Relationships are tough, especially today. With the hustle and bustle of keeping up with the Joneses, the endless amount of online dating websites and the false pretense created by social media, we live in a world of instant gratification and “buffet-style dating.” If you don’t like what you see, spit it out and move onto the next, even if it means not taking the time to truly engage in getting to know someone. “She watches The Bachelor. Why would I date her?” “He does not like baseball, he probably is not my type.” We make so many false pretenses about people before we even take the time to get to know them. So what happens when you finally find the one you fancy and relationship bells are ringing? Many of us are not able to deal with conflict. We run, hide, become defensive, clam up, blame the other person etc. without understanding why this conflict arose, why this person is hurt and how can we, as humans, better each other while putting our egos aside for a moment. Or can we?
The best dating/relationship advice I have received? Look at your close friends who are in happy and healthy relationships and ask them what is their advice for being successful in a thriving relationship. My best friend who I admire as a woman, human and friend is someone I go to for advice on everything, including relationship advice. She is wise beyond her years and actually “gets it.” Below are some key factors she lives by for fruitful relationship maintenance with the ones we cherish.
We all know communication is important but the majority of humans do not know how to really communicate. We judge, engage in technology, blame, and make generalizations, instead of actively listening with patience and kindness. One key factor in effective communication involves clear and intentional language. It is important to be as specific as possible and state how you feel instead of what that person did to you. Use “I” instead of “you.” Claim what you are stating and in stating your belief, have a comprehensive reason to back your word. If you’re upset with something your partner said or did, then state, “I am upset with X, and here is why….” Remember that everyone’s brain processes information differently so in giving an example of why you’re upset, paint a picture for your partner to grasp without being defensive. The beautiful aspect of effective communication is that there leaves no room for confusion with direct language. The confusion is where the human mind begins to attempt to fill in gaps and create false scenarios leading to anger and a viscous cycle of blame.
Have you ever found yourself talking to someone and his or her eyes meet yours but you intuitively can tell the person is not listening? They claim to “hear you” via a head nod but both their body language and response tells you otherwise. We all have the ability to multi-mask and absorb erroneous information in the ether. Present listening includes going into a disagreement depart defense.
It is common for our innate instincts to cling toward protecting ourselves from anything that appears threatening to us. I’m actually referring to our reptilian brain, both powerful and the oldest part of our primitive instinctual phrenology. This ubiquitous section in our brain is what protects us from being “bullied” so to speak. However as evolution has taken its course, we as humans have evolved into sophisticated creatures that certainly can use different strategies to cope with confrontation. In this instance I am referring to your partner and disagreements. It is in our innate nature to protect ourselves from threatening topics, even something as minute as a disagreement, can stop us from listening to our partner. If you care about your partner and you truly want to grow, then a concern he/she conjures to the surface should not involve defense on your end. Wouldn’t it be revolutionary to see another viewpoint? To delve inside the lenticular lens of the one you love with hyper focus, eye contact, and an unclenched aura?
There is something to be said about positive affirmations. How often do our superiors at work point out what we’re doing wrong as oppose to the things we do right? It never feels good. It is not uncommon for a romantic partner to use hurtful words in a relationship, tearing their partner down and these words, can never be taken back. Sticks and stones will break bones but bones can be put back together, broken hearts from hurtful words may stay broken and create emotional baggage. As humans, we are not wired to be built up from negativity instead we seek love, kindness and compassion, especially in relationships. We step into our optimal greatness through acts of kindness and adorning words. Esteem is founded upon positive affirmations. Make it a point to tell your partner something nice everyday, even if it something as simple as “I love you” or “I can’t wait to see you” or “Thank you for coming into my life.”
Being a “space holder”
What is a space holder? An individual who literally holds space for their loved ones to talk, vent, and express their thoughts and emotions. How many times have you had a hard day at work, as a parent, as a student, or as an employee and you desperately needed to vent? In venting, the listener on the other end exists to listen and support, rather than fix or resolve. To hold space for someone is to allow another individual to share, vent, cry, and explain feelings of concern and hardship. The idea of being a space holder for your loved one, and truly listening depart defense can actually help you reach a solution, grow as a couple and be more aware of your environment. Taking the time to “show up” for someone in need by listening, without passing judgment, is a major part of the healing process.
If you can check off half of the traits that have been aforementioned, then you are dancing toward the flow of intimate awareness of your partner. Intimacy involves many factors and is not just limited to copulation. Masters and Johnson came up with a term, “Sensate Focus,” that was associated with a set of specific sexual exercises for couples or for individuals. The term was aimed at increasing personal and interpersonal awareness of self and the other’s needs. Through these various exercises, partners gained a heightened awareness of both self and the individual exposed to this. As an example, the simple and merely innocent act of caressing your partner’s forearm, or ears, or fingertips allowed for introductory and exploratory stimulation to conjure. The idea of awakening nuanced senses and sensitivities to all parts of our bodies, without the act of coitus, allows for arousal and salient communication to exist. Positive responses lead to continued exploration and getting to know your partner’s needs and desires, while any negative responses equally speaks as learning experiences of untouched and uncomfortable territory. Either way, communication is founded and trust is then built upon. The body speaks and it is our job to listen.
Contributed by Tiffany Dawn Hasse in collaboration with Dr. Kristen Fuller
Source: Kristen Fuller
Tiffany Dawn Hasse is a performance poet, a TED talk speaker, and an individual successfully living with OCD who strives to share about her disorder through her art of written and spoken word.
Kristen Fuller M.D. is a clinical writer for Center For Discovery.
~ Mark Twain