Category: Domestic Partnerships

Let People Know You Love Them

The old saying, “actions speak louder than words,” holds true when it comes to expressing the love we feel for others. This behavior may come easy to you, or you may struggle with showing your love, & if that’s the case, you’re not alone.

Previous traumas, relationship experiences, & past patterns of how love was modeled to you as a child, all play a role in how you express love to those you care for. The good news is, by actively showing love, you’ll receive it back in ways you never expected.

Rather than focusing on how much you are loved, shift your awareness to how much you express love. It’s not to say that you neglect yourself. Instead, it’s like looking at the glass half full or half empty. Try looking at the ways people express their love to you.

  • Kind words
  • Patience when you’re frustrated
  • Listening when you’re happy or sad

In other words, they are there for you. Use these examples to express your love back to them, then try cultivating an appreciation for the little things instead of expecting grandiose gifts as a token of someone’s love. Not that presents are inherently loving or unloving; they’re merely objects, that over time, fade or lose their appeal. Sincere appreciation provides fond memories & strength.

Express your love. Let loved ones know you’re thinking about them, not just on special occasions.

  • Text, write a letter or send a card
  • Call simply to tell them you miss them or love them
  • Let them know you hope their day is going well

It’s thoughtful things like these that reassure the people you care about that you love them. If you’re in a long-term relationship or marriage

  • Buy a random card
  • Cook a dinner complete with candlelight
  • Take the kids for an afternoon so your partner can have some needed alone time

Take time to think of the needs of those you love. This doesn’t mean you can fulfill their every whim or desire. Show your concern for them without it being unhealthy, manipulative, or co-dependent.

Ask them about their day, their desires, their pain, their passions, & then sit back & listen. A big part of expressing love is listening to your beloved. Think of how you feel when you’re not heard. You may feel neglected, ignored, or even unimportant. These aren’t positive feelings that nurture a loving relationship. When you listen with your heart, you begin to understand more fully. Ask what you can do to help. More than likely, knowing that you’re there to support through active listening is enough.

If you have a concern or hurt feeling, express yourself. Bottling up your emotions will only lead to resentment, which won’t help. If you’re fearful about something, be honest, let go of your pride, & don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. When you’re transparent with your emotions, you’re showing the person you love that you trust them with your whole heart & it’s a powerful example that your loved one can reciprocate, letting go of pretenses & being real. This is fertile ground for growing love.
Let your loved one know when you miss them, whether it’s physical yearn or something more ethereal. Maybe one of you has been traveling for work, or you live apart from each other. Perhaps you miss laughing with them, or riding bikes together or having sex, let them know what it is you miss & not in an accusatory way. Simply say, I miss …

Tell people you love & you’re grateful for them. Whether they’re a sibling, a parent, or a lover, let them know you appreciate them & why.

 


RELIEVING LONELINESS THROUGH CONNECTION

 

Feeling lonely & being alone are polar opposites. Spending time alone affords you enormous benefits like the opportunity to contemplate, sort through thoughts, & calm your mind from the daily barrage of stimuli, which in turn settles the nervous system. Loneliness involves a sense of isolation regardless if there are hundreds of people around you. Think the tips below can be helpful to someone else? Pass it along!

Try out these six techniques & discover how to feel less alone

  • LOG OFF & TUNE OUT – Get out of the house & see people face to face rather than on Facebook or Instagram. Studies show that too many hours on our computers & phones are detrimental to our mental & physical health, if not tempered with real-time contact with others. So next time you go for a walk, turn your phone off & notice all that is swirling around you. Get out of your head & dive in with your five senses. Refresh your ability to feel alive & notice the people around you.

 

  • TALK TO PEOPLE – Yes, that means strangers as well. You’d surprised how many other people feel as much as you do. Take a risk & say hello to the woman at the park who is also alone with her kids in the morning. When taking public transit, strike up a conversation. I’ve met incredible people with inspiring stories while riding the subway. Had I been on my phone, I would have never made the connection. When you’re standing in a line at the store, chat with the person behind you, say hello to the cashier. All of these interactions build your sense of community & allows you to feel a part of something. Get to know the names of the people who work at the places you frequent. If the thought of talking to strangers is terrifying, a simple hello with a smile will erode awkwardness over time & leave you feeling less bashful.

