1. Practice Relational Mindfulness
Learn how to interrupt knee-jerk reactive habits. You’re having a nice day and your partner disagrees or disapproves of something you say. In an instant you’re triggered and your nice day goes sideways. It’s these “small moments” that are gateways to the 5 losing strategies I talked about in my previous blog.
It all starts with a “whoosh,” an energetic sensation that arises in the lower the part of the body and moves up through the abdomen and into our chest, neck and face. It happens fast. Our brain chemistry changes, heart beat and blood pressure increase. Before you know it, you’re in fight or flight mode. You can’t think straight.
Here’s how to change this:
• STOP! Don’t say anything.
Think of it as an inner alarm bell. Warning! There’s danger ahead. Literally keep your mouth closed. You can’t speak if you don’t open your mouth!
• BREATHE. This calms you down, so you can…
• THINK. Straight.
At first it’s not natural. It takes practice.
2. Shift from Complaint to Request
We all want to get our needs met. We’re not good at it. Ask for what you want.
“If you love me, you should know what I want. If I have to ask, it’ doesn’t count.”
Sound familiar? This is a LOVE KNOT, a common trap that guarantees you won’t get want you want. Instead you feel resentful.
Here’s how to shift. Let’s say you want more quality time together. Losing strategy (complaint): “You never spend time with me, you’re always on your phone, you just don’t care!” Winning strategy (request): “I’ve been feeling lonely lately and I really miss you. I’d love to spend some time with you this week.”
3. Practice Healthy Self Esteem
Most of us base our self-esteem and self-worth on external criteria – comparing ourselves to others, how much money we have, our car, house, what we imagine others think of us, etc. We either feel contempt for ourselves, SHAME (feeling worthless, less than) or GRANDISOITY, contempt for others (feeling better than).
Healthy self-esteem is knowing you have inherent value, despite being an imperfect human being. Terry Real* offers a powerful affirmation for this.
“Even though I’m not perfect and I make mistakes, I still hold myself in warm regard.”
I suggest you put this affirmation somewhere where you see it every day.
4. Practice Healthy Boundaries
Psychological boundaries are about protection. Think of an orange peel. The outer skin protects you from other people and the inner skin protects other people from you.
Protective boundary (outer skin). When your partner says something negative or critical.
1. Is it true?
2. Do I trust this person right now?
If there’s truth in it and you trust this person, let it in. Let yourself feel it. If not, don’t. You’re protected behind your boundary.
Containment boundary (inner skin). When you’re about to say something negative or critical.
1. How is this person going to receive this?
2. Is this the right time to bring this up?
Think before you speak.
5. Stay Connected
It’s easy to drift apart and avoid emotional vulnerability. We get superficial.
The Couples Check In**
Set aside 30 minutes each week to connect with your partner. No devices, kids, distractions. Remember to make gentle eye contact. And don’t forget to breathe!
Wishes, hopes and dreams
* Adapted from Relational Life Therapy (RLT)
** Adapted from Virginia Satir