Relationship Minute: Overwhelm

In this episode of Lovett or Leave It from April, Dr. Ali Mattu offers six self-care tips to cope with coronavirus anxiety. These tips still apply, and can apply to the blanket feeling of overwhelm many are still facing: 

  1. Be compassionate toward yourself — it’s okay to not be okay. 
  2. Develop a routine — engage with certain anchor points or actions throughout the day to help ground you.
  3. Consume media that helps you detach from reality — take a break from what is overwhelming you. It’s okay to distract yourself. 
  4. Solve problems in your everyday life — doing this can help remove small barriers that can add up and increase a feeling of overwhelm. 
  5. Be grateful for the things that you have — it can help lift your spirits and the spirits of those who receive your gratitude. 
  6. Share how you are struggling — everyone is struggling in some way or another right now. Suffering is universal and it can be helpful to connect with people who can empathize. 

You are not alone, and the first person you can share your struggles with is your partner. Admitting to them, and to yourself, that things are hard or that you feel overwhelmed can be scary. But once you share your experience, you are opening up the door for them to do the same.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: The importance of rest

How do you “recharge your batteries”? Is it by getting lost in a good book, or maybe losing track of time in conversation with a friend? Maybe you recharge by meditating, taking a nap, tending to the plants, singing in the shower, or going online and adding things to your shopping cart, then clicking out of the site (no judgment here!).

By not taking time to rest, you limit your own capacity for empathy, positivity, creativity, and rationality, among other things. You can’t show up as your best self for your partner without first checking in and showing up for yourself.

And that means granting yourself permission to rest. Take the time and space you need to recharge, even if it means being less “productive” in that moment. Don’t expect your partner, or yourself, to be able to “do it all.” Rest is an essential human need, and we can support one another in making sure we’re stopping for rest, even if just for a few moments.

What if you created a new rest ritual together—a dedicated time once a day or once a week to D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Rest!) 

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Feelings vs judgments

Contempt is a tricky thing. It’s destructive to the love in a relationship, and yet it can be insidious.

Often, subtle forms of contempt feel perfectly justified—”I’m standing up for myself,” or “I’m just telling it like it is.” But what you may not realize is that you’re standing up for yourself against your partner, putting yourselves in opposition to each other.

So while contempt may seem like the expression of genuine feeling, it’s actually an expression of negative judgment.

Try to practice expressing yourself with feelings and longings that can unite you and your partner, rather than judgments that can divide.

For example:
“It scares me when you drive fast!”
vs
“Why can’t you drive more like I do?”

“I felt embarrassed at the party when you left to chat with your friends and I didn’t have anyone to talk to.”
vs
“I would never abandon you like that!”

“The way you’re reacting is really unexpected for me. Can you tell me more about what’s going on?”
vs
“You need help.”

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Teamwork

Hall and Oates, Mulder and Scully, Bert and Ernie, Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, Laverne and Shirley, Macaroni & Cheese…

What team or famous duo does your relationship function like? What does it look like when you really work together?

The best team members are able to support each other when things get ugly. They show up. They mean it when they say, “when you’re hurting, the world stops and I listen.”

With someone on your side, you feel less alone. What a gift to be able to give someone else, just by being there!

The next time you or your partner is going through something difficult, instead of asking “how can I fix this?” or “how can I make them understand the other viewpoint?” stop and ask, “how can we face this together?”

How can you work together to handle whatever comes your way?

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Repair and restart

Have you ever gotten the day off on the wrong foot? And then it can seem like everything is going downhill. Well, with the concept of “repair and restart” the whole day doesn’t need to be ruined.

Give yourself permission to ask for a “do-over.”

It can be an immediate repair—“I’m sorry, that came out wrong. Can I start again?”

Or the reset can happen later on—“I feel bad about how crabby I was this morning. Can we have a stress-reducing conversation tonight?”

This also applies if you are supervising home-based learning or working from home and need to reset the day. Repair with self-compassion and do something to reset the energy of the day. Listen to music, get up and dance, go for a walk, take a break to meditate—whatever works for you.

It’s never too late to course-correct.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: What is trust?

Trust expert Rachel Botsman defines trust as having “a confident relationship to the unknown.” She illustrates trust as the bridge between the known and the unknown, over a river of uncertainty.

So how does that apply to relationships?

What’s known is how your partner shows up for you—their presence, the way they interact with you, the things they do and say. The unknown is the meaning or intention behind that—what they’re thinking, how they perceive things, their core feelings.