 

  • GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS – This may be a real tough one for many, but studies have suggested, getting to know people in your immediate community provides a feeling of safety * can bring new friendships as well. Rather than running in the house double-locking the door and shutting the blinds, take time to say hi to the guy next door or the woman across the street. Before long, you will be enjoying a newfound sense of community. Getting to know even the annoying neighbors, may pave the way for negotiations.

 

  • CALL PEOPLE & MAKE PLANS – Be an instigator for getting together even if it’s simply for coffee or a glass of wine. Rather than feeling lonely, reach out to people & perhaps invite them over or suggest doing something together. Go on a hike or walk or anything that builds a connection with the other person. Adopt more of a dolce vita attitude, in other words, live as if you’re in Italy where there are no to-go cups. Take time to indulge your relationships, they’re as important to living a healthy life as breathing clean air. It’s not a waste of time to sit with a friend & simply catch up or indulge in conversation. Just like a job, you want to invest time into relationships to make them fulfilling.

 

  • BE HONEST WITH OTHERS – Let people know when you’re feeling lonely. You’d be shocked at how many are right there with you!  Drag your loneliness into the light of day & talk about it openly. Many of us feel lonely at different stages of life. Perhaps you’re a new mother & on maternity leave. Your partner & friends are at work all day so you begin to feel isolated. Be honest with yourself & seek other women in the same boat. If you just moved to a different country or state or switched jobs, take the time to introduce yourself & explain that you’re new. Begin to see where you can fit in, chat with co-workers ask about local spots that deserve checking out. Over time, you’ll build mutual camaraderie. Whenever we’re honest about our emotions, we sow the seeds of sincere relationships that leave you with a true confidant as well as a friend.

 

  • GET INVOLVED – Join a group of moms & kids at the park for playdates or even a political cause or enroll in an Improv class. Look to your interests as a source for finding meaningful relationships. Maybe you’re seeking spiritual insight, search for a church, synagogue or temple that speaks your spiritual language. Investigate how you can become involved. Volunteering is another excellent way to make lasting connections by surrounding yourself with others who are also passionate about the same issue.

 

Implement a few of these suggestions to reduce feelings of loneliness & begin to give yourself the gift of connecting with others—you deserve it!

 


Finding Happiness After a Breakup

The ending of a long-term relationship can leave you feeling abandoned, resentful, or angry especially if you were on the receiving end of the breakup.  Breakups can create feelings of rejection and a sense of, humiliation, despair, and despondency, however you don’t have to feel these uncomfortable emotions forever.  There are ways to recover and move on with the your life, despite the breakup, you can find happiness again, give yourself time.

First and foremost, be patient with yourself and allow yourself time to grieve.  Short-cutting the grieving process will only haunt you.  Unresolved grief can cause prolonged depression and/or anger, which can simmer and erupt when you least expect.  Give yourself the chance to feel the pain; ignoring it creates an elephant in the room effect.  Facing painful emotions is like staring down a fear, you need to confront it to overcome it. You have experienced a loss, not just a physical loss also an emotional loss, someone you trusted and love.  Even if you were the one to initiate the breakup, you might still have to work through the grieving process, as you let go of one life preparing for another.

Be kind to yourself, treat yourself like a best friend; remember that you are still here, your wants are important, don’t ignore the need for food, rest, and companionship.  Take it easy, rather than beating yourself up by rehashing old arguments or thinking that you could have saved the relationship if you did this or were more of that. Take some time to nurture yourself, take hot baths, read, play music that makes you happy, buy flowers for your house, set your living space up the way you want it to be.  Foster healing through alternative holistic methods such as massage therapy, Reiki, or Acupuncture, take restorative yoga classes.

Surround yourself with loving positive friends and family, people you can have a laugh or a cry with, people who are there for you without judgment.  Be honest with them about your feelings.  If you live far away from these supportive folks, call them; take a trip and visit if you can.  Be cautious of people who try to take advantage of your vulnerability, you don’t need to beg for attention or affection nor do you need to bargain.  Seek out honest, forthright friends that will hold space for you while you heal. Stay emotionally and physically safe when you are feeling susceptible.  During recovery from a breakup, often people run into the arms of a stranger, just because they don’t want to be alone, be wary of that behavior as it rarely leads to a healthy relationship. Stay single for a bit until you’ve worked through the healing process.

Go out with people that make you laugh, find or foster those platonic relationships that leave you smiling.  Laughter is extremely healing physically, mentally, and emotionally.  It lowers your blood pressure, relieves stress and helps you connect with others.

