How To Better Cope (And Help) In Today’s Climate Of Tragedy And Fear

 By Sasha Taskier, AMFT

By Sasha Taskier, AMFT

In the wake of Sunday night’s shooting in Las Vegas, we are reminded (again) of the fragility of life and the senseless acts of hatred and violence that plague our country and our world. It feels overwhelming to wrap our heads around another tragedy, especially just on the heels of the devastation in Texas, Mexico City and Puerto Rico (and beyond). Between these catastrophic natural disasters and terrifying acts of terrorism, we are living in a climate of fear that can wreak havoc on our emotional wellness and mental health.

Here are a few thoughts and recommendations for how we can better navigate this difficult time:

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR EMOTIONS

It may feel like the only option right now is to push through and ignore your thoughts and reactions to recent events. Often, when we ignore our feelings, they get worse, or they can manifest elsewhere in our lives.

Take stock of how you are feeling; it may be easy to identify the emotions you’re experiencing, but it may also be really difficult. It is common to experience multiple feelings at once, a constant switch between emotions, and even an overall sense of numbness. There is great power in naming our emotions – once we have a name for them, we can identify them more readily when they surface and then we can more calmly and better manage our symptoms.

If you have experienced a trauma or loss in your life, this news might be especially triggering for you. There is a particularly higher risk of feeling a sense of despair, helplessness, anger and grief– even if this event is in no way connected to your own experience. (There are links to both the disaster distress hotline and crisis hotline at the bottom of this post, should you need them.)

Other symptoms you may be experiencing around this event are increased irritability, loss of sleep, reduction in appetite and loss of focus. Pay attention to yourself and your body – if these are happening to you, it is your body’s way of saying you may need to seek professional help, and take some time to take care of yourself.

MANAGE YOUR MEDIA INTAKE

Many of us may feel guilty turning off the news, or choosing not to watch the footage of the most recent shooting. We may feel obligated to stay informed and force ourselves to see what is happening; in doing so, we hope to increase our understanding of the situation and our compassion for those who were affected. While I think it is a worthy effort to remain engaged and continue practicing empathy for those who are suffering, overdoing this media exposure can lead to increased anxiety, traumatization, and even a re-triggering experience.

Limit your media; tune in occasionally in order to stay engaged and informed, but do not feel bad turning off your twitter feed or closing your computer for some time. You are not disengaged or unfeeling if you decide not to watch this footage; (there are plenty of ways to remain engaged without exposure to such horrific visuals.) It is imperative to create boundaries to protect your mental health and to respect your own limitations.

(I so appreciate these wise words on consuming media, from Brené Brown.)

EMBRACE CONNECTION

Reach out to friends and family. We are creatures of connection – and in times of threat and despair, we sometimes need to embrace our inner ‘pack animal.’ No, you do not need to talk about the event if that feels un-welcomed – but you can share your feelings, share good news and continue to focus on joy. Remember, joy is an act of resistance, especially in the face of hatred.

Additionally, if you know someone who may not have family or friends nearby, reach out to them: invite them for coffee or have them over for dinner. Even something as simple as a text to tell someone you are thinking of them and hoping they are ok, means more to them than you realize. No one should have to feel alone during such a scary and uncertain time.

HELP OTHERS

Helping others counteracts the stress hormones in our bodies. There are countless ways to help and they do not necessarily have to be related to the shooting in Las Vegas. You can donate to relief efforts in Houston, Mexico City and Puerto Rico.

Donate to the Red Cross and Other amazing relief organizations to consider

You can turn towards your local community and find a volunteer opportunity nearby. Connecting and helping in person may feel especially rewarding.

If you’re in Chicago, this is a great resource: https://www.chicagocares.org/

If you are feeling compelled to turn your attention towards gun reform you can check out these organizations to see how you can become involved:

      -  The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence: https://www.csgv.org/

      -  Every Town for Gun Safety: https://everytown.org/

      -  Moms Demand Action: https://momsdemandaction.org/

And of course, you can contact your representatives to tell them your feelings about passing comprehensive and common sense gun reform in the wake of Sunday’s tragedy.

       -  Here is a useful script to help guide your words and guide for reaching outI’ve used the ‘ResistBot’ and found it to be an unbelievably                easy and fast way to contact mySenators and Congressmen about issues I care about. Text RESIST to 50409.

Additional Resources & Articles:

Disaster Distress Hotline:  1-800-985-5990 – Text: TalkWithUS to 66746 – Website

Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-8255 - Website

Psychology Today

Huff Post Blog

Mashable

 By Karen Focht MA, LMFT

BY Karen Focht MA, LMFT

Throughout my career I have found the challenge of infertility to come up over and over again while working with couples. 10-15 percent of couples in the US are touched by infertility in some way.  After attempting to conceive for a year, a couple can quickly find themselves thrown into the world of infertility and treatment.  Although there are many various treatment options available today, infertility can be a very lonely place.  I often found myself advocating for clients through resources, education and support through family and friends.  Although these are all very helpful and important forms of support, there was something missing.  This is where Shine comes into play. 

Shine is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing unique support to women who are faced with fertility challenges. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Shine’s founder, Katie O’Connor, who shared her own journey within the fertility world.  Something that quickly stood out through our conversation was that the statistics are staggering and yet women aren’t talking about what is happening through their fertility struggles.   Through this realization, Shine was born.  Here are some details on what Shine is all about!

Fertility Friends Mentorship Program:  Through one to one support, the mentorship program matches a new member with someone who has successfully completed their fertility journey.  This is an opportunity to share your journey and challenges with a mentor who can closely relate to the experience.  Receiving empathy and understanding can make a tremendous difference throughout the overall experience. 

SHINE TOGETHER PROGRAMS:

In Person Support Meeting:  These meetings provide peer support, open discussion along with the opportunity to hear from a professional guest speaker.  “The goal is to create a community that allows us to laugh and cry, side by side, while celebrating our successes and battling our challenges, as well as providing knowledge to feel empowered throughout our journeys”.           **Meetings are held on a monthly basis

Virtual Support Call:  This is a group support phone call where members connect and share their fertility journey in a confidential format.                                                                                                                                                                                                  **Held on the last Wednesday of the month at 8pm CST.

