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.

Marry for the Right Reasons

Marry for the Right Reasons

Lots of girls fantasize about their wedding day where she will look gorgeous, and take the princely man of her dreams as his lawfully wedded wife. It is a spectacular event mimicking the fairy tales of childhood. The wedding industry perpetuates this myth and is rewarded handsomely for doing so. Whether it is a deeply fulfilling, edifying experience or not after the honeymoon is over, and moving forward into life depends upon a lot of things. If it is a marriage of two well developed, sound, and self-actualized equals, the marriage while still needing lots of work, and tender, loving care, but will be by and large a happy one. Trouble is lots of women and men too marry for the wrong reasons. This is where things get into trouble. Because whatever one person’s problems are, instead of being muted by the marriage, it is amplified by it. Each person’s problems affect the other, and is reflected back on one another, affecting the relationship as a whole. Marriage unfortunately is never a solution to problems. It only makes them worse. It is like those people who to try and solve the problems of a relationship by having a child, never thinking that the extra stresses that child brings could only make things worse. So make sure you marry for the right reasons, and avoid a painful divorce. Here are some reasons not to get married.

Some people marry to escape a bad situation at home. They have abusive or neglectful parents. Perhaps their closest family members ignore or criticize them. Though flight may be a solution, throwing one’s self into a marriage will only compound your issues. In this scenario their selection process may not be so well honed. They are thinking of the situation they are escaping, instead of carefully vetting their partner to see if this person is who they want to spend the rest of their life with. Some people get married because it just seems like the next logical step. Maybe they were high school sweethearts, and have a long history together. Their parents get along. They have a good group of friends, and everyone seems to be expecting them to tie the knot. But when we enter our twenties, we start to mature quite a bit. Those who marry so young often feel cheated, like they missed out on some great experiences in life. The two may also grow apart. Sometimes these relationships last. But usually, each person ends up going in their own separate direction. If you are young, wait and if it is right, go for it. But even with older people, if you do not in your heart feel that marriage is right, and are doing it just because it is expected, you may not give the marriage your all. Your partner will feel it, and so will you. And this will taint the relationship.

You should never get married to fix your soon-to-be spouse. If one person’s says he or she cannot live without the other, will even kill themselves if the other leaves, marriage is only going to make this situation worse. You cannot fix anyone and you cannot save anyone. The only person who can truly save someone is themselves. They have to come to the realization that their path is wrong and they need help. Unless you are a certified psychologist, though you may be savvy with people, begin to realize that this is beyond your scope. When we get married, we more or less take on the emotional baggage and psychological trauma the other has faced, and this is reciprocal. This situation is draining when one has serious issues to address. The saver spends all their time on the savee, who becomes a suck on their energy, and their life. No one in this situation can develop as a person, and the martyr gets stunted as a result. Both people will end up resenting one another and the marriage implodes.

Lastly, do not get married just to have company and avoid being alone. These are the folks that always had someone. But later in life when the demands of career, perhaps children, and a lack of meeting someone new put them through a dry spell. They fear going home to an empty apartment, and the approach of the weekend fills them with dread. But this is roulette. This person is likely to marry the first lover who shows any interest. They may be compatible. Or they may end up being toxic to one another. When one has issues with abandonment, familial issues, obsessive guilt, or moves from outward expectation instead of inward motivation, a marriage is shaky from the beginning. Become someone who is comfortable in their own skin, and find a partner you love but are also compatible with, and your marriage, while it will have its ups and downs, will be a happy one built to last. Otherwise there is painful litigation, the splitting up of assets, child custody battles, and a lot of emotional turmoil to look forward to. Understand that the person you choose to marry can uplift you to the firmament, or send you crashing down into the abyss. Choose wisely.

For more pick up a copy of, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary D Chapman.


Should you stay in a Relationship that is Just Comfortable?

too comfortable

Should you stay in a Relationship that is Just Comfortable?

Many of us have been there. You love someone but you aren’t in love with them. The relationship is very comfortable. There may be places where you don’t see eye-to-eye. But by and large, you have fun together, run a good household or just enjoy each other’s company. The person is perhaps a good choice for a mate. They are stable and kind. But that euphoric, weak-in-the-knees feeling has left the building. So should you stay in a relationship that is just comfortable but doesn’t give you fireworks or butterflies? There are really two schools of thought on this. The first is a very practical view. That is, stay with your partner. The reason, there are relationships and even marriages who do have that spark. Also, the candle that burns twice as bright often lasts half as long. Then a terrible breakup occurs and you are left all alone. The other scenario is one waits around forever. Instead of having the loving experiences available, one waits alone for a proposition which may never come. Why not, as the song says, love the one you’re with?

Sometimes these relationships that are comfortable used to have novelty. Kids, careers and a pileup of years have made them too comfortable. Here experts say the spark can be rekindled. One way to do so is to share novel experiences together. Travel to exotic lands, take part in exciting activities like sky diving and bungee jumping, learn a new skill together such as cooking or swing dancing or interact through a new sport such as karate or kayaking. These can reignite the spark. Another way is through reminiscing. Some relationship experts say merely having a date night can do it. This will inject some romance—you know interacting as a couple again instead of the person who takes care of a list of household duties. Then there are those who use their sexual interests to jumpstart their relationship. They may start to talk about and fulfill each person’s deep seeded fantasies, the ones they never spoke to another soul about. Some couples explore tantric sex or BDSM together to reignite that spark.

