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The 60 second secret to great relationships (DW#342)

It is human nature that we begin to take what is going well for granted. Our brains have a default setting to pay attention only when something is off or not to our liking.

Intentional relationships that bring us joy require us to switch off our default settings. They require that we begin to notice all the things that our family members do on a daily basis that are pleasing or make our life better in some way.

And then to share our appreciation with them.

It is a simple but powerful practice to pay attention to what is going well.

I call it the 60 second way to turn a relationship around.

Start noticing what they are doing right, and express your appreciation for it and then watch the magic happen.
You’re welcome

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The magic ratio (DW#340)

Let’s be realistic. Every exchange that we have with others will not be positive. In fact, the closer and older the relationship we have with another, especially our family members, the more likely that there will be times when we are less than our best selves (to put it mildly!)

Thankfully, our close relationships can survive with a bit of negativity. But in order to thrive, we do need to keep the negative interactions to a minimum.

According to Dr. John Gottman’s extensive research, there is a very specific ratio that makes marital love last.

That "magic ratio" is 5 to 1. This means that for every negative interaction, a stable and happy couple has five (or more) positive interactions with each other.

What this means for love in our relationships is that even during conflict, we need to be intentional about keeping the tone respectful and friendly, show signs of affection, humor and fondness for the other.

In other words we can find OTLs even when the other person is...

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Your love hormone (DW#336)

Have you heard of oxytocin?

Oxytocin is called the "bonding hormone" because it surges during sexual activity between people and during lactation in nursing mothers. When oxytocin surges within, human beings feel good and bond with another human being, creating new attachments or cementing existing ones.

The surge of oxytocin is so large during these particular moments of relationship activity that until recently, scientists did not realise that oxytocin is also released during subtler and low key moments, such as playing or cuddling with your children, getting to know someone new, sharing a personal story, trusting someone or being trusted by them.

During such everyday activities oxytocin is also released, leading to good feelings and attachments with others.

Oxytocin also works in another way. It turns off the "alarm system" of the brain by calming the amygdala so that you can put down your guard and get closer to the other person. To put it another way, the release of oxytocin...

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Learn a new language (DW#331)

We spent last week talking about Dr. Gary Chapman’s love languages.

Did you recognize your own love language? And did you discover your spouse’s? (Hint: It is related to what you complain about the most!)

Can you now tell that the way your spouse is expressing love to you may not feel like love to you because it is in a "foreign language"?

Do you recognize that what each of you complains about missing in the relationship is a big clue to what love language is not being spoken? It is almost as if your love was being lost in translation.

Once you begin to recognize these things, here are two challenges for you, should you choose to accept them (which will have a dramatic impact on your relationship)

1) Challenge yourself to demonstrate love to your spouse in a language that feels natural to them and that they understand.
2) Help your spouse understand your love language and what you need and are requesting in order to feel loved.

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Let’s cuddle (DW#330)

The fifth and final love language is physical touch. If your love language is physical touch, you feel love when the other is physically close to you. You crave physical affection and the best thing someone can do for you is hug you.

If your spouse’s love language is physical touch, please don’t skimp on the cuddles and the hand-holding.

When they are upset or emotional, don’t leave them alone because physical distance from you feels like abandonment to them. Being held will comfort them more than your words (or advice!) can.

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Why do I need to say that I love you? (DW#326)

Last week, we started talking about the http://amzn.to/2ujhKy85 Love Languages. This week, we will explore them a little.

The first love language is Words of Affirmation.

If your love language is words of affirmation, you need to hear love and appreciation expressed. You need to be verbally encouraged and assured of another’s love. Seeing it in action is not enough for you. Hearing about the other’s love and appreciation for you makes it real.

If your loved one’s love language is words of affirmation, please don’t assume that they know you love them. They need to hear it.

Compliment them, appreciate them and let them hear you praise them in front of others.

Oh, and criticism from you really hurts. So please stop!

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Never concede a point (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#304)

The difference between happy and miserable couples is not that the former don’t argue or fight. What keeps some couples happy is that they learn to make and accept repairs in the middle of an argument.

Couples who are high conflict and distressed on the other hand, never concede a point to their partner. One or both of them have the need to be right – often at the cost of the relationship.

If the couple under discussion learnt to concede a point to the other, here is what their conversation might sound like:

She: [Still calming down from the "you’re not firm enough" side-issue. Considers arguing with whether she needs to be "10% firmer," but thinks better of it.]
You’re right, I did say I’d keep things cleaner. I didn’t realize you only care about the living room. That’s doable. But I have to tell you, I want more respect about how I do discipline her, and how hard it is to be on top of her mess making all day.

Notice that this couple is...

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Make demands and threats (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#303)

When things get heated up, it is tempting to make demands from, and threats to, the other person.

When the husband demands Leave my family out of this! The wife is more likely to focus on the threat to her autonomy from this demand and it is very likely to divert attention from the topic at hand.

Similarly, when we make threats, empty or real, (Or I’ve about had it!) it sends the other person into defense mode, their thinking brain shuts down and they are actually incapable of hearing the underlying message or need.

What could this couple do instead?

If they were mindful of their communication, their reactions and the words that they spoke, here is what the conservation might sound like.

He: [Wants to fire back but has learned that the impulse to do so is actually a kind of big, flashing warning in his mind to PAUSE AND BUY SOME TIME until he has calmed down] Hmmm. Let me think about that for a minute. [Discreetly takes a few big breaths. Thinks about whether he’s gone...

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Insult and launch a character attack (how to start and continue a fight) (DW# 302)

One of the most effective ways to start and keep a fight going is to insult the other person and launch a character attack.

For example, the wife in the example said Such a jerk to her husband when they started arguing about the mess.

Long after an argument is over, such insults linger in the mind and keep burning like a mixture of emotional glue and gasoline. So damaging are such insults, that frequent use of such language qualifies as emotional abuse, a grinding assault on the other person’s sense of worth.

The husband in the example reacted to this with his own character attack on his wife when he said: You can’t talk without getting hysterical.

The use of the word hysterical to describe her behaviour was an attack on her character rather than a comment on her behaviour.
She can do little to change his opinion of what constitutes hysteria.

If he had said, on the other hand, Please lower your voice. It is hard for me to hear what you are saying when you raise your...

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Lead with the negative (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#297)

The first issue with the exchange is leading with the negative. The husband made his entrance and said "What a mess"!

Dr. John Gottman, the renowned relationship expert, believes that if the start-up of a conversation is harsh, the conversation will go downhill from there and will generally not end well. If the first statement is negative, the other person will feel attacked and go into defence mode.

What could the husband have done instead?
He could have started by connecting first.

Here is what it would look like:

He: [Walks through the front door. Sees the mess, feels like grumbling, but thinks better of it. Takes a big breath. Kisses wife on the cheek, picks up his daughter and jiggles her in his arms while she giggles and makes him laugh. Smiles at wife.] How’d it go? [They chat for a few minutes. He says something nice about what she did that day. There’s a pause, and he takes the plunge.] I don’t want to hassle you, but could we talk about the clutter?

...

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