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I disagree (DW#440)

This one may seem counter-intuitive but families that have regular disagreements or arguments may be happier and healthier than those that never disagree because the families that express themselves are not keeping their feelings bottled up and brewing resentment inside. 

Keeping the peace by avoiding conflict and not expressing needs and opinions may be an okay short term strategy but it is an awful long term strategy. Unless you are a truly enlightened being, you have things that bother you and things that you need to express that may upset others in the short term but that will be beneficial for your relationship in the long run. Going long periods of time not addressing issues that bother you or others in the family will cause emotional distance, resentment and hurt.

So an important relationship skill is to speak up (respectfully and without blame) when you do disagree with another person.  When people have the emotional safety to speak up and be heard, everyone in the...

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Please and thank you (DW#439)

When we are amongst those who are closest to us, we sometimes begin to take each other for granted. Words such as ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and other forms of common courtesy that we use with strangers begin to slip away and sometimes disappear altogether.

We sometimes justify this slipping away of common courtesy by saying to ourselves that saying please and thank you should be reserved for favours that go beyond the expected responsibilities towards each other. That we do not need to thank people for ‘doing their job’ especially if they are not doing ‘their job’ up to our expectations.

Here’s the thing: such an attitude is a recipe for relationships going downhill. Even if our family members continue to ‘do their job’, they will be much more likely to do so with happiness and enthusiasm if their efforts are appreciated. As we may have experienced in our own lives, it is challenging to keep showing up as our best...

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You have my support (DW#438)

All of us have areas of life in which we feel insecure and lack courage, and that lack of courage often hinders us from accomplishing the positive things that we would like to do. When we receive support from loved ones in the form of words or actions, we are encouraged to continue pursuing challenging courses of action. 

Having the support of our family members also helps us feel secure in the relationship, builds trust and intimacy and cultivates a deeper connection. 

Support is especially important during times of transition, such as a new job; a developmental change, such as the birth of a child; and grief and loss, such as the death or anniversary of a loved one’s passing.

Being there for a loved one with a compassionate presence and/or with supportive words or actions greatly eases life’s challenges for them and allows us to show our love at times when it really does matter.

What desires or goals have your loved ones expressed recently? Are they going...

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Do you remember when we... (DW#437)

Talking and reminiscing about memorable events in your couple and family history allows you to celebrate how far you have come as a couple and family. How you remember and recall your past reflects how you feel about your present relationship. 

Our time together with our families is more than a collection of dates and events. All couples and families have a story to tell. There is a story about how you met, a story about your first fight, and a story about your wedding day and the birth of your children. 

How couples share what Dr. Gottman calls the "Story of Us" reflects whether their relationship is in the positive or negative perspective. And the positive or negative perspective in turn determines the future health of your relationship. 

In Gottman's studies, couples who had a positive view of their history together were more likely to stay happily together. Happy couples talked about their relationship history in a positive way and filtered the early days through a...

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I love it when you . . . (DW#436)

Sometimes we get into a pattern in close relationships when the only time we tell our loved ones how they are impacting our lives is when they are falling short. 

While complaining certainly has its place, it is very helpful to practice giving information about what pleases us as well. We can begin by noticing what our loved ones are already doing right, and how they are impacting our lives in a positive way. And then sharing it with them. 

Appreciation, as we have said before, really is the secret sauce of relationships. In fact, the more we appreciate what is already happening in a relationship, the more likely it is that we will see more of it. And the happier we all are, the giver and the recipient of appreciation. It makes all the hard work of relationships worth it.

So, let's practice this formula:

I love it when you do x in situation y
I love it when you have the food ready when I come home from work
I love it when you take care of our toddler so I can sleep in on...

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How can I help? (DW#433)

One of the best ways we can be supportive to our love ones is to actually ask them how they would like to be supported. 

Whether it is the morning panic to leave the house, a particularly stressful time at work or another life stressor, asking how we can help lighten their load is more effective than guessing how they would prefer to be supported by us. 

So the next time a loved one appears stressed or overburdened, simply ask: How can I help? Just knowing that someone is willing to do what it takes to ease our situation can be hugely de-stressing in itself. 

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The best things to say in relationships (DW#432)

Over the last two weeks, we did a series of the "10 worst phrases you can say in relationships". We talked about how some words and phrases will annoy, upset and hurt others and are simply not helpful if we want to connect to others in a positive way. 

Now let’s do the opposite. Let us now explore and highlight the Best Phrases you can in say relationships. 

If we start incorporating and practicing these words and phrases in our interactions with our loved ones, we will likely see a positive change and a shift in the emotional climate of the relationship.

Today’s phrase is one that you may already be using: How was your day?

This simple daily ritual of greeting and reuniting with each other at the end of the day has the potential of improving our coping with external pressures and tensions and improving the long term health of our relationships. 

Of course, we need to ensure that when we are having this "stress-reducing conversation", we do it in a way...
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Where does family fit in? (DW#388)

After yesterday’s DW went out, some of you asked the question: which domain of life do family relationships fit in? (The domains we mentioned were mental, physical, emotional, social and spiritual relating to our minds, bodies, hearts and souls).

Strictly speaking, family relationships belong in the emotional domain of our life along with our other close relationships. This means that if any of our major relationships are conflicted, we will likely give ourselves a low score in that domain, implying that there is much room for growth in this area.

Family relationships however, are in a somewhat special category because our satisfaction with (or lack of satisfaction with) family life impacts all the other domains: there is loads of research on how a happy or unhappy marriage for example, impacts physical and mental health. So if our close relationships are causing us distress, that is likely to show up as a low score on our mental wellbeing and physical health due to stress.

...

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The choice between growth and stagnation (DW#373)

One lesson that we can learn from nature is that there is no standing still. 

Change is an integral part of any living thing. In the medical world, in fact, the clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. In other words, change is a sign of life and the lack of change signifies death. 

There are, of course, two types of change in a living organization – there is either growth or there is decline and decay. A living organization’s life span is birth, growth, reaching its peak, decaying and then dying. 

For personal growth, we can use a similar metaphor: we can grow towards maturity and wisdom, reaching our full potential or we can fall into decay towards a metaphorical "death". Just like in nature, there is no standing still. 

Let us take a moment to reflect on which areas of our life are in a growth phase and which are in stagnation or decay. 

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The choice that will determine the future of your marriage (DW#371)

Both happy and unhappy marriages have one thing in common: there are times when things are not going so well.

During such a period, there is a major choice point for you. According to research by Dr. Gottman and others (of 40,000+ couples), how you think and what you do during this time will determine the future of your relationship: 

The betrayal choice: 
When things go badly 

  • Don’t voice complaints to partner
  • Instead:
    • Keep them in the dark about how you are feeling
    • Trash partner to others
    • Make negative comparisons –
"I could do better elsewhere"
  • Nurture resentment for what is missing rather than what is present
  • According to research by Rusbult: negative comparisons are the
beginning of the cascade toward infidelity


The commitment choice
When things don’t go well, 

  • Voice complaints to partner & work it out
  • Cherish partner and recognize the investment that you both have in the relationship
  • Nurture gratitude for what you have...
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