All couples encounter differences and fall out of synch at times. They may disagree about things, misinterpret one another, or get their buttons pushed. Your ability to effectively communicate at such times makes all the difference between resolving issues or getting stuck in upset.
Unfortunately, most of us did not grow up seeing adults model healthy ways to work through differences. So we don’t know how to talk with one another in a way that handles each other’s distress.
We can all learn from couples who share ongoing happiness. How do they communicate and handle distress? A key skill they have is being able to rapidly repair things. They are good at quickly attending to the little glitches that every relationship encounters. Continue reading
In my intensive marriage retreats, I frequently work with couples on the brink of divorce. One or both partners seem to have given up. They arrive ambivalent about staying together. Most people would probably think, “Who could possibly help them now?”
But quite often, within two or three days I see an amazing turnaround! I never get tired of witnessing what seems miraculous…. As I help each partner see more clearly what has really been plaguing them, a surprising majority of times things dramatically shift.
In working with me, couples learn things they never knew. They find out what scientific research shows us to be the basis of lasting happiness in a healthy intimate partnership. Partners then understand one another better and learn tools to turn things around. And they start feeling their love for each other again. Continue reading
Most relationships start with happiness and hope. The last three decades of scientific research on love reveals what you need to do in order to mutually sustain those positive feelings. It also explains why in so many relationships shared positive feelings erode over time.
It comes down to this: An intimate partnership can function in one of two ways — securely or insecurely. If you want lasting happiness, you need to be in a securely functioning relationship.
When a couple functions securely, their love and friendship grows stronger with time. They maximize shared happiness and minimize distress. In secure functioning, things feel fair, equal, just and sensitive. Riffs get quickly repaired. Past upsets do not linger on as negative memories. Continue reading
Small upsets that don’t get handled well inevitably lead to big upsets. If you are not that great at handling upsets, you could use “Relationship CPR.” What’s that? Catch. Pause. Repair.
Here’s how it works. Alan came home late but didn’t call. Sarah reacted by complaining and criticizing him. He counter-reacted by defending himself, then dismissing her as over-emotional. Sarah realized they were in a familiar downward spiral. Time for Relationship CPR… Continue reading
What’s the difference between couples who share long term happiness and those who don’t? In a word, they know how to repair. All partners go in and out of synch and can occasionally be at odds. How this gets handled makes all the difference.
Couples who keep love alive are good at quickly repairing the riffs and glitches every relationship encounters. Knowing how to repair is a vital skill to keep love alive and thriving. Continue reading
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. Often this is due to an overlooked factor: 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
A common battle with couples comes about when one partner operates more from feeling and the other from thinking. This creates more upset over time as they try to communicate using very different brain channels. From a neuroscience point of view, they differ by which side of the brain runs their communication process.
One is more left-brain dominant and the other speaks more from their right-brain. Mind you, this does not make either of them more “right.” But it does challenge their ability to connect and understand each other — especially if they discuss a stressful topic or try to repair an upset. The way they communicate through these differing brain channels will upset them even more.
So let’s look at some of the underlying properties of right- and left-brain dominance, and what you can do about bringing more brain balance to your conversations. Continue reading
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
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 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
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 forgets to do something they agreed to do. You react by criticizing them. They react back defensively. You now notice you are in a familiar reactive pattern. What can you do? Below are some simple steps that couples who engage in quick repair would do. Continue reading
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
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
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 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