How to Give and Receive Feedback

In your romantic relationship, have you ever noticed these two things happen?

(1) You have lots of opinions about what each other says or does.

(2) You are able see things about one another that you aren’t able to see in yourselves.

This can lead to:

  • Feeling controlled or criticized because of your partner’s opinions about who you are and what you do
  • Thinking it is your “duty” or “right” to tell your beloved your opinions and perspective, even when they haven’t asked
  • Blaming your partner and their actions for your emotional state
  • Getting defensive when they give you feedback, especially about things you aren’t yet willing or able to see

In most romantic relationships, we are constantly giving and receiving feedback with one another. Without the right tools, this can create resentment and disconnect.

Lesbian couple talking

However, when feedback is offered and received with love, intention, and grace, it can be one of the most valuable aspects of partnership.

In this month’s blog, we go over the key tips for delivering feedback in a way your beloved will actually hear and receiving feedback in a way that allows you to deepen and grow.

Let’s start with giving feedback.

How do you know if it’s something to share with your beloved or just to keep to yourself?

Here are some general guidelines:

  • We want to always aim for that magical ratio of 20:1 positive to negative things we say to our beloved, a ratio backed by the wonderful research of Dr. John Gottman. One way to know if you should share it or not is to check in with yourself and assess if you’ve done a great job pointing out all of the good things first. This would include appreciating them, acknowledging all they are doing well (inside and outside the relationship), seeing their strengths, or saying anything kind.

    If you don’t have a good ratio, chances are, your beloved is going to feel exhausted by your constant feedback. However, if most of your feedback to them is positive, loving, and complimentary, they will be able to receive your constructive feedback much more readily.

  • Ask yourself if the feedback would actually help. Are you sharing it with them just to complain or punish them, or are you in a space where you can deliver the feedback in a helpful, healthy way?
  • Have you already tried delivering your feedback to them, and they didn’t receive it? If so, try a different delivery method — share your feedback at a different time of day, during a different kind of activity (ex: offer it when cuddling on the couch, rather than when rushing out the door in the morning), with a different tone, using a different communication method (ex: write them a heartfelt letter instead). Hold off on saying the feedback yet again until you can be strategic about using a different method and style of delivery.

  • Have you first checked in with yourself to see how you are negatively contributing to whatever it is? Ask yourself: “how am I playing a role in creating this?” Nearly every single challenge in relationships is co-created, and most people completely overlook their own role in it. We aren’t asking you to take 150% responsibility. However, you do want to take 100% responsibility (and nothing less) for any way you have played a role.

  • Remember to differentiate. It’s okay if your beloved wants to do something differently from what you think is best. Do not constantly share your unsolicited feedback with them. In many cases, if your beloved wants to do it their way, even if it’s less efficient or effective, let them do it their way. Choose your battles. Let them be different. Be more committed to being happy and close than being right.
When it’s time to deliver the feedback, here are a few quick tips.

Keep your own humanness in mind, and share it with them.
When giving feedback, it’s important that you don’t put yourself in a position where you are the one who has everything figured out, and they are the one with all the issues. That comes across as egotistical and condescending and is not helpful.

Couple talking

Share with them a mistake you’ve made too or things you personally are working on. This will help them feel less alone and more connected to you as their best friend and teammate. This tip is not always essential to explicitly do (i.e. you don’t always have to list off your mistakes or personal learning curve), but it is always important to come from this spirit of remembering you too are human and are always learning and growing as well.

Ask permission before giving them feedback.
This communicates that you respect them, it will allow them to get into a more receptive space before you deliver the feedback, and it will prevent them from feeling attacked.

Take yourself down from the authority pedestal.
Don’t treat your feedback as the ultimate truth. Offer your ideas and perspective as possibilities, invitations, and loving suggestions, and let your beloved be the ultimate authority of their health and happiness.

If they sense you are forcing your opinions, they will hold onto their way of doing things even more, just to prevent losing their individuality. Let your sweetheart be different. Honor their inner wisdom, and help them tap into it, rather than dominating their inner voice with your own.

Focus on the future, not the past.
Although there are some moments when focusing on the past is important, nobody wants to listen to a laundry list of the mistakes they’ve made or things they could have done better. If you ever go into the past, name these things with compassion and grace. However, we encourage you to primarily focus on what you’d love to be different in the future.

Couple talking over coffee

In fact, in many conversations, we recommend only focusing on the future, rather than on what has already happened. Use the prompt: “What I dream of is…” Use positive language to paint a picture of how you’d love things to be different next time.

When you focus on the unwanted behavior that already happened, you can easily (and unintentionally) reinforce it. However, if you focus on the behavior you would like to see more of (and say it in a warm and inviting way), you are giving your beloved an opportunity to succeed and are increasing the chances of things improving.

Give one piece of feedback at a time.
If you bring up all the ways you wish your beloved would improve, they are going to be flooded and overwhelmed. When you pick just one thing (and focus on the behavior, not the personality trait!), the chances of them receiving and implementing your feedback increase. Less is more.

Now, let’s share a few quick tips for how to best receive feedback.

Find the gem of wisdom in it.
We are passionate about having a learning-orientation to life. See how every experience, positive or challenging, holds opportunities for your learning and growth. Although your partner’s feedback will likely be colored by their own emotions, projections, judgments, personal needs, etc., chances are, there is a gem of wisdom inside of it for you to benefit from receiving.

Gay couple talking

Rather than rejecting your beloved’s feedback, graciously hear them, see the validity in what they are trying to convey, and get curious about what you can learn from it.

Even if you don’t see the golden nugget of truth right away, stick with it and keep reflecting. The more open you are to feedback, the more you will get to grow and improve in life.

Also, consider that the feedback you resist the most may actually be the feedback you most need to hear. 😉

Don’t take it all personally.
We want to balance out the above feedback by also suggesting you not instantly take all of your beloved’s feedback as the ultimate truth. It is indeed colored by their perspective and judgments (since we’re all human, we can’t ever avoid this completely!). We encourage you to get curious about it and see what truth there is to it. However, balance this out by also listening to your own heart and inner wisdom.

Let it fuel self-love, not your inner critic.
If you already have a harsh inner critic, you could use your beloved’s feedback as further reinforcement of the negative beliefs you have about yourself (ex: that you aren’t enough, that you are a failure, that you will never get it right, that you messed up, etc.). These may not at all be what your beloved is saying or wanting you to think or feel. And it’s definitely not how to receive it.

Instead, take yourself lightly. There are no failures in life — only feedback about what does and doesn’t work. Everything is here for our growth, and nothing is lost if we learn from it. Self-criticism paralyzes us, rather than improves us. Be gentle, compassionate, playful, forgiving, and kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to be human and get messy. It’s only our ego that fears mistakes. Our hearts have the wisdom to embrace our less-than-perfect selves, learn what we can, and move on.

See how your beloved makes sense.
Three of the most magical words in a relationship are “that makes sense.”

Cozy couple talking

There is a reason your beloved brought this up. Rather than resisting, defending, or rejecting simply validate your beloved. It’s way easier and more productive — for both of you.

Look for their unmet needs.
When you just get defensive about what your beloved has shared, you also miss out on hearing the underlying feelings they are trying to communicate. There is a good chance they are sharing feedback with you because their own needs aren’t getting met. Focus on a creative solution for how you can work together to get both of your needs met.

See their good intentions in sharing this feedback with you.
Lastly, your beloved likely shared this feedback with you because they care about you and want the best for your life together. See them for their good intentions, and communicate these to them. As always, when we see the best, we get the best — in others, ourselves, and in life.


We hope there were some useful nuggets here to help you receive the invaluable wisdom within you both and to balance out what you share and what you keep to yourself.

In relationships, it is such a gift that we have an added perspective to learn from in any situation. May you approach each other’s feedback with curious and open hearts, and allow your partnership to catalyze your greatest growth into your very best selves!

As always, if we can support you in any way, we are totally here for you!

If you feel overwhelmed, flooded, and resentful about the amount of feedback your beloved seems to always be giving you, or if you feel frustrated because your beloved isn’t receiving the feedback you are trying to share, in just one session, we’re confident we can help you have a big breakthrough. Learn more about our counseling and coaching (available anywhere in the world), or check out our upcoming Thrive in Love retreats where we dive deep into all of these things and help you connect and communicate in radically new ways that actually work (coming up in Oregon, Chicagoland, and Bloomington, IN).

May your love continue to blossom into the best version of who you can be together!

