5 Ways To Open the Communication
Joey slammed the door behind him. Bang! This was the third argument in two weeks. What was happening? He and Julie had been dating for six months and things were glorious. They had clicked almost immediately. They had a lot in common and the chemistry they shared was off the charts. So, why couldn’t they work through these little arguments that begun to creep into their fairy tale relationship?
We all have them. Tough conversations with someone we love. The conversations where we have an internal battle between wanting to say the right things and wanting to be right, to win. Most of us know that to preserve a relationship, being right is the wrong paradigm; the kiss of death. So, what can you say when you find yourself retreating to your corner and pulling out your favorite words or phrases that signal to your loved one your superiority?
Dr. Brene Brown, professor, the author suggests the following questions or sentence starters:
- I’m curious about . . . If your SO has made a statement, accusation, or criticism instead of shutting down the conversation by responding with one of your favorite conversation-ending quips, try using this instead. Staying curious about your SO is the best way to learn more about them and deepen the relationship. It invites them to continue to be vulnerable with you.
- Tell me more . . . This sentence starter can help you get more of the story, understand their thinking, and even uncover underlying childhood baggage your SO may still be carrying around. The key to this is to listen without judgment. Resist the urge to correct what they may share with you. Look at it as an opportunity to learn more about how your SO views the world.
- Walk me through that . . . This phrase can help you gently investigate the thought process of your SO, especially if you truly do not understand how they arrived at their conclusion. Listen patiently and attentively as they explain to you how they reached their conclusions. Remember, their logic may not be the same as yours, so this may be an opportunity to build understanding and empathy.
- What’s your passion around this? This is an excellent question to use when your SO has proposed something to you that they’re excited about but you just don’t get it. Do they want to become a pickle ball champion? Are they determined to run 100 marathons? Do they want to change careers? Any of these revelations could be shocking to you, but give them the opportunity to share their passion with you. At this point, don’t try to discourage them by looking at logistics. Just watch their eyes light up as they share their enthusiasm with you.
- Tell me why this doesn’t fit/work for you. This can help you in a conversation when you are negotiating or compromising on anything. Often when couples disagree, they shut down the conversation by not investigating the underlying objections their partner has. The key to having this work is to listen to what they say and be compassionate.
Using these words and phrases can help you avoid those awful stalemates that end with you driving off in your car angry and cursing your SO. These sentence starters signal to your loved one that you value them as a partner and that you sincerely want to understand where they are coming from. You may not completely embrace their perspective, but if you truly care about that person, you owe it to them to empathize with their reality. Successful couples know that if approached correctly, disagreements are an opportunity to increase your intimacy and strengthen your bond. It helps you avoid building contempt which, according to Gottman, is the grim reaper of relationships. There is nothing more beautiful than to have someone look you in the eye, pull you close, and tell you that even though they disagree with you, they value and love you more than they love their ego. That, my friends, is how true love is built.
6 Tips For Better Relationships
The Dance of Dating
Dating is like going to a club to dance. As you approach the door, you hear the pulsating music float on the air, smell the mixture of cologne, perfume, and alcohol, and feel the heat rushing outside. As you enter the darkened room, you see dozens of potential dance partners. Everyone looks dazzling, but you have no idea if they are a saint or Satan underneath their shiny façade. It would be so much easier if everyone just wore a warning label that told the truth about themselves. The man leaning on the bar would have a label that said: “never texts back.” The woman dancing in the black mini-dress would have a label that said: “can’t hold down a job.” These kinds of labels would surely help the selection process, but since they don’t exist singles everywhere need to utilize the best dating tips available. Here is just a handful of some of the best dating tips I have found.
#1: Take a long car ride. Grab a drink and some snacks and invite the person you’re dating to take you on a long drive. They have to be the one behind the wheel. When people are out for a casual drive, they tend to relax. Their attention will be primarily on the road and secondarily on the conversation. This has the effect of catching them a bit off guard but in a comfortable environment so they will be open and honest with you. Plus, you are sitting side by side and that can be less intimidating for some people than sitting across from each other staring into each other’s eyes.
#2: Ask about their family. Let them ramble on for a while and eventually, they will say something sad. At that point, you can reach out and touch their arm and say, “that must be very hard for you.” This sympathetic response can help create a bond and encourage them to open up even more.
#3: Compliment people as often as possible. It’s especially important to tell the person you are dating why you like them. This general positivity is not only contagious, but it also helps keep your mood positive and will lift your spirits.
#4: Tell a vulnerable story. Be willing to share something close to your heart with the person you are dating. It can be something you are passionate about. It can be something that hurt you deeply. It can be something that taught you a mighty life lesson. The willingness to be vulnerable is attractive and will invite the person you’re dating to be vulnerable with you.
