Relationship Advice

5 - 3 - 1 Formula for Successful Relationships

Two main things contribute to those feelings of being in love with your partner. First your loving feelings are affected by how you feel about yourself when you are interacting with your partner. And secondly your loving feelings are amplified or diminished by your thoughts, words and behavior toward and about your partner. If your thoughts, words and actions are negative, your loving feelings will be diminished. If your thoughts, words and actions are loving, chances are your heart will be warmed toward your partner.

The 5 – 3 - 1 formula was developed to help you uplift each other. If followed it will help you feel great about yourselves when you are interacting as a couple. It will also help you behave in ways that amplify your loving feelings toward each other.

If you want the simplified version just do the daily 5 – 3 - 1 formula. Each day repeat the following:

5

Give each other 5 sincere positive messages.

3

Wrap your arms around each other for 3 hugs lasting a minimum of 20 seconds.

1

At least once a day make sustained eye contact and smile (with your eyes as well as your mouth).

 

For more in depth results use the entire 5 – 3 - 1 formula for successful relationships:

Once a year repeat the following:

5

Learn or review 5 relationship-enhancing skills (read five articles or watch five videos or attend 5 coaching sessions that help you learn healthy relationship skills)

3

Set 3 relationship goals. Choose three goals to work on as a couple. Perhaps you want to practice a relationship-enhancing skill. Make your goals SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. You can work on these one at a time if you prefer.

1

Go on 1 couple’s get away. Make it at least over night, preferably for a week. To count as a couple’s get away it must be just the two of you.

Once a month repeat the following:

5

Each of you share 5 happy memories from the past month. Reminiscing can help you bond and strengthen those positive moments.

3

Create a safe space for each of you to have 3 check in’s. This is an opportunity for each of you to clarify issues or concerns that you may have. Remember to use active listening. Carefully listen and validate before answering your partner’s concerns. Avoid accusatory language and avoid defensiveness.

1

Share 1 fun time together. If you don’t agree on how to have fun together take turns cheerfully participating with your partner doing their suggested activity.

Once a week repeat the following:

5

Each of you list 5 wins. Name five things that the two of you have done well together, enjoyed together, learned together etc. These can even be difficult experiences as long as the two of you pulled together rather than apart.

3

Notice and mention 3 strengths in your partner. Describe three wonderful qualities that your partner has or describe something about your partner that you appreciate, use specific examples of something they have done well in the past week.

1

Each of you make 1 request of the other that you feel may improve your relationship. Make your request specific and doable.

Each day repeat the following:

5

Give each other 5 sincere positive messages

3

Wrap your arms around each other for 3 hugs lasting a minimum of 20 seconds

1

At least once a day make sustained eye contact and smile (with your eyes as well as your mouth).

The simple 5 – 3 - 1 formula for successful relationships will help you bond as a couple. It will help you continue to amplify your love over time. You will be much more likely to avoid the common pit fall of taking each other for granted. So consider how your thoughts, words and actions may affect your partner’s image of him or herself. And consider how your thoughts, words and action affect your feelings toward your partner. And adjust accordingly.

Your Partner Has A Low Libido

If your partner has a low libido you may have tried to persuade, cajole or guilt them into showing more interest. These methods may not have gotten the results that you desire. This post offers 8 tips for ways to approach your partner to help restore the passion in your intimate relationship.

1. Be aware and respectful of your partner’s conditions for sex. Everyone has conditions for sex. Your conditions may simply be that your partner is willing, but your partner’s conditions may be more complex. Pay attention and talk to your partner. Find out what conditions help them feel more amorous. Conditions for sex are unique to each individual. For some it may be a clean and quiet house, for others it may be candle light and romantic music, for others it may be spending the day together doing something fun. Once you identify your partner’s conditions for sex, choosing to respect those conditions makes it more likely that you will hear yes rather than no.

2. Make good use of non-sexual touching. Consistently reaching out to your partner with non-sexual touching will help the two of you feel connected. Hug, cuddle, and kiss. Be affectionate, but not sexual. Remember touching a woman’s breast or genitals before she is aroused, often produces a feeling of revulsion rather than excitement.

