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Building Connection with your Partner: Through the Concept of ‘Turning Towards’

Reflection thoughts from: “The Love Prescription: Seven Days to More Intimacy, Connection, and Joy” Written by: John Gottman and Julie Schwartz -Gottman

Our inner narratives can get in our way of truly loving and receiving love. Unpacking that narrative to truly see what the negative and positive cognitions you are holding, is so important within this process towards understanding (and ultimately healing). Some cognitions you might want to check in on are do you feel: You are you worthy of love? Worthy of self-love? Deserving of love? Good enough?

We are geared for connection as humans; and we need to invest into connections for them to be successful. This reflection work of our romantic relationships will give us the answers of how much we have invested into them, how much more is needed, and what we need (tools, support, etc) to accomplish the work towards a successful connection.

In partnerships we often can get stuck on talking about time (“there is no time,” “I don’t know where to schedule in the time,” etc). ——Time isn’t this pressure filled reality we believe it to be. We don’t need to be spending 20 plus hours together a week, or any set amount for that matter, with our partners——small moments are the most valuable. The concept of “Turning towards” (as described within the Gottman’s work) can take a few seconds to validated and make our partners feel seen, heard, and valued. Examples of this are: when your partner starts a conversation by asking a question or making a comment, physically turn towards them and lean into it. Give them a response, answer the question fully, ask if they got the information they required, validate their comment. Simple moments equal connection.

If we become aware of the opportunities for connection with our partners and then build habits with them, once we master these two very key concepts we assure that our partners are feeling seen, heard, and valued.

The Realities of Managing Stress…

The beautiful work within ‘Burn Out’- By Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski; They speak to the realities of stress within our lives and the impacts that it has on our overall well-being. Their research focused on a new vantage point of stress and didn’t focus on the specifics of the situations that create our stress points. They highlight that —of course in circumstances that we have control over preventing a stressful situation from occurring we should do that, otherwise they provided insight to how can we adapt and learn to productively survive stress when we must go through it. — That is where their ‘completing the stress cycle’ approach becomes a fundamental requirement for us to positively care for our overall well-being.

Completing the Stress Cycle can occur in so many ways:

1. Physical Movement: Focus on moving your body (dancing it out, shaking your body, fast-paced walking, etc).
2. Creativity: Making something new (craft, art, music, writing, humming, etc).
3. Laughing: Moves the mindset (even when forced to start), provides a release and can be even more beneficial when sharing laughter with someone.
4. Crying: Expressing the emotion, sitting with it, and releasing it.
5. Physical affection: Hugging (for a prolonged period—ie: 2 minutes or longer), holding hands, sitting close to those that are a safe connection for you.
6. Deep breathing: Trying a variety of different breathing techniques—Box breathing, 4-4 breathing, etc. Having the focus being on the breath.

Communication Approaches

It’s important for us to reflect upon how we communicate. What is our communication style? What is our intention of the specific communication? What is the expectation of the person I’m communicating with? What is my need within the communication itself? If we define clear answers to these questions we can effective improve our communication abilities within all our relationships (personal and professional).

Realizing and acknowledging that we can only control our own actions. Through this approach we can set boundaries within our communication to ensure we are heard, understood, and the other individuals on the other side of the communication are respected. This can effectively reduce defence mechanisms on both sides of the equation.

Living for Yourself

Within the book Burn Out- By Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski; They speak to an important concept of the ‘Human Giver Syndrome.’ This concept highlights the methodology that society feeds off the belief that we (especially women) have a “moral obligation to give your entire humanity and do so cheerfully.” It is the belief of:

1. ‘Owing’ something to all those relationships around you.
2. That any ‘failure’ of being kind, calm, self-less is a failure of you being a human.
3. That ‘failure’ is deserving of harsh punishments—resulting in negative cognitions.

The damage that the ‘Human Giver Syndrome’ creates is a barrier that ultimately stops you from pursuing a larger meaning in life. It stops us from believing in ourselves and taking risks, putting ourselves first, and active problem solving that looks out for our best interest. As the ‘Human Giver Syndrome’ forces us to live a life for others, not ourselves.

Take a few moments to reflect if this represents you in any way, if it does take some active steps today to start living for YOU.

Finding a sense of purpose in an inadvertently ‘over-productive’ world!

We are often driven by our sense of purpose, and this is often gained by our measurement of being productive. This reality can often overwhelm us and leave us feeling not enough. No matter what achievement we complete, or accomplishment we level up too we can fall into a trap of a never-ending loop of “what’s next?” and miss out on the celebration of “what I have already done.”

