellent, we aren’t truly sharing life together."
by Suzanne Lachmann, Psy.D.
Romantic relationship breakups are difficult to deal with and usually involve grieving the loss of your loved one. Here are 7 stages of breakup grief that a person can experience in the process of letting go...