3. Do more of what works. Think of the last time that you enjoyed passionate lovemaking with your partner. Think about the times when they have been more willing and when things were good. What was going on prior to those experiences? How were you treating and relating to your partner at the time? What was different? How can you introduce more of those elements into your current life?

4. Be generous. Women need to feel loved before they want to make love. Men on the other hand often want to make love to show their love for their partner. If your partner is rejecting your advances it may be because she is not feeling loved. It may be difficult for you, when you are feeling rejected, to choose to be kind and thoughtful. But by choosing to help her out more, to listen and make eye contact when she is talking to you, to call her or text her, to give her compliments, you may help her warm up to the idea of being intimate.

5. Be a little more feminine or a little more masculine. If you are a woman, step into your feminine energy and give your partner the opportunity to feel masculine. Does your partner feel respected and valued? If you are a man, step into your masculine energy and give your partner the opportunity to feel feminine. Does your partner feel loved and pampered?

6. Do something different. It is likely that you are feeling frustrated and that your partner is feeling pressured. Repeating the same patterns has not worked, so perhaps it is time to try something different. You may want to try talking it through. Not in the way you have in the past—not with the goal of getting your partner into bed, rather with the goal of learning more about your partner’s needs, first out of the bedroom and later perhaps you can get to talking about more intimate topics. It may also be helpful to stop focusing on sex for a while (weeks not minutes). There are no guarantees, but sometimes it can be helpful to let your partner’s libido build.

7. Do not take no as rejection. In order to be fully able to say yes to your advances, your partner must actually have the choice of saying no. If your response to no is to pout, get angry or punish your partner in some way, then you have not made it safe for them to say no and you also have made it more difficult for them to truly say yes. Obligatory sex is likely to decrease your partner’s interest in lovemaking.

8. Be honest with your partner. Being in a relationship where your needs for intimacy are not being met may make you more vulnerable to attention from outside of your relationship. You may also find that a sexless relationship is a deal breaker for you. If you are finding that your attention is wandering or that you have considered leaving, please be honest with your partner. This honesty will have less effect if it is offered in anger or in the heat of an argument. Talk calmly with your partner, use “I” statement rather than criticism, let them know that you do not want to stray or leave, but that you are feeling tempted. This is not to threaten or coerce your partner to sleep with you, but it is important to let them know how serious this need is for you while there is still an opportunity to resolve the issue.

When your partner has a low libido being patient, creative, understanding and communicative is perhaps a better choice that opting out of your relationship or having an affair. Efforts made to improve your relationship, reduce resentment and build connections may pay huge dividends in increased passion.

Facing Your Fear Of Being Alone

Fear of being alone can lead to unhealthy relationship decisions. I have heard many client say things like, “I know that this relationship is bad for me, but . . .” The “buts” include: I cannot be alone, I have never not been in a relationship, I am tired of trying to find someone, I am afraid I will never find anyone and so on. People, men or women, who are afraid of being alone, will often choose an unhealthy relationship over the possibility of having no relationship. They see the red flags, but choose to ignore them because they feel a desperate need to be in a relationship regardless of the cost. Facing your fear of being alone can be difficult. Having connections with other people represents a basic human need. We all need to feel loved and that we matter to someone. Sometimes people will settle for a negative connection rather than face the void of no connection.

The fear of being alone is extremely real for some. Here are some things to think about that may help calm that fear:

  • What if you are missing the opportunity to meet someone who will love and respect you? It can be difficult to stick to doing what you know is best for you. Try putting the thought, “There is someone better coming,” in the back of your mind.
  • Fear-based decisions are seldom good decision. If you were to act free from any fear, what choice would you make?
  • You are already alone. Feeling alone and unloved when you are in a relationship may be worse that being alone.
  • Being single for a time may give you an opportunity to get to know yourself, to stretch and grow and help prepare you to find a much healthier relationship.

