Being Fully Present in Your Relationship

MINDFULNESS-RELATIONSHIPS

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.

Avoid these Bad Mental Habits after a Breakup

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Avoid these Bad Mental Habits after a Breakup

There are those relationships that you are relieved are over, even if it took a year to finally get rid of them. Then there are those that rip a hole in your chest and mash your heart into guacamole. Nothing is more painful. A recent study using brain imaging had participants who had recently broken up with someone look at a picture of their ex while hooked up to an FMRI. They found that the parts of the brain that lit up fit the pattern of enduring physical pain. So a breakup literally hurts. Trouble is, when we endure physical pain it goes away relatively quickly. Depending upon the relationship, you and the circumstances, you could endure the pain of heartbreak for weeks, even months. One reason that heartache lingers so is that people fall into certain psychological habits that inhibit healing rather than lessening the pain. Unfortunately, feelings of anger, sadness, rejection and loneliness can be compounded by impulses that feel perfectly natural to indulge. We often consider negative habits we have in our diet, when we exercise, sleep and other physical aspects. But we avoid or disregard poor mental habits that can shackle us to anguish rather than liberating our hearts from pain. Here are some bad mental habits to avoid after a breakup.

A lot of us sub-vocalize negative thoughts or feelings. Inside our head we repeat to ourselves our inadequacies, play over and over mistakes we made, hurtful names or phrases we or our former lover uttered and more. This constant rerunning of negative thoughts may be particularly poignant after feeling rejected or if the relationship ended through some fault of our own. When the ego is bruised and one’s self-esteem has taken a blow, such self-talk will make things worse. Instead, catch yourself when you get into this pattern and replace negative phrases for positive ones. Show yourself some compassion. Think of yourself as a friend trying to get someone through this. What would you do? What would you say? How can you put things in perspective? Brooding over mistakes you’ve made can lead to the same result. Contemplating them and learning from them in an emotionally unattached manner is one thing. But dwelling and obsessing over them is like tearing out your stitches after heart surgery. Isolate those instances where you blundered, learn from them and move on, or else you will be hindering instead of facilitating your own emotional recovery.

Don’t throw yourself into dating if your heart is still aching and you are pining away for your former love. But if you just feel too vulnerable or just scared, you may be missing an opportunity to move healing along, and a way to repair your ego and boost your self-esteem. A couple of months without dating is okay. Six months to a year is a little obsessive. Some people even benefit from a rebound relationship, while others don’t. Find what’s right for you but don’t be too cautious with your heart or you may lose out on a chance at finding love or rebuilding your self-image. Some people cut off everyone, stop taking part in activities they enjoy and wallow in self-pity. Instead, connect and reconnect with hobbies, friends, family members and more. Sure, the first few days you may want to sit on the couch and watch comedies, polish off a crate of sinful snacks and curse the happy couples of the world. But afterward, isolation and keeping yourself from the things you love will only make it worse. Lastly, remember the point is to get over the person and move on with your life. Don’t keep them in your newsfeed on your social media pages. Get rid of all the mementos or put them in a box in the closet or the trash. The fewer reminders you have around the quicker your recovery will be. For more on embracing positive mental habits and avoiding negative ones after heartache read, Emotional First Aid: Healing Rejection, Guilt, Failure, and Other Everyday Hurts by Guy Winch, Ph.D.

Ending a Manipulative or Controlling Relationship

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Ending a Manipulative or Controlling Relationship

If you somehow found yourself in a manipulative or controlling relationship, it may seem impossible to end it. Though it can be difficult, it can certainly be done. You may feel guilty, somewhat responsible, wondering if they can make it without you, or visa-versa. But that’s just the manipulation talking. How can you be happy, fulfilled and truly free with this person in your life controlling you? You need to prepare, go through with it and move on with your life.

First, realize that you are being controlled. Has the person had terrible outbursts followed by how much they want and need you? Did you try to leave before and they threatened you, or even threatened suicide? Have they slowly wormed their way into every aspect of your life? Do they put you down in front of others? Are they extremely jealous? Write down a list of all the controlling and manipulative things they have done, or are doing. Keep this list and refer back to it when you feel your resolve wavering. Remember all the reasons you want it to end, and then make arrangements. Are you two living together? Make arrangements to move elsewhere. Do so quietly. Plan what you are going to say. Make it short, sweet and to the point. Let them talk but don’t let them drone on. And don’t let them charm, or cajole or convince you to stay. Don’t budge. Remember your list and don’t back pedal, keep moving ahead.

It may help to end the relationship in your mind first. Pretend you are confronting the person and say all the things you wish you could say, if they weren’t so manipulative. Remember the good times and the bad. Reflect, but realize it’s better this way. You’ll never be able to live your life with them controlling and manipulating you. Think of yourself as single. Be firm. And once you drop the hammer, don’t contact them. Erase them from your phone. Block their email. Unfriend them on Facebook and other social media sites. Keep away from them. Don’t give them a chance to explain. How many chances have you given them? Do not tell them where you are going or where you’ll be living. If you see that person, just walk away from them. Do not give them a chance to chat or explain things further. They are only looking for an in to suck you in. Realize that they are a charmer and have the ability to manipulate you, and resist them.

