How To Have a Better Longlasting Relationship

Can you spot a good relationship? Of course nobody knows what really goes on between any couple, but decades of scientific research into love, sex and relationships have taught us that a number of behaviors can predict when a couple is on solid ground or headed for troubled waters. Good relationships don’t happen overnight. They take commitment, compromise, forgiveness and most of all — effort. Keep reading for the latest in relationship science, fun quizzes and helpful tips to help you build a stronger bond with your partner.

Love and Romance

Falling in love is the easy part. The challenge for couples is how to rekindle the fires of romance from time to time and cultivate the mature, trusting love that is the hallmark of a lasting relationship.

What’s Your Love Style?

When you say “I love you,” what do you mean?

Terry Hatkoff, a California State University sociologist, has created a love scale that identifies six distinct types of love found in our closest relationships.

  • Romantic: Based on passion and sexual attraction
  • Best Friends: Fondness and deep affection
  • Logical: Practical feelings based on shared values, financial goals, religion etc.
  • Playful: Feelings evoked by flirtation or feeling challenged
  • Possessive: Jealousy and obsession
  • Unselfish: Nurturing, kindness, and sacrifice

Researchers have found that the love we feel in our most committed relationships is typically a combination of two or three different forms of love. But often, two people in the same relationship can have very different versions of how they define love. Dr. Hatkoff gives the example of a man and woman having dinner. The waiter flirts with the woman, but the husband doesn’t seem to notice, and talks about changing the oil in her car. The wife is upset her husband isn’t jealous. The husband feels his extra work isn’t appreciated.

What does this have to do with love? The man and woman each define love differently. For him, love is practical, and is best shown by supportive gestures like car maintenance. For her, love is possessive, and a jealous response by her husband makes her feel valued.

Understanding what makes your partner feel loved can help you navigate conflict and put romance back into your relationship. You and your partner can take the Love Style quiz from Dr. Hatkoff and find out how each of you defines love. If you learn your partner tends toward jealousy, make sure you notice when someone is flirting with him or her. If your partner is practical in love, notice the many small ways he or she shows love by taking care of everyday needs.

Reignite Romance

Romantic love has been called a “natural addiction” because it activates the brain’s reward center — notably the dopamine pathways associated with drug addiction, alcohol and gambling. But those same pathways are also associated with novelty, energy, focus, learning, motivation, ecstasy and craving. No wonder we feel so energized and motivated when we fall in love!

But we all know that romantic, passionate love fades a bit over time, and (we hope) matures into a more contented form of committed love. Even so, many couples long to rekindle the sparks of early courtship. But is it possible?

The relationship researcher Arthur Aron, a psychology professor who directs the Interpersonal Relationships Laboratory at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, has found a way. The secret? Do something new and different — and make sure you do it together. New experiences activate the brain’s reward system, flooding it with dopamine and norepinephrine. These are the same brain circuits that are ignited in early romantic love. Whether you take a pottery class or go on a white-water rafting trip, activating your dopamine systems while you are together can help bring back the excitement you felt on your first date. In studies of couples, Dr. Aron has found that partners who regularly share new experiences report greater boosts in marital happiness than those who simply share pleasant but familiar experiences.

Diagnose Your Passion Level

The psychology professor Elaine Hatfield has suggested that the love we feel early in a relationship is different than what we feel later. Early on, love is “passionate,” meaning we have feelings of intense longing for our mate. Longer-term relationships develop “companionate love,” which can be described as a deep affection, and strong feelings of commitment and intimacy.

Where does your relationship land on the spectrum of love? The Passionate Love Scale, developed by Dr. Hatfield, of the University of Hawaii, and Susan Sprecher, a psychology and sociology professor at Illinois State University, can help you gauge the passion level of your relationship. Once you see where you stand, you can start working on injecting more passion into your partnership. Note that while the scale is widely used by relationship researchers who study love, the quiz is by no means the final word on the health of your relationship. Take it for fun and let the questions inspire you to talk to your partner about passion. After all, you never know where the conversation might lead.

How Much Sex Are You Having?

Let’s start with the good news. Committed couples really do have more sex than everyone else. Don’t believe it? While it’s true that single people can regale you with stories of crazy sexual episodes, remember that single people also go through long dry spells. A March 2017 report found that 15 percent of men and 27 percent of women reported they hadn’t had sex in the past year. And 9 percent of men and 18 percent of women say they haven’t had sex in five years. The main factors associated with a sexless life are older age and not being married. So whether you’re having committed or married sex once a week, once a month or just six times a year, the fact is that there’s still someone out there having less sex than you. And if you’re one of those people NOT having sex, this will cheer you up: Americans who are not having sex are just as happy as their sexually-active counterparts.

But Who’s Counting?

Even though most people keep their sex lives private, we do know quite a bit about people’s sex habits. The data come from a variety of sources, including the General Social Survey, which collects information on behavior in the United States, and the International Social Survey Programme, a similar study that collects international data, and additional studies from people who study sex like the famous Kinsey Institute. A recent trend is that sexual frequency is declining among millennials, likely because they are less likely than earlier generations to have steady partners.

Based on that research, here’s some of what we know about sex:

  • The average adult has sex 54 times a year.
  • The average sexual encounter lasts about 30 minutes.
  • About 5 percent of people have sex at least three times a week.
  • People in their 20s have sex more than 80 times per year.
  • People in their 40s have sex about 60 times a year.
  • Sex drops to 20 times per year by age 65.
  • After the age of 25, sexual frequency declines 3.2 percent annually.
  • After controlling for age and time period, those born in the 1930s had sex the most often; people born in the 1990s (millennials) had sex the least often.
  • About 20 percent of people, most of them widows, have been celibate for at least a year.
  • The typical married person has sex an average of 51 times a year.
  • “Very Happy” couples have sex, on average, 74 times a year.
  • Married people under 30 have sex about 112 times a year; single people under 30 have sex about 69 times a year.
  • Married people in their 40s have sex 69 times a year; single people in their 40s have sex 50 times a year.
  • Active people have more sex.
  • People who drink alcohol have 20 percent more sex than teetotalers.
  • On average, extra education is associated with about a week’s worth of less sex each year.

Early and Often

One of the best ways to make sure your sex life stays robust in a long relationship is to have a lot of sex early in the relationship. A University of Georgia study of more than 90,000 women in 19 countries in Asia, Africa and the Americas found that the longer a couple is married, the less often they have sex, but that the decline appears to be relative to how much sex they were having when they first coupled. Here’s a look at frequency of married sex comparing the first year of marriage with the 10th year of marriage.

Why does sex decline in marriage? It’s a combination of factors — sometimes it’s a health issue, the presence of children, boredom or unhappiness in the relationship. But a major factor is age. One study found sexual frequency declines 3.2 percent a year after the age of 25. The good news is that what married couples lack in quantity they make up for in quality. Data from the National Health and Social Life Survey found that married couples have more fulfilling sex than single people.

The No-Sex Marriage

Why do some couples sizzle while others fizzle? Social scientists are studying no-sex marriages for clues about what can go wrong in relationships.