Before you decide to leave carefully evaluate your contribution to the relationship. Are you behaving respectfully, acceptingly and lovingly? Have you made your expectations clear and have you set boundaries with your partner? Have you done all that you can to try to create a healthy relationship?

If you really are in a bad relationship, perhaps it would be helpful to accept is that it is better to be single than in an unhealthy relationship. Next it is vital to accept that you are worth it. You deserve to be loved, accepted and respected. Starting with you. Learning to matter to yourself is an important step. Practice loving, accepting and respecting yourself. Work on being comfortable with you.

Be patient and compassionate toward yourself. It may take time for you to build up the courage that you need to do what is best for you. Begin by changing how you think about your situation. Stop saying anything like, I am stuck, I cannot be alone, or I cannot leave. Focus instead on seeing yourself as strong and independent. See yourself in a healthy loving relationship. Facing your fear of being alone may begin you on the path of making better relationship decisions. Leaving is not always the solution, but you do have to do something different if you are going to see different results.

Become An Adult In Your Parents' Eyes

Frequently our relationship with our parents, especially the lack of mature boundaries, has a negative impact on our relationship with our partner. This is especially true if you have not yet become an adult in your parents’ eyes. If you have not taken this stand with your parents, it is extremely likely that you feel as if you are still a child in your parents’ home. You find yourself feeling and behaving like a child in the presence of your parents. From this position of feeling like a child, it is almost impossible to defend your partner from the behavior of your parents. Instead you may end up asking your partner to accept that Mom is just like that, or that’s just the way Dad is, expecting your partner to suck it up and not make waves. Taking this stance will tend to build resentment in your partner and erode your relationship. If you find yourself making excuses for your parent’s behavior, rather than setting mature boundaries, it is probably time to take the necessary steps to become an adult in your parents’ eyes.

There are some steps that move you toward a more equal relationship with your parents:

  1. Accept that your parents were and are imperfect and that is okay.
  2. Forgive your parents. Not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you deserve to be free from the resentment and bitterness.
  3. Let the guilt drop on the floor. If your parents attempt to offer you guilt because you are setting boundaries and moving into an adult role; do not take it in and carry it around with you, simply let it drop on the floor.
  4. Recognize that you are responsible for your thoughts, feeling, words and behavior. Your parents are not to blame for making you feel like a child. That is something that you are choosing when you cave, run away, rebel or hide, feel small or behave like a victim. When you were a child, you had little to no power in the relationship. That is no longer true, unless you continue to behave as if it is true.
  5. Take responsibility for your life. Accept your accomplishments and own up to your mistakes. Adopt the attitude of ‘there is no failure, only feedback’ and consider ‘how might I do this differently in the future’.
  6. Be open to influence. Behaving like a child in your parents’ eyes can take two forms (and a range in between) being obedient and trying to please your parents or being rebellious and refusing to hear them no matter what. As you become an adult in your parents’ eyes you will find yourself able to hear your parents’ thoughts and suggestions and then choose for yourself which suggestions work for you. Know that it can be a sign of maturity to ask for your parents’ advice.
  7. Find the gratitude. No matter how awful your parents were or are, there are very likely some gifts (of character, experience, example) that you received from them. Even if these gifts were simply examples of what not to do. You are who you are today because of the choices and decision that you made as you lived with or without your parents. Find ways that you can feel grateful for the gifts you received from your parents.
  8. Set boundaries. Expect to be treated respectfully and to have your partner be treated respectfully. Remember for boundaries to be effective there must be consequences. If your boundaries are not respected, lovingly remove yourself from the situation. For example, if your boundary is that you are unwilling to listen to a litany of complaints from Dad, when Dad starts in on his list of complaints say, “have to run, love you, talk to you soon,” and then hang up the phone or walk out the door.
  9. Recognize and respect your limits. For many there is a limit to the amount of time they can spend with their parents and maintain their sense of equilibrium. You may find that as you form a new and more equal relationship with your parents that your tolerance increases, but it is important to be aware of and respect your limits.

This is a simple, but challenging process. In some ways becoming an adult in your parents’ eyes may be one of the most difficult things you do in your life. As you grow and mature in this way, you may notice a positive ripple effect in your relationship.