#5: If the person you are dating hasn’t responded to your last two texts, don’t text them again for any reason. Period.
#6: Read. Someone who reads is a more interesting person, in general than someone who doesn’t. Read books. Learn new things. People who read fiction and nonfiction are able to empathize better with others than those who do not read. Reading helps you to grow and change and become a new and better person than you were.
Remember that early on in a dating relationship, it should be all unicorns and roses and butterflies and magic. There shouldn’t be any drama. As time goes on, things will pop up and watching how the person you are dating deals with problems and conflict is an important part of determining if they are the right person for you. Everyone is flawed, but make sure that the flaws that are revealed to you as you date are ones that you can live with. If they aren’t, you need to end the relationship. There are many dancers in the metaphorical club and you don’t need to settle for just any dance partner. So, put on your best party dress and get ready to kick up your heels and dance.
How To Spot Red Flags…
20 Signs To Look For
Recovering from a devastating break up is similar to a community recovering from a natural disaster. You do a lot of looking back and analyzing—trying to understand how you missed the signs and how you allowed yourself to be so unprepared for the imminent destruction that was headed your way. You are paralyzed with guilt for being so stupid and gullible. If only I had seen the red flags you yell at yourself! But upon further reflection, you are forced to acknowledge that you did see them. You saw ALL of them, but in the bliss and excitement, the lust and yearning for love your radar detector dims and you dismiss the signs. You are eager to forgive “little” mistakes because you want your partner to forgive you your foibles as well. However, over time the little mistakes begin to form a pattern of behavior and if you aren’t purposeful in how you approach a relationship, one of two things will happen: a catastrophic break up after you have lost your sense of self and any self-esteem you had OR you marry your partner and have a nightmare of a marriage that leads to a toxic divorce that leaves you breathless and quivering without a shred of dignity or self-respect.
Sounds fun, doesn’t it? So, how can you avoid this disaster? You have to be purposeful. You have to make a commitment to step out of the fantasy, momentarily, and record your thoughts and impressions and identify red flags while your relationship develops. Yes, hindsight is 20/20, but if you take some time to journal your relationship and track what is happening, you can see a pattern as it develops. Then you can use this information to create boundaries, make decisions, and end relationships if necessary.
The Gottman Institute recommends that you record each time your partner displays a red flag. You can draw them on a blank sheet of paper. Get out your red crayons and color in the boxes. Then, as you date, if your partner displays one of the red flags below, record the date and the details in one of the red flags on your sheet. Over time, you will be able to tell if there is a pattern or if they are just mistakes, which we all make. This is a powerful visual that can help you more clearly see what is happening in your relationship.
Lack of communication skills.
Irresponsible, immature, unpredictable behavior.
Lack of trust.
Your significant family and friends don’t like him/her.
You feel insecure in the relationship.
They have a dark or secretive past.
They have a history of not resolving past relationships.
Abusive behavior of any kind.
They push your physical boundaries.
They tell you you’re perfect all of the time.
The roll their eyes at you.
They call all their exes crazy.
They call you names during arguments.
They have no work ethic.
They are cruel or disrespectful to their parents.
Their attitude or moods shift swiftly.
They guilt trip you for everything.
They make you feel stupid.
The relationships is built on the need to feel needed.
Obviously, some of these are more severe than others, but they are ALL red flags. They ALL lead to toxic relationships. If you have a hard time being objective while you are being swept off your feet at the beginning of a relationship, consider using this visual activity to help you track your partner’s red flags. Use the information from the visual and trust your gut! Once you are sure there is a pattern, end the relationship immediately. April Mae Monterrosa said, “The red flags are usually there, you just have to keep your eyes open wider than your heart.” This strategy is one way to help you do that. Set yourself up for success in love and you will find it!
If you’re like many singles, you’ve been dating for a while. You think you know what you want, so each time you get on a dating site you make sure to select all the correct criteria: gender (male), age (35-50), height (at least 5 feet 5 inches), activity level (moderate to completely active), children (open to having his children), blah, blah, blah. You hit enter and then the program spits out a list of potential soul mates for you to wander through. However, after months and months (and maybe even years) of using this same strategy, you’re still single. What if this strategy of using criteria to limit who you meet online has been wrong all along?
What if this year you try a different strategy? What if instead of focusing on superficial criteria, you leave things completely open? What would happen then? And, stay with me, what if you committed to conversing with and committing to having coffee or ice cream with every single person who reached out to connect with you? Of course, if you felt there was a safety issue you should definitely listen to your gut. However, barring any safety concerns make a commitment to dating outside your box!