Move, get out and walk, dance or ride a bike. Physical exercise has a cathartic effect, releasing those endorphins that increase your sense of well-being. Sitting around the house, being sedentary can exacerbate feeling bad about yourself and your life.  Holing up on the couch watching endless Netflix movies will only make you feel stiff and slow your circulation. Getting out and exercising, flushes fresh blood through the body, slows the breathing, and quiets the mind all while keeping your body healthy and improving your self-esteem.

Spend time figuring out what it is you want.  Write down how you want your life to look, don’t censor yourself, write without monitoring what is possible.  Do you crave more time in nature, would you like to allow for more creative time, do you want to travel?  Then go down the list and begin to do some of those activities or at least plan for them.  Always wanted to go to Australia but your partner never did, now is the time to splurge, count your pennies and take the trip.  Begin to rebuild your life the way you want, let go of what was and focus on what is and what can be. Reinvent yourself from the pool of personal passions and desires.  Take dance lessons, or that job in the city; start to say yes to you.

Before long, the misery of the breakup will be behind you.  Celebrate that you have come through the fire, you have not just survived, you are happy and most likely a better more wholesome version of yourself.  Realize that the breakup as painful and awful as it was, taught you something about your resilience, your ability to heal, then open your arms and let happiness back in.


How Anger Destroys Relationships

Think about what happens when you or someone you are in a relationship with gets angry.  Blood pressure rises, heart rate increases, and worst of all, communication comes to a screeching halt. The ability to remain loving and rational leaves on a Lear jet, and when the confrontation is over, the wounds may have caused irreversible damage.  If you or someone you love has an out of control temper, it’s time to talk about it and make real changes that will strengthen the relationship.

Long lasting, sincere, balanced relationships are sustained when anger is kept in its proper place. Let’s face it, we all get annoyed at times, anger is an emotional reaction to what feels like an injustice or hurt. If a partner has betrayed our trust or hurt us, it is natural to feel angry, but not productive to remain in that place.  On the other hand, raging over small incidents such as towels not being folded a particular way or toothpaste caps not on, or losing it when your partner doesn’t like the same music as you—is unhealthy and destructive.

Relationships need to be nurtured with open lines of communication. Too much angst on a daily basis will erode the very fabric that binds you and your partner.  When you are angry, you are not thinking with your rational mind but rather your emotions, and if you don’t step out of the situation to let tempers cool off, you may end up saying hurtful things to your partner.  Regardless if said in a fit of rage, words can damage, degrade, and diminish a relationship to the point of being unsalvageable.

Rather than going down that slippery slope, count to ten, then walk away and simmer down before you speak. Write a letter and get out everything you want to say, uncensored, and then burn it.  If you want positive results, communicate your needs with a cool head rather than a hot temper. The truth is, any satisfaction you get from saying something mean, is temporary.  In the end, the anger subsides, and you’re often left with guilt or shame and sometimes a feeling of emptiness. None of these feelings are constructive to you or your relationship.

Being angry all the time or dealing with someone who is, is exhausting.  All the energy spent on getting fired up or attempting to control it’s effect on you, stifles your ability to achieve, to create, and to love.  If your partner is often mad and blames you for everything under the sun, you may feel as if you are walking on eggshells.  If you are the culprit, you may have a difficult time keeping any lasting relationships and begin to feel misunderstood and alienated.

Anger is both learned and innate, and it manifests in different ways and can stem from a variety of causes. How you saw anger management modeled as a child plays a role in how you handle your own anger.   If an abusive parent that modeled chronic anger or fits of rage raised you, you might be imitating that bad behavior as it seems “normal” to you.  Maybe you feel emboldened by anger as it gives you a false sense of control.

The good news is whatever the underlying cause, excessive or explosive anger is treatable. The first step is recognizing and owning up to it, and then through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and/or EMDR, you can learn how to live without anger controlling you.

If you and your partner want to change your patterns, practice using “I” statements rather than shaming and blaming (which fuels anger and defensiveness), “I feel betrayed when you don’t follow through with what we agreed upon.”  Try being empathetic to your partner. Empathy helps us understand the why behind another’s emotions—that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate bad behavior. Compassion provides valuable insight that can help you understand your partner, which in turn gives you the ability to respond less defensively as you realize it’s not about you. Count to twenty-five, breath, exercise, go for a walk—do whatever it takes to cool off and let your anger dissipate before you speak. Perhaps making an appointment with your partner to discuss the issue the next day at a specific time would be best as this will give you both time to cool down.

