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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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Completing the Last Year (DW#307)

According to a 2016 study published in the journal Memory, recalling memories can enhance our well-being and it is not only so-called positive memories that are beneficial.

The study showed that three types of memories bring about positive emotions:

A positive or happy memory: for positive memories, simply thinking about them is enough to make us happy in the present
Problem solving: Remembering a time when you successfully dealt with a challenge increases your self-esteem and sense of efficacy (the belief in yourself that you can do it)
Memories related to identity: An experience, even if challenging and painful, that shaped the person you are today.

Other studies have suggested that while it is enough to simply think about happy memories, when it comes to memories about overcoming adversity, it is better to communicate them by writing them down (or sharing them with someone) rather than just to think about them.

Coming back to our topic of laying the foundation for a successful...

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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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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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Blame the other for how you feel (how to start and continue a fight) (DW#299)

It is sooo tempting to blame the other person for how frustrated or upset we are feeling. After all, we are feeling awful and it must be someone’s fault, right?

The husband in the example blamed this wife for driving him crazy:
You’re so messy it drives me crazy.

This is a very common pattern in couple interactions. We link our feelings directly to someone else’s actions. And then we let them know. In not-so-kind language. Usually by attacking.

Here’s the thing: when we attack someone, they are biologically hardwired to defend themselves or to exit the conversation. (Ever heard of the fight or flee response?)

Without a significant level of self-awareness and self-development training, it is extremely challenging to bear the brunt of an attack without defending or counter-attacking.

Blaming also assumes that the listener is the cause of the speaker’s actions or experience, and that is simply not accurate.

The issues that trigger us generally belong to...

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Two kinds of truth (DW#291)

Last week we started the conversation about the foundational principle of mindful speech: speaking the truth.

There are two kinds of truth to aim for:

The objective truth: that is what happened or did not happen. This kind of truth is that which is objectively verifiable, quantifiable and measurable, and not influenced by emotions, opinions or personal feelings.

These are the kinds of things that plaintiffs and witnesses (and family members!) are cross-examined on:

Where were you?
Who were you with?
Who else was there?
How did the car get dented?
Who ate the last cookie? ;)

The other kind of truth is subjective truth: speaking about that which is based on our own internal experience, emotions or opinions.

Speaking the truth about what is true for us (with grace and compassion) is the doorway to intimacy as it invites another person to share our experience and internal world. It is about speaking what is in our hearts.

Some examples of invitations to share our objective truth are:

How do...

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