It’s estimated that about 15 percent of married couples have not had sex with their spouse in the last six months to one year.  Some sexless marriages started out with very little sex. Others in sexless marriages say childbirth or an affair led to a slowing and eventually stopping of sex. People in sexless marriages are generally less happy and more likely to have considered divorce than those who have regular sex with their spouse or committed partner.

If you have a low-sex or no-sex marriage, the most important step is to see a doctor. A low sex drive can be the result of a medical issues (low testosterone, erectile dysfunction, menopause or depression) or it can be a side effect of a medication or treatment. Some scientists speculate that growing use of antidepressants like Prozac and Paxil, which can depress the sex drive, may be contributing to an increase in sexless marriages.

While some couples in sexless marriages are happy, the reality is that the more sex a couple has, the happier they are together. It’s not easy to rekindle a marriage that has gone without sex for years, but it can be done. If you can’t live in a sexless marriage but you want to stay married, see a doctor, see a therapist and start talking to your partner.

Here are some of the steps therapists recommend to get a sexless marriage back in the bedroom:

  1. Talk to each other about your desires.
  2. Have fun together and share new experiences to remind yourself how you fell in love.
  3. Hold hands. Touch. Hug.
  4. Have sex even if you don’t want to. Many couples discover that if they force themselves to have sex, soon it doesn’t become work and they remember that they like sex. The body responds with a flood of brain chemicals and other changes that can help.

Remember that there is no set point for the right amount of sex in a marriage. The right amount of sex is the amount that makes both partners happy. 

A Prescription for a Better Sex Life

If your sex life has waned, it can take time and effort to get it back on track. The best solution is relatively simple, but oh-so-difficult for many couples: Start talking about sex.

  • Just do it: Have sex, even if you’re not in the mood. Sex triggers hormonal and chemical responses in the body, and even if you’re not in the mood, chances are you will get there quickly once you start.
  • Make time for sex: Busy partners often say they are too busy for sex, but interestingly, really busy people seem to find time to have affairs. The fact is, sex is good for your relationship. Make it a priority.
  • Talk: Ask your partner what he or she wants. Surprisingly, this seems to be the biggest challenge couples face when it comes to rebooting their sex lives.

The first two suggestions are self-explanatory, but let’s take some time to explore the third step: talking to your partner about sex. Dr. Hatfield of the University of Hawaii is one of the pioneers of relationship science. She developed the Passionate Love scale we explored earlier in this guide. When Dr. Hatfield conducted a series of interviews with men and women about their sexual desires, she discovered that men and women have much more in common than they realize, they just tend not to talk about sex with each other. Here’s a simple exercise based on Dr. Hatfield’s research that could have a huge impact on your sex life:

  1. Find two pieces of paper and two pens.
  2. Now, sit down with your partner so that each of you can write down five things you want more of during sex with your partner. The answers shouldn’t be detailed sex acts (although that’s fine if it’s important to you). Ideally, your answers should focus on behaviors you desire — being talkative, romantic, tender, experimental or adventurous.

If you are like the couples in Dr. Hatfield’s research, you may discover that you have far more in common in terms of sexual desires than you realize. Here are the answers Dr. Hatfield’s couples gave.

Let’s look at what couples had in common. Both partners wanted seduction, instructions and experimentation.

The main difference for men and women is where sexual desire begins. Men wanted their wives to initiate sex more often and be less inhibited in the bedroom. But for women, behavior outside the bedroom also mattered. They wanted their partner to be warmer, helpful in their lives, and they wanted love and compliments both in and out of the bedroom.

Staying Faithful

Men and women can train themselves to protect their relationships and raise their feelings of commitment.

Can You Predict Infidelity?

In any given year about 10 percent of married people —12 percent of men and 7 percent of women — say they have had sex outside their marriage. The relatively low rates of annual cheating mask the far higher rate of lifetime cheating. Among people over 60, about one in four men and one in seven women admit they have ever cheated.

A number of studies in both animals and humans suggest that there may be a genetic component to infidelity. While science makes a compelling case that there is some genetic component to cheating, we also know that genetics are not destiny. And until there is a rapid-gene test to determine the infidelity risk of your partner, the debate about the genetics of infidelity isn’t particularly useful to anyone.

There are some personality traits known to be associated with cheating. A report in The Archives of Sexual Behavior found that two traits predicted risk for infidelity in men. Men who are easily aroused (called “propensity for sexual excitation”) and men who are overly concerned about sexual performance failure are more likely to cheat. The finding comes from a study of nearly 1,000 men and women. In the sample, 23 percent of men and 19 percent of women reported ever cheating on a partner.

For women, the main predictors of infidelity were relationship happiness (women who aren’t happy in their partnership are twice as likely to cheat) and being sexually out-of-sync with their partner (a situation that makes women three times as likely to cheat as women who feel sexually compatible with their partners).

Protect Your Relationship

1. Avoid Opportunity. In one survey, psychologists at the University of Vermont asked 349 men and women in committed relationships about sexual fantasies. Fully 98 percent of the men and 80 percent of the women reported having imagined a sexual encounter with someone other than their partner at least once in the previous two months. The longer couples were together, the more likely both partners were to report such fantasies.

But there is a big difference between fantasizing about infidelity and actually following through. The strongest risk factor for infidelity, researchers have found, exists not inside the marriage but outside: opportunity.

For years, men have typically had the most opportunities to cheat thanks to long hours at the office, business travel and control over family finances. But today, both men and women spend late hours at the office and travel on business. And even for women who stay home, cellphones, e-mail and instant messaging appear to be allowing them to form more intimate relationships outside of their marriages. As a result, your best chance at fidelity is to limit opportunities that might allow you to stray. Committed men and women avoid situations that could lead to bad decisions — like hotel bars and late nights with colleagues.

2. Plan Ahead for Temptation. Men and women can develop coping strategies to stay faithful to a partner.

A series of unusual studies led by John Lydon, a psychologist at McGill University in Montreal, looked at how people in a committed relationship react in the face of temptation. In one study, highly committed married men and women were asked to rate the attractiveness of people of the opposite sex in a series of photos. Not surprisingly, they gave the highest ratings to people who would typically be viewed as attractive.

Later, they were shown similar pictures and told that the person was interested in meeting them. In that situation, participants consistently gave those pictures lower scores than they had the first time around.

When they were attracted to someone who might threaten the relationship, they seemed to instinctively tell themselves, “He’s not so great.” “The more committed you are,” Dr. Lydon said, “the less attractive you find other people who threaten your relationship.”

Other McGill studies confirmed differences in how men and women react to such threats. In one, attractive actors or actresses were brought in to flirt with study participants in a waiting room. Later, the participants were asked questions about their relationships, particularly how they

would respond to a partner’s bad behavior, like being late and forgetting to call.

Men who had just been flirting were less forgiving of the hypothetical bad behavior, suggesting that the attractive actress had momentarily chipped away at their commitment. But women who had been flirting were more likely to be forgiving and to make excuses for the man, suggesting that their earlier flirting had triggered a protective response when discussing their relationship.