When you both feel ready, touch each other—give a hug, make-love, kiss, hold hands, reconnecting physically, is healing.  Practice not flying off that proverbial handle, cultivate patience and eventually you will be able to respond rather than react.

 


How to Live With a Narcissist

Does your partners’ every conversation revolve around her/himself, or do they chronically take credit for things they had nothing to do with?  You may be living with a person who has a narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). People with NPD build a fantastical overinflated image of themselves from which they navigate their lives.  They have a heightened sense of superiority and self-importance. People often describe a narcissist as pompous, arrogant, manipulative, and cocky. Yet, a narcissist can lure you in with their grandiose fantasies and charm.  Needless to say, it is challenging to create healthy intimate relationships with those who have NPD, but not impossible.

People suffering with NPD are often unconscious to, and want to avoid their buried feelings of insecurity, which is the root cause of their narcissistic behavior. They do this by creating delusions of grandeur in order to mask their feelings of inadequacy. Despite their inner hidden feelings of shame and of not being enough, their attitudes and conduct do not get a pass; they are responsible for them.  One of the first things you can do is identify behavior that is not conducive to a healthy relationship. Because narcissists lack empathy for others, it is difficult for them to listen. It is hard for them to sympathize with the pain and suffering of others, you included. Rather than explaining bad behavior away, it is essential to set and stand up for your boundaries and needs.

Once you have established boundaries, guard them closely for the narcissist is used to being the one in control and will rebel.  They are extremely resistant to change. They may even resort to name calling or rage, walk away and stand your ground. Don’t tolerate abusive language or behavior, there is never a good excuse for it.  It is not normal or okay for a partner to dominate and demand constant attention and admiration.  Nor is normal for a partner to be overly critical while at the same time never being able to admit their own faults or misconduct. You can alter your response to these narcissistic behaviors by establishing very clear boundaries that you adhere to out of respect for yourself. Write them down and then begin to implement them. Eventually like a well-tended garden, your efforts will yield resolve and self-confidence and perhaps a more balanced relationship.  

Separate reality and fiction.  People with NPD have a tendency to blame their partners for anything that goes wrong and for any of their shortcomings. They distort the truth.  Remember, narcissists often try to defend their inflated self-image and will lie when they deem fit to keep it propped up. They tend to feel entitled to whatever it is they want and when it does not happen, they often lash out and condemn you.  Redirect the truth by pointing out simple realities and facts in a way that does not shame the narcissist. Role model what it looks like to admit failures, pointing out the lessons that can be learned, but don’t expect the narcissist to have an immediate about face.  It will take time and consistency for them to realize that they can safely let go of having to be right all of the time. That in our failures we learn to stretch and evolve into a fuller human being.

In order to preserve your own self-worth while living with a narcissist, it is essential to deflect any projection of who you are as a person.  In other words, a narcissist may make belittling comments slowing chipping away at your self-esteem. “Oh you are so lazy, you’re lucky you have me, no one else would want you. If it wasn’t for you, I would be further along in my career.”  You get the point. Feed your self-esteem by spending time with others that are positive and uplifting. Validate yourself by living the life that you want, follow your dreams and passions. Equally important is to let go of the false stories in your head that the narcissist may have planted.  By knowing who you are as a person, it’s much easier to redirect undeserved blame.

Realize the narcissist’s blame is not really about you at all, it’s about their protecting the image of themselves.  As tough as it is to take unwarranted criticism, remember that you have nothing to do with it. If you imagine holding up a mirror, know that the narcissist is really talking about himself or herself.

Denying the bad behavior of a narcissist will not make it go away.  Ask yourself if being in the relationship is what you really want. If you want to keep this person in your life, start by gently beginning to speak out against their behavior.  Stay focused on how the behavior makes you feel.  Narcissist want admirers, railing over all of their faults and poor conduct will unnerve them.  A kind and gentle approach will have a more powerful and positive impact.

Take time to construct real answers to questions such as how will you enforce your boundaries.  What has not worked in the past? Look at the balance of power in your relationship, how will that be impacted?  What do you want from the relationship? Is your love real or are you in the relationship for other reasons? Sincere reflecting will help you create a realistic plan for the changes you want to make. Be patient with yourself.  Cultivate wholesome relationships with friends (outside of the narcissist’s inner circle) where there is a true ebb and flow of give and take. Notice how that feels.