Shine Social:  This fun event is an opportunity to learn more about Shine along with giving back in order to help continue the organizations mission and success.  Details can be found at www.eventbrite.com/e/shine-social-tickets-37693411007

For more information please visit http://www.shinefertility.org

Keep Calm and Fight Fair

BY CAITLIN NELSON, AMFT

 

Every couple will experience conflict in their relationship, no matter how happy they are together. Research done by John Gottman and Robert Levenson found that 69% of conflict in relationships is about unresolvable, perpetual problems based on differences between partners (Gottman). They also found that stable couples experience 5 positive interactions to every 1 negative interaction, while that ratio for unstable couples is 0.8:1. So what does this information tell us about conflict in relationships? Simply put, conflict is inevitable and manageable. So let’s learn how to manage it!

Step one to learning how to manage conflict is identifying that you are angry. Often before we can even recognize that we are angry, our bodies already know. Our heart is beating faster, our thoughts are racing, our muscles are tense, our faces are red - we are physiologically activated. Pay attention to these sensations, as they are your body letting you know you’ve reached your emotional threshold. Aka your point of no return.

Once you are able to identify that you are angry, it’s time to learn how to calm yourself back down. Why? Because reaching your emotional threshold puts you on auto-pilot, meaning you lose your ability to choose your reaction to your partner. This means that any chance of having a productive conversation is lost. If you want to hear and be heard, you need to come back to a calm state. You can do this by taking a few good deep breaths or by taking a walk (if leaving is agreed to be non-threatening by both partners).

Once you have gotten yourself feeling a little calmer, it’s time for some self-reflection. Try and identify what caused your anger. Were you feeling misunderstood, judged, blamed, hurt? These are the feelings to share with your partner. It’s easier to connect when we share softer emotions, rather than our harsh anger. In order to share those softer emotions with your partner, you need to agree upon a time and place to try again. Check in about a good time to revisit the conversation. Lastly, remind yourself that you and your partner are on a team, that there are positives to your partner and your relationship with them. This will help you soften more towards your partner, rather than revamping your side of the argument.

Ok, so now you’re calm and you’ve established a time to try again. Here are a few things to try when sharing your perspective with your partner.

 DO use “I-Statements.” These are statements that share your feelings in a non-accusatory way and propose a solution. They are the opposite of “you-statements,” which place our partner on the defense and assign blame.

You-statement : “You are always so inconsiderate! Why can’t you just come home when you say you will?!”

I-Statement : I feel anxious when I haven’t heard from you when you’re out. Could we set up a check-in system?

DON’T assassinate your partner’s character. This escalates the conflict and gets you farther away from sharing your perspective and working towards resolution.

DON’T call your partner names. This escalates the conflict and puts your partner on the defensive.

DON’T use the words always or never. This derails the conversation and allows more opportunity for further debate.

DO continue taking deep breaths throughout the conversation. This keeps you in control of your reactions and further away from your emotional threshold.

If you can begin implementing some of these tactics, your ability to manage conflict within your relationship will continue to become more and more effective, and easier to do consistently.

 

 

Grief & Resilience

 By Sasha Taskier, AMFT

By Sasha Taskier, AMFT

Grieving is a universal action, one that we embody as the result of a loss. Humans all over the world grieve through different customs, ceremonies and traditions (TED Ideas). We’ve even learned that certain animals grieve when they’ve loss a member of their family or pack (BBC).

Most commonly when we speak about grief, we are referring to the death of a person; yet, I have found that we grieve when there is loss. That loss may be a person, but it could also be the end of a relationship, the loss of a job, the loss of our health, or the realization that our dreams and wishes for our future can no longer be reached.

I recently read Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant’s new book, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy. Sandberg, most notably known as the COO of Facebook, tragically lost her husband in 2015. She, with the help of psychologist Adam Grant, share a very personal lens into her grief story and process of recovery. They examine the impact of loss (in its many forms) on depression, resilience and growth.

“We cannot control what happens to us, but, we do have some influence over how we respond to the events and hardships in our lives” – Adam Grant

If you or a loved one has experienced a loss, or are even curious about this topic – I highly recommend this book. It is not only a king of memoir, but also a collection of stories from resilient people around the world, and a self-help platform with the latest research from psychologists in the field.

In the meantime, here are 3 of my favorites takeaways from Option B:

1)    Grant present Martin Seligman’s theory of the Three Ps, which can help determine our ability to deal with ‘setbacks’ in our lives

  • Personalization: “This is the lesson that not everything that happens to us happens because of us”
  • Permanence: “refers to whether you see negative experiences as global or specific, or as Sandberg says, whether "an event will affect all areas of your life."
  • Pervasiveness: “explains whether you see an event as stable or unstable, or how long you think the negative feelings will last.”

Sandberg describes this idea as our brain’s psychological immune system – we can heal and recover, but sometimes we need steps to kick into gear. Noticing when we feel one (or more) of the three Ps can be a helpful first step to challenging our mindset around grief, or feelings of ‘stuckness.’

2)    Self confidence and self compassion

Sandberg shared how after the death of her husband, she felt her self-confidence plummet; she was apologizing to everyone around her at home and work. She felt guilty – that everything was her fault. One of the most important components of recovery is self-compassion.

Kristin Neff defines self-compassion as: approaching yourself with the same kindness you would show to a friend.

Sandberg felt that her internal experience (where she was falling apart) matched how she presented herself to the rest of the world. Adam Grant suggested that before bed, she write down three things she did well that day. It may take some time, but focusing on ‘small wins’ builds confidence.

3)    Its important to talk about loss and hardship

We have a really hard time talking about loss and adversity. Even if it is on our mind – we may not say anything to that friend whose parent is sick, or to someone we know is dealing with the loss of a job, or a recent death in his or her family. We’re scared to say the wrong thing, or perhaps we fear that by bringing it up, we’ll be ruining that person’s day. (Psychologists coined a term for this, called The Mum Effect.)

Sandberg talked about the feeling of isolation she experienced after she lost her husband. She would be amongst friends or coworkers and while she knew everyone knew what she was going through, they never said anything. It became the elephant in the room that fueled her sense of isolation and despair.

Just ask; if you know someone is going through a difficult period, ask him or her: “how are you, today?” This acknowledges that every day is different, and some days may be better than others. It is simple and it may give the person who is grieving the opportunity they have wanted (or needed), to share.