“We think the men in these studies may have had commitment, but the women had the contingency plan — the attractive alternative sets off the alarm bell,” Dr. Lydon said. “Women implicitly code that as a threat. Men don’t.”

The study also looked at whether a person can be trained to resist temptation. The team prompted male students who were in committed dating relationships to imagine running into an attractive woman on a weekend when their girlfriends were away. Some of the men were then asked to develop a contingency plan by filling in the sentence “When she approaches me, I will __________ to protect my relationship.”

Because the researchers ethically could not bring in a real woman to act as a temptation, they created a virtual-reality game in which two out of four rooms included subliminal images of an attractive woman. Most of the men who had practiced resisting temptation stayed away from the rooms with attractive women; but among men who had not practiced resistance, two out of three gravitated toward the temptation room.

Of course, it’s a lab study, and doesn’t really tell us what might happen in the real world with a real woman or man tempting you to stray from your relationship. But if you worry you might be vulnerable to temptation on a business trip, practice resistance by reminding yourself the steps you will take to avoid temptation and protect your relationship.

3. Picture Your Beloved. We all know that sometimes the more you try to resist something — like ice cream or a cigarette — the more you crave it. Relationship researchers say the same principle can influence a person who sees a man or woman who is interested in them. The more you think about resisting the person, the more tempting he or she becomes. Rather than telling yourself “Be good. Resist,” the better strategy is to start thinking about the person you love, how much they mean to you and what they add to your life. Focus on loving thoughts and the joy of your family, not sexual desire for your spouse — the goal here is to damp down the sex drive, not wake it up.

4. Keep Your Relationship Interesting. Scientists speculate that your level of commitment may depend on how much a partner enhances your life and broadens your horizons — a concept that Dr. Aron, the Stony Brook psychology professor, calls “self-expansion.”

To measure this quality, couples are asked a series of questions: How much does your partner provide a source of exciting experiences? How much has knowing your partner made you a better person? How much do you see your partner as a way to expand your own capabilities?

The Stony Brook researchers conducted experiments using activities that stimulated self-expansion. Some couples were given mundane tasks, while others took part in a silly exercise in which they were tied together and asked to crawl on mats, pushing a foam cylinder with their heads. The study was rigged so the couples failed the time limit on the first two tries, but just barely made it on the third, resulting in much celebration.

Couples were given relationship tests before and after the experiment. Those who had taken part in the challenging activity posted greater increases in love and relationship satisfaction than those who had not experienced victory together.The researchers theorize that couples who explore new places and try new things will tap into feelings of self-expansion, lifting their level of commitment.

Conflict

Every couple has disagreements, but science shows that how two people argue has a big effect on both their relationships and their health.

How to Fight

Many people try their best to avoid conflict, but relationship researchers say every conflict presents an opportunity to improve a relationship. The key is to learn to fight constructively in a way that leaves you feeling better about your partner.

Marriage researcher John Gottman has built an entire career out of studying how couples interact. He learned that even in a laboratory setting, couples are willing to air their disagreements even when scientists are watching and the cameras are rolling. From that research, he developed a system of coding words and gestures that has been shown to be highly predictive of a couple’s chance of success or risk for divorce or breakup.

In one important study, Dr. Gottman and his colleagues observed newly married couples in the midst of an argument. He learned that the topic didn’t matter, nor did the duration of the fight. What was most predictive of the couple’s marital health? The researchers found that analyzing just the first three minutes of the couple’s argument could predict their risk for divorce over the next six years.

In many ways, this is great news for couples because it gives you a place to focus. The most important moments between you and your partner during a conflict are those first few minutes when the fight is just getting started. Focus on your behavior during that time, and it likely will change the dynamics of your relationship for the better.

Here’s some general advice from the research about how to start a fight with the person you love:

Identify the complaint, not the criticism. If you’re upset about housework, don’t start the fight by criticizing your partner with, “You never help me.” Focus on the complaint and what will make it better. “It’s so tough when I work late on Thursdays to come home to dishes and unbathed kids. Do you think you could find a way to help more on those nights?”

Avoid “you” phrases. Phrases like “You always” and “You never” are almost always followed by criticism and blame.

Think about pronouns. Sentence that start with “I” or “We” help you identify problems and solutions, rather than putting blame on someone else.

Be aware of body language. No eye-rolling, which is a sign of contempt. Look at your partner when you speak. No folded arms or crossed legs to show you are open to their feelings and input. Sit or stand at the same level as your partner — one person should not be looking down or looking up during an argument.

Learn to De-escalate: When the argument starts getting heated, take it upon yourself to calm things down. Here are some phrases that are always useful in de-escalation:

  • “What if we…”
  • “I know this is hard…”
  • “I hear what you’re saying…”
  • “What do you think?”

Dr. Gottman reminds us that fighting with your partner is not a bad thing.After all his years of studying conflict, Dr. Gottman has said he’s a strong believe in the power of argument to help couples improve their relationship. In fact, airing our differences gives our relationship “real staying power,” he says. You just need to make sure you get the beginning right so the discussion can be constructive instead of damaging. 

Why Couples Fight

A famous study of cardiovascular health conducted in Framingham, Mass., happened to ask its 4,000 participants what topics were most likely to cause conflict in their relationship. Women said issues involving children, housework and money created the most problems in their relationships. Men said their arguments with their spouse usually focused on sex, money and leisure time. Even though the lists were slightly different, the reality is that men and women really care about the same issues: money, how they spend their time away from work (housework or leisure) and balancing the demands of family life (children and sex).

Money

Sometimes money problems become marriage problems.

Studies show that money is consistently the most common reason for conflict in a relationship. Couples with financial problems and debt create have higher levels of stress and are less happy in their relationship.

Why does money cause conflict? Fights about money ultimately are not really about finances. They are about a couple’s values and shared goals. A person who overspends on restaurants, travel and fun stuff often wants to live in the moment and seek new adventures and change; a saver hoping to buy a house some day may most value stability, family and community. Money conflict can be a barometer for the health of your relationship and an indicator that the two of you are out of sync on some of your most fundamental values.

David Olson, professor emeritus at the University of Minnesota, studied 21,000 couples and identified five questions you can ask to find out if you are financially compatible with your partner.

  1. We agree on how to spend money.
  2. I don’t have any concerns about how my partner handles money.
  3. I am satisfied with our decisions about savings.
  4. Major debts are not a problem
  5. Making financial decisions is not difficult.

Dr. Olson found that the happiest couples were those who both agreed with at least four of the statements. He also found that couples who did not see eye to eye on three or more of the statements were more likely to score low on overall marital happiness. Debt tends to be the biggest culprit in marital conflict. It can be an overwhelming source of worry and stress. As a result, couples who can focus on money problems and reduce their debt may discover that they have also solved most of their marital problems.