Narcissists can change, if they want to. They can learn to listen, to follow through with their promises, and to be more engaged with your needs and desires. It would be unhealthy for you to live your life waiting for this if the person suffering from NPD has no interest in working on their behaviors with a psychotherapist or couples counselor.   

Ultimately, deciding how much of your time and energy you want to spend in/on this relationship is paramount. Search within yourself so that you live a happy joyful life.


Don’t Hide Your Feelings

Fake it till you make it. We’ve all heard this advice at some point in our lives. While there’s a time and a place for putting on a positive outlook to muscle through a situation – or until you genuinely feel better – it’s not healthy to do all the time.

I advocate being honest in your relationships and with yourself about how you’re feeling. Acknowledging your emotional state is the first step to improving it, and accepting yourself where you are does your mental health a world of good. While feigning positivity until you begin to stabilize your emotional state can be a useful tool, living your life while constantly denying your feelings is emotionally harmful.

If you’ve been masquerading as content, or pretending that you feel wonderful to hide feelings of depression, anxiety, anger, or resentment for too long – you have the potential to truly do yourself a disservice.

Being honest with yourself when you’re experiencing depression, grief, anxiety, anger, or resentment isn’t easy. Any unpleasant emotion can be difficult to face, especially if you’re doing it on your own. It may feel easier to hide, or to pretend that you’re happy. But you deserve true happiness – whatever that looks like for you. Acknowledging what you’re going through and how you’re feeling can help you move past those unpleasant feelings or to find ways of managing them.

That’s not to say that you’ll never experience unpleasant emotions. Our emotional changes are a part of our life, and that’s okay. They’re nothing to be ashamed of.

If you’re feeling unpleasant emotions for any length of time, it’s best to be honest with yourself and others about them. If you experience these intense and unpleasant emotions for an extended period it’s even more critical that you reach out to somebody. A loved one or a trusted professional can assist you in seeking help. You are not alone, and you deserve to feel true contentedness.

 


Finding Light After Loss

The blog this week deals with devastation, loss, and ways to cope and recover.  After the horrific damage caused by this year’s hurricane season, many find their homes ravaged or completely destroyed, pets lost or knee deep in wreckage that may take years to repair. How do we cope with such loss?  How do we go on?   

Grief is inevitable with loss of any kind and it comes in hundreds of colors, shapes and sizes and looks different on everyone. One thing that may help is the concept of impermanence.  In Buddhism, (you don’t have to be Buddhist to embrace this), everything both happy and sad are malleable.  As a good friend of mine has said to me, “one thing we can count on is change.”  When going through bereavement, knowing that you won’t always feel this horrible, or helpless, does help…eventually.  It takes time to heal and it is important to your recovery to acknowledge your feelings.

Allow yourself time to collect your thoughts, try not to make any hasty decisions until after the fog has lifted.  When you are in the throes of emotions, you may feel like running away or starting over somewhere far away, unfortunately your feelings will follow you.  Wait to make life-changing decisions until you feel stronger and clear to exam the pros and cons. Give yourself permission to put things on the back burner and focus on what is essential in the moment.

Start slow and chunk out tasks.  If you have to start over from a natural disaster, you may begin to feel the light poking through as soon as essentials are dealt with. Don’t take on everything at once.  Prioritize, what you need first and foremost, then work from there.  In other words, don’t put all of your worries and concerns in the same basket, it will be way too heavy a burden.  Take care of your basic needs for shelter, food, safety first. Everything else can wait. Take help when it is offered, people often want to contribute in some way, be it bringing meals or watching your children.  Let them.

Know when you are incapable of dealing with the loss and ask for help.  If you find yourself unable to function or to get out of bed, reach out to a professional.  There is a huge difference between profound depression and grief.  The latter is temporary and may simply need time to fade the other requires treatment.  If you are prone to depression, a significant loss may trigger symptoms, reach out to those around you, tell them your true feelings and get help.

Understand though that in reality, you need to give grief time and space to dissipate. You may begin to notice less sadness in three months, but don’t be surprised if you’re still glum, at least some of the time, months after your loss. For most of us, it takes about a year before we have consistent grief free days.  

Let the light of laughter in when it shows up.  Although there may be a string of dismal days allow the curtains to open and set aside your worries.  Perhaps a laugh with friends over funny memories or a dinner you’ve been invited to.  It is okay to give your grief a time out, to find joy again.


