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Top 10 Things You Never Knew about Relationship

Top 10 Things You Never Knew about Relationship

Relationships are mysterious. We fall in love only to realize that life together is difficult and presents unique challenges. How do we merge with another person yet remain independent? Forge a close emotional bond yet stay attracted and excited romantically? Here are 10 lesser-known facts about relationship that will help you build a more fun and fulfilling life together!

1) It’s About Skills, Not Knowledge

We watch TV shows and movies about relationship, read books and talk to our friends. Yet being good at relationship is not about knowledge, it’s about skills. Relationships are stressful. Under stress, higher cortical areas of the brain responsible for calculated thought go offline. What we’re left with is more automatic reactions, often driven by previous experiences with others. Our knowledge about healthy relationship is not as available to us then. What we need are skills that are practiced and woven into our emotional and muscle memory–so automatic that we don’t have to think too much to use them. Even couples therapy models are updating their techniques to help partners build this kind of implicit skill rather than instructing partners on good and bad behavior. What we know doesn’t help us as much as what we can do, especially in moments when we’re running more on animal instinct.

2) We Don’t Teach Partnership Even Though it’s Probably the Most Important Subject

Think about it. What is more important than knowing how to form a solid adult bond with another person? Sure, we could live life alone, but few enjoy that as much as sharing it with someone else. We are social creatures, accustomed to having family and connections with others. But we’re so poorly trained for intimate relationships! I used to wonder why we spent so much time in school on subjects few of us would use and so little time on things like love and caring for one another. Maybe teaching relationship is the domain of families, right? Well, many families don’t model great intimate relationship, so it can be difficult to find role models and training that fits the bill. Knowing how to be close with a person different from ourselves is important not just for our own well-being and happiness, but for that of our kids as well. Kids thrive in secure environments. So, no offense to the engineers out there, but teaching close partnership alongside Algebra II could change the world.

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3) Relationship Determines our Self-Esteem More than our Own Thoughts about Ourselves

We live in a self-reliant, independent culture, right? Even our ‘new-age’ spirituality can promote the idea of self-sufficiency. We’re supposed to be confident, brave, and forge ahead with our true purpose regardless of what others think. How many times do we hear the phrase, I am responsible for my own happiness,” or “what others think shouldn’t affect me? Well, it does. Neuroscience continues to confirm that our sense of self is built in the close relationships with our early caregivers. We don’t know who we are except in the eyes of others. If we are treated well and supported, we assume we are good and internalize a sense of confidence. If we are not treated well, we can lose confidence, develop low self-esteem, guilt, shame, and other limiting feelings. As adults, we hope to develop high self-esteem and sometimes try to find it in individual personal growth pursuits. The science suggests it is more efficient to surround yourself with loving people who believe in and support you, thereby reconstructing a relational path for the brain to develop a positive self-image.

4) Relationship Makes us Smarter

It’s true. Relationship asks the brain to perform tasks that challenge it in helpful ways. For example, to be fair to our partner, we must learn to hold two differing opinions as equal, otherwise our conversations result in a winner and a loser, not a good ‘walk-away’ feeling in relationship. This skill develops a marker of intelligence: The ability to simultaneously hold opposite views as equally valid. If only our politicians were good at that! Relationships make us more mentally flexible. An example of flexibility is the ability to switch from an intellectual to an emotionally-focused conversation. In his groundbreaking book Social Intelligence (2006), acclaimed author Dan Goleman described how relationships require that we be aware of ourselves and another in real time, promoting growth in the social-relational system, which helps integrate the brain’s hemispheres.

5) We Don’t Have the Same Memory of Things so Quit Trying!

Memory is state-dependent, meaning that we encode things into memory through a filter that changes based on stress and emotion. Memory is also formed based on previous experience. Early family experiences, in particular, shape how we perceive and remember events. Many partners still attempt to agree on what was said, or done, in a heated moment. Stop trying. It’s not important to figure it out much of the time anyways. It’s more important to make up, care for each other’s feelings, and move forward. Partners have trouble agreeing on facts because their perception of the same event is actually different in terms of how the brain encodes experience. Research shows that memory is unreliable under stress, such as during family arguments. So next time, don’t try to agree on what happened, just take care of each others’ resulting feelings and remember that memory is subjective anyways!