Here’s some parting advice for managing your money and your relationship:

Be honest about your spending: It’s surprisingly common for two people in a relationship to lie about how they spend their money, usually because they know it’s a sore point for their partner. Researchers call it “financial infidelity,” and when it’s discovered, it represents a serious breach of trust in the relationship. Surveys suggest secret spending occurs in one out of three committed relationships. Shopping for clothes, spending money on a hobby and gambling are the three most-cited types of secret spending that causes conflict in a relationship.

Maintain some financial independence: While two people in a relationship need to be honest with each other about how they spend their money, it’s a good idea for both sides to agree that each person has his or her own discretionary pot of money to spend on whatever they want. Whether it’s a regular manicure, clothes shopping, a great bottle of wine or a fancy new bike — the point is that just because you have different priorities as a family doesn’t mean you can’t occasionally feed your personal indulgences. The key is to agree on the amount of discretionary money you each have and then stay quiet when your partner buys the newest iPhone just because.

Invest in the relationship. When you do have money to spend, spend it on the relationship. Take a trip, go to dinner, see a show. Spending money on new and shared experiences is a good investment in your partnership.

Children

One of the more uncomfortable findings of relationship science is the negative effect children can have on previously happy couples. Despite the popular notion that children bring couples closer, several studies have shown that relationship satisfaction and happiness typically plummet with the arrival of the first baby.

One study from the University of Nebraska College of Nursing looked at marital happiness in 185 men and women. Scores declined starting in pregnancy, and remained lower as the children reached 5 months and 24 months. Other studies show that couples with two children score even lower than couples with one child.

While having a child clearly makes parents happy, the financial and time constraints can add stress to a relationship. After the birth of a child, couples have only about one-third the time alone together as they had when they were childless, according to researchers from Ohio State.

Here’s the good news: A minority of couples with children — about 20 percent — manage to stay happy in their relationships despite the kids.

What’s their secret? Top three predictors of a happy marriage among parents

  1. Sexual Intimacy
  2. Commitment
  3. Generosity

So there you have it. The secret to surviving parenthood is to have lots of sex, be faithful and be generous toward your partner. In this case, generosity isn’t financial — it’s about the sharing, caring and kind gestures you make toward your partner every day. When you are trying to survive the chaos of raising kids, it’s the little things — like bringing your partner coffee, offering to pick up the dry cleaning or do the dishes, that can make all the difference in the health of your relationship.

Make It Last

Here are some suggestions for how to strengthen your relationship based on the findings of various studies.

Stay Generous

Are you generous toward your partner? How often do you express affection? Or do small things for your partner like bring them coffee? Men and women who score the highest on the generosity scale are far more likely to report “very happy” marriages, according to research from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project.

Use Your Relationship for Personal Growth

Finding a partner who makes your life more interesting is an important factor in sustaining a long relationship.

Gary W. Lewandowski Jr., a professor at Monmouth University in New Jersey, developed a series of questions for couples: How much has being with your partner resulted in your learning new things? How much has knowing your partner made you a better person?

“People have a fundamental motivation to improve the self and add to who they are as a person,” Dr. Lewandowski says. “If your partner is helping you become a better person, you become happier and more satisfied in the relationship.”

Be Decisive

How thoughtfully couples make decisions can have a lasting effect on the quality of their romantic relationships. Couples who are decisive before marriage — intentionally defining their relationships, living together and planning a wedding — appear to have better marriages than couples who simply let inertia carry them through major transitions.

“Making decisions and talking things through with partners is important,” said Galena K. Rhoades, a relationship researcher at the University of Denver and co-author of the report. “When you make an intentional decision, you are more likely to follow through on that.”

While the finding may seem obvious, the reality is that many couples avoid real decision-making. Many couples living together, for instance, did not sit down and talk about cohabitation. Often one partner had begun spending more time at the other’s home, or a lease expired, forcing the couple to formalize a living arrangement.

Showing intent in some form — from planning the first date, to living together, to the wedding and beyond — can help improve the quality of a marriage over all. To learn more, read about the science behind “The Decisive Marriage.”

“At the individual level, know who you are and what you are about, and make decisions when it counts rather than letting things slide,” Dr. Stanley said. “Once you are a couple, do the same thing in terms of how you approach major transitions in your relationship.”

Nurture Friends and Family

Sometimes couples become so focused on the relationship that they forget to invest in their relationships with friends and family. Researchers Naomi Gerstel of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Natalia Sarkisian of Boston College have found that married couples have fewer ties to relatives than the unmarried. They are less likely to visit, call or help out family members, and less likely to socialize with neighbors and friends.

The problem with this trend is that it places an unreasonable burden and strain on the marriage, says Stephanie Coontz, who teaches history and family studies at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. “We often overload marriage by asking our partner to satisfy more needs than any one individual can possibly meet,” writes Dr. Coontz. “And if our marriage falters, we have few emotional support systems to fall back on.

To strengthen a marriage, consider asking less of it, suggests Dr. Coontz. That means leaning on other family members and friends for emotional support from time to time. Support your partner’s outside friendships and enjoy the respite from the demands of marriage when you’re not together.

See a Rom-Com

It sounds silly, but research suggests that seeing a sappy relationship movie made in Hollywood can help couples work out problems in the real world. A University of Rochester study found that couples who watched and talked about issues raised in movies like “Steel Magnolias” and “Love Story” were less likely to divorce or separate than couples in a control group. Surprisingly, the “Love Story” intervention was as effective at keeping couples together as two intensive forms of marriage therapy. 

Obviously, talking about a movie is not going to solve significant problems in a marriage, but the findings do signal the importance of communication in a marriage and finding opportunities to talk about your differences. “A movie is a nonthreatening way to get the conversation started,” said Ronald D. Rogge, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Rochester and the lead author of the study.

The best movies to start constructive communication are those that show various highs and lows in a relationship. Additional movies used in the study include “Couples Retreat,” “Date Night,” “Love and Other Drugs” and “She’s Having a Baby.” Avoid movies that idealize relationships like “Sleepless in Seattle” or “When Harry Met Sally.”

Even though some of the recommended movies are funny and not necessarily realistic, the goal is to simply “get a dialogue going,” said Dr. Rogge.

“I believe it’s the depth of the discussions that follow each movie and how much effort and time and introspection couples put into those discussions that will predict how well they do going forward,” said Dr. Rogge.

By Tara Parker-Pope

Tara Parker-Pope is the founding editor of Well, an award-winning consumer health site with news and features to help readers live well every day. She is also the author of “For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage.”

Twitter: @nytimeswell

Source: How to Have a Better Relationship – Well Guides – The New York Times

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Critics:

There is empirical evidence of the causal impact of social relationships on health. The social support theory suggests that relationships might promote health especially by promoting adaptive behavior or regulating the stress response. Troubled relationships as well as loneliness and social exclusion may have negative consequences on health. Neurosciences of health investigate the neuronal circuits implicated in the context of both social connection and disconnection.

Poor relationships have a negative impact on health outcomes. In 1985, Cohen and Wills presented two models that have been employed to describe this connection: the main effect model and the stress-buffering model.