Speaking Truth in Our Relationships

When I work with couples, I always advocate for one thing consistently – always stay honest with one another. Regardless of the problem you’re experiencing in your relationship, it can likely be traced back to a moment when you weren’t entirely truthful either with yourself or your partner. It’s easy to want to hide our truth sometimes. We may be afraid of rejection. We may be afraid of hurting our partner. We may be afraid that our truth is selfish, or negative in some way.

But the honest truth is that hiding how you feel or what you think from your partner does far more harm than good. If you hide your truth, you may experience feelings of resentment. And from their perspective, they may experience resentment, as well.

I believe that honesty is the best policy – whether that’s in your romantic relationship, with family, with friends, or with colleagues. Expressing how you feel and what you think helps to open up a productive dialogue. You may be surprised to find the listening party is incredibly receptive – maybe they’ve been feeling the same way or having similar thoughts. You may be equally surprised to find that they disagree with you – but are willing to openly discuss the disagreement.

The more open you are about your experience and your truth, the less likely negative interactions are. Your openness draws in openness. Your energy attracts similar energy. If you are open and honest and someone disagrees with you, there may be a moment of tension. But by accepting their honesty in kind, you move forward in productivity and understanding rather than in negativity and bitterness.

Of course, there are ways to ineffectively communicate your truth. You may be feeling negative emotions – like anger or sadness. These may lead to you lashing out and being brutally honest in a way that’s intended to hurt or offend your partner. It’s important to understand that speaking your truth comes from a place of self-respect and of respecting others – not from a place of anger, fear, or desire to be hurtful. If your words are rooted in good intentions, they will likely be received as such.

Communicating honestly and openly by speaking your truth can lead to great things within your relationship. You will find yourself being more open to hearing the truth of your partner. You will find that your partner truly hears you and empathizes with your experience. Most importantly, you will no longer feel a masked bitterness within your relationship that results from you (and your partner) not being honest with one another (or yourselves) when resolving conflict.

Speaking Truth in Our Relationships was originally published on Bridge of Life


Dealing with Loss

Well, everyone can master a grief, but he who has one. – William Shakespeare

We have all been there, a loss of one kind or another; the death of a friend or family member, the passing of a beloved pet, an unexpected tragedy such as a flood or hurricane  that alters our journey forever.  You may be experiencing a divorce or the end of a long term relationship.   Whatever the loss, it can be downright torturous to get on with living.  Most of us veer towards the familiar and when you experience a demise, change crashes in on your life uninvited.  But there are tools that can help you navigate through the painful terrain of grieving and dealing with loss.

First and foremost, don’t deny your feelings, otherwise they will end up somewhere in your body and wreak havoc.  It is normal to feel a profound sadness, to cry or wail, and to experience a sense of hopelessness. You don’t have to make excuses for your emotions, they are uniquely yours and everyone copes with loss differently.  You may feel utterly overwhelmed, angry or unequivocally fearful. When a person or family pet or companion passes it can flood you with memories and the void can feel physical.  Or the ending of a marriage or partnership can produce tremendous grief.  Acknowledge the surge of emotions with the same empathy you would give others who have experienced loss.  This is not the time to be stoic and keep a stiff upper lip.

When you are ready, share your feelings, talk to friends and other family members who are good at listening.  What you don’t need is a list of things you ‘should’ do.  Open up to people who can actively listen, that means they’re not the ones talking. Stave off those who try to cram unwanted advice down your throat, although they may have your best interest at heart, they are not you, they have not walked your path.  Now is the time to be present with what you are experiencing.  Facing your feelings helps you to come to terms with them, to put them in perspective, to shake hands with them and realize they are part of the process and part of you.      

If we bottle up our feelings they fester and eventually, like bad wine, turn sour and are that much harder to swallow.  Open the door to your heart, let the contents spill out to those you feel emotionally safe confiding in. Get out of your thinking mind and into your feelings.  The mind tries to rationalize or distract you or even judge you, which will not help your progress towards wholeness.  Perhaps write how you’re feeling down or pen a letter to the deceased or journal your experience without censoring your words.  Let the paper absorb your sadness or resentment then either keep it or burn it, depending on what will honor your emotional well-being.

If there is no one that can help you unburden your emotions, seek out a support group or a counselor.  In fact, there is an array of bereavement groups that could help you with your specific loss and even those with a plethora of family and friends can benefit from the solidarity of those who have suffered similar experiences (although let me be clear every situation is different and don’t compare your grief response to another).  Find the right one for you, one you can feel comfortable in expressing yourself honestly and without judgement.