If you are interested in learning more about Option B, and/or lessons about grief, resilience and growth, Sandberg and Grant have created a platform to explore these themes and hear stories from real people who have overcome unbelievable hardship and adversity.

https://optionb.org/

 

A Season of Transition

 By Karen Focht, MA, LMFT

By Karen Focht, MA, LMFT

As I sit here at the office during my first week back from maternity leave I can’t help but reflect on life transition and what this can entail.  These days there seems to be so much expected from us in life such as family, work, and even self-care. I personally find it easy to rush through transitions and new stages in life with little time focused on reflection.  Life demands can easily take over and leave us feeling turned upside-down when a new season of life is upon us. 

As I approached the end of my maternity leave with my sweet baby boy, friends, family, and colleagues often asked me if I was ready for this time to end.  What I quickly realized was that although I was ready to come back to work, I had spent little time reflecting on this transition.  I mean, how hard could it be?  I had already done this once over 5 years ago.  I should have this down!  When I started researching the topic of transition I completely resonated with what I came across.  This includes allowing for realistic timeframes and expectations, accessing a supportive environment during a time of change, creating a new routine and allowing for self-expression. Sometimes we just need to let go of what was in order to truly embrace what is today.  This is something I am now focused on more than ever as I settle back into seeking a work/life balance.  Here are some articles I found to be helpful through my process of transition!

Keys to Handling Life’s Transitions

Understanding Transition Stress

How to Cope with Transition and Change

How To Cope With Divorce

BY SASHA TASKIER, AMFT


I was recently invited to collaborate on an expert panel and share some insights on how to cope with divorce. Here are my thoughts:

It's time to give yourself a giant dose of self-compassion.

You are not going to be your best self at moments and you are weathering a transition that may force you to re-examine so many aspects of your life. Simple things, like your daily routine, can be torn down and much of this process necessitates a new approach.

So, be gentle.

Be forgiving of yourself and others. You are doing the best you can, with the tools you have that day.

The people in your life may know what you're going through, but they aren't inside your head. They might be insensitive at times, and you might feel let down - but, chances are, they are trying to help in the ways they know how.

Just like there is no road map for you, there is no road map for them either.

Seek support - whether through family, friends, or a professional therapist.

It's ok to ask for help, to say, "I feel like a mess today" or "I'm having a really hard time with (insert activity.)" (Another topic to consider is if your children also need support - and how to provide that at a time you are not at your best.)

Savor moments that you feel good, because they might feel rare (for a period of time.)

Take a dance class, go to the movies, have a night with friends, or if you can, treat yourself to a weekend away.

Mostly, remember that these feelings are temporary.

It will get better, and with time and patience, you will begin to feel like yourself again. In the meantime, treat yourself like you would treat your best friend who is going through a difficult time.

You can read the full article here: How to Cope with Divorce

The Right Way to Say You're Wrong

 By Caitlin Nelson, AMFT

By Caitlin Nelson, AMFT

Saying “I’m sorry” seems so simple and yet, it doesn’t always feel that way. More often than not, it is connected to immense difficulty and feelings of dread. It is much easier for us to justify why we don’t need to apologize, why the other person is at fault, and why we should actually be the one receiving the apology. The problem with this mindset is that it leaves no room for personal accountability, which is a necessity for engaging in a meaningful relationship. Genuine apologies offer reconciliation and reconnection after a hurt has impacted the relationship. Our ability to take ownership of how we have hurt someone and offer an apology addressing that hurt, without needing to justify our behavior, allows us to truly repair our relationships. Now, how can we make sure we are doing that?

In Harriet Lerner’s new book, “Why Won’t You Apologize,” she goes into great detail about the do’s and don’ts of a genuine apology. There are many ways we can mess up an apology, even when we are truly trying. Lerner explains them as follows:

1.     Using the word “but”

This is a very common add-on and while it attempts to explain our behavior and why it makes sense given the situation, it also completely negates our apology.

Example: I’m sorry I was rude, but you weren’t listening to me.

Try Instead: I’m sorry I was rude. That was uncalled for and I will be more respectful next time.

2.     Saying “I’m sorry you feel that way”

This pseudo-apology shifts the focus from your actions to the other person’s response. It is not taking accountability for your part in the interaction, and places the blame on the other person.

Example: I’m sorry you felt embarrassed when I pointed out your mistake at the party.

Try Instead: I’m sorry I pointed out your mistake at the party. That was not thoughtful of me and I won’t do it again.

3.     Saying, “I’m sorry if…”

The word “if” implies the other person needs to rethink their response and can often seem condescending. It again skirts away from taking responsibility for our actions.

Example: I’m sorry if you were offended by what I said.

Try Instead: What I said was offensive. I’m sorry I was insensitive and I will be more mindful moving forward.

4.     Confusing what needs to be apologized for

This is a common occurrence in relationships where people are held responsible for the other person’s feelings and behaviors, rather than their own.

Example: I’m sorry for giving you a headache.

Try Instead: I’m sorry for not turning down the TV when I knew you had a headache.

5.     Asking for forgiveness too soon

Often when we work up the nerve to apologize, we feel the need to know that we are forgiven. This is a normal feeling. We want to know that the relationship has been restored. But when we ask for forgiveness too soon after an apology, we take away the space for the other person to fully process our apology, as well as the emotional hurt they are experiencing. This can make the other person feel rushed and sometimes even hurt again.

Example: I’m sorry I made a decision about our finances without including you. I know we’ve talked about that before. Forgive me?

Try Instead: I’m sorry I made a decision about our finances without including you. I know when I do that I hurt you and we’ve talked about that before. I understand if it takes some time for you to not be upset with me anymore. Let me know if there is anything I can do.

6.     Being intrusive with our need to apologize

This is when we continue trying to apologize before the other person is ready to hear from us. It often occurs with bigger betrayals and involves the hurt person drawing clear boundaries around no further communication. When we become intrusive with apologizing, we place our need to soothe our own anxiety about hurting someone above actually soothing the person we hurt.

Example: I know you said you didn’t want to talk to me anymore, but I need to know we’re ok; I’m sorry.

Try Instead: Not apologizing after the other person has made it clear they are not ready to communicate.

Lerner reminds us that an apology is us taking responsibility for our actions and soothing the other person’s hurt. It is not the time to discuss our grievances or make it about our pain. There will always be another time to bring those topics up. She challenges us to truly listen to someone when they bring us their pain, even when faced with things that are hard to hear. To do this, she recommends recognizing our defensiveness, soothing ourselves with deep breathing, asking questions when we don’t understand, refraining from debating facts and letting the hurt party know we hear them.

