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Top 10 Things You Never Knew about Relationship

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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 November 18, 2021

      10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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      10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

      We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

      A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

      So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

      • honest
      • reliable
      • competent
      • kind and compassionate
      • capable of taking the blame
      • able to persevere
      • modest and humble
      • pacific and can control anger.

      The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

      1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

      All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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      But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

      2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

      How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

      I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

      “The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

      Abigail Van Buren

      3. How does this person take the blame?

      Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

      4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

      You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

      5. Read their emails.

      Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

      • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
      • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
      • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
      • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
      • Too many question marks can show anger
      • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

      6. Watch out for the show offs.

      Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

      7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

      A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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      Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

      8. Their empathy score is high.

      Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

      People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

      9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

      We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

      “One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

      Stendhal

       10. Avoid toxic people.

      These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

      • Envy or jealousy
      • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
      • Complaining about their own lack of success
      • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
      • Obsession with themselves and their problems

      Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

      Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

      Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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