How to Argue Mindfully

shutterstock_255824092Mindfulness is a millennia old Buddhist practice that has lately gotten a lot of attention in the West, particularly in the media. In an age where we are constantly distracted by a legion of small devices, mindfulness teaches us to clear out all the junk and focus solely on enjoying the here and now. It is incredibly relaxing. By taking the stress and tension out of situations, and making us hyper-focused, we can see problems better, get to solutions faster, and do so in a manner that doesn’t set off the defenses of our partner. Research has shown that conflict is a natural, healthy part of any relationship. Those who do argue tend to work out problems. Couples who ignore them see them grow bigger and bigger, until they consume everything. No matter how well matched you are, sooner or later you and your boo are going to have a disagreement. How you and your partner go about fixing it makes all the difference. So argue mindfully. Sold? Well, here’s how to do it. The first thing to do is to dissolve judgment. In today’s world where we are bombarded by a constant stream of stimuli, we are used to judging something every three seconds. But rash judgments can be damaging to a relationship. Instead, dispel your feelings, wave away judgment, and replace it with curiosity.

A detached, objective, curious view is what you should strive for. Instead of blurting out a rash judgment, put forth a question. Ask for some more information. Get clarification. Reach into the heart of the matter, and investigate it from all sides before making an evaluation. We get so caught up emotionally in a disagreement with our partner. But if we and they can both remain calm, take a step back and learn more about the situation, misunderstandings will become apparent, lessening the chance of fighting about nothing, and it will help tease out certain aspects that you can understand, or that may help negotiate a mutually acceptable solution. This disassociating one’s emotions from one’s argument can be seen in Western culture, embodied in lawyers. Though they do not have the best reputation, we can see ourselves arguing the facts instead of what our heart is screaming at us. The difference between acting like a lawyer and arguing mindfully however is that lawyers are competitive, and only argue their own side to win. Their success depends upon the failure of their opponent. But in a relationship we strive for the win-win. Get too competitive and you may win the battle and lose your partner in the meantime.

Mindfulness must come complete with compassion. Not only should we venture forward curiously in a manner that objectively studies all aspects of the situation, we should strive to understand our partner and where they are coming from. We need to know what emotions are embodied within this conflict, and if there are any that underlie what is being portrayed. Instead of focusing on our own emotions in the heat of the moment, take a step back and try to understand theirs. We must not see our partner as our adversary, or else we set up an adversarial relationship that is bound to bring anger and resentment in, and cause issues. Instead, we should view them as our partner who sees things in a different way. We should come to see their point of view, and ours, and begin to discover what connections they have, and what kind of compromise or strategy can be employed to do the right thing, finding an option which satisfies both of you. Sure, sometimes you have to give a little, and so do they. But most people count fairness as an important quality and that is no less employed here. We have a tendency to fight in a way that falls into old patterns, either formed in our long-term relationship or modeled after our parents. But if we learn how to fight better, we can have closer, deeper, more satisfying relationship, where the emotional pain is brought to a minimum, and with the warmth, love, and compassion brought up to full capacity.

For more tips on this read, How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful by David Richo and Kathlyn Hendricks.

Should You Cheat to Get Back at Your Partner?

shutterstock_311207699Most people who have been cheated on are devastated when they are finally confronted with the truth, whether they find out on their own or their partner confesses. A guilty confession may feel like cold comfort. But at least they were honest with you. Worse than the physical transgression is the emotional sharing and the deceit. The lying is what many find the most abhorrent aspect. You may feel angry, sad, betrayed, abandoned, or even rejected. Particularly with anger, one of the things that will eventually cross our mind is revenge. We want to even the score, and make our partner feel as bad as we do. There is a certain delicious delight in the thought revenge sex. Some even up the ante making it someone close to their partner, a sibling or close friend for instance. Not only can this course of action obliterate your relationship, it can hurt your reputation, as well as setting your emotional recovery back a few steps. Psychological research shows that we are hardwired for revenge. Such fantasies even bring people to feel a happiness they think is out of their reach otherwise in the aftermath of infidelity. But studies have shown that those who are successful in their revenge feel worse off in the long run.

The truth is your cheating cannot even the score. The bond of trust has already been ruptured. What you have to decide now is if this relationship is worth salvaging or not, and if each of you have the energy to invest in fixing it. Usually, cheating is a sign of deep seated problems and one or both person’s needs not being met. These can be emotional or physical needs. Another reason it is such revenge cheating is a waste of time. It is likely your infidelity will not impact your partner as theirs has impacted you. They may feel relieved, even justified in crossing that boundary to begin with. These actions might even be used against you, for instance as justification for continuing the affair. In this way, your cheating could also be used for fuel in the argument against you. Instead of trying to see where you are coming from and making amends, they will be further driven away from you. Will cheating teach them a lesson? It will probably display to them that you are vengeful, and perhaps that this relationship is not worth it, rather than showing them the error of their ways. It may even encourage them to cheat again.

