The Challenge of Connection

The Problem:

When I’m being very attentive and focusing on my partner, they pull into a shell — what do I do?

The Solution:

Often couples can get into a seeker-sought pattern, where one person takes the role of pursuing the other for attention, communication and activities together.

Typically, when that happens, the other person can react by distancing and seeming to not be interested or very enthused about whatever’s been suggested.  This can be about simple things like suggesting what to have for dinner, and include such diverse things as deciding about vacation plans or times for physical closeness. 

Take some time to think about whether this pattern is happening between you two.  Which are you most often — the seeker or the sought?  One way to change things is to recognize and talk about how it seems you’ve both fallen into one or the other way of reacting, and then making a concerted effort to “take turns” being in charge.  Alternate who initiates activities, or who decides on plans for the weekend.  Remind each other ….  it’s your turn to plan and my turn to follow along.  When doing this, remember to keep it light, and enjoy fun times together.

 

“I am more at peace with myself than I’ve ever been.  PAIRS has opened my awareness.” – Barbara S., NC

PAIRS workshops are offered throughout the year.

See www.PAIRSVirginia.com for details.

Interesting connections

The Question:

Sometimes it feels like I have nothing to say that’s new to my partner. I don’t want to keep having the same boring “how was your day?” conversation all the time.

The Answer:

It’s true that one of the best ways to have an interesting conversation – is to become more interesting yourself!  It’s not a good idea to expect or depend on our partners to liven things up – we need to become more alive ourselves! That means perhaps subscribing to a national news weekly magazine, and reading about a variety of topics… including those you might not be in the habit of reading. Even short articles on science, international news, entertainment, politics, sports, the arts, can provide interesting subjects for discussion. 

Share what you’ve read, and give your thoughts on it… then ask for your partner’s reactions and thoughts on it, too.  Take a class, watch some TV that is different from standard shows, such as the History Channel, Science Channel, National Geographic, Discovery, PBS shows – all these can give new and interesting topics and ideas to share and discuss. 

Connecting isn’t just about sharing how your day has gone – although that is certainly lovely, too.  Growing and learning together can truly enliven a relationship.

Is it work?

The Question:

If I have to work at it, is this a bad relationship?

The Answer:

That depends on your definition of “work.”  Would you consider giving your partner a foot rub or back rub work?  Would sitting together for a few minutes sharing what has gone on in your day be work?  How about finding out that your partner would love to go to a local outdoor concert, and calling to make plans and arrangements so you can go?  Or, turning off the TV for half an hour to really focus attention on each other the way you did when you were first dating?

Some people expect that once they are married, they can now turn all their energy outside the relationship – to work, children, hobbies, sports – and somehow think the marriage will feel nurtured and supported.  When we treat our partners well, the “work of a relationship” necessary to keep things happy is very easy – just a few minutes each day of attention, sharing, connecting – thinking of the OTHER person, and listening attentively to THEIR wants, needs and feelings. You don’t have to fix everything, or be the expert about their interests – just being there, listening and caring is what’s needed.  Yes, you could call it “work,” but can be some of the most pleasurable work you’ll ever do.

PAIRS has shown me how to focus on things I chose to ignore. I have grown in more ways than I can count, and will always treasure my time in PAIRS.” – Debbie J., VA

To learn about our education workshops, please see www.PAIRSVA.com.

Gentle Persuasion

The Question:

Why does my partner say they will do something, but then keep putting it off or saying they forget it?

 The Answer:

We all tend to do things that:  (1) make us feel good, (2) we are in the habit of doing and (3) we have been convinced we have to do whether we want to or not. If you are asking your partner to do things that are in the #3 category most of the time, you will be having lots of power struggles, which can lead to tension and arguments.  If this is a new type of activity that your partner hasn’t done much before (and no habit has been established) – try to think of ‘what about this task might make them feel good.’   If you can find a link to a pleasurable outcome, the person will be drawn to do it, rather than pushed (which is exhausting over time). 

Positive reinforcement (the reward system) has been found to be the most effective learning process available.  That might mean a treat of some kind if the job is done (if we do the dishes together and get done earlier, we can go to that movie you wanted to see….  or, if I happily support your separate, quiet time several nights a week working on your car, maybe we could spend one full day together over that weekend doing something we both enjoy!) As the connection is made with the requested activity being linked to a pleasurable outcome, the power struggles can go away, and the relationship can be much happier. 