But then there is another school of thought, held by the fiercely independent who are not afraid of making it on their own. This type is perfectly happy by themselves. They won’t accept anything less than earth shattering love. If they work at it and can’t get it from their relationship then they end it, sooner or later. If the person they are dating doesn’t provide this feeling than they’d rather not be dating them. This type is generally focused on an important passion, mission, artistic pursuit, their children or career. They say if you really aren’t in love then you are just going through the motions, or else settling for a paltry mediocrity. Which interpretation is the right one? That all depends on the kind of person you are. If you are fiercely independent why not go for the love that will fill the space in your heart? See if you can reignite it with your current lover before you do something drastic. But if they cannot fulfill you why stay with them? Those who are a bit more practical and believe their relationship suits their needs should instead try and find ways to rekindle the flames. For more on this read the book, Keeping the Love You Find by Harville Hendrix.

Being Fully Present in Your Relationship


Being Fully Present in Your Relationship

When we get used to being with our partner we can sometimes take them for granted. We assume they’ll always be there. So we move on to our worries and stresses. We become so preoccupied with the kids or the challenges in our career that when we are eating dinner and trying to take part in meaningful dialogue, we aren’t even there. Then there is the constant distraction of our electronic devices that although convenient also become an obstacle to chitchat, discussion and intimate conversation. After a while without meaningful interaction we start to feel like roommates with our partner or spouse rather than lovers. The day-in, day-out decisions of running the household, parenting and paying the bills become the focus, and otherwise each person lives in their own separate bubble. When it comes time to interact, give your partner your undivided attention. When we aren’t fully present we aren’t showing them the love and respect they deserve. Instead, we are neglectful, albeit not on purpose. But the message we are inadvertently sending is that what is on my mind is more important than you. Misunderstandings arise when we don’t listen fully to our partner. This can lead to problems or even terrible fights. So how can we be more present with our partner?

First, make a conscious effort to focus on them and what they are saying. If there is something particularly important on your mind and you are distracted, tell them about it. Let them know how you feel and schedule another time to talk. Try and give them your undivided attention and expect the same in return. Make positive eye contact. Repeat back what they’ve said in your own words to show that you understand. When your partner or spouse seems distracted, don’t tell them or remind them of something. Wait until you have their full attention. If you are distracted and they told you something, don’t assume that they will remind you. It’s best to check with your partner in a positive manner whenever you are unsure. Regular running of the household exchanges are of course important. But they don’t help build intimacy. You two have to make time to talk on a deeper level. At the end of the day, we may be so exhausted that we just want to watch a couple of TV shows or surf the net, check our social media pages and go to bed. But that doesn’t bring you closer. Instead, clear out a little time each day to spend talking on a deeper level.  Not just, “How was your day?” But what really happened to you today? What were you thinking about? How did it make you feel?

Sometimes you have to leave the dishes in the sink or put off laundry and spend a little couple time together. Some experts say having more sex is the answer. But a recent study found that building intimacy is far more important. When miscommunication, unfulfilled expectations and misunderstandings occur they get in the way of real intimacy, and so not only block your connection but your ability to get physical. Hurt feelings get in the way. When we are fully present with our partner, the chances of miscommunication and misunderstandings are lower. Knowing what they expect will help meet or exceed expectations and vice-versa. Mindfulness is a touchstone nowadays. This is an ancient Buddhist practice that has become trendy lately in the West. This is the art of being fully present in the here and now and appreciating each moment in all its richness. If we could practice mindfulness in our relationships they would be so much more intimate. Couples would have a deeper sense of intimacy, better sex and superior communication too. To learn more pick up a copy of, The Mindful Couple: How Acceptance and Mindfulness Can Lead You to the Love You Want by Robyn D. Walser, Ph.D. and Darrah Westrup, Ph.D.

Silence is a Relationship Killer


Silence is a Relationship Killer

Sometimes when something is wrong in a relationship one or both people will practice bouts of prolonged silence. This isn’t a moment of reflection or a collecting of thoughts. This is a wall put up. It speaks to an absence of emotional and verbal intimacy. The truth is, prolonged silences propagated by a strong emotion is a relationship killer. It speaks to an intense feeling just below the surface. Bottling feelings up inside does not relieve them. They tend to build like steam building inside a furnace. Sooner or later it’s going to explode. And the results will be ugly.

It’s better to communicate directly. Take some time to sort out your thoughts. Ask your partner for a particular time when you are calmer to discuss the issue. Talking about the issue with your partner will actually make you feel better, not cause you to act out. Another problem with silence is that it is a form of control or coercion. We usually think about loud, yelling people as controlling and coercive. But silence does the job just as thoroughly. It can even be seen as a form of bullying. Even though they aren’t being physically hurt you are controlling them through your silence. Instead of talking to them, explaining to them and persuading them of your point of view, in a respectful manner, you are asking for obedience and apologies merely by clamming up.

Sometimes silence is used for a particular offense. The aggrieved party then plays a film out in their head with them as the lead role and their lover doing and saying everything they want to make it right. They wait for their beloved to say and do these very things. And when the lover has no idea what they want, they get very agitated. This isn’t fair. No one is a mind reader. And if you respect the person you are going out with, you need to open up and talk about what is troubling you. At other times silence can be a punishment. But the problem is that instead of making the relationship stronger it actually starts to tear it down. There is no avenue of communication. Anger, sadness and depression can set in in one or both parties.

The relationship can’t move forward until the silence is broken, either by one party opening up or the other apologizing, or kowtowing and promising to make it up. The first situation is desirable as it will get the problem solved, though it may have hurt the relationship, showing one person that the other is very high maintenance and doesn’t have good communication skills. In the second one, one party is dominating the other. Sooner or later the dominated party will feel that they are being abused and seek greener pastures. Neither speaks well to the relationship. So speak up. Communicate. And if you are with someone that uses silence against you, evaluate if you want to stay with them at all. For more advice read, Why Can’t You Read My Mind?-Overcoming the 9 Toxic Thought Patterns that Get In the Way of a Loving Relationship by Jeffrey Bernstein, Ph.D. and Susan Magee.