Melinda Barker, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, will be discussing communication, intimacy (physical & emotional), and rebuilding trust in all types of relationships at our Pilgrim's Landing 2nd Ward Relief Society meeting on Thursday, February 27th at 7:00 PM in the Primary Room.
Laurels are encouraged to attend. A nursery and light refreshments will be provided. Also, feel free to invite other sisters who might like to attend, even if they are not in our ward.
Melinda will facilitate a question and answer session as part of the workshop, so be sure to submit your anonymous questions to a member of the Relief Society Presidency this Sunday.
Do you use each challenge you face in your relationships to build a stronger foundation, or do you simply look for a "band-aid" to get through the rough spots?
Good relationships are like ropes. Each interaction adds a new fiber to the rope--especially when we listen and find ways to connect to what the other person is saying. Relationships fray because expectations differ and trust unravels. We can paralyze people based on what we say to them. Expressions of contempt are like taking emotional scissors and cutting the connections that hold the relationship together. Connections take time to form, but they do not take long to cut. This is one reason why it is so important for us to continually form connections so that when things happen that do slice through some of them, there are still enough left to support the relationship and hold it together.
When we are connected, we can do anything! Connection is like the magnetic force. Our "poles" have to align. When we listen as information is being exchanged, we are always thinking, “How does this relate to me?” If we cannot see a connection, then we don’t give any of ourselves back during the exchange. We also check to see how we are received after giving of ourselves. Connection binds us together and makes us keep trying.
We value what we work for. It is not healthy to become a doormat or a "back-up" friend of convenience. A key part of a healthy relationship is reciprocity--sharing!
If you watch people move in a restaurant, you will see that they move according to how connected they feel to the other people at the table--leaning in or withdrawing, opening their bodies or crossing their arms, etc.
Strong connections make us feel safe--that the other person "gets" us, that they know who and what you are underneath and still accept
If an employee feels that you have heard them, they will perform for you because you have created a connection by giving their concern genuine authentic energy.
Emotion-focused Therapy is about the emotional undercurrent of relationships.
4) Showing Up Emotionally
Relationships are risky.
Women don’t trust words--don’t trust what men say. We want to have no doubts, to depend on them, to feel safe, and to feel accepted. But what are we doing to develop trust?
Men assume that if we’re not okay, we must be angry/mad. They do not know how we are feeling. Assuming that, “If you loved me, you would know” is not fair!
We need to learn to show up emotionally, and to help others do the same. By way of analogy - when you cannot see your child, you start to become anxious about them, which then leads to catastrophizing. Similarly, when we can't "see" someone emotionally, we go into protection mode--we nag or criticize them in an attempt to provoke an emotional response from them (i.e., to get them to "show up" emotionally) because we are scared. Unfortunately, when we nag, the other person is likely to disconnect from us because we are no longer safe for them.
5) When a relationship doesn’t feel right, ask yourself:
a) Has trust been established? Broken?
b) Do you know who you are?
c) Have you taught the other person who you are? (This requires being vulnerable.)
d) Do you make it safe so when you call one another out on your garbage (which is part of what happens in good, healthy relationships) you can each "show up?" When we open ourselves up and make ourselves vulnerable, we need the other person to wait for us, really hear us, and not abandon or judge us.
e) How does the other person need to be loved?
e) We felt heard when we are validated instead of fixed.
f) Trust is built by how we choose to hear. We do not want to get in people's "muck." However, you can sit and hear without picking up someone else's "muck." It is okay to ask the other person, "How did you hear me?" "What's keeping me from seeing (the real) you?"
6) The Power of Validation
It's Not About the Nail (Video) (Watch on ViewPure)
Until women feel emotionally heard, we do not move forward (and we have a tendency to drag past incidents back into the current situation as well). Most of the time, we don't need someone to "fix it" for us. The answers are already inside of us. We need someone to listen so we can talk to get there ourselves.
a) Teens don’t share to preserve their independence
b) It is okay to react to kids. Be honest with them!
c) Validation keeps the lines of communication open. (I'm sorry you faced that, but I’m glad you’re talking about it.)
d) Interact in order to build trust.
e) Kids need to see how their parents resolve conflict and solve problems. Kids who never see their parents disagree/fight do not have that example to draw on. Children need to see healthy examples of problem-solving (i.e., NOT parents who are doormats, or who deceive others or tip toe around the truth). Teens need to see that managing conflict is a process, not an event, and that actions speak louder than words.
f) Teens are more likely to believe what they see rather than what we say to them. Are we modeling the ways we want them to behave?
f) There are many different factors that influence how we handle conflict, including birth order, socioeconomic status, whether or not we come from a blended family, etc. Each of these factors is a potential source of conflict because they cause us to see/experience the world differently.
g) Utah laws address sexting as part of laws against pornography and child protection
- Although classified as a misdemeanor in some cases, teens need to understand that in some cases, they can be charged with a felony for being in possession of or distributing child pornography via texting.
- Snapchat - A mobile app in which the message disappears/self-destructs after it has been viewed
a) Erosion - Relationships can disintegrate slowly over time and little things can destroy them
- Evolution - As life progresses, people change. That is a normal, natural, healthy part of marriage. Are you making time each week to continue to get to know your evolving partner?