Sending you all our love and blessings always!

Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret

 

PS: Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!

The 1st Place to Look When Relationship Challenges Arise

A couple of weeks ago, we led our signature Thrive in Love retreat, which is always one of our very favorite weekends of the year. On the first morning, we love to dispel some outdated relationship myths and guide people into embracing a new relationship paradigm — one of thriving love.

At one point, Bret said to everyone: “Many people think relationships are a lot of work. But the truth is: you’re a lot of work.” 😉

He said this with some playfulness and lightness, but it is a very true statement.

When we are in a romantic relationship, there is no place for the scared, confused, ashamed, egotistical, wounded, messy, and less-than-perfect areas within us to hide. They all come to the surface for us to, ideally, love, heal, and transform. However, if they are not addressed consciously, they can show up in unhealthy ways.

Unhappy Couple

Unfortunately for our partner, when this happens, the less evolved parts of ourselves get projected onto them so that they look like the one with all the issues…

“My partner doesn’t help out.”
“He’s always checked out.”
“She isn’t affectionate.”
“He doesn’t listen to me.”
“She’s so controlling.”
…and on and on…

However, any time we hear people complain about their partners, it is almost always an indication that they have areas within themselves to grow.

We are not suggesting that your beloved has no role in whatever is happening and in the areas of frustration for you. In fact, we are nearly certain they do! 🙂 However, most of the time, we find that the frustrated partner is contributing to whatever the issue is — and they simply have blind spots when it comes to their ability to see their own role in it.

Personal Growth

Determining exactly how much responsibility is yours and how much is your beloved’s isn’t always straightforward. However, what we know is this: most people spend way too much time blaming their partner and way too little time changing themselves and their approach.

What we lovingly and gently suggest to every adult in a relationship: assume that you have a significant role in whatever is happening before you assume it’s all your partner (and before you justify your own less-than-ideal actions by saying, “yea, but I only do this because they…”).

Instead, take radical responsibility for your role in creating any situation in your adult life. Of course, things absolutely happen that are outside of our control. However, whenever we’re not happy with something in our lives, our relationship and partner can become the easiest scapegoat.

Couple thinking

The more we approach life from the perspective of taking responsibility and seeing our own role in both every challenging and beautiful thing in our lives, the freer, happier, and more empowered we can be — because we realize we get to actively CREATE the kind of relationship and life we really want.

Here are some examples of ways you can do this…

Blame: My partner isn’t listening to me.
Instead: I wonder how I can speak in a way that makes it easier for them to hear me.

Blame: My partner is checked out.
Instead: I wonder how I’ve made it unappealing to want to be close to me and what I can do to make coming closer and spending more time a more positive experience.

Blame: They are so critical and negative.
Instead: Rather than getting defensive or taking it personally, I wonder how I can better hear and see what they are really upset about and more effectively support them with that.

Blame: My partner doesn’t do what they say they’re going to do.
Instead: I wonder how I can help us co-create better agreements that work well for both of us.

Blame: I’m mad at them for…
Instead: I’m mad (or sad, stressed, scared, etc.) and am focusing my anger on them. I wonder what I’m really upset about underneath this.

Blame: You are the reason for my unhappiness.
Instead: I wonder how I can create healthier habits and a better mindset in my personal life to cultivate more inner happiness.

Blame: How could they treat me like this?
Instead: How am I setting it up so this is happening?

Blame: My partner doesn’t openly communicate with me.
Instead: I wonder how I can create a safer and more inviting space for them to share their perspective and authentic feelings.

There are countless ways you can create this shift from blaming your beloved (whether it’s about household chores, sex, how they parent your kids, finances, or how they communicate) to looking within — where the true growth opportunities are.

Again, we’re not suggesting it is all your fault, and in no way do we want you to beat yourself up or feel guilty. We just want to lovingly invite you to always make your first stop this: look at what YOU could do differently to get different results.

Couple talking in grass

Remember — the health of any relationship is only as healthy as the two are individually. This means, when we enter into a relationship, we have a responsibility to always be growing and evolving ourselves — because however we don’t will negatively impact our partner and the relationship, and however we do positively affects both.

If there is anything we can do to help you make the right positive changes that will get you different and amazing results — in your life and in your love, know that we are here for you with open hearts, clear and easy guidance, and tons of compassion. We warmly welcome you to learn more about our counseling and coaching HERE or sign up for a free 20-minute consultation HERE. We also enthusiastically recommend saving the date for our next couple’s retreat, happening Valentine’s weekend, February 16-17! Registration is open, and we’ve sold out the past few years >> CenterThrive.com/courses

Have a beautiful autumnal season! May it be filled with positive growth that benefits you in every possible way!
Christine and Bret

 

PS: Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Be sure to sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!

4 Ways to Grow Your Emotional Intelligence in Relationships

You may have heard the expression: you are rarely upset for the reason you think you are. While this is wonderful and wise guidance, it only works if you have the emotional intelligence that is necessary in order to uncover the various layers of what you are really upset about — and why.

Emotional Intelligence

This common disconnect from our true emotions happens for a variety of reasons. In fact, very few people are ever taught how to access and express their most authentic emotions in healthy ways.

Instead, you probably grew up in a house where:

– there were certain feelings you weren’t “allowed” to have or that were perceived as wrong, bad, or weak (such as anger, embarrassment, or sadness)
– you lacked role models who identified their more vulnerable feelings and expressed them with an open heart
– you witnessed your caregivers unhealthily manage their emotions by burying them, stuffing them with food, avoiding them with alcohol, taking them out on others, etc.

Knowing the full extent of what you are actually feeling in any given moment is not an awareness that most people possess. In fact, the majority of adults are disconnected from their inner landscape and emotional world.

self reflection

Even if you identify as an “emotional” person, it doesn’t mean you are connected to your feelings and what they are communicating. Instead, you likely feel overwhelmed with emotion and then get in your head about it.

Cultivating your emotional intelligence is essential in relationships so that you:

– can avoid misdirecting your emotions at each other
– don’t waste time and energy arguing about the surface issue
– communicate your emotions in a way that prevents defensiveness and promotes empathy instead

When your emotional intelligence is strong and you can readily identify what’s really going on underneath the surface, it creates:

– greater closeness and emotional intimacy between you
– a deeper connection to your own inner wisdom
– a much easier time talking about what’s really going on (i.e. it’s never just about the dishes or sex or co-parenting or whatever you think!)

In this month’s blog, we teach you four keys to building your emotional intelligence and uncovering what’s really going on underneath whatever you are upset about.

Here they are…

(1) Get to know your emotional jackets.

Several years ago, we attended training by relationship pioneers Gay and Katie Hendricks. They taught us a term we love: “emotional jackets.” These are the emotions we wear on the surface that may be easier to feel or express.

emotional jacket

Underneath the emotional jacket, however, there are some less obvious emotions. For example, underneath the jacket of anger may actually be fear. And, underneath fear, might actually be guilt.

Once we take our emotional jackets off and express the more vulnerable feelings, we are able to recognize what’s really going on for us.

For example, you may tell your beloved, “I’m mad at you for…” When you take that emotional jacket off, you discover that you are actually just scared (i.e. “I’m scared we’re not in this together or that I’m a failure or that I made a mistake.”). You also realize you feel guilty about not being a better mom and are angry because of your unhealthy habits.

The above is just an example, and emotional jackets show up in a countless variety of ways.

emotional jacket

The key is: whenever you feel an emotion, start getting curious about what might be underneath that “jacket.” What are you really feeling upset, scared, ashamed, worried, guilty, embarrassed, insecure, etc. about?

When we guide couples to share the more vulnerable emotions that are underneath how they typically react, their partner naturally shifts from being defensive to more empathetic, openhearted, and understanding.

It takes practice, but this gets easier and easier! Next time you are upset with your beloved, before expressing it or criticizing them for something, take a moment to be with yourself. Is there anything else you feel underneath the more obvious emotion?

(2) Expand your emotional vocabulary.

In order to identify your emotions, you need words for them. Although the basics (ex: mad, sad, happy, scared, nervous, excited) are valuable, expanding your vocabulary of feelings-words will fine tune your ability to accurately identify the subtleties.

In our office, we regularly give our clients a list of feelings. When we do, they go from naming just one or two feelings before receiving the handout to identifying 10 or more after receiving the handout! The more you expand your emotional vocabulary, the more precise you can be.