Lerner emphasizes the importance of truly listening to someone, as an apology will not be as effective if we haven’t understood the pain we have caused. Lerner also challenges us to accept the olive branch that is an apology when we have been the ones hurt. A genuine apology is a bid for connection, and when executed well and received well, it begins the healing process necessary to strengthen relationships.

Try to become more aware of how you apologize and where you need to tweak. My guess is, the better you become at apologizing, the more likely you will begin receiving genuine apologies in return, further cultivating positive change in your relationship.

Rainy Day Blues

BY SASHA TASKIER, AMFT

It’s been a rainy, dreary few weeks in Chicago. I keep hoping spring is right around the corner, about to rear its head – but no. Not yet, at least. Talking with friends and clients, I’m reminded how profound an impact the weather can have on our minds, bodies and wellness. It has been over a week of rain and grey skies, and it certainly feels like our energy and positivity is being held hostage by the forecast.

Sometimes, only in retrospect we realize how hazy our brain has felt, how little energy we’ve had and how much we’ve isolated over the winter months. It’s invigorating to feel like you are coming out on the other side of the winter blues, and also a bit alarming to realize how deeply you may have been impacted.

Approximately 6% of the US population is impacted by S.A.D (seasonal affective disorder.) Symptoms include fatigue, depression, hopelessness, and social withdrawal. A milder version of SAD, called the ‘winter blues’ impacts almost 14% of the population. Most of the people impacted by these symptoms live in the northern parts of the country (not only because the temperatures are lower, but because there is less sunlight) and 4/5 of people impacted are women. (Mayo Clinic)

As Chicagoans, so many of us feel like our best selves in the summer months. We have access to an amazing city that comes alive in May & June. With a beautiful beach, walking paths, farmer’s markets and parks we remember that our city is filled with active, vibrant people and families who love to congregate outside.

While this is (almost) around the corner, we still have some time and may need some strategies for keeping our winter blues and S.A.D. symptoms at bay:

  • Get outside! If it is a beautiful day, take a walk during your lunch break, leave work early, go for a run. These days are few and far between and our bodies thank us so dearly for the vitamin D and exercise it desperately needs this time of year. (Do it, even if it isn’t very nice outside… your body will thank you.)

  • Get some light! Invest in a S.A.D light, or ‘phototherapy.’ You can read about it here and here

  • Be amongst friends and family. While rainy days can sometimes lead to isolation and hiding under our blankets, often what our minds and bodies need is community and connection.

  • Plan something you can look forward to. Organize a game night with friends, or plan a dinner with your nearest and dearest. Even schedule to watch a new movie at home for a few days away – excitement and anticipation are very powerful tools.

  • Get Connected.  If you are concerned that your symptoms may be more severe, you can seek out professional help either through your general practitioner or a therapist.

And remember, the more it rains now, the more abundance and beauty we will see this summer. Keep an eye out for all the budding plants and trees as we continue to wait out the rains. 

Mindful Living

 By Karen Focht, MA, LMFT

By Karen Focht, MA, LMFT

I’ve noticed that in today’s day and age we often hear language around the concept of Mindfulness.  Even when recently driving in my car I heard an advertisement for health insurance, which focused on creating a “mindful moment” of reflection and awareness. What does this really mean, to be mindful?  What does it mean to incorporate mindfulness into our daily lives and self-care?

I recently attended a two-day workshop on Mindfulness led by Ronald D. Siege, PsyD, and quickly found myself challenged to the core.  The concepts of mindfulness that were taught during this workshop included seeing and accepting things as they are, experiencing the “richness” of the moment and freeing ourselves from having to “act skillfully”.  On the other hand, the training emphasized that mindfulness practice is not having a blank mind, detaching from our emotions, escaping pain and withdrawing from our life and reality. 

On the first day of training, Ronald Siege led a guided meditation that lasted hours.  Ok, to be totally honest it was about 30 minutes, but I found myself completely challenged through this process.  Why was it so hard to stay present in the moment?  Why did it feel like this exercise took hours rather than minutes?  Our brains are conditioned to continuously process thoughts that can often be distracting to our emotional process.  This is often how we cope to distract from anxious or painful thoughts and emotions.

As I sat in the midst of this mindfulness experiment, I found myself criticizing my inability to stay focused on the here and now.  My mind quickly drifted from my breath (where my focus was suppose to be) to my endless list of to do’s that were not being concurred due to attending a 2 day training.   The instructor immediately introduced the concept of “acceptance and loving-kindness”.  As I sat in self-criticism, I experienced tremendous validation in the idea that a wondering mind was expected, and that in these moments we can "gently and lovingly" guide ourselves back to letting it all go.  During this particular exercise the primary focus was on our breathing process. I can’t tell you how many times I had to lead myself back to my breath.  It felt like every 10 seconds or so!  Although it wasn’t a natural process for me personally, I gained so much insight into how easily I can distract myself from difficult thoughts and feelings along with the criticism attached to these feelings.  

Since completing this training I have found myself working harder to adopt the concepts of mindfulness practice in my day to day life.  It’s never easy, nor perfect, but it has created a new gentle and loving tone within.  Please take a moment to check out these resources on Mindfulness that include guided meditations. Give them a try and allow yourself to practice embracing the moment and providing self-compassion and acceptace. 

Resources on Mindfulness

http://www.mindfulness-solution.com/DownloadMeditations.html

http://www.sittingtogether.com/meditations.php

http://themindfulnessapp.com/

https://www.headspace.com/

Languages of Love

By Caitlin Nelson, AMFT

As Valentine’s Day approaches, I find myself reflecting on the desire to let our partner know we care, to show them love, and the frustrating difficulty we can have doing so. We can put out our best effort and still be heartbreakingly disappointed when our partner does not respond the way we expected. What we often don’t realize is that our partner may not receive love or affection in the same way we prefer to express it. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, explains this difference in what he has coined “love languages,” and highlights the importance in being able to speak your partner’s love language. He lays them out as follows:

1.     Words of Affirmation : Verbal compliments and appreciations

2.     Quality Time : Spending undivided and undistracted time together

3.     Receiving Gifts : Tangible, visible symbols of thoughtfulness

4.     Acts of Service : Utilizing action to demonstrate love

5.     Physical Touch : Needing touch to feel loved and valued

Chapman goes on to discuss that we all have a primary love language and a secondary love language, and that similar to spoken language, love languages all have multiple dialectics through which to express affection. This is where we get to be creative with how we show our partner love! There is no “right way” to love our partner within their love language. What’s important is holding a curiosity for how your partner receives love. If their primary love language is physical touch, do they prefer cuddling before bed, or quick hugs throughout the day? Get to know the way your partner receives love and strive to implement their language as a new practice in your relationship!