The main effect model postulates that our social networks influence our psychology (our affect) and our physiology (biological responses). These three variables are thought to influence health, as described in Figure 1. This model predicts that increasing social networks enhance general health. A possible mechanism by which social networks improve our health is through our behaviors: if our social network influences us to behave in a certain way that enhances our health, then it can be argued that our social network influences our health.

For example, it has been demonstrated that higher social support improves our level of physical activity, which in turn has a positive effect on our health. It is unclear if this effect of social support is a threshold or a gradient. The difference between the two of them is that a threshold effect is a necessary amount of social support required to have a positive effect on health. On the opposite, a gradient effect can be described as a linear effect of the amount of social support on health, meaning that an increase of x amount of social support will result in an increase of y level of health.

There is evidence that social integration is negatively linked to suicide and marital status is negatively linked to mortality rates from all-causes.Hibbard (1985) explored the link between social ties and health status by conducting a series of household surveys. Indeed, she found that people who have more social ties, more perception of control, and are most trustful with others tend to have better physical health. Thoits investigated how social ties can improve both mental and physical health.

The results showed that social ties might influence emotional sustenance and promote active coping assistance. The other significant point of this research is that we can define two types of “supporters” able to provide different types of social support. Significant others (i.e., family, friends, spouse, etc.) tend to provide more instrumental support and emotional sustaining whereas experientially similar others (i.e., people who experienced the same life events than us) tend to provide more empathy, “role model” (a similar person looked like a model, a person to imitate) and active coping assistance.

Furthermore, social support can help us to regulate emotions above all when we are facing a stressful event. Probably one of the most famous studies on this field of investigation was conducted by Coan, Schaefer, and Davidson. In their study, they told married couples to go together in the laboratory. All couples reported a high level of marital satisfaction. The study aimed to evaluate the effect of handholding on the neural response to a threat. To create a stressful event, they informed the woman participant of each couple that she will receive moderate electric shocks.

There were three experimental conditions: no handholding, stranger handholding, or spouse handholding. The findings suggested that both spouse and stranger hand holding attenuated neural response to the threat, but spousal handholding was particularly efficient. Moreover, even within this sample of married couples with high satisfaction levels, the benefits of spousal handholding under threat were even more important in those couples who have reported the highest quality of marital relationship.

References

4 Ways to Say (and Get) What You Want in Your Relationship

In my 30 years of working with couples, I’ve noticed that most people have an easy time describing what they don’t want in their relationship: If someone prompts them, they’re able to rapidly fire off the many issues that they feel are creating distance between their partner and themselves. Yet if I ask the same people what they do want in a relationship, or from their partner, it seems to catch them off guard. The answer comes far less easily, as they pause to reflect on a question they haven’t necessarily asked themselves, at least not in a long time.

As a relationship progresses, it’s easy to focus on its problems. We can catalog all the negative patterns that have arisen or all the frustrating qualities a partner has. As a result, when we communicate with a partner, we often say what we don’t want instead of what we do. Somehow, it’s easier to complain or vocalize dissatisfaction than to directly state or ask for what we actually desire.

Many couples are comfortable telling each other, “You never do this,” “Why are you always forgetting what I say to you?” “How can you be so insensitive?” or, “Do you ever stop thinking about yourself?” They’re not as comfortable slowing down and saying, “It makes me feel so much more relaxed when I have help with this or that,” or, “I really want to feel you listen and understand.”

Unfortunately, most people automatically take a defensive, self-protective stance in relation to the inevitable hurts they experience with their partner. They fail to recognize that when they experience strong emotional reactions to a perceived slight by a partner that they are often reacting based on unresolved issues from their childhood. They have little awareness that this style of relating is moving them further from the outcome they want.

When in this defended, self-righteous posture, they lose track of their ultimate goal. The conversation becomes about being “wronged” or winning an argument instead of resolving an issue that’s making them not feel as close to their partner. They may have destructive thoughts or be listening to “critical inner voices,” that tell them, “How dare he treat you that way? You better stand up for yourself,” or “She is so self-centered; she only cares about herself.” As my father, psychologist Robert Firestone, often says about engaging in this way, “You may win the battle, but you will lose the war.”

While many partners tend to be combative, others take the opposite approach: Rather than say what they want, they shut down or turn inward. They may feel quietly resentful toward their partner or indulge in destructive thoughts toward themselves. They may have critical inner voices telling them they are unworthy or trying to convince them that they will experience humiliation, hurt, or rejection if they go after what they want. In either of these reactions, the person is avoiding expressing, or sometimes even acknowledging, his or her basic wants and desires.

Saying what you want is actually a powerful tool to end a fight. It helps you avoid hurtful ways of relating to your partner that might put him or her on the defensive. It’s also a way of being vulnerable that allows your partner to really know and feel for you. When you speak about your wants honestly, directly, and from an adult point of view, your partner is more likely to be open, responsive, and personal in return.

Here are a few approaches that can help you move toward this style of relating:

1. Practice unilateral disarmament. This is a technique I often introduce to couples that is valuable to implement in heated moments when an argument is going nowhere. If the goal is to be close to your partner, there are times when it is best to simply drop your side of the dynamic. You can do this by first calming down within yourself, refusing to lash back, and instead saying something warm and honest like, “I care more about feeling good with you than winning this argument.” Taking these steps often softens the other person, and he or she, too, is more likely to drop his or her side of the dynamic. You can then communicate from a more direct, vulnerable stance that isn’t about blame or being right. You can start to cleanly express what you want and encourage your partner to do the same. (I wrote more about this process in the post “5 Steps to End Any Fight.”)

2. Stay vulnerable. It’s hard for many people to say what they want out loud, or even admit it to themselves. When you do express your wants, it’s important to do it directly but from a vulnerable place. Try not to speak in an entitled manner, as if you’re demanding something, or using words like “I deserve.” When someone in a relationship acts like their partner owes them something, they tend to fall into traps in which they find themselves nagging or complaining, both of which only serve to alienate or irritate a partner.

But you also shouldn’t feel the need to overly explain or apologize for what you’re saying. You shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed to simply state what you want. You should try to remain open and honest without getting sidetracked or back-stepping because you start to feel afraid or uncomfortable. The wants you express do not have to be rational—one common feeling is, “I want to be loved and accepted all the time no matter what I do or what mistakes I make.” Expressing this directly may seem unreasonable, but actually stating it in this vulnerable way will often stir up sadness and openness in both you and your partner. Most partners can relate to this feeling and will feel moved by your openness.

3. Don’t use victimized language. Refusing to act victimized is an important principle in general. When you talk about what you want, steer clear of speaking in ways that sound victimized or childish. In “Don’t Play the Victim Game,” Robert Firestone wrote, “Maintaining a child victim role leads to chronic passivity.” It’s important not to be passive-aggressive toward loved ones. You shouldn’t punish them for not knowing instinctively what you want or for failing to read your mind.

No one can or should expect any one other person to meet all their needs. Rather, you should strive to feel like a whole person in yourself. Of course, it’s natural to want to feel love and connection, but there’s an important difference between saying what you want as an adult and feeling like a dependent child whose survival depends on your partner giving you what

you need. Your words should be an authentic expression of what you want, not a demand for what you “need” or an expectation of what you’re “entitled” to.