Ann Marsh tried just that kind of experiment in 2003. She decided to go on 100 dates in six months. She did her due diligence and vetted the emails as they came in, but she decided to cast off her preconceived ideas of what she was looking for and date outside of her box. Here is an excerpt from her article:
“I got a lot of responses right off the bat. Some were ludicrous, like the 50-something guy in a Hawaiian shirt who offered to fly me to Vegas for the weekend. I deleted far more than I answered. But Week One still found me on dates with 14 men at local coffee shops. In Week Two, I slowed down to seven. I shook hands with a Danish architect and an hour later zoomed across town to meet a swoony soap opera actor. The next day was tea with an airfreight handler, followed that evening by a walk with a real estate lawyer. I dated aerospace engineers, entrepreneurs, doctors, an oceanographer, film animators, a romantic man who lived impecuniously on a boat, and a self-proclaimed gazillionaire who resided atop a mountain.”
So, what did Ann Marsh learn from this experiment? She learned honesty. She learned how important it was to be honest about if she was truly interested in someone after the first date, and she learned to appreciate that same honesty from someone (even if it hurt a little bit). She learned that men who sounded fascinating in their profiles were less than fascinating in person while others who weren’t quite sure how to “advertise” themselves were really amazing. She learned how to set healthy boundaries by having exit lines prepared when it was clear a date should not continue. She learned how to take rejection and roll with it.
She met so many fascinating people she would have never met had she checked too many restrictive boxes on her dating profile. And, would you believe it? She met her soul mate. The man of her dreams who, as chance would have it, would have been weeded out by her selection criteria.
So, if finding your soul mate is a goal for 2019 consider a new strategy this year. Try dating outside your box. You will meet a lot of amazing people. You will learn more about yourself. And, you might just find what you didn’t know you were looking for.
Ann Marsh. “What I Learned From Dating 100 Men.” February 2003 issue of the O magazine.
The day I died was the most devastating day my wife has ever experienced. The pain of my loss took her on a journey that tore her apart and left her gasping for air. Like the mythical phoenix, she emerged a stronger version of herself. She is now more beautiful, compassionate, and resilient.
It is likely that you feel strong pangs of jealousy over me. You might feel like you are in competition with me in many ways, but you are not. You need to remember that just because her love for me will never dim doesn’t mean her capacity to love you is limited. She has an infinite capacity to love you with her whole heart and soul the way she loved me. I can promise you that to be loved by her in that way is heaven. However, you have to allow her to do that by allowing her to continue to love me.
You may wonder how it is possible for her to love me with her whole heart and soul and to still have room to love you with her whole heart and soul. Well, let me tell you how. Remember when you had your first child? You held that sweet baby in your arms. You breathed in his sweet scent as you kissed his soft little forehead. Your heart was filled to overflowing as you stared into his eyes, and you thought: how could I ever love another human being as much as I love this little boy? Fast forward three years later and your daughter is born. You hold that sweet little bundle in your arms. She wraps her tiny little fingers around your thumb and a tear trickles down your cheek. You notice your heart swells with even more love. You know that you do not love your son less now that your daughter has been born. Your heart has grown to love both equally and uniquely.
That is the magic of the capacity of the human heart. It has an infinite capacity to love. So, as you date my wife please remember that she will need to be true to her feelings for me even as she develops a relationship with you. We are not in competition. I was her yesterday. You are her today and tomorrow.
Here are some things that will help her honor me and love you even more.
- Allow her to keep some of my things in a special place. Allow her to take those things out on birthdays, anniversaries, and other special times to honor the place I held in her life.
- Don’t force her to get rid of things I bought for her. Let her decide what to do with the wedding ring, special jewelry, and other items of importance. Remember that just because she holds onto these items doesn’t diminish the importance of the gifts you give her. She will cherish those because of the unique and loving relationship you will have with her.
- Give her space to grieve. Grieving is a process. She may need to be completely alone on the day anniversary of the day I died or the day of my funeral. She may need to celebrate my birthday with the children we had together. Don’t try to erase the memories we shared or the significant role I played in her life. Give her the time to remember me.
- Remember that dating a widow is different than dating someone with an ex-. We had a loving relationship that neither of us decided to end. You are dating the woman of my dreams, the love of my life. We had our good times and we had our bad times too. You do not need to feel like you are competing with a ghost. I cannot come back.
- Always share how you are feeling. Allow her to share how she is feeling. Make sure you make time for each other. Your relationship with her will be different than the relationship I had with her. That is the way it should be.
I know that at times it will be extremely challenging to love my wife. It is hard for anyone who is dating or married to a widow or widower. It comes with its own unique challenges. However, you also get the benefits of a spouse who knows how to love someone, how to build a life together, and how to endure unimaginable pain and come through it a new and stronger human being.
So, please be careful with my wife’s heart. It has already been through so much. She truly is an amazing woman. Any man who has the opportunity to love her is a truly blessed man.