The more we can love our partners in the way they receive love, rather than they way we receive love, the less likely it is that we will be disappointed when we express our love.

Take this short quiz to identify your primary and secondary love languages and share your results with your partner! : http://www.5lovelanguages.com

*These love languages are applicable in all relationships in our lives, not simply romantic ones. 

Stronger Ties

By Karen Focht, MA, LMFT

I often find myself referencing the work of John Gottman within in my work with couples, my own marriage, and even in past writings for this blog. (If you haven't yet seen it check out "Five to One from previous posting).   When my associate, Sasha, brought this article to my attention from The Atlantic, I instantly wanted to share it in this space.  Through his past and current research, Gottman has provided information and insight on what characteristics are crucial for healthy marriages, along with the qualities that are detrimental and damaging.   The article tilted Masters of Love, by Emily Esfahani Smithhighlights the concept of kindness and generosity being the most crucial characteristics required to create lasting, stronger and healthy relationships.  I hope you will enjoy this article which I have included below.  For more information please visit  The Atlantic .


Masters of Love

Science says lasting relationships come down to—you guessed it—kindness and generosity.

By Emily Esfahani Smith

Every day in June, the most popular wedding month of the year, about 13,000 American couples will say “I do,” committing to a lifelong relationship that will be full of friendship, joy, and love that will carry them forward to their final days on this earth.

Except, of course, it doesn’t work out that way for most people. The majority of marriages fail, either ending in divorce and separation or devolving into bitterness and dysfunction. Of all the people who get married, only three in ten remain in healthy, happy marriages, as psychologist Ty Tashiro points out in his book The Science of Happily Ever After, which was published earlier this year.

Social scientists first started studying marriages by observing them in action in the 1970s in response to a crisis: Married couples were divorcing at unprecedented rates. Worried about the impact these divorces would have on the children of the broken marriages, psychologists decided to cast their scientific net on couples, bringing them into the lab to observe them and determine what the ingredients of a healthy, lasting relationship were. Was each unhappy family unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy claimed, or did the miserable marriages all share something toxic in common?

"Disaster" couples showed signs of being in fight-or-flight mode in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger.

Psychologist John Gottman was one of those researchers. For the past four decades, he has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. I recently had the chance to interview Gottman and his wife Julie, also a psychologist, in New York City. Together, the renowned experts on marital stability run The Gottman Institute, which is devoted to helping couples build and maintain loving, healthy relationships based on scientific studies.

John Gottman began gathering his most critical findings in 1986, when he set up “The Love Lab” with his colleague Robert Levenson at the University of Washington. Gottman and Levenson brought newlyweds into the lab and watched them interact with each other. With a team of researchers, they hooked the couples up to electrodes and asked the couples to speak about their relationship, like how they met, a major conflict they were facing together, and a positive memory they had. As they spoke, the electrodes measured the subjects' blood flow, heart rates, and how much they sweat they produced. Then the researchers sent the couples home and followed up with them six years later to see if they were still together.

From the data they gathered, Gottman separated the couples into two major groups: the masters and the disasters. The masters were still happily together after six years. The disasters had either broken up or were chronically unhappy in their marriages. When the researchers analyzed the data they gathered on the couples, they saw clear differences between the masters and disasters. The disasters looked calm during the interviews, but their physiology, measured by the electrodes, told a different story. Their heart rates were quick, their sweat glands were active, and their blood flow was fast. Following thousands of couples longitudinally, Gottman found that the more physiologically active the couples were in the lab, the quicker their relationships deteriorated over time.

But what does physiology have to do with anything? The problem was that the disasters showed all the signs of arousal—of being in fight-or-flight mode—in their relationships. Having a conversation sitting next to their spouse was, to their bodies, like facing off with a saber-toothed tiger. Even when they were talking about pleasant or mundane facets of their relationships, they were prepared to attack and be attacked. This sent their heart rates soaring and made them more aggressive toward each other. For example, each member of a couple could be talking about how their days had gone, and a highly aroused husband might say to his wife, “Why don’t you start talking about your day. It won’t take you very long.”

The masters, by contrast, showed low physiological arousal. They felt calm and connected together, which translated into warm and affectionate behavior, even when they fought. It’s not that the masters had, by default, a better physiological make-up than the disasters; it’s that masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made both of them more emotionally and thus physically comfortable.

Gottman wanted to know more about how the masters created that culture of love and intimacy, and how the disasters squashed it. In a follow-up study in 1990, he designed a lab on the University of Washington campus to look like a beautiful bed and breakfast retreat. He invited 130 newlywed couples to spend the day at this retreat and watched them as they did what couples normally do on vacation: cook, clean, listen to music, eat, chat, and hang out. And Gottman made a critical discovery in this study—one that gets at the heart of why some relationships thrive while others languish.

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” from her husband, as Gottman puts it. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.

People who turned toward their partners in the study responded by engaging the bidder, showing interest and support in the bid. Those who didn’t—those who turned away—would not respond or respond minimally and continue doing whatever they were doing, like watching TV or reading the paper. Sometimes they would respond with overt hostility, saying something like, “Stop interrupting me, I’m reading.”

These bidding interactions had profound effects on marital well-being. Couples who had divorced after a six-year follow up had “turn-toward bids” 33 percent of the time. Only three in ten of their bids for emotional connection were met with intimacy. The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.

By observing these types of interactions, Gottman can predict with up to 94 percent certainty whether couples—straight or gay, rich or poor, childless or not—will be broken up, together and unhappy, or together and happy several years later. Much of it comes down to the spirit couples bring to the relationship. Do they bring kindness and generosity; or contempt, criticism, and hostility?

