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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 OTL challenge (DW#341)

We have been talking about building love by taking advantage of the micro-moments of connectivity and positivity resonance.

For the next few days, lets explore some practical ways we can practice OTLs (opportunities to love).

The key is to make practicing OTLs
1} intentional and
2} consistent
until they become part of your relationship rituals.

Are you ready to begin the OTL challenge? Commit to creating at least three micro-moments of connection every day with your significant other and watch love blossom.

For those of us who are feeling less than creative at the moment, we will share some simple OTLs to consider. Of course, feel free to add to these and do share if you come up with a creative OTL that we can learn from!

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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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Let’s talk about Love (DW#322)

It is that time of the year again. The time of the year when Hallmark and Facebook start talking about romantic love and force us to confront the reality of the state of our own unions.

Now, I realize that many of us are annoyed (even allergic!) to "Hallmark holidays" and consider them nothing more than ways for corporations to make money by forcing us to spend money on flowers, gifts and cards and thereby keep the wheels of capitalism turning.

But all the cynicism aside, it is not a bad idea to turn our attention to our relationships once in a while.

And February is as good a time to do this as any other.

So let's talk about love.

To begin the conversation, let’s reflect on what love means to us.
What does love mean to you? Take a moment and write down 5-10 things that come up when you think about the word "love".

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What are your biggest takeaways? (DW#305)

What have been your major takeaways? How are you communicating differently these days?

Here are some reflections, personal challenges and growth/practice areas for myself

1) The key to connection is to be present with mind, body and heart. This is easier said than done. AND I can practice being present in this moment. And the next. And so on.

2) Every moment in communication gives me a fresh opportunity to choose kindness by being mindful of my words.

3) Talking is so much more fun. And automatic. But it is listening and understanding that is the gateway to connection.

4) Emotional reactivity will get me into trouble. Each and every time. Specially during conflict.

5) When I do get reactive (and I will), the best course of action is to offer a repair attempt to the person I am communicating with. As soon as I become aware of my reactivity.

6) It is sooooo tempting to avoid taking responsibility. It is even more tempting to insist on being right and to blame the other for the...

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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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Minimize or mock a complaint (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#301)

One of the worst things we can do when someone makes a complaint in a relationship is to minimize it, or even worse, to mock the complaint by our words or actions.

When the wife in the scenario that we are discussing complained that the husband does not help with cleaning up the mess, he minimized and mocked her complaint by picking up one tiny thing and then saying: There,I helped. Now are you happy?

This is an example of Reductio ad absurdem "Reducing to absurdity" which deflates others by making their wish, complaint, or idea sound silly or foolish.

We can also minimize a complaint by saying something like: Why are you making such a big deal about something so little?

Not only is this kind of response to a complaint minimizing and hurtful, it devalues our partner and what is important to them.

Not a great way to build a relationship.

If you wanted to repair the interaction on the other hand, try understanding the meaning and feeling behind the complaint instead.

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Counterattack instead of responding to a complaint (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#300)

When the husband complained about the mess, the wife instead of responding to the complained, counter-attacked by saying: I don’t see you lifting a finger to help".

She also said: Your mother spoiled you rotten, but I don’t have to take your [nonsense]

A statement such as this does two things: firstly, it escalates the conflict.

Secondly, it diverts the conversation and introduces a new area for potential conflict.

As we can imagine (and may have experienced), when we try to "kitchen-sink" an argument by complaining and cross-complaining about other issues, we cannot get a resolution on any of the issues.

Also, by introducing many areas of conflict into a single argument, we start feeling discouraged about the state of the relationship in general. The problems start appearing larger than our resources to handle it.

Given such an exchange, how could the couple have handled it differently?

1. He could have taken responsibility

He: [Knows the subject is charged, so he takes...

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