To get started with this, we encourage you to take a peek at the feelings list provided by the Center for Nonviolent Communication below…

Feelings when needs are met

Feelings when needs are not met

(3) Scan your body.

There is a whole field of “body intelligence” emerging because we’re realizing just how profoundly our bodies reflect what we’re feeling and thinking. For example, when you are nervous or stressed about something, you probably feel jitters in your stomach or heaviness in your chest.

The same is true for everything you feel emotionally — it has a corresponding response in your body. Therefore, when you stay tuned into what’s going on in your body, you are able to keep a close pulse on your emotions.

Every morning, I (Christine) have an individual practice where I do a body scan. I sit in our meditation room my with eyes closed and scan my body from head to toe — simply with my awareness — and I listen to what my emotions and body are trying to communicate to me and to what they need from me. This simple practice of mindfulness allows me to get quiet enough to listen to and tend to my inner world.

meditation - step 3

In the busyness and fullness of life, most people are quite disconnected from themselves. We don’t process what we are feeling, or we get in our heads and overthink it.

Instead, when we take a moment to actually be with ourselves, it prevents us from unconsciously leaking out our emotions and from them coming out sideways in our relationships. Plus, it allows us to befriend, rather than resist, our emotions. Every feeling we have, if we intentionally listen, is an invaluable guide towards helping us live a more peaceful and harmonious life.

We invite you to start a new practice:

(1) Scan your body from head to know with gentle awareness, curiosity, and mindfulness, simply taking note of whatever you feel, without clinging to or judging any of it.
(2) Think of what you can do to best support yourself with whatever you are feeling. Maybe it’s an action you need to take, or perhaps it’s just some comforting words you can say to yourself that you’ve been longing to hear.

(4) Uncover what you are really longing for.

In Human Needs Psychology, there is the basic understanding that everything we say or do is a strategy to get our needs met. When our needs are met, we feel good. When our needs aren’t met, we feel some sort of distress. In this way, your upsetting emotions are incredible symptoms that an underlying need isn’t being met.

When you actually identify the need underneath the emotion, it can be so grounding and clarifying. Below is a list of universal humans needs provided by the Center for Nonviolent Communication. This list is not comprehensive, but it gives you a wonderful starting point.

Needs

The closer we can get to the essence of what we are needing (ex: connection) rather than the drama of what we think we are upset about (ex: our partner being on their phone too much), it opens up much greater connection with both ourselves and one another.

Let’s give you an example of how this all looks.

OLD WAY OF DOING THINGS:

“You are always on your phone.” (said in a critical or harsh tone)

This above example makes your partner wrong (which will provoke defensiveness) and focuses too much on your partner and not enough on you and what you are feeling.

MORE EMOTIONALLY INTELLIGENT WAY OF RESPONDING:

“I feel scared we’re drifting, and I feel guilty that I’ve been letting it happen. I’m worried you might be questioning us too, and that terrifies me. I miss you. I feel this emptiness in my heart when there is distance between us. I love you so much. I long to feel closer to you again.”

The first scenario creates disconnect — from yourself and each other. On the contrary, the second version keeps you in your heart and allows you to better speak to theirs. It also allows you to address the real issue (and opportunity!) that lies underneath.

couple mediating together

Next time you feel upset, we invite you to pause and get curious about what you are longing for more of in your life. Rather than attacking, blaming, or judging your beloved, speak to your own longings and needs and about how you can, together, discover a wonderful new solution for getting them met.


We hope these 4 tips for cultivating your emotional intelligence are helpful! Rest assured, you absolutely have what it takes to be better aware of your emotions and to manage them in a way that allows you to come to your relationship more centered, grounded, and at peace.

Want to know another fabulous way to stay on track with personal development?! Our Thrive in Love couples retreat is approaching on September 29-30. The retreat is nearly full, but we still have space if you are looking for an incredible way to get maximum and life-changing value out of two transformational days. People who experience inner peace and self awareness don’t simply come to it out of luck. They intentionally nurture this part of themselves– and you can too. This upcoming retreat is a POWERFUL place to start, and you will learn so many tools and insights to prevent unnecessary stress and deepen love, connection, and happiness instead.

We hope to see you soon and send an abundance of love and blessings, today and always!
Christine and Bret

 

PS: Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Be sure to sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!

Guiding Communication Principles For Every Interaction (Printable Poster!)

As we grow our dream team here at the Center for Thriving Relationships, it is so important to us that we always give our clients and community the most loving, supportive, and positive experience possible, and so, in preparation for the changes that are coming, we wrote up some communication guidelines to keep us all in sync with the values and vision of what we hold dear around here.

Heart Colored Glasses

Everyone we’ve shown these guidelines to has loved them (many begged us for a copy), so we wanted to be sure to share them with all of you! They will help you communicate in your daily interactions with a lot more love, kindness, and joy. May they be of service to you!

GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR EVERY INTERACTION
  • Take the extra moment to transform an interaction from the mundane (purely logistical) into the magical (warmth, well wishes, uplifting support, and positive energy), so their day gets sprinkled with some love.
  • Acknowledge and praise people for what they are doing well and right.
  • Point out others’ beauty, goodness, and gifts to them. People forget who they really are.
  • Handle people with gentleness and compassion. Seek understanding, rather than assumptions or judgments. Remember there is so much going on underneath what anyone says or does, and they are struggling in ways we don’t see.
  • Hold everything in complete confidentiality as if it is sacred. It is.
  • Help people feel heard and supported by offering them empathy before advice or feedback.
  • Delight in finding creative solutions to whatever challenges arise.
  • Express gratitude abundantly. Say thank you at least once (aim for more!) in every encounter.
  • Drop into their heart with your open heart.
  • Be fully present with whatever they are needing, feeling, and experiencing.
  • When someone shares positive news, take a moment to really celebrate with them!
  • See the strengths and good intentions on the flip-side of any personality or request you find challenging.
  • Remember your own humanness and imperfections so you can have grace with the humanness and imperfections of others.
  • When someone offers negative feedback, rather than taking it personally or getting defensive, find the nugget of gold to learn and grow. Value the unique wisdom and perspectives inside of everyone. Be humble and teachable.
  • Take some deep breaths to come back into your heart and realign with the energy of love and joy as many times as necessary.

Know that YOU are loved and appreciated. Have fun sprinkling kindness in the world and connecting with other precious humans from your own gorgeous heart.

——

Be sure to click HERE to get the printable poster you can hang up for easy reminders (it’s colorful and fun too)!

Guiding Principles

If you put these into practice, we know everyone you interact with will feel more supported, uplifted, and connected — thank you for spreading the love!

Have a fabulous rest of your summer, and let us know anything we can possibly do to support you in creating the kind of love you’ve always wanted. We’re here for you with all our hearts!

Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret

 

PS: Be sure to talk to your beloved right away about joining to take your love to a whole new level at our next Thrive in Love couples retreat.

Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Be sure to sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!

3 Things You Do to Help That Are Actually Causing Harm (+ you do not even realize it)

When it comes to communication, there are some obviously unhelpful and unattractive patterns — like being critical, blaming, getting defensive, thinking you know it all, or talking over or interrupting the person who is speaking.

However, there are 3 common communication blunders that many people are less aware of — but that can equally do harm in relationships. We want to be sure you don’t mistakenly fall into these traps.

Couple Talking

This blog is highly relevant for relationships that extend beyond just your romantic partner — your friends, kids, colleagues, you name it!

In this month’s blog, you will get to discover what they are and some alternatives that will make you a communication superstar! The people in your life will be very grateful. 😉

Here are the 3 things you may be doing to help that are actually causing harm…

(1) Relating what the other person said back to yourself

When someone else is sharing about either a joy or challenge in their lives, do you instantly relate it back to your own life and start giving them an example of something you experienced?

You probably do this innocently, wanting to relate or help them feel less alone in their situation. However, in reality, it steals the attention away from the person who was sharing about their lives and brings the attention onto you.

It can be deflating and disconnecting for the other person when you do this.

It can also feel invalidating when you assume you know exactly how they feel because you went through X. You see an obvious connection, but they may not.

Relating to self

You can perhaps do some relating in your own head only if it helps you cultivate empathy for someone — but they key is in your own head. Actually verbalizing your own experience right after they’ve spoken can quickly change the flavor of a conversation and make it about YOU, instead of them (despite your good intentions).

It can also become stressful when someone feels like they need to compete with you for air time, rather than feeling like they have ample space and time to share and simply be heard.

