Relationship Advice Resources » Relationship Help Articles

Read relationship help articles written by Dr. John Grey. Each article offers valuable information that could give you the relationship help you want. You can start by picking one of the Help Categories listed on this page. Or browse through the sample of relationship help articles displayed below…

Connect Fast vs. Slow Communicators

An often overlooked factor that creates stress and upset between partners has to do with the differing rate or pace at which partners express themselves. It’s like their brains run at different clock speeds. Like the race between the tortoise and the hare, some people’s brains run faster, and some run slower.

Using the dance metaphor, it’s as if the couple is trying to dance together, but they move at different speeds. One partner is doing a fast jitterbug, the other a slow waltz. Trying to dance in two completely different tempos, they step on each other’s feet.  Continue reading

Harmonize Thinkers vs. Feelers

A common polarization is where one partner operates more from feeling and the other from thinking. They differ in bias between right and left brains.

Right-brain dominant people tend to be very animated and emotional in how they respond to things. They tend to follow their feelings. They want feelings involved in a relationship. They easily say what they feel and want to know what the other feels.

Left-brain dominant people rely more on logic and rationality. They may be uncomfortable with strong feelings and overt emotionality—not trust it, not want to go there. They tend to try to fix things intellectually and believe that will take care of upset feelings.  Continue reading

Eliminate Blowups and Shutdowns

There can be significant and problematic differences between partners’ nervous system biases in energetic range. Some run high, others low. Some run hot, others cold. This will result in very different emotional reactions when triggered. One may be volatile, expansive, or over-the-top. The other may contract, go blank, numb out, or shut down. Think of these as “airplanes” vs. “submarines.”

Airplanes tend toward high energy states, vitality, dramatic emotional expression, yelling, interrupting, gesturing. Anger is a part of their language. Think of a hot-blooded, highly expressive Italian family, where excited emotions quickly arise and people frequently get loud.

Submarines are quiet and contained. Fighting is rare and emotional expression is minimal. Showing anger is foreign, and aggression is expressed passively. Think of a cool Swedish family where voices are seldom raised and good children should be seen and not heard.  Continue reading

Overcome Pursuer vs. Withdrawer

It can be challenging when one partner wants to feel connected just when the other feels a need for space. Having these opposite needs at the same time is quite common. Most couples can fall out of synch in this manner on a daily basis.

How a couple negotiates being together vs. alone will determine how secure they feel with each other. Unfortunately, these differing needs often turn into a Polarity Dance of pursuer vs. withdrawer. It can happen whenever one partner is pursuing the other for closeness and connection—while the other partner is withdrawing or becoming more distant.

The more one chases connection, the more the other runs away. Conversely, the more that partner distances, the more the first pursues. As this escalates over time, distress in each partner increases. As they polarize more, levels of upset escalate.  Continue reading

Rule One for Lasting Love

Rule one for love to thrive is to stop fighting over your differences—and learn to collaborate! They say differences attract. It’s interesting how those differences that initially attract us to each other end up being our biggest source of problems with each other.

Relationship problems are often based on personality differences that partners have a hard time negotiating with each other. When the challenge of working with differing wants and needs is not mutually met, these differences will seem to become magnified over time.

Another name for this is polarization. Couples tend to polarize over their differences. And the degree to which they polarize will increase over time. This is an unconscious process. We are normally not aware of it happening—until it gets very upsetting. Then it can turn into a full scale battle over who is right—and who needs to change. Continue reading

The Importance of Quick Repair

How do couples who share ongoing happiness differ from those who don’t? One key difference is that they know how to quickly repair. Partners who keep love alive resolve small riffs or ruptures before they escalate into big ones. All couples go in and out of synch and can occasionally be at odds. Knowing how to repair such distress is central to staying happily connected.