- Alignment - Do you communicate often so that your priorities remain aligned?
b) Symptom Child - A child acts out because they sense that the marriage is crumbling
- Couples who stop nourishing the relationship are at the highest risk for divorce
- Discuss the walls/distance in your relationship
- The highest divorce rate is among people who have been married for 30 years and whose children are all gone. Children are a "safe" topic. Don't take kids on your dates (and try to discuss something other than the kids when you go out).
- Kids rewrite history and we may begin to feel that everything in our lives is a lie.
Strictly Ballroom (View on ViewPure)
It takes courage to open our eyes and see what is really going on in a relationship
- Contempt is ugly
- Women lose their humanity when they express contempt for others
- We become really critical
- We get emotional scissors out and cut the connections in our relationship
- We tell ourselves things like "I don't need him" or "I would be better off without him"
e) Gifts of Imperfection - Brené Brown
- Vulnerability is an essential component of strong relationships of trust
- Our imperfections are gifts
- We need a relationship to support our story
The Power of Vulnerability (TED Talk)
Why Your Critics Aren't the Ones Who Count
The Price of Invulnerability
The Power of Empathy (Watch on ViewPure)
- A form of attention
- A source of stability
- Men want connection, but do not always know how to build it, so sex can become a way to get that need met
- Sex is the only place that men are allowed to be emotional (through touch)
- Some studies show that the "average" couple has sex only 2.5 times per month
- Sex can be a very selfish act (in head--are we emotionally present or making a shopping list?))
- Emotional intimacy is sustaining - both men and women feel fed
- One way to foster emotional intimacy is to engage in non-sexual touch for a week (in some relationships longer than 5 years, people have no touch other than sex). Non-sexual touch can help to remove the sense that one partner or the other has a "sexual agenda," making physical intimacy "safe"
- One positive outcome of couples who wait to have sex until after marriage is that they form strong connections and get to know one another well first
- When emotionality is being fed, sexual intimacy increases--this doesn't necessarily mean eroticism, but rather, that sexual intimacy becomes very sustaining
- Many couples continue to have sex right up until they are divorced. Sex is not the primary predictor of the health of a relationship, but rather, how emotionally connected the partners are
g) Building a stronger marital relationship - Strong relationships are not perfect or conflict-free, they are strong enough to support repair
- John Gottman - The Gottman Method for Healthy Relationships - 9 Key Principles
- A very helpful list of four key behaviors that influence marriages in profound ways (not from an LDS perspective)
- Love Map Questionnaire & Game
9) Addictions & Relationships
a) We self-protect through anger and anxiety because both produce adrenaline, which buffer us.
b) Addiction is often a response to anxiety.
c) Addiction blocks emotion, numbs us to pain.
d) Addiction severs connection. When an addiction is at play, we will feel a disconnection and a distance. Emotional intimacy is the "glue" of a relationship. Addiction prevents emotional intimacy because the addiction blocks emotion.
d) Emotional intimacy and physical/sexual intimacy are NOT the same thing.
10) Improving Communication
a) Apologize with accountability rather than defensiveness - I am sorry. (Defensiveness = "I'm sorry, but if you hadn't said xyz, I wouldn't have had to yell.") Instead, take accountability for your part of the problem.
b) Avoid the use of "but" - it invalidates anything you said prior to it.
c) Hot Potato - Pick UP the pieces of the problem that belong to us
d) Hurt Feelings - It takes courage to accept responsibility for our actions when we are hurt.
e) You can ask questions like, "What was it that I said that hurt your feelings?"
f) Men have learned that the more we say, the less they have to own. When they ask for examples, etc., that is less they have to pick up.
g) Keep your explanations simple: "Your silence really hurt." This places the burden on the other person in the relationship. Because they feel burdened, they are more likely to attempt to fix the problem.
h) Find ways to connect while still communicating that you have heard the other person.
i) We cannot move past problems until the emotion is addressed.
j) If we are still "boiling," we are not safe for ourselves or the other person because we are still in a reactive/reactionary state with no filter.
k) Sometimes, it can be better to address the issue the next day. Instead of just going to bed angry, create a commitment that you will return to address the issue at a later time (i.e., "We need to talk about this, but I am too angry to talk about it right now. I need to....)
l) Create fighting rules.
m) There are several roles we take on in a disagreement:
Withdrawer & Pursuer - Withdrawer needs time to think (we will take 30 minutes for a time out, then reconnect before a certain time of night). Longer than 30 minutes and the other person feels abandoned, so they begin castrophizing and generating thoughts like, "I hate him, I should just divorce him." When both parties are withdrawers, things may be fine verbally, but emotionally, the issues build and build under the surface because they are never addressed. Sometimes the partner may assume that all is well because the other person isn't saying anything.
Filing Cabinet - We are trying to show the other person why we feel how we feel, but they feel like we just enjoy dredging up old arguments and frustrations
a) Apply the Atonement to your relationships
b) Satan knows that we have incredible power when we're connected to the Savior and to one another, so he does everything he can to prevent and destroy connection.
Next time you engage in a conversation, try to learn three new things about the person you are with (even if they are someone you already think you know well) and look for how those three things connect to you.