Monday, May 6, 2013

Couples Fight

So, I had a disagreement with my significant other recently.  What started out as a minor difference in opinion seemed to spiral completely out of control in short order.  I found myself in a very dark place wondering how on earth two people who care so deeply for each other can let such a small thing become so big.

Here's what I came up with...

1) The fight is rarely about the small thing.  It is more often about how the parties involved respond to/communicate with each other in trying to navigate the discussion to that seemingly small disagreement.

2) Once one or both of the involved parties begins to feel that the other is being "unreasonable" the discussion becomes an argument.

3) Ongoing focus on the original issue won't likely bring satisfactory resolution.

Here's how I try to combat the above 3 things...

Identify the trigger:  What words or actions precede an emotional response?

Common trigger words/phrases:

  • Actually, I don't generally react too strongly to specific words.  But I can tell you that the men that I have been in relationships with have identified the following triggers for themselves:  "Always", "Never", "You weren't listening", "You don't care", "I don't care", "Whatever"
Common trigger actions:
  • Dismissal:  When the person I am talking with seems to disengage or end a discussion because they don't want to talk about it anymore, even when I have expressed a need to continue discussing.
  • Walking away:  Physically leaving in the midst of a conversation.
  • Some trigger actions that men have expressed to me include:  I argue with their opinion and sometimes escalate to yelling or a sharp (aka bitchy) tone of voice.
Communicate these triggers to your partner:  Most of the time; we are triggered or trigger our partner's response inadvertently.  So, once we know what out triggers are - we should tell our partner.  This goes a long way towards building a less combative communication style.  I can tell you that I have worked hard to eradicate known trigger words and phrases from my vocabulary. 

Take a break:  When the emotional response begins to take control of the discussion; it's a good idea to let the other party know that you need a break or to allow your partner to tell you that he/she needs a break.  This doesn't mean the conversation is over; but it does mean that both people agree to retreat and try to regain their composure.  When deciding to take a break; agree to when a good time to try to re-engage in the discussion is. During the break, it's a good idea to take stock in the discussion that is taking place and try to isolate why the disagreement is upsetting to each of you.  As a woman; I can tell you this is sometimes really difficult.  I often have emotional reactions to things that I don't understand and that may take me days or weeks to figure out.

Change the focus:  The reality is that the argument that occurs is usually fueled by something other than the original point of disagreement; so, it's a good idea to change the focus of the discussion.   Try focusing on what each of you needs to see happen in order to move on.  Be realistic and recognize that usually both parties will need to compromise, at least a little.

Take care of yourself:  If you are not feeling well or have been in a high-stress situation for an extended period time; it's important to recognize that you may not be engaging in a productive manner.  Take a moment to ask yourself how you were feeling before the discussion began.  If you can recognize that you (or your partner for that matter) are feeling overwhelmed or stressed out to begin with; it can often shed some light on why a particular discussion or comment may have upset you.  Once you've patched things up - recognize that you need to make your needs a priority for a little while. Once you're feeling calmer and happier; your frustration with your partner will likely lessen.

Ask for what you want:  My experience (at least with men) is that they are pretty straightforward creatures when it comes to what they want and their feelings.  So, when you communicate with your partner; take a moment to think about their communication style.  I have found that a straightforward request is surprising effective when it comes to resolving things with my guy.  "I'd like to go out for dinner tonight instead of cooking;" "Would you mind emptying the dishwasher", etc.  I have had countless conversations with friends over the years where they say things like, "Why should I have to ask?" or "I wish he would just offer."  Honestly, I've had that feeling myself at times.  But at the end of day; if you want to get what you want - it's much easier to ask for it straight up than to expect your partner to just know or just do whatever it is that you have on your mind.

Now, I'm definitely not saying I'm an expert on this stuff and I sometimes find myself slipping into bad habits but I can say that when I do follow my own advice; I usually end up feeling better, treating my significant other better and being treated better by him.  Which, I am happy to say - makes me happy :-)

Monday, April 8, 2013

What's Your Tell?

Over the years, I have had so many conversations with women about their relationships with (primarily) men.  In all of them; I find I keep coming back to an analogy for evaluating long term compatibility... Are you ready?  Relationships are like Poker.  In order to understand whether or not you're going to come out ahead; you have to be able to read your mate's tells.

Those early tells will generally give you a clear indication of what is to come in the long term.  They are a secret little window into tendencies of your "oh so cute" someone.  Those tendencies just may continue to be "oh so cute" but, beware... If you take those things and amplify them two, three, or a hundred fold; will they continue to be cute?  A drop of water may not bother you.  But if that drop of water continues to drip over and over again in the same spot for years... it can become torture.  

If those drops of water pool into an oasis of memories that make you smile again and again; you may very well have found the man (or woman) of your dreams.  If, on the other hand, these things begin to drive you mad - you may well be setting yourself up for one of those dark and confusing periods in your life where you find yourself asking how it went so wrong; how you were so mistaken about this one; how you could have been so blind, so trusting, so naive... Fill in the blank.  

The Tell:  My ex didn't have a bank account before he met me in college.
What it Should Tell You:  This person does not have an active approach to managing his money.
Ask Yourself:  Are you willing to be completely responsible for both of your finances as a couple and eventually as a family? 