The Art Of Conversation In Marriage

Communication is key in relationships. But you may have reached a point where you are beginning to feel that you have said it all. You may not be sure what to talk about after how to get the kids to where they need to go or what needs to be done around the house. There may also be taboo subjects like in-laws or sex. You may like the idea of a date night, but the thought of sitting in awkward silence is not overly appealing. Improving your communication skills may be just what is needed to feel more excited about spending time together. Becoming aware of the attitudes and behaviors that help or kill conversation is a place to begin.

Conversation Killers

Right Fighting

Having to be right is a conversation killer. Trying to manipulate or force your partner to agree with you will not encourage continued conversation. It is extremely important to always be respectful of each other’s opinions.

Negative Focus

Ongoing complaints and criticism are also conversation killers. Having a negative focus may make one or both of you avoid talking to each other.

Being Flippant

Being dismissive or making light of your partner’s feelings or thoughts will make it difficult for them to continue to share their thoughts with you.

Unbridled Anger

Verbal assault is a conversation and relationship killer. Unleashing a poison tongue on your partner may help you vent your anger, but it will build resentment in your partner and create a divide between the two of you.

Conversation Aids

Being Curious

Curiosity encourages quality conversations. Ask your partner questions. Remaining curious about your partner will help you grow closer to them. It feels good to be known and to know about each other.

Sharing

A willingness to share—to be honest and vulnerable with each other will increase the depth of your conversations. It will help you feel more connected. Remember that you need to create safety for each of you to be open and vulnerable.

Choosing Compassion and Kindness

Strive to understand each other’s opinions, thoughts and feelings. Always be respectful, especially when you disagree. Learn to disagree agreeably.

 Showing Interest

Make what is important to your partner, important to you. Show interest in your partner’s interests. Make an effort to learn more about those things that fascinate your partner. But be aware that there are going to be some topics that will never be of interest to one or the other of you. Work on finding topics that you can both enjoy talking about.

With a little effort you can hone your skills in the art of conversation and become the couple that looks forward to date night and talking with each other. There are certain attitudes and behaviors that are conversation aids and others that are conversation killers. The more you can avoid the conversation killers and make use of the conversation aids the more pleasant your time together will be.

Boundaries - No Paper Fences

"Daring to set boundaries is about having the courage to love ourselves, even when we risk disappointing others." Brene Brown One of the common issues in relationship counseling is the issue of setting and maintaining boundaries. Every person needs healthy boundaries; every relationship needs healthy boundaries. Boundaries define us, protect us, and allow and enable good, solid, happy relationships. For most of us we don’t realize we have boundary issues until someone is stepping on our toes or us on theirs. Yet, boundaries are one of the most essential needs of individuals and of relationships.

So, what is a boundary? The dictionary defines it as something that indicates bounds or limits; a limiting or bounding line. What does that mean relating to humans and relationships? Just envision around yourself a bubble, as big or as little as you need, in that bubble is your words, your actions, your thoughts, your feelings and your personal space. You are responsible for those things, no one has the right to tell you how to think, feel or do things, for example, a parent telling their child not to cry because that didn’t hurt is crossing two boundaries, first, telling the child not to cry, the child is crying for a reason. Second telling the child that didn’t hurt, the parent is not in the body of the child, they do not know whether that hurt or not; they have crossed a boundary by telling the child what they can or cannot feel.

Our boundaries need to be firm and constant, they also need to be adaptable to our changing life. An example might be where an individual has a need of a very large personal space yet, when they get married, the need for that amount of space will most likely shrink a lot when it comes to their partner. Boundaries protect us by keeping people out of our space, by them not being able to control us, our thoughts, feelings, actions, etc..

The only way our boundaries can do that the only way our boundaries will be respected is if we respect our boundaries also. Eleanor Roosevelt said we can’t be a door mat if we don’t lie down. We need to be firm in the setting and maintaining of our boundaries. This means that we need to stand up for ourselves, firmly, politely and if necessary, forcefully-not aggressively. If someone violates our boundaries and hurts us once, shame on them, if it happens again or if we are still hurting weeks later shame on us, we have set or maintained our boundary.