“There’s a habit of mind that the masters have,” Gottman explained in an interview, “which is this: they are scanning social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They are building this culture of respect and appreciation very purposefully. Disasters are scanning the social environment for partners’ mistakes.”

Contempt is the number one factor that tears couples apart.

“It’s not just scanning environment,” chimed in Julie Gottman. “It’s scanning the partner for what the partner is doing right or scanning him for what he’s doing wrong and criticizing versus respecting him and expressing appreciation.”

Contempt, they have found, is the number one factor that tears couples apart. People who are focused on criticizing their partners miss a whopping 50 percent of positive things their partners are doing and they see negativity when it’s not there. People who give their partner the cold shoulder—deliberately ignoring the partner or responding minimally—damage the relationship by making their partner feel worthless and invisible, as if they’re not there, not valued. And people who treat their partners with contempt and criticize them not only kill the love in the relationship, but they also kill their partner's ability to fight off viruses and cancers. Being mean is the death knell of relationships.

Kindness, on the other hand, glues couples together. Research independent from theirs has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. “My bounty is as boundless as the sea,” says Shakespeare’s Juliet. “My love as deep; the more I give to thee, / The more I have, for both are infinite.” That’s how kindness works too: there’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.

There are two ways to think about kindness. You can think about it as a fixed trait: either you have it or you don’t. Or you could think of kindness as a muscle. In some people, that muscle is naturally stronger than in others, but it can grow stronger in everyone with exercise. Masters tend to think about kindness as a muscle. They know that they have to exercise it to keep it in shape. They know, in other words, that a good relationship requires sustained hard work.

“If your partner expresses a need,” explained Julie Gottman, “and you are tired, stressed, or distracted, then the generous spirit comes in when a partner makes a bid, and you still turn toward your partner.”

In that moment, the easy response may be to turn away from your partner and focus on your iPad or your book or the television, to mumble “Uh huh” and move on with your life, but neglecting small moments of emotional connection will slowly wear away at your relationship. Neglect creates distance between partners and breeds resentment in the one who is being ignored.

The hardest time to practice kindness is, of course, during a fight—but this is also the most important time to be kind. Letting contempt and aggression spiral out of control during a conflict can inflict irrevocable damage on a relationship.

“Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger,” Julie Gottman explained, “but the kindness informs how we choose to express the anger. You can throw spears at your partner. Or you can explain why you’re hurt and angry, and that’s the kinder path.”

John Gottman elaborated on those spears: “Disasters will say things differently in a fight. Disasters will say ‘You’re late. What’s wrong with you? You’re just like your mom.’ Masters will say ‘I feel bad for picking on you about your lateness, and I know it’s not your fault, but it’s really annoying that you’re late again.’”

For the hundreds of thousands of couples getting married this month—and for the millions of couples currently together, married or not—the lesson from the research is clear: If you want to have a stable, healthy relationship, exercise kindness early and often.

"A lot of times, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if it's executed poorly. So appreciate the intent."

When people think about practicing kindness, they often think about small acts of generosity, like buying each other little gifts or giving one another back rubs every now and then. While those are great examples of generosity, kindness can also be built into the very backbone of a relationship through the way partners interact with each other on a day-to-day basis, whether or not there are back rubs and chocolates involved.

One way to practice kindness is by being generous about your partner’s intentions. From the research of the Gottmans, we know that disasters see negativity in their relationship even when it is not there. An angry wife may assume, for example, that when her husband left the toilet seat up, he was deliberately trying to annoy her. But he may have just absent-mindedly forgotten to put the seat down.

Or say a wife is running late to dinner (again), and the husband assumes that she doesn’t value him enough to show up to their date on time after he took the trouble to make a reservation and leave work early so that they could spend a romantic evening together. But it turns out that the wife was running late because she stopped by a store to pick him up a gift for their special night out. Imagine her joining him for dinner, excited to deliver her gift, only to realize that he’s in a sour mood because he misinterpreted what was motivating her behavior. The ability to interpret your partner’s actions and intentions charitably can soften the sharp edge of conflict.

“Even in relationships where people are frustrated, it’s almost always the case that there are positive things going on and people trying to do the right thing,” psychologist Ty Tashiro told me. “A lot of times, a partner is trying to do the right thing even if it’s executed poorly. So appreciate the intent.”

Another powerful kindness strategy revolves around shared joy. One of the telltale signs of the disaster couples Gottman studied was their inability to connect over each other’s good news. When one person in the relationship shared the good news of, say, a promotion at work with excitement, the other would respond with wooden disinterest by checking his watch or shutting the conversation down with a comment like, “That’s nice.”

We’ve all heard that partners should be there for each other when the going gets rough. But research shows that being there for each other when things go right is actually more important for relationship quality. How someone responds to a partner’s good news can have dramatic consequences for the relationship.

In one study from 2006, psychological researcher Shelly Gable and her colleagues brought young adult couples into the lab to discuss recent positive events from their lives. They psychologists wanted to know how partners would respond to each other’s good news. They found that, in general, couples responded to each other’s good news in four different ways that they called: passive destructive, active destructive, passive constructive, and active constructive.

Let’s say that one partner had recently received the excellent news that she got into medical school. She would say something like “I got into my top choice med school!”

Those who showed genuine interest in their partner's joys were more likely to be together.

If her partner responded in a passive destructive manner, he would ignore the event. For example, he might say something like: “You wouldn’t believe the great news I got yesterday! I won a free t-shirt!”

If her partner responded in a passive constructive way, he would acknowledge the good news, but in a half-hearted, understated way. A typical passive constructive response is saying “That’s great, babe” as he texts his buddy on his phone.

In the third kind of response, active destructive, the partner would diminish the good news his partner just got: “Are you sure you can handle all the studying? And what about the cost? Med school is so expensive!”

Finally, there’s active constructive responding. If her partner responded in this way, he stopped what he was doing and engaged wholeheartedly with her: “That’s great! Congratulations! When did you find out? Did they call you? What classes will you take first semester?”

Among the four response styles, active constructive responding is the kindest. While the other response styles are joy-killers, active constructive responding allows the partner to savor her joy and gives the couple an opportunity to bond over the good news. In the parlance of the Gottmans, active constructive responding is a way of “turning toward” your partners bid (sharing the good news) rather than “turning away” from it.