This isn’t to say that you should never share your own related story. In fact, at the right time and in the right way, it can be bonding and comforting. However, timing and tact with this is so essential and oftentimes overlooked.

Wait to share your related story only until after you’ve really taken time to be fully present with their heart, their feelings, and their experience. And choose wisely about whether or not to even share it — it can be a gift to just let them have this moment fully.

Again, don’t just assume you know exactly what someone else is feeling because you’ve gone through something similar. And you don’t necessarily need to tell them about it. Instead, stay engaged with their story, ask curious questions that help you better understand their unique experience, and simply keep a caring focus on whatever they are sharing.

(2) Jumping right into feedback, advice, and solutions

Being a troubleshooter and problem solver is a wonderful thing! However, so often what is actually most helpful is just to be heard. Not everyone shares something with you because they want your advice and take on it. Sometimes, we share things just to feel heard, to process and digest whatever we experienced, and to feel less alone in it.

The truth is, many times, we already have plenty of wisdom inside of us, and it can seem condescending when someone assumes we don’t already know what we should or could do differently.

Interrupting

Rather than diving in with all the ways you or they could fix it, spend more moments just being with them in their experience, feelings, and process.

Plus, it’s much more empowering when you see the person talking as the authority over what is best for them, rather than thinking you have the right solution for them.

Ask them if they’d like to hear your ideas. If they don’t, be okay with that. If they do, offer your advice simply as gentle possibilities, rather than from a know-it-all place. 😃

(3) Trying to cheer them up before you’ve validated where they are

Like the above, being positive and trying to cheer someone up can come with the best of intentions and be helpful in the right moment.

However, if you skip right over what someone is feeling and jump right into being bright and sunny, they are likely to feel alone in whatever they shared. And when we feel alone in a situation, our fear responses and defenses go up, and our hearts are less receptive to support.

If someone is feeling sad about something, and you want to help them make the leap to happiness, the best way to do it is to first BE WITH THEM in their sadness or disappointment (or whatever it is). Then, only after they have felt fully heard, should you even consider helping them shift into a more positive mindset.

Empathy

It’s transformative when someone goes there with us and acknowledges and empathizes with our feelings.

And know that this does not need to be elaborate. Simply take some moments to be present with someone’s feelings –where they are in that moment. It will relax and calm their nervous system exponentially, allow them to feel less alone, and make it much easier for them to step out of pain and into a lighter place.


INSTEAD OF THE ABOVE, TRY THIS >>

As coaches and counselors, if there is one thing we are hopefully good at — it’s deeply listening to people in a way that allows them to feel truly heard, acknowledged, and appreciated.

After spending thousands of hours in intimate conversations with individuals and couples, we can say with confidence that nearly every human on the planet longs for similar things.

Happy Couple

If you can respond to what someone else is saying with these communication superpowers (instead of the above), the people in your life will feel abundantly more connected to you, want to come closer to you, will have an easier time opening up, and will actually have a much easier time hearing you as well.

Ready for your superpowers?

When someone else shares about their lives…

– Wait until they are fully done talking before you jump in with anything.

– Validate whatever they are feeling and see how they make sense (we all make sense, and it’s up to YOU to get into their hearts and step into their shoes to better understand where they are coming from).

– Use prompts like “I can see how you would feel _______________.”

– Actually tell them “that makes sense.” It’s the best to feel like someone gets us.

– Really appreciate them and recognize them for the things they are doing well. Point out their strengths.

– Ask them thoughtful, caring questions to understand better and invite even more of their thoughts and feelings. These are very different from challenging questions you ask to try to get a certain response, such as “don’t you think life would be easier if you would just stop procrastinating?”

– Get excited with them about any good news they share. Really take it in, and be enthusiastic!

Learning how to effectively communicate doesn’t come naturally for most people. However, it is definitely something that can be learned!

When you develop amazing communication skills, every relationship in your life improves exponentially. In fact, if there is one skill worth having in life, communication is right at the top.

Couple Talking

If you would you love to move through conversations MUCH more easily with your beloved (and the other people in your life), we are fully here to help and are specialists when it comes to everything communication-related. We warmly welcome you to sign up for a FREE 20-minute consultation to learn more about our services HERE, to check out our counseling and coaching HERE (available anywhere in the world for both individuals and couples), and to learn more about our signature Thrive in Love retreat HERE (coming up this fall, and registration is open and filling)!

Our voices are all so important. While feeling unheard, dismissed, invalidated, and misunderstood are deeply painful and disconnecting, you are, instead, fully capable of helping people feel abundantly heard, seen, acknowledged, connected, uplifted, encouraged, affirmed, supported, and loved – what a priceless gift you can give!

Wishing you lots of ease-filled communication that opens the pathway between your heart and those around you – allowing even more love and joy to flow from you and to you!

Thanks so much for being on this amazing journey with us! Have a fabulous summer!

Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret

 

PS: Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Be sure to sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!

Want a super FUN way to grow your relationship?

A lot of our clients who come to us in a tough spot tell us that they put off nurturing their relationship because they just didn’t have the time.

It’s true. People are busier than ever. Our schedules are at maximum capacity, and our bandwidths are overloaded.

But here’s the deal: having a thriving relationship is actually so energy-giving, time-saving, and fun. Promise.

In fact, so many relationship challenges can fade away when we simply start putting in more of the good stuff, nurturing our love in positive ways, and tending to what’s called a “Love Account.”

More Fun

We are sure you’ve found this to be true. You bring up a challenge or frustration when you are already feeling disconnected — and it easily turns into an argument and disconnects you even more. And then it takes hours or days to recover.

On the contrary, when you are connected and bonded, little frustrations can be expressed and transformed in 30 seconds. Yes, the status of your Love Account makes that big of a difference.

So what exactly is a Love Account?

Imagine that, in every interaction with your beloved, you are either making a deposit or a withdrawal.

When your Love Account gets low, you take things personally, resentment builds, you feel disconnected, and something stressful can turn into a disaster.

Nearly every couple who comes to us for support suffers from a low Love Account.

Fill up your Love Account

If you have a large amount of savings in your Love Account, it leads to incredible resilience, deeper connection, mutual respect, a spirit of teamwork, romance, and a significantly easier time recovering from challenges.

So how do I keep my Love Account filled? Here are 3 key tips!

(1) Aim for a ratio of 20:1 positive to negative in your interactions.

Dr. John Gottman, leading researcher in the science of relationships, has found that, during positive times, you want a ratio of 20:1 positive to negative interactions. During stressful times, you still want a 5:1 ratio.

Why is it important for there to be that much more positive than negative?

Fill up your Love Account

All of us humans have what is called a “negativity bias.” This means that the painful moments, harsh comments, critical tone, etc. stick more quickly and deeply.

In fact, research done at Ohio State University shows that there is a greater surge in electrical activity in our brains when something negative occurs than when something positive does. Which makes sense — we are wired for survival, and our brains are always scanning for possible threats to keep us out of harm’s way.

Surely you’ve experienced this first hand. If three positive things happen in your day and one challenging one does, what do you find yourself thinking about at the end of the day? We tend to overlook a lot of the good and focus on the negative.

This means we have to always be filling our Love Account.

The great news is that filling up your Love Account can be fun – if you know how to effectively fill it up.

This leads us to #2.

(2) Become a master of the one-of-a-kind art of loving your partner.

Express Love

We all give and receive love differently, and it’s important to love and support your beloved in the ways THEY want to be loved and cared for, not in how YOU want to be loved. To do this, we recommend actually interviewing each other about how you love being loved.

Here are some possible questions to ask each other (be sure to take good notes!)…

What kinds of expressions (think compliments, appreciation, sweet texts, cards, apologies, praise, kind words, empathy, etc.) do you most love receiving?

What kinds of activities do you enjoy doing together and feel most loved when I engage in them with you?

What kinds of physical affection do you enjoy from me (hugs, holding hands, snuggling, back rubs, etc.)?

How can I best make you smile or laugh?

Is there a way I can help you feel more safe and secure in this relationship?

Is there a way I can help you feel more accepted, encouraged, and trusted?

What are your favorite kinds of gifts to receive?

Do you enjoy surprises? If so, what kinds?

Are there specific things I can help you with that would especially mean a lot?

How else could you feel really loved by me?


(3) Fill up your Love Account in small, medium, and large ways.

One trap we see couples fall into is waiting for a big vacation until they nurture themselves and each other. By the time it comes, they are starving for it. While this is completely understandable, and romantic getaways are important, we are huge advocates for nurturing your love every single day.