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6) Money, Sex, Time, Mess & Kids Are Not the Real Issues

Couples researcher Dr. Stan Tatkin has found that the real issues couples argue about are issues having to do with closeness, connection, security and understanding. Because we’re not typically trained or practiced at speaking about those core needs we all have, we use the dishes, the bedroom and the schedule to try to resolve them. The problem with that approach? Those more superficial conversations can’t resolve the deeper need for connection. Very often, when partners feel connected, understood and in love, their annoyance with detail issues seems to vanish. We can tolerate differences if we feel connected. So the next time you find yourself wanting to argue about how clean the house is or a particular philosophical difference, ask yourself, “what am I really wanting to feel with my partner?”

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    7) Many People Think They Made a Mistake Choosing Their Partner When They Chose Well

    OK, so there really are bad choices when it comes to partners. But you’d be surprised how sophisticated and extensive our mate selection process is! Much of it happens unconsciously and is driven by biology and instinct. Subtle chemical signals and familiarities with our family of origin all go into the mix. What often happens, however, is that lacking the skills to take our relationships beyond early phases, we start to think we made a bad choice. It takes some work and practice to make it through the annoyance and reality stages of partnership in which two partners can feel incompatible. But once you do, you realize what a good choice your partner was to begin with. Often the differences that draw us together help us be more complete people, but that takes some growing pains. And due to similarities with early parental relationships, there is tremendous healing potential in later stages of partnership. Those same familiarities, however, can also trigger deep-seated fears along the way. Learn to distinguish real incompatibilities from being stuck in early phases of relationship, and move through those stages to get to the gold of being together!

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    8) Arguing is not a Sign of a Bad Relationship, Not Making Up Quickly Is

    According to relationship scientist Dr. John Gottman, healthy couples argue as a normal part of being together. It’s not arguing per se that indicates a problem in relationship, it’s how we argue and how quickly and effectively we make up. Arguing can actually be an opportunity to deepen your relationship. It exposes differences, releases pent up emotions, and brings more honesty to the conversation. Couples should be careful to not be too hostile in arguments. In fact, secure partners tend to look out for one another even in difficult moments. And more important than whether you have had an argument or not is how well you repair the damage. Strive to make-up, apologize and understand your partner as soon as possible. The longer you feel disconnected, the more negative feelings travel into long-term memory. When arguments are repaired well, we tend to remember the reaching out and re-connection more than the argument.

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      9) Creating Positive Moments Outweighs Processing Negative Ones

      Dr. Gottman also found that couples recover more quickly and build their relationship better by creating positive memories than by spending a lot of time processing negative experiences. Partners can go around and around trying to repair and understand a difference that causes real disconnection. The truth is, most of the issues couples argue about are unresolvable, and don’t need to be resolved. At some point, quit banging your head against the wall and take each other out for a fun day or night out. Go bowling, do something silly together, take an acting class, or one of those partner yoga classes. Make each other laugh, or have your funny bone tickled together by a good comedy show. The shared positive experience and memory goes a long way toward canceling out negative feelings!

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      10) We Talk Too Much

      OK, I know, some people like to talk. And talking can be a way we feel closer. But, when it comes to knowing how we really stack up with our partner, the brain likes it plain and simple. The part of our brain responsible for feeling safe and secure has trouble negotiating meaning out of complex sentences. It prefers short and sweet. To the point. When you really want to convey what your partner means to you and how crazy you are about them, choose powerful words that say what you mean concisely and directly. Gaze into your partner’s eyes as you speak for maximum effect. Some partners can get overwhelmed by too many words at once. Try saying, “I need you,” and “You are the most important thing to me” without any extra words and watch the deepest part of your partner respond!

      Featured photo credit: iStock via istockphoto.com

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      Last Updated on September 17, 2018

      7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

      7 Signs of an Unhappy Relationship That Makes You Feel Stuck

      Relationships are complicated and when you’re unhappy, it can be difficult to tell what’s causing it and what needs to change.

      Sometimes it’s as easy as opening up to your partner about your problems, while other times it may be necessary to switch partners or roll solo to get your mind straight.

      When you’re in the thick of things, it can be difficult to tell if you’re unhappy in your relationship or just unhappy in general (in which case, a relationship may be just the cure you need).

      Here’re signs of an unhappy relationship that is possibly making you feel stuck:

      1. You’re depressed about your home life.

      No matter what you do in life, you’re going to have good and bad days. Your relationship is no different.