If there is something you absolutely need to contact this person for, do so through a mutual friend, or have your friend contact them and pick up the item. If it has to be you, pick it up in a public place. Take the item. Thank them and get out of there. Give them short yes and no answers. Be cold. Don’t give in to any of their advances. Spend some time with your friends, relatives and other loved ones. Get busy with work, school or whatever you are doing. Love yourself. And recognize how much better life is without someone manipulating you. For more advice read, In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George K. Simon, Jr., Ph.D.

Don’t Let Rumination Ruin your Relationship

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Don’t Let Rumination Ruin your Relationship

Ruminating is thinking about something from every angle, replaying mistakes over and over in your head and obsessing or over-thinking about important aspects of your life, such as your relationship or career. Obsessive behavior is often born out of rumination. Studies reveal that constant rumination can have negative side effects such as depression, anxiety, binge-eating, alcohol and substance abuse and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What happens with rumination is that you get caught up in these negatives thoughts and they consume you. The more you think about them the more you get stuck in their pull and it becomes a viscous cycle.

Professor at Yale University Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, Ph.D, a psychologist says of this phenomenon, “when people ruminate while they are in depressed mood, they remember more negative things that happened to them in the past, they interpret situations in their current lives more negatively, and they are more hopeless about the future.” Rumination pulverizes our problem-solving skills by making us feel helpless, and that it is all just a waste of time. You become so obsessed with the problem and how it makes you feel that you cannot make any plans for actually solving the problem.

What’s more, when a problem looks hopeless, all the people around you become tired of your negativity sooner or later. Says Nolen-Hoeksema, “When people ruminate for an extended time, their family members and friends become frustrated and may pull away their support.” So why do people ruminate if it can be so destructive to personal and romantic relationships? Some people are just overloaded with stress in their lives. Nolen-Hoeksema adds that, “Some people prone to ruminate have basic problems pushing things out of consciousness once they get there.”

According to the professor, women are more apt to ruminate than men. So how do you reduce the problem? First, do things that make you feel positive. Volunteer. Get some exercise. Take part in your favorite hobby or past-time. According to Nolen-Hoeksema, “The main thing is to get your mind off your ruminations for a time so they die out and don’t have a grip on your mind.” Next, empower yourself. Instead of wallowing in the thought that there is nothing you can do, make plans on how to conquer your problem or fear and follow through with those plans. Finally, replace rumination with positive self-reflection. The difference? Focus on the things you can change, the positive things you can do to make your situation better. Don’t let rumination ruin your relationship. To read more pick up a copy of, Women Who Think Too Much: How to Break Free of Overthinking and Reclaim Your Life by Susan Nolen-Hoeksema.

Having a Guy Friend Helps after a Split

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Having a Guy Friend Helps after a Split

What’s more painful than a breakup? Few things in life fit that description and it’s usually when you’re eyeing a casket or a terrible diagnosis. It happens more than once to most of us. Some aren’t as painful as others. There are lots that seem like a relief. Still when you’re a female there are things that can help you get over a breakup. Not just wine or a pint of Ben& Jerry’s. Having friends and family around can help a lot. What’s really helpful is having a guy friend around after a split.

Sure lots of girls want to verbally bash men. When you’re with your girlfriends go ahead and do that to your heart’s content. At least you can get all those negative emotions out of you, and feel validated when your friends do the same. But this ‘all men are pigs’ attitude may seep in.  It can then hurt your relationship with the opposite sex and when you’re ready, it may even set your dating life back. No guy wants to go out on a date with a woman who is closed and highly suspicious of him, particularly if she’s only suspicious due to his sex. What is she doing there to begin with? This closed attitude may then inhibit the next stage of your love life. Also, women are more emotional. But after the initial grieving phase, how many times can you watch the same romantic sappy comedy? How many times can you hear about the one who stole your friend’s heart and got away?

The benefit of having a male friend around is different. First, he reminds you that all hope is not lost. There are good guys out there, guys that are worth dating and being with. In the short term this thought may not be as comforting as calling all men dogs. But in the long run it will be much healthier for your psyche. The next benefit is that he isn’t interested in having a pity party. After a while your girlfriends may not either. In fact, they’ll sidle away and make excuses. Instead, he’s going to march into your room, give you a sadder story, then rip you from your cold den of solitude and make you go out, to the movies, a great restaurant, a club for a night of dancing, a bar, pool, darts and laughs or something else to forget your troubles. He’ll turn the tables on you instead of letting you wallow in misery. You’ll be able to leave that stage behind you and finally progress into the woman you are meant to be; a strong, self-loving independent woman who is ready for the next adventure of her life.

Some women, those who generally can separate sex and love, also have a little tryst with a cute male friend that they don’t want to have a long term relationship with. It validates them and helps boost self-esteem. But don’t do it if it’s a mistake, or either of you have feelings the other doesn’t reflect back. Otherwise, make sure to interact with your male friends during a breakup, too. It will help tremendously. For more advice read, The Single Woman’s Sassy Survival Guide: Letting Go & Moving On by Mandy Hale.