More Laughing

A thriving relationship truly is made up of all the small things, moment to moment.

For us, we’ve ritualized some small, medium, and large ways of filling our own Love Account. Every evening, we take a walk and are committed to it being positive and not about logistics. We also each share 5 things we appreciate about each other from the day. Every Friday night, we have a date night and love exploring new places together. And at least every couple of months, we unplug from our lives and travel somewhere fun.

If we just hope for some magical window of time to open up when we can be fully present and intentional, we could end up waiting a lifetime. However, when we ritualize connection, it helps guarantee that it will happen and becomes a wonderful part of our daily and weekly routine.

Talking

Plus, if the other people in your life (like your kids, colleagues, and friends) know to expect it, they will more readily adapt to it as well and support you in it.

We lovingly recommend having a conversation right away about some small (10-30 minutes every day), medium (1+ hour every week), and large (1+ day together every season) ways you can ensure that you nurture your connection and enjoy life together much more fully.

Make these rituals fun things you can look forward to — turn them into your soft landing place and where you go to be replenished and renewed!

 

Remember, if you are not currently tending to your relationship, chances are, things will start to deteriorate over time. But when you nurture your love and bring in more of the good stuff, a lot of the challenging stuff just naturally fades away! How cool is that?!

More Fun

It’s the BEST feeling to watch our clients reconnect and find themselves and each other again. If you are ready to stop taking withdrawals and start making more deposits and could use some extra support, we specialize in helping couples fill back up their Love Account and are here for you fully!

We warmly welcome you to sign up for a FREE 20-minute consultation to learn more about our services HERE, to check out our counseling and coaching HERE (available anywhere in the world for both individuals and couples), and to learn more about our signature Thrive in Love retreat HERE (coming up this fall, and registration is open and filling)!

Happy start to your summer! May you fill your days with so much kindness, love, and joy towards each other that there is no longer room for the things you truly don’t have time for — like arguing. 😉

Infinite Love and Joy,

Christine and Bret

 

 

PS: There is an amazing opportunity to fill up your Love Account at the Awakening Your Joy Potential retreat, led by Christine. Over the course of two days, you will do a complete positivity reset in your life, return to the person you love being, feel joy flowing through you again, reignite a sense of inspiration and hopefulness, and learn the scientifically-proven roadmap to create true and lasting joy — from the inside out. Learn more and register here (and there is a special buddy discount when you come together!) >> joypotential.com/retreat

Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Be sure to sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!

3 Ways Secrets Destroy Relationships

Secrets. We’ve all had them to varying degrees.

Something happens, and we feel embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, or afraid of what would happened if we told the truth.

Secrets show up in many different ways and in every area of life. That extra money you spent. The mistake you made and tried to hide. The food you snuck. The person you found attractive. Your sexual fantasies. Your fears about the relationship. The amount of alcohol you drank. The deadline you missed. What you said to your kids when nobody else was around.

We get scared. We avoid confrontation and other people’s judgments or disapproval. We wonder if it’s the most loving thing just to hold it inside. We justify our dishonesty. We even start lying to ourselves.

We get confused about what to share and what to hold inside.

Secrets

Secrets come up a lot in our office, and we see the damage they do. That’s why we’re inspired to write this month’s blog — because it’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking it’s no big deal.

But it can be a really big deal. And we want to help prevent you from piling any more secrets on top of the love you share.

We are not suggesting you must share absolutely everything with each other when it comes to what you think about, feel, and do — in order to have a thriving relationship.

In fact, there are some secrets that are fun (like surprise parties) or important for other areas of your life (like confidentiality at work or a secret you are holding for a friend).

But secrets are a very slippery slope and especially when they involve contact with someone to whom you feel attracted.

Secrets are lies of omission, and research shows that the first lie is the hardest. After that, it can get deceptively easy once the pattern has begun.

So let’s have an honest check-in to explore whether or not your secrets are healthy and in integrity and the 3 ways your secrets may be destroying your relationship…

(1) Secrets create a barrier to connection.

Disconnected Couple

Simply put, any place where you are withholding your thoughts or feelings, connection simply cannot exist.

Just think of a secret you’ve had at some point in your life. Did it make you want to fully open your heart to the person from whom you were keeping it? Was it easy to let love freely flow in and out?

No. It makes you constrict, put up walls, and want to pull away. Secrets lead to hiding, holding back, and defensiveness.

We disconnect to prevent our secret from being discovered.

Plus, over time, secrets wear away at our own mental and physical health and diminish our ability to be close and connected.

Here’s the thing. It’s okay to have some privacy in your life, but if you would be upset if your beloved found out whatever you are keeping from them, it’s a sure sign it has created a barrier to connection.

Secrets and closeness simply cannot coexist.

(2) Secrets wear away at trust.

Blame and Accusations

Even if your beloved hasn’t explicitly discovered your secret, chances are, they can feel something is “off.” Consciously or not, this makes them weary, less secure, and more mistrustful.

We humans are incredibly intuitive. We pick up on mass amounts of information every moment that our brains cannot possibly process. And yet, on some level, we gain this gut feeling or strange sense that we can’t fully trust our beloved.

And, of course, when your partner discovers that you have been keeping something from them, it can take a really long time to heal, repair, and rebuild the trust that was lost.

(3) Gaslighting often happens, and it’s psychologically abusive.

Gaslighting

We know that is a strong statement, but it’s because we feel passionate about the damage done by gaslighting.

If you aren’t familiar with this term, gaslighting happens when the secret-keeper manipulates the situation to make the other person question their perspective, reality, and sanity.

People who gaslight deny things they said or did and make you the crazy or controlling one for thinking it happened.

They turn the finger away from themselves and onto you. They make you wrong for thinking whatever you do.

We’ve seen gaslighting time and time again in our office, especially when an affair or addiction has occurred. Until the secret has been explicitly discovered, the other person’s thoughts and feelings are dismissed, judged, or ridiculed.

This can be deeply lonely, invalidating, painful, utterly crazy-making, devastating, and wrought with despair for the person who is being gaslighted.

Gaslighting is manipulative, selfish, and very unfair to the other person. Again, we know this is a strong statement. We just know how easily people can start lying to themselves about their own dishonest patterns, so we want to hold up a really clear (and compassionate!) mirror if this is a pattern you have.


If, after reading the above, you realize you do have some secrets that are negatively impacting your relationship, we lovingly invite you to…

Clean things up in your life. Clearly, there is some place you are living out of alignment and integrity with your values and who you want to be. Make whatever changes are necessary that allow you to feel proud of the person you are.

Clean things up

Practice self-love and acceptance. Some secrets are a result of our own shame, and we hold things in because we fear that, “if they knew X about me, they wouldn’t love me as much.” Usually, this is a result of us not loving ourselves and accepting our own perceived imperfections.

Be humble, and take radical responsibility. It’s easy to get defensive and blame your beloved for the secret you have (i.e. “I did this, but YOU did…” or “well, if they would just X, I wouldn’t have to X”). Take radical responsibility for whatever you did. Your beloved will hear you a bazillion times more easily if you own your role in it, apologize sincerely, and humbly share your most vulnerable feelings (like sadness, guilt, fear, embarrassment, and so on).

And this one is KEY for BOTH of you >> Create a safe space to have these delicate conversations. Sometimes, one partner keep secrets because they don’t know how to effectively communicate about whatever it is or because they are afraid of their beloved’s response. In fact, we can unintentionally “train” our partner not to share things with us if we react to their mistakes with “I-told-you-so’s,” criticism, blame, and punishment. It’s a delicate thing and something to be highly aware of on both sides. Be sure to check out this guide HERE to help.

Get some outside help. We have couples reach out to us all the time who have something they want to reveal to their beloved in a safe space or whose world has just been turned upside-down from a secret being discovered. They want to heal from the past, address the root cause, and reach forgiveness.

A New Closeness

As with all challenges, we approach these positively and compassionately and as extraordinary opportunities for transformation and growth. When done consciously and with expert guidance and support, trust can be regained, and an amazing and refreshing newfound level of closeness can be developed.

Secrets can be very tricky to navigate, and we simply want to assure you that you aren’t alone. We would be honored to help, and you will never be blamed, shamed, or judged. This human experience can get messy at times, but it’s never too late to get you back on track with being the kind of person you, deep down, know you want to be.

Click here to learn more about our private sessions — either as an individual or as a couple.