4. Avoid “you” statements. One way people diverge from saying what they want directly is by switching from “I” statements to “you” statements. Many people tend to be more comfortable saying, “You don’t act excited to see me anymore,” or, “You’re always distracted.” It is valid to give your partner feedback, but if all he or she hears is a stream of complaints, it is more likely to drive them away than to get them to move closer to you. On the other hand, the exercise of saying what you want is really about expressing something about who you are and what matters to you. That’s why it is better to start with “I”: “I want to feel wanted by you.” “I want your attention.” “I want to have fun with you.” “I want to feel that you listen.” This helps you to have more feeling and understanding toward yourself, while hopefully inspiring the same reaction in your partner.

So many people avoid acknowledging what they want because there are strong emotions attached to wanting. For many couples I’ve done this exercise with, saying what they want seemed to awaken primal hurts, bringing up memories of what they longed for as children. One woman said that she wanted more affection from her husband—and much to her surprise, she was quickly filled with sadness, as she repeated statements like, “I want to be hugged. I want to be held.” She described afterward how the picture in her head had changed from her husband to her parents, who rarely offered affection and frequently ignored her cries for them to pick her up.

As Pat Love pointed out in an interview with me, “When you long for something, like love, it becomes associated with pain—the pain you felt at not having it in the past. Feeling connected to what you want in the present makes you feel vulnerable, like you can be hurt all over again. Because of this, many people don’t always want to recognize what they want much less express it to someone else, who can then potentially let them down.”

Every one of us has defenses surrounding our wants and desires, but it’s beneficial to let your guard down and take a chance on being direct in your adult relationships. There’s incredible value in learning to communicate what you want: You feel empowered when you live in a state of wanting. You are in sync with yourself and have more direction in your life. And if you do get hurt, you learn that you are strong and can handle much more disappointment than you imagined. Most important, when you express yourself in this way, you learn that you are worthy of what you want—and much more likely to get it.

 

By: Lisa Firestone Ph.D.

 

Source: 4 Ways to Say (and Get) What You Want in Your Relationship | Psychology Today

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How To Talk To Someone You Find Intimidating

Whether it’s at work, at a party or on a date, we often find ourselves in conversations that test our confidence. When talking to people we perceive as more intelligent, more powerful, more personable, more talented or more attractive, it’s normal to feel inadequate or intimidated. We worry this more-impressive person will judge us, think less of us or reject us.

There’s no shame in struggling in these social situations, said therapist Melissa Weinberg of Open Lines Counseling in Baltimore.

“We’re social creatures, and naturally we care a lot about what others think of us, especially those we respect, people who have some social standing over us or anyone we’re attracted to,” Weinberg, who specializes in treating anxiety, told HuffPost. “Rather than feel weird about it, beat yourself up or avoid situations, remind yourself of the universality of the experience.”

Below, experts offer tips on how to hold your own with people you find intimidating.

First, change the tone of your inner dialogue.

Self-talk is the way we speak to ourselves. For many of us, it’s that negative inner voice that’s always telling us we’re boring, unlikable, socially awkward and destined to screw up. Positive self-talk may not come naturally to everyone, but it’s something that can be cultivated with practice.

“People may rarely talk to themselves in a positive tone that is reassuring and supportive, yet it is pivotal in setting the mood and tone for your possibly intimidating social interaction,” said Kendra Witherspoon Kelly, a licensed professional counselor at the Resilience Project in Atlanta. “Say things that highlight your positive attributes or even the parts of you that are in progress of becoming better. Shine on yourself some!”

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If you have these signs, then you have a strong personality that others may find intimidating! Some people assume that such a label is just a polite way of saying that a person is loud and obnoxious. But there’s a big difference between these and a more general strength of character. Someone with strong personality traits radiates self confidence.
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Some examples of positive self-talk might be: “I’m anxious about attending this work event, but I’m proud of myself for getting outside my comfort zone,” “I’ve never had a problem making friends in the past — so why would this be any different?” or “My small-talk skills are still a work in progress, but I ask great questions and I’m a good listener.”

Figure out the gist of what you want to say beforehand.

You won’t always be able to prepare for these conversations, as they sometimes happen on the fly. But when you can, it may help ease your nerves if you think about what you want to say ahead of time. You don’t need to write and memorize a whole script; coming up with a few bullet points should do the trick.

“We’re social creatures, and naturally we care a lot about what others think of us, especially those we respect, people who have some social standing over us or anyone we’re attracted to.”

– Melissa Weinberg, therapist at Open Lines Counseling

“The more ready you are before the interaction, the more confident you’ll be,” counselor Caris Thetford wrote in a post for The Muse. “This may not completely nix your nerves, but that’s OK — a touch of anxiety can help you perform under pressure. The idea is to reduce or prevent crippling fear.”

Remember that this person is human, too.

No matter how much status this other person has, they have physical and emotional needs just like you (and everyone else). To remind yourself of this commonality, try using the phrase “just like me,” said communication coach Jennifer Kammeyer, who teaches leadership communication at San Francisco State University.

“Say to yourself, this person eats breakfast, just like me. This person feels sad, just like me. It helps to shift your perspective of the person from ‘intimidating’ to ‘human,’” she said.

Know what value you add to the conversation.

Pinpoint your strengths: Maybe you’re a great storyteller, a creative problem-solver or have a wealth of knowledge on a particular subject.

“Before you engage, remind yourself why you are there,” Kammeyer said. “Somebody else invited you to the meeting or the social engagement for a reason. Tell yourself why you were invited and how you are adding value.”

“Somebody else invited you to the meeting or the social engagement for a reason. Tell yourself why you were invited and how you are adding value.”

– Jennifer Kammeyer, communication coach

Let that thought empower you to be yourself in the conversation. Sure, you might turn the volume up or down on certain parts of your personality, depending on who you’re talking to and the setting. But whether you’re chatting with the head of your company or an attractive acquaintance at a barbecue, it’s still “you.”

“Communicating as our authentic selves allows us to be free in our conversations,” said Amelia Reigstad, a communication consultant and coach in Minneapolis. “Know yourself, how you react in situations and how you best communicate. To be an authentic communicator, give thought to actively listening, respecting yourself and others, taking responsibility for your own feelings, and know that showing emotions in conversations is OK.”

Be aware of your body language.

During the conversation, try to stay physically grounded in your body, as that can help you feel more mentally steady, too.

“Stand with your feet hip width apart or sit with your knees hip with apart and both feet on the ground,” Kammeyer said. “Don’t cross your legs or your arms. Focus on the feeling of your feet literally grounding you. Focus on your posture being upright with a strong belly and back. Grounding yourself physically helps with confidence.”

Dive into the interaction before you psych yourself out.

“The longer you linger and avoid getting engaged in the conversation, the more stuck in your fears you will remain,” Weinberg said.