Active constructive responding is critical for healthy relationships. In the 2006 study, Gable and her colleagues followed up with the couples two months later to see if they were still together. The psychologists found that the only difference between the couples who were together and those who broke up was active constructive responding. Those who showed genuine interest in their partner’s joys were more likely to be together. In an earlier study, Gable found that active constructive responding was also associated with higher relationship quality and more intimacy between partners.

There are many reasons why relationships fail, but if you look at what drives the deterioration of many relationships, it’s often a breakdown of kindness. As the normal stresses of a life together pile up—with children, career, friend, in-laws, and other distractions crowding out the time for romance and intimacy—couples may put less effort into their relationship and let the petty grievances they hold against one another tear them apart. In most marriages, levels of satisfaction drop dramatically within the first few years together. But among couples who not only endure, but live happily together for years and years, the spirit of kindness and generosity guides them forward.

New Years Resolutions

By Sasha Taskier, AMFT

The new year stands before us, like a chapter in a book, waiting to be written. We can help write that story by setting goals.
— Melody Beattie

As the New Year approaches, I keep thinking about sitting down to write a lofty list of resolutions and intentions for 2017. The list sometimes feels endless: I want to break my sugar addiction. I want to heal relationships in my life that have gone unattended, or that have had conflict. I want to expand my gratitude practice. I want to find creative ways to give to causes I care about … I could go on and on about ways I want to feel better and be better in 2017.

People usually fall into two ‘camps’ of making resolutions: those who love to make lists, set goals and who find resolutions to be useful and empowering and those who feel like resolutions are a total waste of time, and usually set them up for disappointment or failure. (Of course, there is the secret third camp, those of us who are so exhausted from the year and so busy during the holiday season that the idea of sitting down to think about New Years resolutions is just not going to happen.)  

There is no denying that there is immense power in setting intentions. You can read about it in: ‘the power of your mind and setting intentions’ and ‘five steps to setting powerful intentions’. And, while I believe there is greatness in striving to be a better version of ones self, sometimes we’re not quite ready when the New Year rolls around. In fact, certain neuroscience research suggests that spreading out resolutions over time is the best recipe for success. No need to do it all at once!

A few tips for achieving your goals and making them more meaningful–

1.     Think about what you need more of this year. Talk about it with your therapist, your spouse and your friends. What brings you joy? What brings you peace? What combats your depression and/or anxiety? What is something you’ve wanted to tackle but haven’t gotten to yet? Start to make a list that serves you.

2.     Be specific with your goals. What does ‘getting in shape’ mean to you? What does it mean to ‘be healthier’? Choose specific things that you can stick to – like, practicing yoga twice a week, or finishing 3 water bottles every day.

3.     Measure progress. Perhaps this means writing down your progress in a journal, tracking it in an app, or creating milestones that you can use to track your progress. This feedback loop, hopefully, can act as a source of motivation.

4.     Share your intentions. Holding yourself accountable, in a more public way doesn’t mean you have to shout from the rooftops. You can share it with your friends, family, and/or therapist – and ask them to help support you in achieving a specific goal.

5.     Be patient and kind to yourself. This is hard stuff. We are all mere mortals. Be gentle, and remember that progress is not always a straight line, it can be forward, backwards and zig zagged.

There is a very tricky balancing act between pushing yourself to be better each year and being able to be gentle with yourself and remember, ‘I am enough – no matter what I do or don’t accomplish this year, I am enough.’ At the end of the day, no matter how much we achieve, if there isn’t some self-love attached to that self-motivation, it’s all for naught. (I love this manifesto by Jennifer Pastiloff)

So, to those of us who feel ready to tackle our intentions before the New Year, have at it! To those of us who set intentions and then slip up on the second day of the year, it’s ok. Mistakes do not mean that your intentions no longer count, or that you’ve failed. Keep going. And, to those of us just hanging on by a thread at the end of 2016: take a break; enjoy the holidays, catch up on your sleep, and reclaim your self-care. There is no reason you have to write your resolutions before January 1st, 2017. There is no rule that says you cannot write resolutions (or re-write them) in February, March, April, May, June, …or any other month of the year for that matter.

Perhaps you can keep this proverb in your back pocket and remember:

today is the first day of the rest of your life’ (Anonymous)

With that, wishing you a new year filled with motivation, love, care and peace.

Here are a few articles for inspiration for getting started & additional resources:

Self-compassion

Daily Resolutions

Ideas for resolutions

Resolutions from real people

Less Is More

 REAL SIMPLE JANUARY 2017

REAL SIMPLE JANUARY 2017

As we are in the midst of the holiday season, I find myself engaging in more and more conversations, both personally and professionally, around the reality of burn out.  With obligations, tasks and even party attendance, it seems to become harder and harder to keep up each year.  So why is it we take on so much year after year?  Does saying no have to come along with an aftermath of guilt, embarrassment and a label of being insensitive to others feelings and needs? 

As I was preparing my reflection on this very topic, my office received the latest subscription to Real Simple Magazine.  I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the January 2017 cover; “Say Yes to Saying No:  Find more time for the things you love”.  The article mentions how we are socialized to feel responsible for the feelings and well-being of those around us. As we continue to say yes to more and more, we lose site of our own needs and in return are left feeling resentment, depletion and burnout.  Melissa McCreery, Ph.D., a psychologist, provides some great direction stating “Pay yourself first.  Self-care is what allows you to show up and say your yeses later”.  The article then goes into some great tips on how to say now well. 

                  1.     Start Small:  Even if it is declining a store credit card.

2.     Have a go-to phrase:  A simple “Thanks for thinking of me.  I have other commitments” will go a far way.

3.     Take a pause:  Think your decision through and if your not sure take some time and get back with them.

4.     Try “yes, no, yes”:  YES to the relationship, NO to the request, YES to offering an alternative.

5.     Keep it Brief:  Be direct and brief which will create less loopholes coming back at you.

6.     Don’t White-Lie:  There isn’t a need to be specific in reasoning or excuse.

For more information, check out these resources.  Our hope is that by saying yes to less you will find more fulfillment and joy through the season.  Happy Holiday’s from the Focht Family Practice Team!

