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The Art and Science of Happiness
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Picking Up The Pieces (after relationship loss)
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Starting Over (what to do to be ready for your next relationship)
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What is an enlightened relationship? What would it be like to love with your eyes and heart open to the truth of your relationship, freed from ignorance and misinformation?
If each person has a full comprehension of the issues that an intimate relationship brings to the surface, self-awareness, and the ability to choose behaviors consciously, then an enlightened relationship is possible. Why should this matter? In my view, enlightened relationships are built on solid ground. The bonds are more resilient, and less likely to break through misunderstanding, or an inability to meet each other’s needs. In addition, what we project onto others and see as their fault lessens, and arguments decrease!!
The steps to an enlightened relationship really have little to do with the other person, and everything to do with you. The dynamic between you serves as a catalyst. Relationships are the crucible where our wounds are hidden, aggravated, and potentially healed. As you resolve and release your own blocks to this type of relationship, everything in your life can improve.
To find out how to enlighten yourself, and your relationship e-mail me here, or call 608-219-7212
At some point during, or after a breakup or divorce, most people wonder how they can go on. Over the years I have heard hundreds of stories of sadness and loss, and. I have been amazed at our ability as humans to withstand such raw, intense emotions. Also, I have seen the incredible power of kind words and compassion to support healing.
So what can you do to take care of yourself as you ride the big wave of emotion that accompanies relationship loss? How can you help yourself heal?
Firstly, suicide and homicide are both more likely after a divorce. So, please seek professional help if you or a loved one thinks you might be depressed; if you are having suicidal thoughts; if you are self-harming; if your feelings of anger have led to acting out, and/or you are stuck in anger. These are powerful emotions, and you don’t have to do this alone.
The problem with intense emotions seems to arise from resisting the feelings, or from piling on. What do I mean by piling on? It’s that critical, or shaming voice that keeps up a constant chatter of where we have failed, where we should have done better, and why it’s our fault we are in this situation. We may try to rewrite history with the new information we have, and feel like we should have realized what was going on in the relationship sooner.
Self-responsibility, and acceptance of the truth of the role we played in the breakup is wonderful, and this attitude supports growth and healing. The voice I’m talking about is the internalized voice of fear, judgment and criticism. Studies have shown that children and adults learn better when encouraged, and that an area of the brain needed for learning shuts down under stress from criticism, fear, blame, and shame. So a huge help in dealing with intense emotions is to shut off THAT VOICE.
Here are some of the ideas that I have seen work:
Easy Ways To Reduce Stress During The Holidays
1. Let Things Go
For every action, or event on your ‘to do’ list, ask yourself why you are doing it. If the answer is anything other than it is fun, or meaningful to you, then ask yourself if the perceived payoff is worth the price you have to pay. The larger the feeling that it is something you ‘should’ do, the more likely the activity or event will increase stress during the next two months.
2. Tend To Your Relationships
The happiest people are those who put effort and attention into their relationships ahead of other areas of their lives. During the Holidays, it is tempting to equate gifts with love, parties with connection, and the perfect meal with the perfect holiday. Instead, try to shift the focus to bonding activities: a favorite game, a walk outside, watching a movie, sharing a warm blanket, talking face-to-face. Hugging, talking, holding hands, and eye-gazing all increase oxytocin, which increases bonding, reduces irritation, and supports the decrease of stress.
3. Shop Online
These days it is easy to shop online, and avoid the visual cues to buy that stores set up. Online shopping allows you to buy just what you intend to buy, and cuts down on time spent in jostling crowds.
Simply put, online shopping allows you to save time, and stick to a budget, so the bills that come in in January are less stressful.
4. Create A Sanctuary
Take steps to set up an area of your home (it can be very small) that feels calming to you. If you start to feel overwhelmed by the demands of the season, then a few minutes in your sanctuary can help restore your flagging spirits and depleted energy levels.
5. Exercise And Meditate
30 minutes of exercise, followed by 10 minutes of meditation can go a long way to keeping body and spirit in harmony over the Holidays. Exercise is the single biggest factor in keeping moods even and happiness levels high. Similarly, meditation is a huge factor in improving the experience of stress or anxiety.
In just 40 minutes, the combination of physical and mental relaxation has a noticeable effect on stress levels.
6. Have Fun
Remember to set some time aside for FUN! At least once a week, choose an activity for no other reason than that it is enjoyable. Laughter, and enjoyment create all kinds of good feelings that can offset the demands of the Holidays.
Here are 6 easy tips to improve your relationship:
1. Look Each Other In The Eye
Studies have shown that the eyes are very important for connecting with a person. Looking into your partner’s eyes increases the so-called cuddle hormone – oxytocin. Increased oxytocin is associated with not only increased warmth, and bonding, it is also associated with less anger and irritation, less conflict, and more kindness.