Then take a deep breath and tune into the here and now — focus on the sound of the other person’s voice, the color of their eyes or the texture of your clothes. That way, you’ll be more present in the conversation and less preoccupied with how you’re coming across.

“Obviously, this is hard to control, but try to bring yourself to the present moment, notice that your attention is creeping inward to your own fears and discomfort, and remind yourself to listen,” Weinberg said. “Get yourself out of your head and physical sensations by turning your attention to the present, grounding yourself through your senses.”

Embrace the discomfort.

One of the biggest mistakes people make when they’re in an anxiety-inducing social situation is trying to force their way out of those uncomfortable feelings, Weinberg said. But it’s a paradox: The more mental energy you exert trying not to feel anxious or intimidated, the more anxious or intimidated you end up feeling.

“The more you try to get rid of it, the more intense and distracting your anxiety will become,” Weinberg said. “Practicing acceptance and allowing the presence of anxiety is a much more adaptive strategy. Even though it can understandably be uncomfortable to practice, it can teach you that anxiety is tolerable.”

We’ve all been there: Somehow, you’ve found yourself in a conversation with a person you have nothing in common with, someone who intimidates you or someone who won’t stop complaining. These kinds of interactions can be uncomfortable, to say the least. Our HuffPost series How to Talk to Just About Anyone will help you navigate these conversations and others. Go here for all the latest.

Source: How To Talk To Someone You Find Intimidating | HuffPost UK Relationships

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7 Reasons Why You’re Waking Up Feeling Congested

How to Be That Girl Who Everyone Loves to Be Around

How to Maintain Your Interpersonal Relationships

What Does It Mean to Be Polyamorous?

According to Science, Your Girl Squad Can Help You Release More Oxytocin

The No BS Guide to Protecting Your Emotional Space

 

7 Ways Drugs & Alcohol Destroy Relationships

Maintaining a good relationship, whether it’s romantic or between family and friends, requires time and attention in addition to compassion and love. 

An unexamined relationship could have underlying problems that won’t become apparent until stress occurs, such as from financial difficulties or the emergence of drug or alcohol abuse. 

To help you avoid problems in your own life, or to recognize the signs of a fracturing bond, here are seven ways substance abuse can ruin relationships.

1. Secrets & Lies

When it comes to illegal drugs or using prescription drugs without authorization, your loved one may keep their use secret. Otherwise, they risk being shunned or stigmatized. 

In some cases, a person abusing alcohol or drugs will keep usage secret out of feelings of guilt and shame as well as not wanting to be judged. There is motivation to keep things under wraps, allowing secrets in the relationship to fester. 

This problem may unfortunately increase over time. Someone with addiction winds up doing things like hiding illicit substances in the house, periodically leaving for inexplicable trips, and lying to the people they love most.

2. Mental & Emotional Abuse

Under the influence of drugs and alcohol, your loved one may insult the people around them and increase verbal attacks to the point where it becomes mental abuse. 

Such ongoing abuse leads to mental health problems and feelings of low self esteem, whether directed at a parent, child, sibling, or close friend. Healthy relationships are not sustainable under conditions of ongoing emotional abuse.

3. Physical & Domestic Abuse

Injuring another person physically while abusing alcohol or drugs is an unfortunate reality. 

Someone who is out of control and not entirely aware of their physical capabilities can do some real damage. This is especially the case in parent-child relationships. 

Aside from the physical harm from fighting, the relationship will be effectively ended if someone is arrested or put in jail for domestic abuse. 

4. Loss Of Income & Stability

Losing your job is a distinct possibility when drug or alcohol abuse interferes with your ability to meet work obligations. If a pattern of absenteeism or tardiness emerges, the employer may have to take steps to put a stop to the pattern. 

But when your judgment is clouded because of alcohol or drugs, you may not be able easily comply with your boss’ instructions to fall in line. 

In a perfect world, you manage to take a leave of absence from work and enroll in a drug rehab facility. In reality, a chronically absent individual winds up being fired. 

The resulting loss of income, as well as feelings of shame and embarrassment, puts additional strain on relationships and threatens stability within the household. 

5. Loss Of Trust

Without a basic level of underlying trust, a relationship can quickly go sour, whether between friends, romance partners, or family. A person caught in the grips of drug abuse may continuously lie about their whereabouts, activities, or the people they’re spending time with. 

Sometimes trust dissolves in the presence of alcohol or drug addiction because of a pattern of broken promises, letdowns, and disappointments. 

For example, a father is coping with severe addiction and proclaims he will attend his child’s next music performance or little league baseball game, only to not show up once again. This causes a rift of mistrust to grow between parent and child.

6. Emotional Distance

When one half of a romantic couple loses control over alcohol or drug use, fights may happen more frequently. The strain of fighting can itself motivate the person to use even more drugs or alcohol, further complicating the dilemma.

At a certain point, this increased fighting can turn into a vicious circle. Without some intervention, including acknowledging that addiction is the disease, the relationship is more likely going to deteriorate further. 

Although it can be difficult, loved ones have the power to speak openly about their feelings and help motivate the person to seek therapy and treatment.

7. Codependency

In a codependent relationship, there is a power imbalance and a lack of harmony. A codependent person will tend to focus on their partner’s needs, ignoring their own. 

The problem here is that the partner with a drug or alcohol problem is being enabled. This could look like bailing your loved one out of jail or making excuses for their absences at work or school that were caused by intoxication. 

It’s easy to see, for example, how a codependent person would lie to a boss about her husband being sick when it’s actually the case that he has passed out or has gone missing while out on a bender with friends.

Although we mention several extreme hypotheticals, being in a relationship with someone with addiction is difficult. The good news is that there is hope in recovery for the whole family.

If you have any questions about the drug and alcohol rehab programs available at Ark Behavioral Health, please connect with one of our treatment specialists today.

Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
©2020 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.

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Todd Creager

https://toddcreager.com/ Todd Creager, a renowned marriage and relationship expert in Orange County, talks about 5 ways the alcohol can ruin relationships. From destroying the relationship with yourself, to inhibiting communication, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance and can create major barriers in your relationship. Learn more about Todd’s therapy and counseling services at https://toddcreager.com/. Based out of Huntington Beach, he serves the Orange County area – including Newport Beach, Irvine and Corona del Mar – with expert marriage and sex counseling services. TAKE ACTION: ============ Todd Creager, LCSW, LMFT Todd is a sex expert and therapist in Huntington Beach. He provides relationship counseling to couples throughout Orange County including Irvine, Newport Beach, Corona del Mar, Laguna Beach, Seal Beach and Long Beach. (714) 848-2288. Join Todd on social: ============== Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/Relationship… Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/todd_creager/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/toddcreager

Turn Strangers Into Friends With 8 Great Questions From Harvard

“So, what do you do?” “Where do you live?” “How do you know [Name of Host]?” are some of my least favorite kind of questions, because they don’t elicit interesting answers.  If you want to get to know someone, you’ll have to do a lot better than this.

