Surviving the holidays

Are you going to spend your Christmas holidays stressing, or enjoying your partner and family?

Christmas holidays are destabilizing, because of the loss of routine and structure of ordinary life. The freedom of the holidays might feel good, but familiar comforts are not available. The gym is closed, and the cleaner is on holidays. Your favourite trades-people are on a long break, often for a whole month, so your usual acts of commerce, which provide both structure and interaction with others, are not available. Apart from not being able to toss off a few DIYs, you feel at a loss.

Mental health issues are at a peak during the holiday season, and loss of routine and structure is one of the main reasons. The other is the unrealistic expectations around what feelings you are going to have, of love and family warmth.

How do you build trust as a couple?

As we build trust as a couple we feel secure and can go forward with confidence.

In another Insight, “How many serious ruptures” I summarised the basis for building trust as a couple.  

Firstly, you consistently turn towards opportunities to connect with your partner.

Secondly, you acknowledge and talk about any feelings of unhappiness with your partner.

And thirdly, you consistently see your partner in a favourable light.  That is, you cultivate a benevolent perspective, where you interpret your partner kindly.

Here in this Insight I give much more detail about how trust is gradually and consistently built over time. (Trust can also be eroded over time, but that is not the perspective I am taking here.)

How many serious ruptures does it take before your relationship is beyond repair?

How many serious ruptures does it take before your relationship falters?

Couples often ask how many serious ruptures does it take before their relationship is beyond repair. In other words, when is it time to give up? Clearly they are in despair.

The answer to this is not straight forward, and here is an analogy to demonstrate the complexities of such a situation.

Say you have a garden, with a patch of lawn/turf that gets a lot of traffic. (This is the vulnerable part of your relationship.) The kids take a shortcut on the way to the front door.  You take a shortcut on the way to the car.  The dog has a favourite circuit of the yard, which includes that particular patch of grass. The habits of life create a lot of wear-and-tear for that patch.

You are the strong silent type, and now she wants you to talk?!

strong silent type

She married you because you are the strong silent type, and now she wants you to talk?!  Why is it that being strong and silent isn’t enough?
How did you learn that expressing feelings is a sign of weakness – for a man? But a sign of strength for a woman? Do you take for granted that women can speak, weep and express feelings? But that a man stands there, stoic and silent? No matter what his grief, shame or disappointment?

Tennis, anyone? Keep the communication ball in play

Relationship Insights - keep the communication ball in play

The aim of tennis is to keep the ball in play; an exciting rally only happens when both players keep the ball in play. So, it takes both players to create a good rally. In relationships, you need to keep the communication ball in play. The ball is the substance of the relationship, which must be kept in play by both parties, with both giving something. What if one player was really slack, and just dribbled the ball? No rally. As a result, the other could not show his brilliance! This is the kind of communication to aim for!

So how do you keep the ball in play in your relationships? How do you pay attention to the other and to your own play? How do you keep the energy of the relationship in motion?

Managing conflict with your partner

Relationship Insights. Conflict is the number one complaint for couples. Learn how to negotiate conflict here!

Conflict is like exercise, and both conflict and exercise lead to growth. Too much conflict and you and the relationship will be hobbling along, disabled by the conflict.  Not enough and you will stagnate. Just enough, and you will be growing, or at your “growth edge.” A well-managed exercise programme is like well-managed relationship conflict.  You will grow, and be better able to act when further exercise (or conflict) demands are on you.

When distraction stops a fight

when distraction is a good thing

Distraction during an argument can halt a regrettable escalation. We settle, regroup, and get the prefrontal cortex to run the show. An Uber driver in Melbourne has the console between the back seats filled with Tic Tac containers. When a couple are arguing during the drive, he says, “Open the console!” Laughter. Wow!

It takes real presence of mind to know when you or your partner need a distraction during a fight. Learn to know when you are flipping your lid. Learn to employ a soothing and calming behaviour rather than escalate that fight.