Non-sexual touch is vital to closeness in a relationship. Massage, for example, decreases stress hormones. This means reduced fear, and better impulse control. So, we are less likely to get irritated with a loved one, or do and say something we later regret. Also, touch is associated with feelings of comfort. Loving touch helps us learn to look to our partner as a source of comfort. All of this means we can be more forgiving when the inevitable disagreements arise, and we can feel like we are on the same team.
3. Do Novel Activities Together
Even trying a new restaurant, or taking a walk on an unknown path can increase the levels of the brain chemical dopamine, which is associated with feeling good. When we try new things with someone, then we tend to attribute feeling good to that person, which increases feelings of attraction. Imagine the fun you can have with new activities, while you enjoy bringing some spark back into your relationship!
When we travel, we get all the ‘feeling good’ benefits from the new and novel experience, AND we also get an opportunity to break some bad habits of relating to our partner. Simply put, travel can encourage us to see things differently, including the person we love.
5. See A Couples Coach Before There Are Problems
Most people will wait until they are communicating with disrespect, and the relationship is a huge challenge before they seek help. That’s a shame! There are some simple changes that will allow each person in a relationship to listen better and communicate with respect and kindness, so that the foundation is in place for when the big issues arise.
6. Focus On Your Own Side Of The Street
Your relationship will change if you wake up every day and decide to be the best possible person to be in a relationship with.
Generally, we are much more aware of our partner’s faults, and what they should do to change, and we can focus a lot of time and attention in that direction. That’s like weeding the neighbor’s flower-beds, and expecting our yard to look better!
When we focus on ourselves, and put the time and effort into becoming our best, our relationships are much more likely to improve than when we waste time focusing on how our partner should be better.
Please feel free to let me know what happens when you put some of these into action :)
As a person committed to reading, researching and learning, I often get to the point where I have taken in so much information that I have no other choice than to throw some of it out!
In the area of relationships and love, this is even more necessary than in other areas of study. There are so many conflicting ideas about how to do relationships, that the whole thing becomes a mass of confusion. What seems to be most important is to keep returning to the question: ‘Is this true for me?’
So, let me share some of the common relationship beliefs that seem like myths to me, and you get to decide if they are true for you!
1. You Have To Love Yourself Before Anyone Else Can Love You
Have any of you loved people who didn’t love themselves? I know I have. Others have also loved me when I have not felt worthy of that love. Unfortunately, this belief keeps people trying and trying to heal themselves, and afraid to be in another relationship because they don’t love themselves enough. We are not born knowing we are loved; rather we know it because we experience it. A relationship can be the vehicle that gives us the experience of being loved, and thereby facilitating healing.
2. Men and Women Want The Same Things In Relationships
In some things yes, and in other things no. For the most part if a group of men, and a group of women got together to share the top three things they most want from their relationship, there would be some noticeable differences. For the most part, women want to be cherished, cared about, and to be treated as special. Men want to be respected, trusted, and admired.
What does that mean in practical terms? For example if a man is struggling in his career, he wants his partner to trust him to sort it out, without her asking questions, or offering suggestions. For a woman, if she is having a tough time with anything, she wants her partner to listen, and perhaps to hold her - without criticism or advice.
3. Learning Communication Skills Is The Most Important Task In A Relationship
When a couple is in trouble, giving them good communication skills is often like pouring gasoline onto a fire. Even when a couple is not in trouble, good communication makes no allowance for the emotions that are stirred up by that communication. As brain science becomes more sophisticated, researchers are showing that emotions run the show and that our thoughts justify our emotional reactions later. When the individuals in a couple are scared about losing the other person, or becoming engulfed by that person, they will become anxious. In addition, external stressors such as children, career, money, and world events can also cause anxiety. Anxiety leads to black and white thinking, and ‘I’m right-they’re wrong’ attitudes. The extent to which people can deal with anxiety in their partners, determines the extent to which the relationship can thrive.
Hope this was food for thought!
Comments welcome, and please let me know if you think there are other relationship myths that might need busting!
Yesterday was a delightful day of work, lunch with a friend, and a birthday event for a former class participant. Of course conversation often veered towards relationships, which got me thinking about all of the research and reading I’ve done, the workshops I’ve attended, and the relationships I have been in.
It seems that I am no closer to getting the relationship I thought I wanted with my Prince Charming - handsome, heroic, and wholly committed to me. Yet, I am closer to getting something that works - a relationship with a real man.