Here’s an example of repair. Say your partner arrives home late and didn’t call. You react by interrogating and criticizing them. They react back. You notice you are in a familiar reactive pattern. What can you do? Continue reading

Beyond the Honeymoon

The honeymoon is a time of magic and wonder, of a deep loving connection. Many relationship start with such great promise that one wonders how anything could ever possibly go wrong. But we all know that sooner or later the honeymoon is over. And then another phase begins — where couples encounter the inevitable bumps on the road to happily ever after.

What signals the crossing of this dreaded threshold? What exactly are the signs? Couples usually feel the honeymoon is over as problems, challenges, upsets or differences begin to take center stage. These are normally seen as negative signs… signs that something is “wrong”… signs of a “bad” relationship. Continue reading

Ending the Vicious Cycle

When many of us try to “work” on our relationship, how we communicate does not work at all! Instead of resolving issues, we fall into a vicious cycle, which creates even bigger problems and more upset feelings. Talking can go around in circles for hours, and never get anywhere that feels positive. Couples get stuck in a vicious cycle.

How you talk makes a difference. How you communicate is like choosing the road you take. Sadly, the road that many couples take when faced with challenges or issues leads them into a familiar downward spiral. Despite their best intentions (at least to begin with) things only accelerate downhill. Continue reading

Stopping Poor Communication

Let’s say you find that you are involved in a situation where you and/or your partner are getting upset. Not having tools for stopping poor communication, you fall into in a destructive pattern of reactivity. Different people react in different ways, of course. One person might get more visibly angry or critical. Another might try to avoid and withdraw. Regardless of the form, these are all some form of reacting.

Someone has just said or done something, and the other person is getting upset and showing this through some form of reactivity. The best thing you can do as soon as you recognize this is to put on the brakes, so to speak, and then try to reverse out of the situation as quickly as possible — to repair it in some way. Continue reading

Agree to Stop the Damage

When you are in the midst of a reactive pattern, the only result you can get is further reactivity. You will never resolve the issue if your reactive brain has taken control of the conversation. Continuing to talk more is like trying to put out a fire by throwing gasoline on it. Good things will never come of further communication. It’s time to agree to stop the damage.

Making an agreement to pause at such times with your partner is crucial. It can literally save your relationship. If you cannot pause, it is as if you have a car that only has an accelerator and no brakes. That will never turn out well for you, as you will just go faster and faster, speeding up until you crash. Empowering your relationship with a pause agreement is like installing a vital factor — brakes — in your vehicle. Continue reading

Personality Types in Love

We all know that different people have different personality types. But how many different types are there? What are they? And how do personality differences impact our relationships?

According to the most useful system I have encountered — it’s called the “Enneagram” — there are nine basic personality types. We all have some of each type within us. But we mostly tend to identify with one to three of these types. Continue reading

Soulmates — Myth or Reality?

Many of us dream about a soulmate

The idea of a soulmate has both conscious or unconscious elements. Even if we do not intellectually believe in soulmates, we are still affected. Many people openly and consciously yearn for a soulmate. They may even believe one person is out there for them, that “right” person.

In Rutgers University’s 2001 National Marriage Project Survey, 94% of 20-to-29-year-olds said: “When you marry, you want your spouse to be your soul mate, first and foremost.” Another 88% said: “There is a special person, a soulmate, waiting for you out there.” Continue reading

Soulmates — Love is Not Enough

Falling in love is like a spiritual experience

When couples first fall in love, it is the honeymoon — a time of magic and wonder. Hearts open. Spirits soar. In this expansive state, with ecstatic feelings of being in love, couples may feel they are soulmates.

This initial feeling of “being soulmates” is all about the incredible openness and receptivity, the expansion so far beyond our norm and comfort zone, the heightened access we feel to a passionate connection. Continue reading

Soulmates — How to Know One

Soulmates engage in growth together

Couples who are becoming soulmates are willing to learn how to open themselves, even when the going gets rough. They commit to learn to bring out their best, instead of passively giving way to their habitual reactions.

They refuse to simply close down into fear, withdrawal, self-defensiveness, resentment, blame, criticism, or the many other common ways we destroy our own relationships. Continue reading