My Philosophy

 

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Connection and intimacy is the key to happiness.

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Resilient relationships require a foundation of empathy.

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Good relationships aren’t conflict free, but they are responsive.

 
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Connection is the key to happiness.

 

I believe the key to happiness is connection and intimacy.  As humans we are wired for these experiences, yet we can also hesitate and protect against this closeness.  It may seem confusing: We want closeness with others, yet we also push them away?  Yes, it can be vulnerable to be close, and being vulnerable is a risk.  So naturally, there are ways we may start to guard against that vulnerability.  We may protect ourselves or hesitate to let others to get close. Mix into that recipe the regular disappointments and hurts that inevitably come up with those we love and we are primed for conflict, misunderstanding and disconnection -- the opposite of what we need and want.

I believe there is a better way and I want to help you find it.  Real connection isn't a given, it is a learned skill.  And it isn't rocket science, but it does require better tools and skills.  

Most of us didn’t grow up with great relationship role-models.  But we have so much more information and experience than we did. Thankfully, a few pioneers in the field of psychology and neuroscience have made incredible contributions to our understanding of how relationships work and how we can achieve wonderfully satisfying levels of satisfaction and happiness within our intimate and romantic partnerships.

Couples have to learn the skills found in Fulfilling Relationships.  In a nutshell those are:

  • Building a Meaningful and Sustaining Friendship

  • Learning Conflict Management Skills

  • Creating Shared Meaning

 


Resilient relationships require a foundation of empathy.

 

In order to have those fulfilling relationships that make life meaningful and fulfilling we need to be able to communicate better with our partner.  I have seen empathy become one the simplest yet most powerful communication tools couples will likely ever learn to use. Expressing empathy is a way of saying: I care about you, I’m interested in you AND You Are Important.  That is an amazingly powerful currency in relationships.  Couples become empowered together, shifting the dynamic from blame and defensiveness to softness, openness and collaboration.

People like to be told they’re important, that their partner is interested in them, and their thoughts and feelings are understandable, no matter how many times they may have been told before.  

Unfortunately, couples often take for granted how deeply touching that reassurance can be.  When I have helped couples shift their communication from frustration and blame to openness and curiosity, something happens for both of them that puts them in a powerful position, and on the same team.

This doesn’t mean you have to give up your own thoughts, feelings and needs.  It just means being able to temporarily push “pause”, listen, and make space inside to hear your partner’s hurt and disappointment.  It’s the honey vs. vinegar theory.  You’ll get so much more with the honey of empathy and listening, than with the vinegar of protectiveness, explaining your own position, and blame.  It’s not a complicated skill to learn, it just takes practice, guidance, and support.


Good relationships aren’t conflict free, but they are responsive.

 

Good relationships that are fulfilling, satisfying and bring love into our lives aren’t perfect, they are responsive.  When one partner  has a disappointment, a need or a frustration, the other responds.   

There is an implicit trust that the other will be there and will work through whatever is “up” with them, and an explicit communication of the message, “I'm listening.  I’m here.”  How relieving and reassuring it can be to know that someone in this big wide world will be there for you when things get tough, whether its a challenge between you, or a stressor from the outside world.

Research has shown us that when a couple feels securely attached and emotionally connected, pain is actually experienced less than when there is little or no secure, safe connection between partners.  So when “life” happens and you reach for your partner, if you feel trusting and secure with them, that “life” stuff feels less threatening and stressing to you.  

I see the difference between these couples in my office regularly.  Couples that are responsive and feel safe with each other can easily respond to a disagreement or difference in their relationship without it injuring either of them or the relationship. They are flexible, understanding and resilient.  Couples that don’t have this connection often expect the worst and are often easily triggered into conflict by minor issues which they have a hard time repairing.

When you have developed the skills and practices in your relationship that regularly nurture and nourish it, you can more easily trust and respond to each other in harmony and in sync, and conflict is productive, not destructive.