A retaliatory affair will only distract you from the matter at hand, whether to stay in this relationship, or tell your partner to hit the road. Things are already tense, and you are probably feeling vulnerable. So your cheating could be more negatively impactful to you as well. It may also put a nail in the coffin of this relationship, adding lies and betrayal on top of those which have already transpired. In some cases, this action could escalate anger between partners, even leading to domestic violence. If you want to let this relationship go, do so. You do not need to go into weighty explanations. Instead, practical arrangements, especially if you live together or have kids together, need to be made. But if anything, the cheating should be all the reasoning you need. If you are reinvesting in the relationship, it may be wise to take some time away from your partner. Moving forward, consider couple’s counseling, and establish how you will rebuild things, and what steps they have to take to reestablish trust, and show that they are sincerely sorry. They need to make amends to be forgiven. It surely is not easy. But for some couples, infidelity is a wakeup call to issues that they have been in denial about for some time. Now they have to finally face them together. So for those stalwart few, infidelity may actually be a blessing in disguise.

If you two are trying to reconcile read, After the Affair: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful by Janis A. Spring.

How Giving Advice Can Hurt Your Relationship

shutterstock_259629341It’s really important that the balance of power is more or less equal in a relationship. Take for instance advice giving. When power is equally shared, partners value learning from one another. It enriches both. And neither feels as though their partner is lauding knowledge over the other, or parenting the other. There is no resentment here. But some feel compelled for advocating for their way of doing things. After all the thinking goes, when a certain method for completing a task is clearly the most effective, why should we not offer it to our beloved? The problem comes when one person is better at dishing out advice than receiving it. Another is when one is the giver of advice and the other the receiver. This sets up an unfair power structure which is sure to cause resentment if left unchecked. Usually, this starts with a lot of passive-aggressive behavior being thrown around. If someone asks for advice, that is surely an invitation. No one should be denied helping their partner. But when it becomes pedantic, when a holier than thou attitude inhabits the exchange, or when what is being peddled as advice turns out to be veiled criticism, trouble will ensue. That’s why we have to be careful how we approach our partner in the advice department.

Are you a first born sibling? Do you have a younger, same sex sibling? Psychologists have noticed that these type tend to want a partner who listens to the way they do things and follows them. If a partner is say appreciates and admits he or she requires such guidance, there is little problem. But usually after a while the other person will find this arrangement stifling. We should allow our partner dignity and the ability to make their presence in the relationship felt and known. How things are done should be negotiated, not one partner telling the other what to do. Or else this becomes a monarchy rather than a fair and mutually beneficial arrangement. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing at the beginning how a person conducts household affairs. Sometimes couples squabble over how certain things should be done, the cooking, the parenting, laundry, and so on. These may come from deeply held beliefs, ones education, or family or cultural custom. By denying your partner’s way to do things, you may be also denying much more deep-seated elements of their identity, and unwittingly rejecting them as well.

What partners need to do is to sit down calmly and find out when advice is warranted by the other, and when it seems like an invasion or an order. Some couples just relegate each person’s personal traits and strengths to whatever household duty must be done. One is a better cook for instance, the other better able to handle the yard work, or the bills. In these cases, many have found that not asking questions about process can avoid fights and allow each person their dignity. But for other couples, it helps when each is allowed to discuss their process a calm and matter of fact manner. You can learn a lot about your partner, the relationship, and yourself by sharing how you do things, and how you see things. If you and your partner struggle with this, instead of looking for places to offer advice, get upset at how your partner does something, or offended because they ignore your previous instructions, ask questions. Find out where they are coming from. You can discuss, debate, and figure out the best way forward.

For more tips on cultivating a more successful long-term relationship read, Love Busters: Protecting Your Marriage from Habits That Destroy Romantic Love by Willard F. Jr. Harley.

What to Do When You No Longer Want to Have Sex with Your Husband

shutterstock_260900729He’s a great guy. You love him. You know he has needs. And you want to show him how much you care. But the thought of sex is gross. You don’t know how to get aroused anymore. So you avoid sex. You may even come to hate it. Sex is usually hot and frequent in the beginning of a marriage. But for most couples as time wears on, a sudden transition appears where it disappears, or just tapers off. Many times, when this occurs couples have to find new ways to spice things up in the bedroom. If not, one or another partner can feel resentment. Both partners may also worry that this spells the beginning of the end for their marriage. The first thing to do is to look and see if there is any physical health reason why you have lost the desire for sex. A hormone imbalance can be one reason. This can have something to do with menopause, a new medication, a thyroid problem, and so much more. Get checked out by a doctor. If this is not the case, consider an emotional reason. Have you been severely stressed lately? Do you suffer from anxiety or depression? Take steps to alleviate these and your libido may return.