And if you read this and realized you don’t have any secrets that are causing harm — congratulations! May this solidify your commitment to keeping it that way. Living a life without secrets is a sure pathway to true freedom. We deeply honor you!

Next time you are tempted to do something secretive, remember this: the pleasure you hope to gain comes with an enormous cost that can last for years. There is nothing that compares to the depth of love, intimacy, and joy that can be shared in a transparent, trusting, and emotionally intimate union. And you deserve it!

Sending all our love and wholehearted support!

Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret

 
 
 
PS: Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Be sure to sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!

Which of these 5 fears is holding you back from having a closer relationship?

Several years ago, we attended a wonderful workshop by Dr. Pat Sheehan all about emotional intimacy.

At the event, she shared with us an assessment she created to help couples identify what is standing in the way of bringing our fully vulnerable, available, and openhearted selves to one another.

With her permission, we’ve since been using this assessment tool with clients regularly, and it’s terrific.

We find that nearly everyone has one or more of these 5 fears, and it can be really illuminating to identify. They show up, not only in our romantic partnership, but in other relationships too.

In this month’s blog, we go over the 5 most common fears and then some quick tips for transforming what stands between you.

The 5 Fears of Closeness and Intimacy

(* These 5 fears were identified by Dr. Path Sheehan, to whom we are very grateful! The tips we suggest for overcoming them come from our own work with couples.)

Uncertain Couple

(1) Fear of Abandonment

If you tend to get clingy, if you worry your partner may leave you, if you get jealous, if you doubt your beloved’s commitment to you, or if you reject others before they can reject you, a fear of abandonment may be lurking beneath the surface.

Quick Tip if You Have This Fear:
This is a great time to practice self-love. Make sure you aren’t abandoning yourself. Go on special dates with yourself. Cultivate confidence by building your self esteem and relationship with the one person you will spend every moment of the rest of your life with — YOU! Discover or nurture your passions. Reach out to friends.

The irony is that your beloved will probably want to come closer to you if they see you as independent, interesting, and confident.

Come to the relationship whole, healthy, and nourished already, so that your beloved is like the delicious dessert that adds meaning and flavor to life, not the main course you rely on for your sustenance.

Quick Tip if Your Beloved Has This Fear:
Rather than getting defensive when your beloved expresses jealousy, seems needy or clingy, or distances themselves from you, offer them your reassurance. Know that underneath what they say or do, they just feel scared of losing you.

Chances are, someone has abandoned them in the past, and it was devastating for them. They are now wired to be on alert to make sure they don’t feel that kind of pain again. Help them feel appreciated, secure, and valued. Freely express your love and commitment to them.

(2) Fear of Merger

Fear of Merger

If you are afraid of losing yourself or your independence in the relationship, if you want to go running when you think your beloved is trying to control you, if you resist or rebel against your partner telling you what to do, if you are concerned with feeling trapped or limited, or if you are worried your sweetheart may hold you back in life, this fear is probably active for you.

Quick Tip if You Have This Fear:
One of the greatest predictors of divorce is one partner’s unwillingness to accept influence from their mate. It’s so important, in order to thrive, that we get willing to compromise, that we’re flexible, that we’re open to feedback, and that we hear our beloved’s requests.

Of course, it’s also so important that we give each other permission to be different and that we not lose ourselves.

It’s about finding the balance.

Try to say yes as often as possible to those requests that are really important to your sweetheart but that don’t involve giving up some essential part of you. Then, choose wisely those areas you want to really stick to so that you don’t lose yourself.

Also, be sure to take initiative when it comes to nurturing your own interests. Make them a healthy and balanced part of your life. That way, you will discover that you really can have both — a deeply connected relationship and a life of personal passion and meaning.

Quick Tip if Your Beloved Has This Fear:
If your partner feels like they are losing who they are, they will take a step back from the relationship just to feel like they can hold onto themselves. Be selective about the requests you make. Let the little and less significant things go.

Rather than making demands, have positive and curious conversations to find creative ways you can both get your needs met.

Help your beloved feel like they have a sense of individuality, freedom, and choice in your togetherness – ingredients that help keep passion alive in any relationship.

Remember that a healthy amount of individuality actually creates more genuine closeness and is more sustainable for thriving love to last.

(3) Fear of Exposure or Being Seen

Fear of Exposure

If you avoid saying what you are thinking, if you have a hard time admitting when you made a mistake, if you are dishonest with your beloved, if you struggle to be vulnerable with your feelings, or if you fear your partner would reject you if they knew everything about you, it’s likely you have a fear of exposure or being seen.

Quick Tip if You Have This Fear:
Those parts of you that you are afraid to reveal or that you feel shy about, ashamed of, or judge can be some of the most lovable parts of you. We are all imperfect humans, and we crave not feeling alone in our humanness. Sharing those less polished and messier parts of ourselves can be deeply bonding.

Plus, the more vulnerable we are, the more empathetic (rather than defensive) our mate naturally becomes.

We realize this can feel terrifying and bring up core fears (i.e. if they knew X about me, they wouldn’t love me). However, 99% of the time, the opposite is true. The more you allow yourself to be seen, the more you will realize just how tender and precious these seemingly “unlovable” parts of you really are.

Quick Tip if Your Beloved Has This Fear:
Be sure to create a really safe space for your sweetheart to share their thoughts and feelings. If you criticize them, tease them, punish them, or make them wrong in any way, you are training them not to open up to you. Instead, focus on being validating, affirming, empathetic, encouraging, and appreciative.

(4) Fear of Attack

If you expect your partner to deliberately hurt you, are on guard against put downs, carefully select what you share so that it can’t later be used against you, regularly anticipate their criticism, and look for “ulterior motives” when they are kind, you probably keep some distance due to a fear of being attacked.

Quick Tip if You Have This Fear:
It’s important to distinguish — does this fear come from a prior relationship in your life where you were attacked or does it come from true concerns in this one?

Of course, if there is a true concern for your safety or well-being, please seek immediate help. Here is the National Domestic Violence Hotline and website.

Here are two things to consider. One, people often give us the love we feel we deserve. Someone who loves and values themselves deeply simply won’t tolerate someone else treating them poorly. Could this reflect a lack of self-worth? If so, it’s time to reclaim your power and confidence in order to gain your beloved’s respect again.

On a different note, sometimes our beloved becomes more aggressive when they don’t feel heard. It often doesn’t start here. It escalates here. What is your beloved begging you to hear? If they feel heard and understood by you, they won’t feel the need to get louder in order to get your attention.

Quick Tip if Your Beloved Has This Fear:
If your beloved has genuine concern for their well-being or safety within the relationship or if you have a difficult time managing your anger or stress, we highly recommend getting professional help.

If it’s less serious but still a challenge in your relationship or if this simply stems from a prior relationship your beloved was in, we encourage you to be especially positive and warm. Be encouraging, kind, affirming, and appreciative.

Avoid criticism, teasing, eye rolling, sarcasm, blaming, and condescension. Take some deep breaths and do something to center when you feel yourself getting stressed or triggered.

Use your words, tones, and actions to convey a sense of peace and safety that warmly invites your beloved to come closer.

(5) Fear of One’s Own Destructive Impulses

Fear of Ones Own Destructive Impulses

If you avoid having arguments, fear losing control, don’t trust your temper, are concerned you will do something destructive when emotions are high, or worry about hurting your beloved (emotionally or physically), this fear is probably active.

Quick Tip if You Have This Fear:
Perhaps you’ve made some mistakes in your life and carry a lot of regret and guilt from them. Maybe you don’t fully trust yourself.

From doing the work we are so honored to do with people, we are in awe of the human capacity for transformation. If there is an area of your life that needs attention, you don’t have to be stuck with it for life. Perhaps it was a behavior others modeled for you, a coping skill you learned at some point in your life, or simply an unhealthy way you have tried to get your needs met in the past.

When you pull back from your beloved, it causes them pain, so that’s not a long-term solution.

This is a brand new moment, and the future is unwritten. Your past does not have to dictate your future. Reach out for support to create whatever changes you’d like to make so that you can trust yourself and open to the love you deserve. Know that we are here to help in any way and offer individual sessions to address a variety of personal challenges and goals. You aren’t in this alone! Just reply to this message and let us know what personal changes you’d love to make, and we’ll be in touch.

