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Soothe yourself and the other

Do you know what calms you down? Have you shared this with your spouse?

Do you know what you can do to help your spouse calm down when they are upset?

HINT: It is almost NEVER telling them to calm down, take it easy, chill out, saying, "why are you getting bent out of shape", etc. etc.Phrases such as these are almost guaranteed to make another person more upset.

You can really only know these things by asking the question: How can I help you calm down when you are upset?

It is a great idea to get to know what soothes each of you when you are NOT in the middle of a conflict discussion so that you can practice calming each other when you need to, in the middle of an argument.

When you ask and practice soothing each other, it lays the foundation for dealing with conflict as friends, rather than as adversaries.

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Take a break

Almost everyone who likes to talk about issues as they arise is in a relationship ends up with someone who would rather NEVER talk about them. Know what I mean?

Arguments in such a relationship often don't get resolved because the couple is locked in a pattern which psychologists call "demand – withdraw", one person demanding for their voice to be heard and the other finding it very challenging to engage in difficult conversations.

There are many good explanations for this pattern, which we will not go into here. What you need to know is that doing what you always do will probably not work in such a situation.

So, how about trying something different?

If you are the one who finds it difficult to stay in challenging conversations because there is an emotional storm going on inside, try this: next time when things are getting heated up, how about taking a break so that you can calm down with the commitment that you will engage in the discussion again when you are not triggered?
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Accept the olive branch.

Research shows that in most arguments or fights, people do tend to make repair attempts. The repair attempt may be in the form of humour, a smile, a touch, a word of apology or some other gesture. Anything with the intention of stopping the conflict from getting worse.

The problem happens when the other does not recognize or refuses to accept the attempt. This escalates the cycle and makes it less likely that the other will continue to turn the argument around.

Accepting repair attempts does not mean that you do not hold the other accountable for continued bad behaviour nor does this mean that you do not discuss significant issues in your relationship.

What it does mean is that you give the other a chance to make amends. To stop an argument or a fight from becoming worse. To allow the person to pull themselves out of the proverbial doghouse, so to speak.

So in your next argument, why not be on the look out for that olive branch, however clumsily offered.

And graciously accept it.

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Extend the ‘olive branch’

It is SO easy to get off track in the middle of an argument. Even when we know better, the desire to say something mean or aggressive can get the better of us when we are triggered.

Speaking for myself, although I do this for a living and know A LOT of theory, living this moment to moment is challenging. Despite my best efforts, words or body language (the eye roll or the frown) that are harsh rather than gentle, mean rather than loving, do slip out from time to time.

Thankfully, each moment in a relationship gives us a fresh opportunity to get back on track.

Dr. Gottman calls what we do to get back on track "repair attempts" and he firmly believes that these are the happy couples' (and families') secret weapon.

Gottman describes a repair attempt as "any statement or action – silly or otherwise – that prevents negativity from escalating out of control."

Next time you find yourself escalating in an argument, try making a repair attempt.

Extend the olive branch, a signal...

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Be gentle

parenting relationships Feb 16, 2017

Have you noticed that the way a conversation starts is often how it ends? If we are harsh in bringing up areas of disagreements, it is more challenging to turn that conversation positive later.


Starting with "you always", "you never" You are so . . . ", "why do you always/never . ." will almost certainly raise the defenses of the other, causing them to retaliate, become defensive, or exit the conversation.

On the other hand, saying, "I have an issue, honey, that I would like to discuss. When is a good time to talk?" makes it much easier for the other to listen to your complaints.

Not as easy as we would like, but so much more effective!

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Fight FOR your marriage

Are you scared of conflict? Some of us have been led to believe that conflict is a sign of trouble in a relationship and should be avoided at all costs.

This is a highly unrealistic and sometimes damaging expectation for a long term relationship. Happy couples and families have just as many disagreements and almost as much conflict in their relationships as families who are distressed.

Avoiding conflict may be a good short term strategy. Unless you are a saint (!) it is not a good long term strategy. Unresolved conflict builds up over time and leads to resentment if it is not dealt with.

Learning to fight in a way that does not destroy your relationship is the key to long term relationship health.

Over the next few days, let us talk about some ways that may help in dealing with conflict in the relationship.

For starters, know that not all conflict can be resolved OR solved (this is really bad news for some problem solving experts amongst us!).

It does, however, need to be addressed....

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Small things often

So, how did you celebrate the 'big day' of love? If it was just like any other day, I have some good news for you.

How we celebrate and what we do on major holidays or special days does not have all much bearing on how happy our relationship is over time or for the rest of the year.

Research shows that what matters more than any big holiday or celebration is what you do on a daily basis to nurture your relationship.

The magic mantra for happy relationships, it turns out, is "small things often". Small daily acts of service and kindness are the key to long term relationship happiness.

That is so much more manageable isn't it?

AND it takes us to be intentional daily rather than yearly!

(Have you been reading until the end? I share some links there!)

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Celebrate love

Its here. Valentine's Day.

The day that can lead to feelings of sadness for the single ones and to the stress of high expectations for those who are in romantic relationships.

We hear murmurings of "why do we need a special day?", "we should love each other every day", etc etc.

Yes, we definitely "should". AND it is easy to get distracted by the busyness of life. It sometimes helps to get a gentle nudge to get us to pay attention.

This Valentines Day, how about letting all the consumerism, paganism (!), political madness against the holiday be what it is.

And consider taking a moment to acknowledge, appreciate and celebrate the loved ones in our lives today.

With or without the cheesy cards!

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It takes one

Have you heard the old adage, "it takes two to make a marriage work"? Most times we just accept this saying as true, thinking that unless both people work equally at a relationship, it is doomed to fail.

But here is the thing: if I asked you to fight with your spouse tonight, chances are that you can singlehandedly do that. All of us know which triggers and buttons to push to start a fight.

If we can singlehandedly start a fight or negatively impact our relationship, is it not possible that we can also singlehandedly turn it around for the better?

It may not be as easy as you'd like. After all, it is so much easier to wait for the other person to make the first move, isn't it?

Easy but not very effective! Waiting for the other person to change before we change is how many couples get stuck and distressed.

Relationships are a system of cause and effect. Once we change, the system itself changes.

So, why not make the first move?

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Ask for what you need

Wouldn't it be lovely if our significant others always knew what we wanted and needed without being told?

While it may be okay to wish this, we sometimes get frustrated when our spouse cannot
read our minds because we have told ourselves "they ought to know".

We begin to expect them to read our minds and predict what we need without having to ask for it.

Not only is this highly unrealistic, it is also a bit silly to blame someone for not being able to read our minds, don't you think?

Women, in particular, seem to find it challenging to ask for what they want.

Once you get the hang of it, however, it becomes much easier (and saves so much time!) to ask for what we need in simple and clear terms.

Try these on for practice!

- it is valentine's day next week. It would make me very happy if you plan an evening out for us.
- It would mean a lot to me if you tried harder to talk to my brother in law even though I know you don't find anything in common with him.
- Can you please watch Samir on...

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