Have you noticed lately there’s a lot of news about the chemistry of relationships? I love to think about the reaction between our bodies, brains, and feelings. I was talking to my teenage son about this and he said, “Isn’t that meta-chemistry? How people react to each other? Like metaphysics, only between people.” Yeah, like that.
New research shows that serotonin dips when you feel like you “can’t get enough” of a new love. Dopamine increases in love, which makes you feel just oh so good! Oxytocin, the “cuddle chemical,” not only helps us birth a baby, but it helps us bond and want monogamy, while testosterone makes us want sex. It’s easy to say that women are one way and men are the other, but intimacy doesn’t work well if we forget that men are emotional beings and women are sexual. Thank goodness that metachemistry helps us remember.
Chemistry is also at work when you’re anxious or angry, and your brain, heart, and adrenal system pump out a virtual fireworks display of chemicals. If you can remember that when it’s happening, you might not have to lash out, freak out, or run away. That’s easier when you’ve been taking care of yourself.
Just as stress builds up, self-care and relationship-care add up too, both for the heart that beats in your body and the heart that holds your love. Now, that’s metachemistry!
Totally forgot about V-Day until last week’s post was done. Since this month’s theme is healthy relationships, here’s what poet e.e.cummings says about love.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true) and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows (here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
But who is he referring to? A lover, spouse, child, parent or cherished friend? Those we hold most dear in our lives who remain with us in spirit wherever they are. What is most important is that we are loving towards our loved ones even when we feel angry, frustrated, disappointed, or unhappy with something they’ve done. This is what is meant by unconditional love.
Wayne Dyer recounts how he and his wife decided after having the same fight over and over, “It is more important to be kind than be right”. Let’s keep that in mind in all our relationships, carrying each other’s hearts gently with the utmost care.
It was my 5-year-old’s innocent response to me mentioning my girlfriends. Since having twins five years ago and then another son, I don’t get a chance to chat with, let alone see, my girlfriends as much as I would like. Yet, they still carry an important role in my life.
Girlfriends help each other carry their burdens, celebrate each others’ accomplishments and bring joy to each others’ lives. Girlfriends also have a keen sense of intuition. Despite miles of distance and months without communication, girlfriends are there when we need them most.
Take for example a dear friend who called me out of the blue as I was just beginning to miscarry my first pregnancy. Or another girlfriend who popped up on Google chat one day when I was having a terrible time coping with my son’s developmental delays. On two of the worst days of my life, these women
helped put everything into perspective. I hope I’ve been there to do the same.
When the teeter-totter of life drops you square into a puddle of mud, it’s usually a girlfriend that climbs on the opposite seat and lifts you back up (then helps you shop for new pants). As women we naturally care for and nurture others, and through the sisterhood of girlfriends we give that nurturing back to ourselves.
Today’s author is Jessica Pupillo, freelance writer and editor of St. Louis Sprout & About (www.stlsprout.com).
Last week, we posted the first three aspects of assertive communication: 1)speak openly, honestly and directly; 2)state thoughts and feelings without becoming defensive; and 3)be courteous and respectful. Here are the next four steps.
Exercise timing. Discuss important matters at a time which is good for all involved. Discussions late at night when your partner’s tired or first thing in the morning before they’re fully awake, is not recommended. Make certain you each have the attention and energy for a constructive conversation.
Make clear requests. If there’s something you want, ask for it. Don’t expect others to read your mind. Relationship problems often occur when we don’t take responsibility for expressing our needs. Real intimacy is being able to say what’s on your mind.
Speak from your heart. Make your intention to have a “confiding” conversation even if you feel angry or hurt. Use “I” statements like “I felt angry when I thought you weren’t listening.” Don’t blame or demean the other person. This sets the tone for them to do the same. Whatever they do, practice assertive communication.
Provide clarification. If the receiver doesn’t understand what’s said, offer clarification or restate it. However, even when things are stated clearly, it doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll be heard. Each of us filters what we hear through the lens with which we see the world.