Next, think about whether or not your relationship has been having any particular issues. Sometimes a woman can have resentment building up from a number of problems in her marriage, or one large issue. While men can compartmentalize sex, a woman’s concern over her relationship will snuff out her desire until the matter is resolved. That is not to say that she cannot feel desire. But when relationship problems are weighing heavy on her mind, she has a hard time getting into the mood. If none of these appear to be the case, think about whether you have had any negative situations surrounding sex. A negative impression or experience in the past can manifest itself in your marriage today. When we first get together, love and chemistry are so strong that they blot out all other emotions. But when we get used to the relationship or even the marriage, those strong feelings wane, and the previous impression or experience may bubble up to the surface. Working with a mental health professional or sex therapist may be best. The tendency when this problem first arises is to push your husband away. It is hard to explain a lack of desire without feeling as though you will sound like you are blaming, or that you want the relationship to be over. Fight that urge. Pushing him away will only hurt the relationship.

If you want this marriage to succeed, you must tell him. But practice what you say so that he understands. For many women, when this problem strikes they begin to think that their husband may look elsewhere to have his needs met. A woman has to be relaxed in order to get in the mood. Feeling threatened will undermine that effort. Let him know that it isn’t him. It’s just that there is something wrong and you’ve lost your desire. Now it’s time to make a choice. Losing your sex drive can be horrible. And no one is saying you should have sex when you don’t want to. Each person should decide for themselves when it is or isn’t right. But you will have to decide whether or not you can invest the time and energy to finding it again. What would rekindle your desire? Start talking about sex, turn ons and turn offs, and desires with your husband. Write them down. Keep a journal where you don’t sensor yourself, but write down these secret, inner thoughts. Find healthy ways to manage your stress. It can sidetrack you. Any interest in porn? Try watching some together. When you find that it is time to reconnect physically, use sensuality first as an entree way. Women take a lot longer to get turned on, and sensuality is a great gateway into getting in the mood. It may feel untenable at first. But just like any other problem, if you begin to look into it, you should find what is causing it, learn more about yourself, and then figure out how to reconnect to your sex drive and with your husband.

For more such advice read, Reclaiming Desire: 4 Keys to Finding Your Lost Libido by Andrew Goldstein and Marianne Brandon.

 

Reasons to Celebrate Singlehood after Divorce

shutterstock_104926916Those who have the distinct displeasure know all too well, a divorce is gut wrenchingly painful. But for those who can come to terms with their grief and pain and heal, there are a lot of advantages to be found on the other side. It doesn’t look like it at first. Many people, even in the aftermath of a hellish divorce years ago, still sit alone decrying their fate. In fact, a newly minted singlehood can be the best thing that ever happened to you. In years past, marriage was a financial arrangement and a social institution. Today, no one has to be locked into it. Everyone has the chance to find their own happiness. But we take our freedom for granted. We continue to bemoan our fate. Nowadays, we have dating apps and websites, along with traditional ways to meet people. We can take care of ourselves, and choose the right person for us, instead of just taking whoever happens to come along. The divorced sometimes wrestle with feeling like damaged goods. But it’s not true. In fact, once the pain is gone, you will probably be better at relationships now than you ever were before. Unfortunately, single people are maligned in our society. It is as if there is something wrong with them. But in fact, a lot of amazing people choose to be single, or at least for certain periods. They know that only the right person is worth getting serious with. Here are some other reasons you should celebrate your new singlehood.

Ever need someone to watch the kids? Now you have an automatic, go-to babysitter. Granted it’s not ideal. But it is not a bad deal either, especially if you are trying to get your love life humming again. But don’t be the type of parent always pushing the kids off on your ex. Be sure to use your power wisely. Remember walking around and seeing what a mess your partner left? Now, if you are the neat and tidy type, I bet the place is all squared away. And look at how much space you have, and all that closet space. Even if you moved to a new place, it’s good to admit that there’s nobody else’s junk clogging up the place. That’s a huge plus, and a reason to go shopping. Stretch out on the bed. You don’t have to huddle in a corner anymore. Use as many covers as you want. No snoring is great, isn’t it? Was there an annoying habit your ex had like leaving the toilet seat up or forgetting to put the cap back on the toothpaste? You won’t have to deal with it, ever again. Was there a certain habit or hobby that your ex didn’t like? If so, now is the time to embrace it. When it comes to watching something on TV or ordering take out, you can watch or get whatever you want, without having to argue or negotiate with anyone. It won’t matter what episodes you’re ex has or hasn’t seen, they won’t be there, and this should make you smile.

For those who have been through a controlling relationship, know that you won’t have to explain yourself anymore. You don’t have to call, or check in. You can be treated like an adult and do your own thing, without feeling an overbearing force looming over you. For those who felt as though they were a parent to their ex-spouse, now you are free of this child, or the additional one. You can live in the world of adults again. Just make sure that the next time you are going through the selection process to date someone who is mature. The best part about being newly single is you don’t have to answer to anyone. You can do whatever you wish, when you want, how you want, and with who you want. Instead of looking back on what you have lost, look at all you have gained. There aren’t many times in life where you get a second chance or a blank slate. Take advantage of it, make plans, outline all the steps, and get to work on building the life you always dreamed of. Now no one is standing in your way anymore.

For more on advice for life on the other side of divorce read, Your Post-Divorce Compass Practical, Real-World Advice for the Newly Single by Michael R. Dunham.