I just have to be aware that the story I tell about love might not help me. It’s also likely that my instinct, intuition, or knowledge don’t help either. Which brings me to the problem of studying relationships - it’s turns out to be rather complicated. And, there are many ways we can judge ourselves and others, instead of allowing ourselves to be right where we are. Even if we accept that no two relationships are alike, there seems to be an assumption that if we just get the rules figured out, or the right advice, we won’t get hurt (as if there is some truth about relationships that we just have to find).
I don’t buy it! Instead, let’s celebrate the leap of faith a relationship takes, and be there for one another when the person leaping lands on rocky ground.
Estimates suggest that more than 90% of relationships end in a breakup, which means almost everyone has suffered the loss of a romantic partner. There are some typical stages we go through, and there are also some actions that can help us heal.
What We Might Experience After A Breakup
1. Feeling Hurt
This is a big piece of the recovery puzzle. Breakups hurt! A large part of this is from our biological makeup. We are literally primed to feel pain when our love partner leaves, and as far as our brain knows, physical and emotional pain are not that different. So why are people encouraged to slow down and take time to heal for a physical injury, yet not for an emotional, or psychological one? Taking time to heal is very important after a breakup. Unfortunately, we often use that time self-doubt, self-blame, self-criticism, or obsessive thinking about the failings of ourselves, or our former love partner.
2. Feeling Angry
The anger that we experience after a breakup is often much more intense than in other situations. Input from participants in my classes (see description here) shows that the experience of rejection, abandonment, helplessness, having no control, feeling threatened, or having suppressed anger at years of mistreatment can all lead to strong feelings. Taking a stance of victim, or avenger can have its appeal. It’s normal to feel angry, yet it is important to use that anger to build a better future, and not to use it in a way that might be destructive to yourself or another. The seeds of destructive behavior are planted in thinking and talking. So, thinking about how wrong or bad the other person is should be an indulgence, not the main focus. Likewise bad-mouthing an ex with trusted friends is ok in moderation, telling the whole neighborhood and his dog could be a slippery slope.
3. Detaching Slowly
To really separate from another person can involve detaching physically, emotionally, financially, and legally. The extent to which the past, present, and future have been involved also has an impact. In fact, people often have to grieve the loss of joint hopes and dreams, as well as experiencing sadness about present loss.
These stages do not all happen at once, and each person goes through them differently. In separation or divorce, the former partners will be ready for different stages, so there is a kind of tension that builds up from feeling pushed to detach in some areas before we are ready.
What Helps After A Breakup
1. Take steps to nurture or care for yourself.
2. Lighten the stress load wherever possible.
3. Say yes to genuine offers of help.
4. Speak to a trusted friend, family member, coach, or therapist. Choose your confidants carefully.
5. Join a support group, such as this one – Picking Up The Pieces.
6. Go back to a favorite activity, or start a new favorite.
7. Remember grief and anger are normal, and seek additional support if either feels too much.
8. Add some supportive new habits (e.g. good food, light exercise, meditation, yoga, massage).
9. Let things unfold slowly if you need to. There is usually no urgency, even though it might seem that there is.
10. Know that it is common to feel a void that only the former partner seems to be able to fill. It doesn’t mean you are meant to be together.
11. Surround yourself with people who love you, whenever possible.
I am pleased to announce my new business name - The Relationship Place LLC. The name change is the acknowledgement that my business is 'all about relationships'. I love the topic, and I am sure there will always be more to learn, share, and put into practice.
With the large, complex brains humans have, we have a great capacity to create complicated interactions with those we love, and it is my view that our cultural and societal beliefs have made it an increasing challenge to create harmony with a loved one.
These challenges tend to come into magnified focus in romantic relationships. Some suggest that at least 90% of all romances end, including 50% of marriages. So, perhaps we have unrealistic expectations, and maybe we don't know how to 'do' a good relationship. In both of these ways we undermine the love that is possible. My passion is discovering and sharing what works!
As the days get warmer and lighter, and the spring and summer holidays are around the corner, it can seem like everyone else has a partner to spend time with. What can you do to take care of the feelings that arise when you want a special someone to share your time with, and they are not in your life?
Well first of all, it can help if you determine the feeling you want to experience when you share a spring or summer day with a romantic partner, and then see if there is anywhere else you can have a similar feeling. For me, I love the sense of connection I get from doing something outdoors, or active with a romantic partner. If that is not available, I can get a great approximation connecting with horses, and connecting with riding companions at the barn, and then enjoying the activity or outdoors with them!
So what is the feeling you want to experience? Connection, freedom, excitement, joy, relaxation, safety, warmth, fun, happiness, or .....?
I'm curious to see what feelings or activities you might come up with!