In order to understand this for ourselves better we need to ask ourselves these questions:

1. What is your sense of purpose (where do you locate this within yourself)?
2. How do you feel most productive (within action, and absence of action)?
3. What external validation do you require to measure purpose and productivity?
4. Does any internal validation matter for you? And are you giving that to yourself?
5. What is the goal (and the steps to achieve it)?
6. How will I know once I have achieved that goal?
7. How am I going to celebrate that success?

The State of Belonging…

The opposite (far enemy) of ‘Belonging’ is ‘Fitting In’. We must give up parts of ourselves in order to ‘Fit In’. Belonging is the experience of being acceptance for your truest self!

Finding surroundings where we truly belong is one of the most beautiful gifts, we can provide to ourselves. Finding those individuals to surround ourselves with that allow us to be seen, valued, and worthy is the only way we can allow for our truest selves to be witnessed by others.

Important items we need to consider for ourselves: What are you searching for in terms of connection? Belonging or to Fit In? Be Included or Be One with the crowd and loose our sense of self?

Atlas of the Heart— Brene Brown (2021).

Importance of the Experience of Safety…

Safety is the largest part of true healing. We need to have physical, emotional, and psychological safety in order to establish a sense of self-regulation prior to being able to do a deep dive into trauma healing.

To start off being able to identify what safety looks like for you is key! — Naming past experiences where you felt seen, heard and valued would be a good start to unpack the meaning of safety for you.

Setting boundaries is a great next step. —- How can you voice your needs to those around you?

A challenge that can present for you within this work can be this cognitive dissonance that you’re undeserving of safety. This will be a helpful belief to unpack with a trusted professional to gain some understanding and validation on this fact.

The Concept of: Asking for Help and Offering Help

When Asking for Help….
The idea of asking for help can be a crippling experience base on our lived experiences, and both internal or external pressures and expectations. Which can lead to us struggling through alone and not understanding how to go about asking for help and/or knowing how to accept it.

Starting off give yourself a more comfortable starting point:
1. Who are my safest relationships that I can lean on? (Ie: Who can I be most vulnerable with).
2. What type of help am I needing?
3. What is the most comfortable mode of communication (texting, calling, face-to-face)?
4. What is the most direct language I can use to articulate my need?

When Offering Help…

Something we need to be mindful of, is how we offer support and help. Naming to someone “let me know if you need anything”, “I’m always here”, or “just ask if you need something”—— Are not the most ideal ways to show up for someone in need. These are however great openers to star the conversation; because depending on the individual that opening question could be too overwhelming for them to identify their need and then ask for it.

Breaking it down to size can be a more manageable start: I am wanting to be there for you and help. Would dropping off dinner or taking you out for dinner work for you? In this example you have given context and specifics to the type of help you are capable of offering, what that could look like, and ultimately asking permission if that would be helpful for them.

Our Emotional Capabilities…

Our mental load has a huge influence on what our emotional capabilities are. Understanding what our present day mental load is allows us to have an increase self understanding. This allows us to add insight to what might be causing: a lower ability to remain calm, being inactive in communication, and not functioning at the level we expect of ourselves.

Taking an inventory of what our mental load is, is a great spot to start:

1. What daily activities am I responsible for (for self and others— partner, children, parents, etc.)?
2. What weekly tasks do I track for (for self and others)?
3. What responsibilities are mine within my career, school, volunteer, etc. (for self and than the role I play in these areas for others)?
4. What are the larger goals I’m actively perusing (my role in them for self and for others)?

The purpose of this inventory is to understand what is running through our brains on a continuous basis and how we can off load what is not ours to carry and how to simplify what is.

The Need for Taking Care of Yourself: “Self-Care”

The idea of Self-Care can be a misunderstood concept that we lump into this idea of taking a bath, reading a novel, or going for a walk; with this understanding that these activities of care will “cure us”. Don’t get me wrong these three examples can be great start to self-care but there is more to it for each of us (and we are all needing something different, therefore, comparisons to others would not be effective for us).

This time of year especially with the holidays before us and having the time away from work-school-volunteering, and the overall change to our regular routines as a whole can equate to added pressure. Therefore, this is a heightened time to self-access what self-care measures are needed for yourself. So let’s take a few moments to prepare ourselves for what is to come:

Taking some time to reflect on what helps you recharge? (‘the idea of what adds to your bucket’).

1. Is there any physical movement activities that you enjoy? (sports, workouts, walks, etc.).
2. Is there any social events that add energy to your day? (who are those with, what are the environments like?).
3. Is there any activities you enjoy in isolation? (reading, reviewing helpful resources, etc.).
4. What allows for you to feel cared for? (do you need to share this with your support system to let them to be involved?).