      However, no matter what you’re going through at home, you have to feel comfortable in your own home.

      If you constantly dread going home because your significant other is there, there’s a problem. Maybe it’s something you already know about, everyone has an argument or just needs some alone time.

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      When that yearning to be alone becomes an insatiable obsession over the course of months and years, it’s time to realize you’re not the exception to the rule.

      You’re unhappy in your relationship, and you need to take a look in the mirror and do whatever it takes to make yourself smile.

      2. You aren’t comfortable being yourself.

      Remember all those things you discovered about yourself when you first got together? The way your partner made you feel when you met that made you fall in love with him or her in the first place.

      If they don’t make you feel that way anymore, it’s not the end of the world. If your partner makes you uncomfortable about being you, then her or she is only dragging you down. It’s up to you to decide how to handle that.

      You need to be comfortable with who you are. This means being comfortable in your skin and with the way you walk, talk, look, breath, move, and all the other things that make you uniquely you.

      If the person who supposedly loves you doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, know that you can do better. They’re not even one in a billion.

      3. You can’t stop snooping.

      Mutual trust is necessary in any relationship. The only way to get that trust is with respect.

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      I can find you anywhere online, no matter how private and secure you think you are. The odds of you having a password I can’t crack are slim. If we’ve met in person, I could install a remote key logger on your device without even touching it.

      Finding your information online hardly takes a clandestine organization. Any idiot with a Wi-Fi-enabled device can cyberstalk you. I’m just the only idiot in the village admitting it.

      So now that we know everyone snoops, it’s time to address your personal habits. Governments snoop because they don’t trust us. If you’re snooping on your partner, it’s because you don’t trust them.

      It’s ok to have doubts, and it’s perfectly normal to look into anything that looks weird, but keep in mind that data collection is only half of an investigation.

      If you find yourself constantly snooping and questioning everything, clearly there’s a trust issue and the relationship likely needs to end.

      4. You’re afraid of commitment.

      If you’ve been dating longer than a year and you aren’t engaged, it’s never going to happen.

      Commitment is important. People will come up with a million ways to describe why they can’t be committed.

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      No matter who you are if you like it, you need to put a ring on it. Find an engagement ring, stick a gemstone in it and marry the person. If you’re not legally able to get married or you don’t believe in it for one reason or another, have a child (or adopt one, however you’re able to) or treat your partner’s family like your own. It’s a huge financial and mental commitment.

      If you’re not ready for one or the other after some time, don’t waste anymore of your precious life on the relationship.

      Your relationship should be something that propels you forward. If it’s not going anywhere, make it an open relationship and call it what it is—dating multiple people.

      5. You imagine a happier life without your partner.

      If all you’re doing is imagining a happier life without your partner, it’s a sign that you’re in the wrong relationship. You’re unhappy and you need to get out.

      Your partner should be included in your dreams. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a future with someone.

      Try to remember what you dreamed of before you got your heart broken by the realities of life, love and the pursuit of human success.

      Remember when you would crush on that cute kid in class? You would secretly imagine marrying him or her and going on an adventure—that’s the way life should be.

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      If you’re not at least imagining adventures together, then why are you in that relationship?

      6. You resent, rather than love your partner.

      When a relationship starts to crumble, you begin to resent your partner for all the things you once loved about him or her.

      When you’ve reached this point, your partner has reached at least No. 2 on this list. From your partner’s perspective, your unhappiness with them is picked up as bashing them for being who they are.

      If you’re both unhappy in the relationship, it’s better if it ends as quickly and painlessly as possible.

      7. You chase past feelings.

      It’s okay to reminisce about the past, but if all you do is wish things were like they used to be, it’s a sign you’re not on the right path.

      You’re unhappy and, at the very least, you need to have an open dialogue about it. This isn’t necessarily a sign that the relationship should end, but it definitely needs a spark.

      When you talk to your partner candidly about what it is you’re looking for, you never know how they’ll react. The risk alone is worth it, good or bad.

      Final thoughts

      If you’re feeling stuck in your current relationship, it’s time to reflect about it with your partner. Don’t ignore these signs of an unhappy relationship as they will slowly go worse and harm both you and your partner in long-term.

      Featured photo credit: josh peterson via unsplash.com

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