Quick Tip if Your Beloved Has This Fear:
If your beloved truly does have active destructive impulses, we realize this may spill over to you and be a source of pain in your life. Be encouraging about your beloved getting professional help. Positively reinforce any good changes you see them make, no matter how small (progress, not perfection). See them as the person they are growing into, not just who they’ve been (it’s much harder to make positive changes when someone is continually reminding us of how terrible we are). And, of course, take wonderful care of yourself and get whatever support you need.


We lovingly encourage you to have a conversation with your beloved:

What are each of your top fears?

How can you support one another in transforming these fears so you can move in closer and enjoy all of the love imaginable?

Hold on just one minute though — there are a few important things we want to note before you do this.

First, no fears are wrong, and nobody is bad for having them. These 5 fears are listed here because they are so common. We want to compassionately and curiously become aware of our fears so that we can work with them, rather than against them.

Secondly, some fears may stem from painful experiences or messages you’ve received in the past. If this is the case, remember that you and your beloved often can’t “just get over” these fears as effortlessly as you might think and hope. It is so important that we do whatever personal healing work is necessary to minimize our old wounding so it doesn’t stand in the way of our current love.

However, it takes effort and time, and you can help be an amazing source of healing and support for each other as you work through this – rather than continually (albeit unintentionally) provoking and reinforcing each other’s fears.

Finally, just think of this: you want to make it as appealing, safe, and positively irresistible as possible for your beloved to want to come closer to you. Uncovering the fears that stand in the way will give you tremendous insight into how to keep the pathway between your hearts open, accessible, and clear!

Couple Driving Together

If one of you has been checking out, is having a hard time committing, seems distant, is struggling to open up, or has a hard time giving healthy space, we would be honored to help you cultivate a deeper connection.

You can learn more about our private sessions HERE and our incredibly bonding retreat, Thrive in Love, HERE.

Emotional intimacy is vital to thriving love, and, within every fear, you will also find incredible opportunities for relationship growth, healing, and deepening!

On the other side of every barrier is even more love to give and receive. We’re wishing you so many blessings as you release everything that stands in the way!

Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret

 

PS: Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Be sure to sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!

4 Keys to Keeping Attraction Alive

4 Keys to Keeping Attraction Alive

Can you relate to some of the things couples regularly come into our office telling us:

  • I feel like I’ve fallen out of love. I love and care about my partner, but I’m not in love.
  • Our passion has faded, and I wish we could get that spark back.
  • I just don’t feel sexy anymore.
  • I don’t feel attracted to my beloved anymore.

When you first met, passion may have come readily and taken little effort (and if the sparks didn’t fly from the get-go, this month’s blog will be very helpful for you too!). It was probably an inspiring, enlivening, and really fun time of your life.

Attraction could be

Months or years later, perhaps you see your sweetheart differently — more like a best friend, a housemate, or a co-parent. While these roles aren’t bad ones to add over time, if they have replaced the role of also seeing each other as lovers, this month’s blog includes 4 key tips for nurturing attraction beyond the initial lust of first getting together.

For most couples, passion and attraction in a relationship are flames that must be stoked — they do not consistently burn on their own without fuel.

Now you may be thinking — who has time for stoking?! We get it. Lives are busy. Your bandwidths are probably overloaded. But when there is negative sexual conflict, a lack of attraction, or dissatisfaction for at least one partner, it can easily create friction that leads to a breakdown in communication and connection and a couple seeing themselves as incompatible. Who has time for that?!

In most relationships, sexuality is an essential ingredient in the glue that keeps the bond strong and increases resilience to the daily stressors we all experience. On the upside, sexuality can be “medicinal” and, in a matter of moments, turn you from adversaries into allies and teammates. Keeping attraction and passion alive can actually save you time and make the journey much more enjoyable.

KEY TO KEEPING ATTRACTION ALIVE – TIP #1

Keep a healthy mind, body, heart, and spirit.

Staying healthy

As you can imagine, finding a healthy partner is a natural part of mate selection. If we wanted to ensure the survival of our species, we would likely pass over the unhealthy individuals and look around for those who radiate vitality.

Although you may not be conscious of doing this, it is a hard-wired part of who you are. When your beloved is taking great care of themselves, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well, don’t you find them more attractive?

Vamping up your self-care so that you are nourishing your body and mind, managing stress, and radiating healthfulness, is a surefire way to boost attraction. Simultaneously, when we are tending to our own well-being, it boosts self confidence and self-love, other highly attractive qualities.

We want to be clear. This is not about the size of your body, your weight, or the amount of muscle you have. It’s about emanating an energy of healthfulness!

KEY TO KEEPING ATTRACTION ALIVE – TIP #2

Have varied experiences.

Have varied experiences

What’s so exciting when first falling in love? The adventure, the newness, the intrigue!

Over time, if we always watch the same shows, go to the same restaurants, drive down the same roads, have the same kinds of conversations, wear the same clothes, and have sex at the same time, in the same place, in the same way, it doesn’t exactly facilitate erotic energy.

The comforts of routine can be a wonderful part of longtime love. In order to prevent boredom and stagnancy, it’s just so important that this isn’t all you are together.

One of the greatest ways to keep attraction and passion alive is to create new experiences together. Go on different outings. Wear something special. Have adventures. Spice things up. Keep things interesting.

KEY TO KEEPING ATTRACTION ALIVE – TIP #3

Let each other be different.

Let your partner be different

If you are:

  • stuck in a dynamic that resembles more of a parent/child relationship
  • in a pattern of controlling, criticizing, and nitpicking your partner
  • overly opinionated about what your beloved does or doesn’t do

…then you’ve probably fallen into a pattern of what’s called enmeshment, and it’s not sexy, to say the least. The opposite of this is differentiation.

Psychologist Dr. David Schnarch suggests that differentiation is the cornerstone of a passionate marriage, and he refers to it as the ability to balance and maintain humankind’s two most fundamental drives: our urge to be connected with other people and the urge to be free and autonomous and direct the course of our life.

We invite you to make this notion a constant in your life, especially if you are prone to things like controlling your beloved: differentiate. Let them be unique from you and to have different perspectives, preferences, feelings, passions, and ideas. This can actually be quite liberating, and it is certainly essential if you want to be more attracted to them and be more attractive.

KEY TO KEEPING ATTRACTION ALIVE – TIP #4

Keep communication open and ongoing.

Communication alive

When we were first introduced to the idea of “erotic mapping,” we instantly loved it this concept! You can think of your erotic map as the complex blueprint for what you uniquely find attractive and what turns you on. It is your one-of-a-kind erotic wiring and reveals the most effective pathways for your arousal and being attracted to your mate.

Every single one of us has our own distinct erotic map. It consists of genetics, hormones, physiology, neurology, early sexual imprints, needs, and desires. As we go through life, these erotic maps can change and evolve, and it’s so very important that we get to know our own erotic maps and that we get to know one another’s.

It’s really important to know what turns you both on (and they may be very different things!). Below, we’ve listed some questions to ask one another. Let there be no wrong answers, and put down your defenses.

Instead, get passionately curious about each other’s responses, and offer lots of empathy, curiosity, and appreciation along the way. Create an incredibly safe space for one another to openly share without either of you feeling judged, shamed, or pressured.

  • What kinds of conversations do you find attractive?
  • What kinds of outfits and/or lingerie do you find attractive?
  • What scents are attractive to you?
  • Are there any sweet, thoughtful, or romantic gestures you find attractive?
  • Do you find it attractive when I am engaged in something I am passionate about? If so, tell me more.
  • Do you find it attractive when I am confident? If so, say more.
  • What kinds of dates foster attraction for you?
  • What kinds of vacations foster attraction for you?
  • Is cleanliness and grooming an important part of attraction for you? If so, I’d love to hear more.
  • What moods of mine do you find most attractive?
  • How does healthiness affect attraction for you?
  • What kind of physical affection is most attractive for you?
  • What kinds of texts, emails, messages, etc. are most attractive to you?
  • What are other things I say or do (or could say or do) that you find attractive?

----------

If you both apply these tips — by nurturing your mental, emotional, and physical health, trying new things and having adventures together, giving each other the space and freedom to be different from one another, and keeping the conversation going about each of your unique erotic maps — we’re confident it will help keep the spark alive and growing!