Keep some semblance of a routine. If you like to walk in the morning or evening, perhaps try to keep that healthy habit up.  Or maybe you love to water your flowers every morning or make coffee and read a book or listen to the news or watch the squirrels dart in the trees.  Whatever it is, by sticking to a few simple constants, you will create a sense of stability that not everything is lost, not everything has changed.

Try to eat as healthy as you can and stay rested.  If you have lost your appetite try eating smaller meals more frequently, foods that are easily digested.  Get a little exercise to help you sleep, ask a friend to walk with you or perhaps cycling helps clear your mind. If you have a yoga practice, this can be very soothing during times of duress.  Taking little measures to maintain your health, will help you cope with the loss. It is okay to step away from the sadness for a bit and indulge yourself in an activity that quiets the pain, if even temporarily. This is not the same as ignoring or escaping your feelings, it is rather an attempt to bring your life back to balance. Throughout the day we experience a gamut of emotions, allow yourself a reprieve from the painful ones.

Breathe, and give yourself time to grieve, be kind to yourself.  Try to not self-impose deadlines for when you should feel better.  Know that it is a process, just like learning how to be a parent or how to keep your relationship healthy, grieving a loss takes time. Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”  Allow the wounds of loss their proper healing time and eventually the pain will subside.


Validate, Empathize and Acknowledge Your Partner’s Experience

It’s not uncommon to have a disagreement in your relationship. It’s to be expected. Any time two unique people with differing backgrounds, priorities, and emotional attachments come together to try and make a decision or work to improve their relationship they’re bound to clash every once in awhile. That being said, there are ways that you can disagree – even when emotions are running high – that keep communication lines open and maintain your relationship as a safe space for one another. There is no one-size-fits-all plan for solving relationship arguments or disagreements, but there is one step that you can take to help ease tensions and improve communication to reach an effective resolution to you and your partner’s problem.

Acknowledge, Validate and Empathize with your partner.

It simple yet many couples don’t do this. When you’re arguing with your partner or with anyone in general, you may feel defensive. You may feel angry or hurt. Maybe you feel that your feelings aren’t being heard. You are completely entitled to these feelings. You’re always entitled to your feelings and I encourage all of my clients to fully acknowledge and accept what they’re feeling – whether it’s positive or negative – before choosing to focus on the moment and what is best for that situation. However, while you are entitled to these unpleasant feelings that are a result of an argument, your partner is likely experiencing many of those same feelings. They, like you, are entitled to their feelings, as well.

When you’re trying to work through a problem as a unit, it can help to acknowledge and validate your partner. Acknowledge and validate their experience. You may not agree, and I’m not implying that in order to make up agreement is necessary – it often isn’t, and it’s unreasonable to force any parties to agree to something they inherently disagree with. Acknowledging and agreeing with your partner without validation and empathy will not make the problem go away.

An Exercise in Validation and Empathy

Validating and empathizing with them is sometimes as simple as saying, “I see and understand what you’re feeling, it makes sense to me and if I were in your shoes I might feel the same way.”

It may be saying, “I hear what you are saying, it makes sense to me and I imagine that if I were in your shoes I would feel hurt.”

This relates to a process I encourage – the mirroring exercise. The mirroring exercise works like this:

Sender: Speak slowly about a given topic, using short sentences.

Receiver: Repeats back to sender everything that is being said, word-for-word.

Maintain eye contact at all times.

Receiver: May hold up a hand to signal to the sender that they’re moving too fast.

When the sender is finished speaking…

Receiver validates and empathizes by saying: I hear what you are saying and it makes sense to me. If I were in your shoes I might feel the same way (list the emotions they’ve expressed to you). Did I get that correct? Did I miss anything?

During this exercise, partners aren’t permitted to ask each other questions about their feelings or distract from what their partner is sending. Partners will likely feel uncomfortable. That’s normal! The point of this is to practice daily, for about 20 minutes (10 minutes each) to regularly validate and empathize with your partner.

By acknowledging your partner’s experience – their emotions, thoughts, and reactions – you open the door to allowing your relationship to remain a source of comfort despite the disagreement you’re having. Empathizing with your partner by saying “ If I were in your shoes I also might be feeling the way you are feeling” will help you and your partner to connect. Opening that connection can help you move forward in a safe space with love.