Trust is believing or being confident that your partner has your best interests at heart. It’s acting in good faith, giving them the benefit of the doubt, or holding the belief that they are doing their best.

Trust, like a bridge, is built. You can improve your belief in your partner, and your partner’s belief in you, over time through small, intentional acts.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Listen out loud

The concept of “active listening” can be challenging to apply, especially in conflict or a tense conversation. Or it may feel false to you, like a character in a movie who sets the phone down and keeps saying “mmhm,” “oh wow” to the speaker on the other end. Some may even interpret “active listening” to be chiming in, interrupting, or talking over.

Instead, practice engaged listening, and remember that it’s a skill built over time. Here are some quick tips for better listening.

DO:

  • Tune in to what the other person is saying. Stay curious. 
  • Make understanding a goal. Confirm what you heard with the speaker to see if you have it right. 
  • Repair if you interrupt, get distracted, become defensive, or misunderstand. 
  • Ask clarifying questions. 
  • Inhabit the role of a passenger on the speaker’s train of thought. Follow their journey, at their pace. 
  • Be aware of how much time you spend talking in the conversation. 

DON’T: 

  • Spend your time planning what you are going to say next/waiting for your turn to speak.
  • Try to “fix” things or offer unsolicited advice. 
  • Split your focus between the speaker and your phone or something else. Multitasking is a fallacy. 
  • Try to finish or anticipate what the speaker is saying.
  • Take what the other person is saying so personally that you become defensive and unable to hear their side. 
  • Completely shut down your own reaction to what the other person is saying. Your feelings and reactions are valid and it’s good to pay attention to what comes up for you. 

Next time you have a conversation with your partner, or even a friend, family member, or colleague, think about how much time you spend talking/sharing and how much time you spend listening? What might you implement to bring more balance to that?

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Getting friendly

When you think about your closest friends, what comes to mind? Is it their best qualities and what you like about them? Or maybe you can think of some of their shortcomings, but you accept those as part of who they are—a loveable, imperfect person.

Do you hold the same regard for your partner? Or are they put through the lens of additional scrutiny, irritation, or judgment?

Imagine going out to a restaurant (pre-pandemic). As you look from table to table, it might be easy to guess which table is seated with close friends, which one hosts a first or second date, and who’s in a romantic relationship based on how engaged they are with each other. Sadly, you might guess that the couple spending most of their time on their phones has been together the longest.

One of the simple secrets to lasting love is feeding the flames of friendship. The sexy sizzle of romance ebbs and flows, but it’s the underpinning of friendship and positive regard that makes a relationship truly great.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Grow fondness and admiration

As you may already know, “creating a culture of fondness and admiration” is the antidote to contempt, the most destructive of Gottman’s Four Horsemen. But it’s not like you can just flip the switch and suddenly have a relationship full of sunshine and flowers.

Change happens slowly over time – appreciation needs to be grown and nurtured. The way out of contempt is a path; one that leads toward fondness and admiration.

Start with a seed. Catch your partner doing something right today. Simply noting something you appreciate about them, even if it’s something that seems small, creates the rich soil for genuine warmth to take root.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning. 

Relationship Minute: Embracing ambiguity

Some look to psychics, divination, astrology, or even Internet conspiracy theories for answers, or as a fun way to search for certainty. A path forward in the darkness.

But in reality, no one can know the future with 100% certainty. And that can be scary. Ambiguity causes anxiety for many. So how can you reassure your partner, and yourself, when you don’t know what’s going to happen?

Embrace ambiguity. Lean into it, turn towards it, and start sharing about it.

Using Dr. Pauline Boss’s Ambiguous Loss theory, adapted here by Certified Gottman Therapist Michael McNulty, here’s what partners can do to embrace ambiguity.

  • Know that what you’re experiencing is uncertain or ambiguous—label it, and accept it.
  • Normalize ambivalence—it’s okay to have mixed feelings.
  • Share perspectives—there’s a lot of information out there and you and your partner may disagree. Stay open.
  • Be flexible and creative.
  • Reconstruct routines and rituals—try seeing change as an opportunity for a refresh.
  • Find meaning—you are not alone.

As you tighten your grasp holding on to certainty or the way things were, you risk becoming more rigid and tightly wound. Endeavor to hold your perspectives with an open hand, creating the ability to let go of what is no longer serving you.

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The Relationship Minute is from The Gottman Institute. You can sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox every Tuesday and Thursday morning.