Want lots more guidance on this important topic? Be sure to check out our 6 Weeks to a Thriving Sex Life eCourse here >>> ThrivingSex.com

And if you’d like some individualized support when it comes to navigating attraction and sexuality in your relationship, we would be honored to help. We find that these things don’t come naturally for most people and yet, once you get a little support and guidance, it all starts to make so much sense and transform before your eyes, no matter how disconnected you feel right now. Learn more about sessions here >>> CenterThrive.com/counseling

Lastly, we just enjoyed another amazing Thrive in Love weekend, filled with inspiring couples committed to experiencing the greatest version of their love. We invite you to SAVE THE DATE for our next one coming up this September 29-30, 2018 @ the beautiful Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center. Learn more here >>> CenterThrive.com/courses

Passion is a fire that needs your continual tending — may you do something to stoke it today!

Wishing you an abundance of loving blessings, and we are always so grateful and honored to be on this incredible relationship journey with you!

Christine and Bret

 

 

PS: Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Be sure to sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!

What To Do When You Feel So Disconnected

What to Do When You Feel So Disconnected

Have you ever been in close proximity to your beloved but felt miles apart? You may sleep in the same bed, share meals, and watch TV in the same room, but when it comes to feeling emotionally connected, there is a wall between you.

It can be so painful to stand next to the very person who used to feel like your best friend and wonder where they went and if you’ll find each other again.

Disconnected couple wishing to connect

In all of our work with couples and in our own relationship, we’ve found 3 things to be more essential than any other when it comes to melting the barriers between you, opening your hearts, and finding one another again.

(1) BE WITH EACH OTHER IN YOUR UPSET

We realize it’s not the most appealing thing to listen to your beloved complain about something you’ve done or to hear them express their frustration and disappointment, especially when it involves you. The great irony, however, is that, the more you can really hear them and be with them in their feelings, whatever they may be, the more they will see you as their teammate in it and feel connected to you.

With an open, curious, and genuine heart and in a kind tone, ask your beloved how they are feeling. As they share, really be with them in their hearts. Rather than invalidating their grievances, getting defensive, or shifting the conversation to point out their role in it, simply hear them, empathize with them, and assure them you are there with them to find a solution that really works for both of you. Your tone is key when it comes to them feeling like you are their ally, not their adversary.

(2) FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN GIVE TO CHANGE THINGS, RATHER THAN ON WHAT YOU NEED.

While your wants and needs are important, healthy, and valid in creating a thriving relationship, we find that the happiest individuals and couples are the ones who are more focused on what they can GIVE to one another than on what they can GET from one another.

One key aspect of this is to focus on what your beloved genuinely wants, not on what you think they need. These can be two very different things. 😉

A couple years ago, we ran across this love story from Richard Paul Evans. It’s one of those heartwarming stories that sticks. If you haven’t heard it before or need a reminder of it, we’re inspired to share an excerpt from it here. This is illustrates the power of what we’re talking about here…

“For years my wife Keri and I struggled. Looking back, I’m not exactly sure what initially drew us together, but our personalities didn’t quite match up. And the longer we were married the more extreme the differences seemed…

Our fighting became so constant that it was difficult to even imagine a peaceful relationship. We became perpetually defensive, building emotional fortresses around our hearts. We were on the edge of divorce and more than once we discussed it.

I was on book tour when things came to a head. We had just had another big fight on the phone and Keri had hung up on me. I was alone and lonely, frustrated and angry. I had reached my limit…

As much as I hated the idea of divorce, the pain of being together was just too much. I was also confused. I couldn’t figure out why marriage with Keri was so hard. Deep down I knew that Keri was a good person. And I was a good person. So why couldn’t we get along? Why had I married someone so different than me? Why wouldn’t she change?

Finally, hoarse and broken, I sat down in the shower and began to cry. In the depths of my despair powerful inspiration came to me. You can’t change her, Rick. You can only change yourself…

That night, as we lay in our bed, inches from each other yet miles apart, the inspiration came. I knew what I had to do.

The next morning I rolled over in bed next to Keri and asked, “How can I make your day better?”

Keri looked at me angrily. “What?”

“How can I make your day better?”

“You can’t,” she said. “Why are you asking that?”

“Because I mean it,” I said. “I just want to know what I can do to make your day better.”

She looked at me cynically. “You want to do something? Go clean the kitchen.”

She likely expected me to get mad. Instead I just nodded. “Okay.” I got up and cleaned the kitchen.

The next day I asked the same thing. “What can I do to make your day better?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Clean the garage.”

I took a deep breath. I already had a busy day and I knew she had made the request in spite. I was tempted to blow up at her. Instead I said, “Okay.” I got up and for the next two hours cleaned the garage. Keri wasn’t sure what to think.

The next morning came. “What can I do to make your day better?”

“Nothing!” she said. “You can’t do anything. Please stop saying that.”

“I’m sorry”” I said. “But I can’t. I made a commitment to myself. What can I do to make your day better?”

“Why are you doing this?”

“Because I care about you,” I said. “And our marriage.”

The next morning I asked again. And the next. And the next. Then, during the second week, a miracle occurred. As I asked the question Keri’s eyes welled up with tears. Then she broke down crying. When she could speak she said, “Please stop asking me that. You’re not the problem. I am. I’m hard to live with. I don’t know why you stay with me.”

I gently lifted her chin until she was looking in my eyes. “It’s because I love you,” I said. “What can I do to make your day better?”

“I should be asking you that.”

“You should,” I said. “But not now. Right now, I need to be the change. You need to know how much you mean to me.”

She put her head against my chest. “I’m sorry I’ve been so mean.”

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you,” she replied.

“What can I do to make your day better?”

She looked at me sweetly. “Can we maybe just spend some time together?”

I smiled. “I’d like that.”

I continued asking for more than a month. And things did change. The fighting stopped. Then Keri began asking, “What do you need from me? How can I be a better wife?”

The walls between us fell. We began having meaningful discussions on what we wanted from life and how we could make each other happier. No, we didn’t solve all our problems. I can’t even say that we never fought again. But the nature of our fights changed. Not only were they becoming more and more rare, they lacked the energy they’d once had. We’d deprived them of oxygen. We just didn’t have it in us to hurt each other anymore.

Keri and I have now been married for more than thirty years. I not only love my wife, I like her. I like being with her. I crave her. I need her. Many of our differences have become strengths and the others don’t really matter. We’ve learned how to take care of each other and, more importantly, we’ve gained the desire to do so.

Marriage is hard. But so is parenthood and keeping fit and writing books and everything else important and worthwhile in my life. To have a partner in life is a remarkable gift…

Real love is not to desire a person, but to truly desire their happiness – sometimes, even, at the expense of our own happiness. Real love is not to make another person a carbon copy of one’s self. It is to expand our own capabilities of tolerance and caring, to actively seek another’s well being. All else is simply a charade of self-interest.”

We hope you like that true story as much as we do and that it shows you just how powerful YOU can be when it comes to ending the power struggle and returning to loving togetherness.

Swan couple

(3) SHIFT BACK INTO GRATITUDE

Lastly, there are few things more transformative when it comes to shifting a conversation or the energy between people than gratitude. It’s as simple as speaking or writing these words and then filling in the blanks. We recommend, in order to feel a shift, that you include at least 5 things you appreciate. Pick up your phone, type up an email, or go over to your beloved right now and try it…

“I’m so grateful to you for…”
“I really appreciate that you…”
“Thank you for…”
“I’m sorry I haven’t told you enough recently how much I appreciate…”

And doing this when you think your beloved least deserves it? Even more powerful, for both of you!

Joy filled couple

----------

If you are feeling disconnected from your beloved right now, rest assured, it doesn’t simply mean your relationship is doomed or there is no coming back. It’s just a sign that it’s time to shift things and rebuild your connection. If, after reading the three tips above, you are still thinking to yourself that they should be the one to rebuild the connection or that you’ve tried these things and they aren’t working, we lovingly encourage you to try them again and do it with even more sincerity, open-heartedness, and grace. Not only will it make your beloved happier, we have full confidence that you will become a much happier person too.

Also, our signature Thrive in Love Valentine’s retreat for couples is quickly approaching, February 10-11. This is an amazing and lasting way to spend Valentine’s weekend, growing your love and taking it to a whole new level. Words cannot describe the transformation and absolute magic we witness in the couples who attend, even those who came in feeling completely disconnected. This retreat has sold out repeatedly, so be sure to reserve your space as soon as possible HERE.

We’re sending you an abundance of blessings as you clear the pathway between your hearts and return to the reason we enter into relationship in the first place: to make life more wonderful. Abundant blessings as you start this new year!

Infinite Love and Joy,
Christine and Bret

 

PS: Want to be sure you don’t miss another blog? Be sure to sign up to receive inspiring monthly relationship tips delivered right to your inbox!