How do boundaries define us? A functional boundary allows us the choice of saying yes because we can say no. So if we feel we are always being pressured to do or say something that we don’t feel like (a boundary violation) we often say no because we don’t like the pressure or control. This is a knee-jerk reaction, we may even like what we are being coerced to do. However, because of the pressure we automatically say “no.” by setting the boundary no we have a choice to say yes. Our choices help define us. Thus, the kind of boundaries we set help define us.

When good, stable boundaries are set individually and as a couple healthy and happy relationships abound. Healthy and happy relationships grow where there is mutual respect and caring, where there are two healthy and strong, independent individuals, who can and do take care of themselves. This type of a relationship indicates you are in the relationship because you choose to be, not because you need to be.

Boundaries are based on our needs and our needs are our business, not our partner’s responsibility. It is fantastic when our partner cares and helps and supports us in dealing with our needs, but it is still up to us to do so. To expect our partner to make us feel secure, happy or important is a boundary violation. Setting boundaries requires a good deal of introspection, looking at how we are.

Setting a boundary is not an ultimatum, “you will do this or else,” it is a choice, “I choose to live my life this way, if you decide that is how you want to live great, if not, I choose to do …” The other person has a choice to accept or not accept your choice knowing the results. It may seem you are saying, “this way or else,” but really you are saying, “you need to make a choice, I want you to feel free to make that choice.”

How to set a boundary can differ from situation to situation and from person to person. You need to know and understand what the issue that bothers is, you need to state that issue along with some version of this is no longer acceptable to me, I’ve made a choice to be different. You must be okay with the boundary yourself; you need to be able to live that way as well; ie. talk respectfully, you need to do that as well. Next, you need to be okay with the consequence you choose, you can’t say if this happens then I am leaving unless you can actually leave. Finally there needs to be a consequence, otherwise it is a dream.

Boundaries are there to help you feel happy with your life. They tell you that you are worth standing up for. They inform your partner where you need some extra care and attention. All of this is a good thing; you do deserve to have the best life possible. So go and enjoy yourselves; treat each other; love each other. Boundaries make this possible in a healthy and functional way.

"Boundaries are to protect life, not to limit pleasure." Edwin Louis Cole

Improving Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EQ) may be even more important that IQ. It helps us to be more successful in our relationships, work and life. Emotional intelligence involves self-awareness, self-discipline and self-compassion. It also involves awareness of and compassion for others. A high EQ helps us resolve conflict and rise above challenges.

IQ alone does not make for a fulfilling relationship or a successful career. It is our EQ that helps us manage stress, build relationships and find the beauty in life. Some people have learned to ignore or shut off their feelings. They have trouble connecting with strong emotions like fear, sadness, anger or joy. When they were children, they may have been discouraged from expressing their emotions. But numbing emotions does not make them go away, however it does make it more difficult to manage them.

Practices To Improve EQ

Improve Self-Awareness

  • Pay more attention to your emotional reaction to experiences. Notice what happens in your body. Where do you feel stress? In your stomach, chest, head, neck, shoulders or back?
  • Be aware of non-verbal communication, pay careful attention to and understand the messages that you are sending and receiving.

Improve Self-Discipline

  • Practice self-soothing. By learning to catch and sooth your rising emotions before you are overwhelmed or flooded by stress, you will be better able to use both your intelligence and your emotions in a given situation.
  • To self-sooth find ways to ground yourself in the moment. This can help keep your mind from spinning into a negative over reaction.
  • Decide and practice how to behave ahead of time. Vividly visualize how you want to behave.

Improve Self-Compassion

  • Do not take yourself too seriously. Using humor and long-range perspective can help you cope.
  • View problems as a challenge rather than disaster.
  • Practice forgiving yourself.
  • Watch the language that you use. Are you looking through dark sunglasses or looking for the silver lining?