“PAIRS has shown me how to focus on things I chose to ignore. I have grown in more ways than I can count, and will always treasure my time in PAIRS.” – Debbie J., VA

To learn about our education workshops, please see www.PAIRSVA.com.

The Challenge of Time

Here’s this month’s PAIRS Quick Tips –
Just a minute to invest in your relationship skills!

The Problem:

I feel like I’m busy all day — how can I find time to keep nurturing my relationship?

The Solution:

Are there other activities in your day that you make happen, no matter what?  Finding the time for that activity was a choice.  You prioritized whatever that was over something else for at least a few minutes.  How much time does it take to keep your relationship nurtured, growing, happy and healthy?

Surprisingly, many studies show it can happen with just 15 minutes each day of focused, undivided attention on each other.  Turn off the TV and cell phones, find a quiet space where you are alone together and undistracted — then, each share just a bit of how you are feeling, how your day went, puzzles and concerns you might have.  When one is sharing, it’s helpful for their partner to focus on really listening, without offering solutions, fixes and comments.  It’s also helpful to be sitting across from each other and holding hands as you share.

Knowing that we are simply listened to, and are also able to be there as a good ear for our partner, builds trust and closeness.  At another time, there can be discussion about solutions, suggestions or comments.  But during your special 15 minutes, the focus is on listening to understand, and sharing what’s in your heart.  Couples who do this daily have consistently reported feeling happier — and if it means turning off the TV for 15 minutes a night, they say it is well worth it!  Try it for a week, and see if following this way of connection doesn’t draw you closer.

PAIRS skills are so simple, and yet so powerful.  I just wish I’d known about them years earlier!” – Jason C., FL

Understanding our Differences

The Problem: 

When we are out with other couples, he’s the life of the party, but once we are home again, he hardly talks with me at all.

The Solution: 

Typically men and women view social conversation quite differently. Women tend to be looking to establish or re-establish feelings of connection and community. Women do this by sharing feelings about what’s going on in their lives, which makes them feel part of a whole group who care.  Men during conversation tend to be demonstrating knowledge, ability, qualities that set them apart – and hopefully above – others.  This comes from thousands of years of needing to be competitive, of being the provider and protector, being able to “win”.  Being the same as, or part of a social group in an equal way does not demonstrate those important qualities.

 Recognizing that is what’s going on when out in public can take the blame out of the situation – men and women naturally just relate differently.  So, when a man is at home, and doesn’t have to “prove” his abilities and knowledge, he can relax and enjoy feeling contentment – which he usually expresses through silence.  Unfortunately, that runs right up against a woman’s typical need to emotionally reconnect and bond through conversation.  Finding brief ways (15 minutes or so) each day to focus on each other, listening, sharing, not trying to fix the other’s problems, but empathetically hearing about each other’s day – done easily through a PAIRS skill such as the DTR – will take care of both of their needs.

The Challenge of Feeling Misunderstood

The Problem:

What can I do about being misunderstood so often?

 

The Solution:

Do you find yourself feeling no matter what you say to those close to you, it doesn’t get heard the way you meant it?  That’s because we all do something called “translating” when we hear others – especially people we have emotional feelings about.  The words come in our ears, but then they have to go through a whole series of relays in our brains that process the words – such as:  how were they looking when they said that?  what was the tone of their voice? Then we think: What did they mean by that? and then, further How do I feel about what I think they meant?   It doesn’t stop there.  Our brain then searches for other times we have felt that way, and what our internal “rules” are about how to respond when we have that feeling.  And then, lastly, we decide how – or if – we are going to respond to what was said.  All that takes just a fraction of a second, but often the “translating” that occurs can completely turn around the intention of the speaker to mean something completely different!

     How to get around all that?  We have to keep checking things out.  If we are puzzled about a response, ask (in a nice way) for the person to clarify or expand on their thoughts on the matter. Often, then, we can have the opportunity to turn around misunderstandings and avoid conflict, too.  But, also, just realizing how we process even simple statements… and how often they can get turned around by the listener’s history or interpretations … can let us relax a little, and not take everything so literally, so quickly. 

 

PAIRS workshops are offered throughout the year.

See www.PAIRSVirginia.com for details.