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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 May 21, 2019

      How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

      How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

      For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

      If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

      Example 1

      You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

      You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

      In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

      Example 2

      You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

      People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

      You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

      Example 3

      You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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      The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

      Example 4

      You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

      Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

      If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

      Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

      • Understand your own communication style
      • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
      • Communicate with precision and care
      • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

      1. Understand Your Communication Style

      To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

      In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

      Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

      2. Learn Others Communication Styles

      Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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      If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

      “How do you prefer to receive information?”

      This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

      To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

      3. Exercise Precision and Care

      A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

      On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

      Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

      I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

      I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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      In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

      The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

      Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

      4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

      Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

      In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

      “Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

      Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

      Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

      It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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      It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

      It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

      Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

      Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

      The Bottom Line

      When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

      I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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      Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

      Reference

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