Improve Awareness of Others

  • Practice listening first, give your full attention to understanding the other person.
  • Make a habit of making gentle eye contact when communicating with others.

Improve Compassion for Others

  • Accept that sometimes it is better to be happy than to be right.
  • Practice letting go of the past and forgiving others.
  • Learn to disagree agreeably.
  • Practice accepting that we do not all think alike and that is great.

Blended Family

Creating healthy blended family relations is a challenging adventure. The experience can be frustrating for both children and parents. It takes time for blended families to bond. Love, patience and healthy boundaries are key ingredients to success in this area.

It is especially important for parents to remember that they are the adults. As such, they are the ones that model healthy behavior. A great deal of unconditional love may be required in order for children to start to accept the new situation. If either of you is recently divorced the children may feel resentful that someone is taking Mom or Dad’s place. If you have been a single parent for a bit longer, the children may feel displaced by all the attention that is now going to the new partner.

It is helpful to take your time and to build a foundation, rather than rushing ahead. Waiting at least two years after divorce before remarrying gives your blended family a better chance of success. You can also increase your chances of success by planning ahead.

  • Understand that it takes time to build relationships
  • Find ways to do day-to-day things together
  • Talk about parenting styles and expectations
  • If you decide to adjust your parenting style do so before moving in together
  • Expect that the children may not react positively at first and that is okay
  • Set healthy boundaries, be respectful and insist on respectful behavior
  • Let both your partner and your children know that you will not choose between them

Being aware of the basic needs of your partner and the children can help you develop and maintain positive relationships. We all need to feel loved, to feel important or valued, to feel safe or comfortable and to have some variety or excitement in our lives. Take time to pause and ask yourself how you are doing at helping your partner’s children feel loved, valued, safe and entertained? Ask the same questions for your children and for your partner. Helping everyone involved get their needs met, makes for a happier family.

When parents communicate openly and respectfully and help meet the needs of their children and each other, generally children gradually adjust to the idea of a blended family. Supporting each other and the children helps you all to make a successful transition.

Being aware of the basic needs of your partner and the children can help you develop and maintain positive relationships. We all need to feel loved, to feel important or valued, to feel safe or comfortable and to have some variety or excitement in our lives. Take time to pause and ask yourself how you are doing at helping your partner’s children feel loved, valued, safe and entertained? Ask the same questions for your children and for your partner. Helping everyone involved get their needs met, makes for a happier family.

When parents communicate openly and respectfully and help meet the needs of their children and each other, generally children gradually adjust to the idea of a blended family. Supporting each other and the children helps you all to make a successful transition.

Relationship Advice - Avoid Scorekeeping

Keeping score and making sure that you each only give only 50% to your relationship is a sure way to create conflict and frustration. When you each are focused on making sure that you are getting what you want from the other, you may completely miss the joy that comes from giving unconditionally to each other. I had a client ask, “Why is it that I can love my children, no matter what they do, but I don’t feel the same way about my husband?” Most people love their children unconditionally. Those same people will often put conditions on their love for their partner. They feel and behave lovingly toward their partner when they are happy with their partner or when their partner does what they expect or want. They often choose to withdraw their love from their partner when they are feeling hurt or angry.

The question is not what am I getting from this relationship; the question is what am I bringing to this relationship. Ask yourself, is the tone of our relationship selfish or generous. If your partner asks for your help, is your response, “Do it yourself”, or “Why should I.”

We are ultimately responsible to meet our own needs. We are not however responsible to make sure that our partner meets our needs. When we need our partner to make us feel loveable, or good looking or good enough, we have already lost. When we love and accept our self we are much more able to give generously to our partner. And we are much more able to feel the love that they are offering to us.

The best relationships are between those partners who are both willing to give 100% to their relationship and to each other. And they are busier counting the ways their partner is wonderful, than counting the ways their partner messed up. One excellent piece of relationship advice - avoid scorekeeping.

“Some of the biggest challenges in relationships come from the fact that most people enter a relationship in order to get something. They're trying to find someone who's going to make them feel good. In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.” Anthony Robbins