-       http://www.webmd.com/balance/features/keep-holiday-stress-minimum-learn-say-no

-       https://www.womenshealth.gov/blog/no-holiday-stress.html

-       http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greater-good-science-center/5-research-based-ways-to-say-no-during-the-holidays_b_8649384.html

The Power of Reminiscing

 The Short north, columbus ohio

The Short north, columbus ohio

I recently returned to Columbus Ohio where I had spent three years of my life post college.  During these early twenty-something years, I can look back to some amazing memories, tough challenges, relationship building and self discovery.  Columbus was where I started the beginning stages of my career, built a strong support system of close friends and met my husband.  It was where I first experienced full independence and allowed myself to dream big and push through fear of failure and change.

As I drove through the city with my closest girlfriend Jaime, we found ourselves completely emerged in our memories of that exciting and terrifying time.  Not only did we reflect on our memories, but we also shared new awareness of the present as it is connected to our past. 

Research shows that reminiscing can be a very valuable tool towards healing and growth.  John Kunz, founder of the International Institute of Reminiscence and Life Review states “each time an individual tells part of his/her life story, those who listen are like a mirror, reflecting and affirming their lives.”  This experience of nostalgia does have its painful side, yet research continues to show that by reminiscing, life can seem more meaningful and death less freighting.  It can counteract loneliness, boredom and anxiety.

So the next time you find yourself with this opportunity of reminiscing remember that this experience strengthens relationships, creates more meaning in life, increases feelings of contentment and links our past to the present.  

Five to One

I often find myself focusing on the theme of positivity with most of the clients I work with.  Early on in my training, I learned of John Gottman, a well-known professor who has devoted much of his life towards relational research, scientific direct observations and creating influential literature. 

Through Gottman’s research, he identified his “magic ratio” of positives VS negatives within a relationship.  Gottman states “as long as there are five times as many positive interactions between partners as there are negative, the relationship is likely to be stable”.  This really struck me, as it is very easy to get pulled down in negativity.  I also find that we operate from a platform of assumption.  For example, as I explore positivity and appreciation within relationships I often hear responses such as “he or she knows these things, I don’t need to say them out loud”.  Even a simple shift in directly expressing these ideas can create much positive change.

As I share this information with clients, I am encouraged and inspired to see dedicated commitment to the focus of positives.  So the next time you find your relationship or communication in a place of negativity remember the “magic ratio”.  Five to one!

For more information check out https://www.gottman.com/blog/the-positive-perspective-dr-gottmans-magic-ratio/

Quality not Quantity

By Karen Focht, MA, LMFT

Creating family balance can be challenging in today’s world and it often leaves us feeling as if we don’t have much time to really invest in the quality things that we love.  Creating experiences within our relationships is a valuable and powerful force.  If you find yourself struggling with pressure of lacking time, try to focus less on quantity and more on quality. 

As summer is quickly approaching an end, there are still many events and activities remaining in Chicago. One of our favorite things to do as a family is to attend the Jay Pritzker Pavilion summer concert series.  There is nothing better than starting your week with a picnic in the park together as a family.  Not only is there amazing music preformed with a stunning background view of the city, but it’s also free!  In the midst of busy schedules, I have always found it to be so worthwhile to invest this time together as a family.  So get out there and have some fun with these last remaining summer nights in Chicago!  Here are a few remaining concerts presented by Millennium Park. 

Millennium Park Summer Music Series

-       August 18th at 6:30pm Elephant Revival + Mandolin Orange

-       August 25th at 6:30pm Tortoise + Homme

Millennium Park Presents

-       August 27th at 7:30pm Chicago Dancing Festival:  Dancing Under the Stars

-       August 28th at 6:30pm Lang Lang International Music Foundation

-       September 9th at 7:30pm Stars of Lyric Opera presented by Lyric Opera of Chicago

For additional information go to: http://www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park_-upcomingevents.html

The Meaning We Make

By Karen Focht, MA, LMFT

I recently read an article written by a New York City based Marriage and Family Therapist, Esther Perel, who touched on so much of what I see both personally and professionally when it comes to relationship conflict.   The article, titled, “How to Stop Having the Same Fight With Your Boyfriend All the Time”, addressed different dynamics that play into frequent arguments for couples. I couldn’t help but ask myself “what is the meaning we make in conflict with our partners”?

While providing relationship therapy to couples of all different walks of life, I find that I am often addressing the common issue of repetitive arguments. Are we really talking about who is taking out the trash?   It is so easy to get caught up in content.  Content refers to language, circumstances and events within a relational argument. 

It is hard work to take that step back and look at the meaning underneath it all.  I often refer to this meaning as as Process.  Going back to our original question of “are we really talking about who is taking out the trash?”, the initial response might be “yes, yes it is important!”.  The reality is that the messages underneath it all are so much more powerful when it comes to implementing lasting change.   When I hear “the things we argue around are small and don’t hold much meaning” I will quickly point out this idea of Process VS Content to explore the meaning we make through our conflict. 

Here are some things to pay attention to as you switch gears from “content” to “process”. 

1.     “I STATEMENTS”

“I statements” work towards removing blame while creating an opportunity to identify and express thoughts and feelings. When you do “X”, it makes me think “Y” and feel “Z”.  X represents the content while Y and Z represent the process and meaning that is taken away.

Let’s go back to that same couple that often argues about the trash and switch gears to express the meaning made from this issue.  “When I see you haven’t taken out the trash “X” it makes me think “Y” our family home is not a priority to you, and makes me feel “Z” unloved and unappreciated.  Not only does this statement express meaning to the listener, it also helps the speaker identify what meaning they are taking in during conflict. 

2.      VALIDATION

Validation is not necessarily saying that you AGREE or UNDERSTAND your partner, but it is showing a level of respect, care and curiosity of what they might be expressing to you.  For example, responding to the above I statement with “I see where you are coming from” or “I appreciate you sharing your feelings with me” is much different than jumping directly into explanation or defense.  A healthy process includes validation and the willingness to accept one another’s experiences regardless of intent. 

3.     PRACTICE

I will often implement weekly check-ins with couples in order to intentionally practice looking deeper into the process within their relationship.  Making changes in our lives doesn’t come easy or naturally most of the time and we need to be patient with one another and ourselves in order to implement lasting change!  Try scheduling a weekly 15-minute “check in” where you are expressing process, using “I Statements” and paying attention to validation. 

So the next time you find yourself arguing about something in your relationship, I encourage you to take a moment, a breath and ask yourself…. “what is the meaning I make in conflict with my partner”? 

To check out the article mentioned above go to http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/a60435/fix-the-fights-youre-sick-of-having/