The Tell:  My boyfriend goes out every night whether I feel like going or not.
What it Should Tell You:  This person is more interested in ensuring that he's having fun (or perhaps from distracting himself from his responsibilities) than spending time with you.
Ask Yourself:  Are you happy prioritizing his needs over anyone else's, including yours?  Will you continue to be okay with this after you're married and/or have children?

The Tell:  My girlfriend changes the subject whenever we hit a topic that we do not agree on.
What it Should Tell You:  This person does not like confrontation.
Ask Yourself:  How do or would you feel when this happens during a serious discussion about something that is really important to you, e.g. having children; wedding plans; financial planning?

We've all been there and we all have our own list and the list can go on and on. I'm not suggesting that you run at the first sign of trouble in the pit.  But relationships are a gamble.  If you're going to go all in; take a minute to ask yourself if you've really thought about what you know; been honest with yourself about the tells you've been shown; and considered the long term implications of how this hand may play out.  The reality is that any of these things could have been discussed and worked through prior to becoming a determining factor in a relationship's demise.  But if you're ignoring the tells; you're decision to call, fold or go all in will be random.  Why take these chances with your heart?  

Tuesday, April 2, 2013


I love babies.  I really do.  The sight of them makes me happy.  The smell of their sour milk breath is better than roses.  The feel of them in my arms ignites a warmth that is so soul permeating that I can't really compare it to anything else at all.

My best friend just sent me a note to tell me that her baby was having a tough time adjusting to her going back to work and is refusing the bottle.  In hopes of helping; I surfed the web for a couple of minutes to see if I could find any nugget of wisdom to offer.  Turns out - there's not all that much advice out there on this topic but from what I found; it generally fall into four categories:  Be Patient; Change the Bottle; Change the milk/formula; Give In...

So what I thought was worth noting was this... Give In?  Much of the popular advice seemed to focus on having someone (mother, husband, nanny) BRING the baby to you during your work breaks so you can nurse him/her...  I am no expert on child rearing and I am no child psychologist or anything like that.  My first reaction to such advice was "ARE YOU KIDDING ME????"  But then, I got to thinking...  How wonderful for those folks!  To have such a strong and nurturing support network to be able to accomplish such a thing.  It really is heart warming!

Some may not want to have the obligation to nurse follow them to work which is just fine as far as I'm concerned.  But some simply may not have such an opportunity to begin with.  So for those of you who can have your babies brought to you and you can (and want to) nurse; good for you!  I applaud you and your support network.  I am glad that your babies are able to extend this wonderfully bonding comfort for as long as that situation can be maintained.

On the other hand...

To my dear friend, I found myself saying: "Try not to worry." "She'll get used to you being away." "I'm sorry it's so hard for everyone." "

And, I found myself thinking

If only we could make our babies understand how hard it is for us to leave them too maybe they wouldn't feel so sad.

Monday, April 1, 2013

This is something that I wrote very shortly after my husband and I decided to separate.

The Forest
Traveling beneath a canopy of darkness, a clearing or occasional beam of sunlight that penetrates the trees can be mistaken for a sign of better things to come.  But anyone who has been blanketed by the darkness of a chosen path knows how suddenly that stream of light passes and darkness once again envelops the hopeful traveler.  Even the larger clearings eventually give way to the thick of the forest as it once again grows interwoven and clustered.  The forest floor is carpeted with the fallen victims of the winds and of the storms.  The ceiling once again a constant barrier between the traveler and the open sky.  Hopeless devotion to a chosen path is not the answer. To leave the forest is not to fail in completing the journey.  I have chosen to take a machete to the vines that hug my ankles as I stumble towards the edge. I have chosen to leave the forest in hopes of improving my journey.
I am not blind, I am just adjusting to the bright light of open sky and unfiltered sunlight.  As I stand at the edge of the familiar darkness, fondly recounting each clearing, each moment of sunlight I captured along my journey, I am set back on my heels.  Reeling a little from the abundance of warmth and open space before me; I feel the dependable darkness at my back.  My breath is short, my knees are weak.  I walk tentatively away from the life I chose into the unknown.  As I walk, my breath gets stronger, my stride gets longer, my smile erupts from within.  I do not travel unencumbered nor empty handed.  I carry with me my babies who created the largest clearings along my path - the moments of pure ecstasy within my journey.  I carry with me the baggage that such a trip requires to survive.  I will barter my baggage in exchange for hope.
Happiness is not a constant state.  For some it is fleeting and driven by external forces.  For some it is an internal flame.  I choose the latter.  I want to see the good when it is real and to be honest enough to know when there isn't enough promise of good on a chosen path.  I will be strong enough to change my path when I find myself in darkness created by the foliage of knotted roots and rotted soil.  I will not allow someone else’s map chart my course again.  And if I do, I will take a deep breath and remember what it is like to have the sunshine above and open space before me.  I have learned that being “happy enough” is not enough.  
Welcome.  This is my first entry into my first personal blog.  It is my goal to use this blog to carve out a small corner in this world where happiness is the ultimate focus.  I am happy to share this space with anyone who may be interested in sharing this journey with me.  I can't promise that every single entry will be about things that are happy.  I can't even promise that every entry will have a positive slant or a good "life lesson" somehow attached.

I will:

Share my thoughts on happiness.
Try my very best to be honest in what I write.
Make a very real effort to choose happiness whenever it is an option.
Try very hard not to let myself wallow too long in negative energy.
Try very hard not to preach.

I ask in return:

Please share your feedback if you would like to.