While the goal of assertive communication is to better understand each other, its success is not gaurunteed. Still, it is up to us to create the opportunity for this to occur by communicating assertively.
Cultivating healthy relationships and eliminating harmful ones is essential to proper self-care. Whether it’s with a spouse, child, parent, sibling, friend or co-worker, a healthy relationship is one that is characterized by RESPECT- for us and the other person.
Courtesy – Be polite. Follow through. Be on time. Avoid shouting, insults, nagging, and manipulation.
Boundaries- It’s okay to set limits, to say “no,” and to expect respect. Honor the other’s personal limits as well.
Personal safety- Violence is NEVER justified or okay. Everyone has a right to be safe from physical and/or emotional abuse.
Honesty- Deception and lies hurt both parties. The truth always comes to light. Trust is easy to keep but almost impossible to repair.
Clear communication- Say what you mean. Don’t expect others to read your mind. If you are unsure about what someone means, ask questions.
Realistic expectations- Consider the other person’s role and the limits of that role. Don’t expect the same intimacy from co-workers as spouses. Even if the other person doesn’t like what’s said, we are each responsible for our own happiness.
Flexibility and understanding- Plans change. People disappoint. Life is a moving target. Learn to adapt and adjust.
Grace- No one is perfect. Sometimes we have to forgive and overlook shortcomings. Other times, we must ask for forgiveness.
Good relationships (including with ourselves) are treasures. They must be nurtured. Make time for them. Cherish them. Enjoy them.
In my grandmother’s generation, “children were to be seen but not heard.” Only parents/adults deserved respect. Next, parents learned to “listen so their children/teens would talk,” but still expected respect from them. Today, it seems that many children and teens openly disrespect their parents, and we allow it.
What’s happened? When did we start worrying more about our children’s love and approval than teaching them to be considerate and thoughtful? A few months ago one mom told me that she was so hurt by her three year-old yelling at her “I hate you,” she collapsed in a puddle on the floor. Another mom related how her 10 year-old screamed at her for opening the room to her door without knocking so she apologized. The problem is not that these situations occur, but that we don’t assert ourselves and use reasonable consequences because we’re afraid of how our children will respond.
Like all moms, I know how hard it is to speak up and enforce limits. But I learned that although I felt bad , it was more it was more important to teach my daughters RESPECT than be their friend or fear their disapproval. I treated them respectfully and expected the same.
When my younger daughter yelled at me, I warned her once and sent her to her room. When my older daughter wouldn’t listen, we didn’t go to the mall that day. While they didn’t like it then, now they value respect, consideration and courtesy in their relationships. We joke about my younger daughter running from me saying, “No more consequences.”
Last Wednesday Susan from Working Moms Against Guilt posted about having difficult conversations with loved ones instead of an uncensored “snarkfest” brought on by repeatedly withdrawing from confrontation. Sound familiar? Most of my female friends and clients describe struggling with this because “nice girls” don’t make waves and depend on approval to feel good.
This week, I’m offering some guidelines for assertive not aggressive communication to help with this challenging practice. Remember, it’s important to be open and direct about both positive and negative emotions because love and praise often go unspoken too.
Be assertive. Speak openly, honestly and directly. Don’t be passive: beat around the bush, shut down, stop listening or withdraw. Don’t be aggressive: yell, blame, belittle the other person or fight to be right. Express yourself fully and listen openly to what the other has to say.
State your thoughts and feelings openly, honestly, and clearly. If you perceive the other person is not understanding what you are saying, try again. Remain calm, centered and non-defensive. Help them lower their guard so they can hear you fully and accurately.
Be courteous and respectful. Pay attention. Stop doing other things (TV, computer, etc). Make eye contact. If you disagree with what they say or their perception of what you’ve said, let them know openly and directly but don’t attack them. Give and expect respect.
These suggestions foster open, honest, assertive communication. They set the tone for a win-win situation. Practice with someone you trust first. Next week, Part 2 of what to do.