As a coach, I’m paid to ask provocative, probing, powerful questions and in social situations, I often wish strangers would ask some of me. Sadly, they don’t. Mainly because it’s considered rude. However, what I’ve found is that if you’re prepared to risk seeming rude by being the first to ask a provocative question, strangers are usually only too happy to follow suit.

Today In: Leadership

Helpfully, the Harvard Business Review has now published 8 great questions to ask at any kind of networking event. They’ve also written up their findings on how colleagues get on better, enjoy work more, and stay connected for longer if they share common experiences outside of work. Sociologists refer to these connections where there is an overlap of roles or affiliations from a different social context as multiplex ties.

So, next time you’re at a social function or networking event and you feel bored by small-talk but fearful of asking profound questions, you can dive right in, backed up by the knowledge that, far from being inappropriately nosy, you’re on the quest of making multiplex ties. What’s more, you’re endorsed by Harvard. Who knows, instead of simply adding a connection, you may actually make a new friend. And that, says the Harvard Business Review, is the whole point. “Research findings from the world of network science and psychology suggests that we tend to prefer and seek out relationships where there is more than one context for connecting with the other person.”

What excites you right now?  I love this question because the answer can be as intimate as you want to make it. You can share your excitement about your upcoming vacation, your boat, your son’s dance competition or your daughter’s soccer game Or you can talk about a book you’re reading or a profound experience you just had.

What are you looking forward to? Having things to look forward is what brings us joy in life See the article I wrote about the pleasure of planning for Forbes Whether it’s a planned vacation, something in your work-life or a personal milestone you choose to share in itself speaks volumes. Finding out about someone’s anticipated joy is a wonderful way to get to know them better. And if they say they are not looking forward to anything, you may want to take this as a cue to move on.

What’s the best thing that happened to you this year?  A wonderful, fresh, open-ended question, similar in some ways to the previous one, but instead of this being about anticipated joy, this question elicits remembered chapters. Sometimes, with the perspective of hindsight, the most difficult events offer the most growth and learning  So, losing my job or suffering an illness could end up having been the best thing that happened all year.

Where did you grow up?  This question reminds me of the usefulness of the pre-fix “I’m curious…” Essentially, this is asking a stranger to share their life story in as much or little detail as they’re willing. However, you could modify this to “I’m curious, WHEN do you think you grew up?”

What do you do for fun?  Unless you’re asking a painter, a poet, a singer a dancer or the odd entrepreneur, most people’s work is not what brings them the most fun. So, this question takes your interlocutor right onto the ski slopes, the golf course, the beaches or oceans where they have the best times.

Who is your favorite superhero? I’m sure that much insight could be gained by understanding the distinctions between a Batman lover and a Wonder Woman aficionado. However, I have a confession: I don’t have a favorite superhero, because I don’t watch superhero movies. To that end, you could, if you wish, modify it to, who is your favorite fictional character  Read my piece for Forbes on Crew mates

Is there a charitable cause you support?  You could tailor this to If you could pick one charitable cause to support, which one would it be? This is a question that will help you understand immediately what they care most about, what their values are. And you’re sure to have some shared affinities.

What’s the most important thing I should know about you? OK This is a big one, and not everyone will feel up to asking (or answering) it. As with all of the questions, the best place to start is with your own answer. If you feel stuck, don’t ask it. However, many people are longing to tell you that they have a hidden side (or hidden qualities) which their appearance or manner belies.

Since I started playing with these questions, I’ve met a Police Chief who told me her 9-year-old daughter frequently reduces her to tears;  a corporate raider who confessed that his favorite fictional character is Mowgli from The Jungle Book and a Catholic priest who does Zumba dancing for fun.  I’ve found I have surprising things in common with people who I’ve only just met.

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I coach leaders to play the game of life with purpose, grace, and ease. I specialize in sectors fueled by innovation and creativity, including Arts and Culture, media, television, film, fashion and advertising. My clients include directors of national arts organizations, worldwide ad agencies and a wide range of entrepreneurs. Before training as a coach, I launched my first TV Production company out of my bedroom and sold it eight years later to the world’s largest production company. I have served the creative board of Endemol UK and later the board of ITV Studios where I was the director of Formats I have been a special advisor to TF1, France’s leading commercial broadcaster. I have led creative forums for Cap Gemini University in Les Fontaine and have worked with the London Business School on their programmer for Entrepreneurs. I have created, produced and sold dozens of the world’s most groundbreaking, successful reality TV shows. Often the TV shows I have produced have been about exploring the edges of society. I have twice been ranked in the top twenty most influential gay people in the UK by the Independent on Sunday and have been featured in the New York Times, The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, Drum, Broadcast, The Hollywood Reporter, Monocle. I first certified first as a counselor (Institute of Counseling) then as a grief counselor before completing the core curriculum at Landmark Education and subsequently working intensely with three of the world’s pre-eminent leadership coaches. I am qualified as a co-active coach from CTI, the Coaches Training Institute, which is the world’s oldest coach training body.

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Stop Thinking Quitting Is A Bad Thing

You have to stop thinking of quitting as a bad thing. You aren’t built to stay in the same place forever.

If your relationship or your career or your friendships have stopped challenging you, stopped encouraging your growth, stopped bringing you happiness, then you should move onto bigger and better things.

You don’t have to continue down the same path you started forging years ago. You’re allowed to diverge at any point. You’re allowed to decide it’s time to do something differently.

You have to remember that quitting isn’t always a negative. It doesn’t mean you’re taking a step back. It might mean you’re taking a step forward — or a step sideways.

You shouldn’t resist change simply because you’re scared of what the unknown might bring. You shouldn’t assume the best move is to continue chugging ahead, even though you’ve been miserable, even though you cannot picture things getting any better if they keep going the way they’ve been going.

Quitting is not always a sign of failure. Sometimes, it’s your best option. Sometimes, it’s going to lead to the best results.

If you’re in a toxic relationship, you shouldn’t waste your energy fighting for their love. You should call it quits. You should stop trying to make things work. You should stop giving them a million chances. You should stop assuming it’s better to stay together than it is to split apart.

It’s the same with your career. If you’re in a line of work that is draining you, that is making you miserable, that isn’t giving you any sort of satisfaction, then you should think about quitting. You should think about taking your talents elsewhere. You should think about whether there is somewhere else you could land that would make you feel more productive, more fulfilled, more appreciated.

Stop thinking of quitting as a bad thing because sometimes you have to walk away from your current situation. Sometimes you have to start from scratch. Sometimes you have to take a step back and realize that you’re heading in the wrong direction and need to regroup.

Even though it’s easier to repeat the routines you’ve already grown used to repeating, you have to remember you’re allowed to leave at any time. You don’t owe anyone anything.

It’s dangerous to stay in an uncomfortable situation out of obligation. You aren’t required to stay in a relationship because of your history. You aren’t required to stay at a job because of the hours you already put into it. You aren’t required to give anyone your time, your energy, or your effort — and you don’t need to explain yourself to anyone.

You’re allowed to quit because you’re stressed about your current situation. You’re allowed to quit because you’ve grown bored. You’re allowed to quit because you believe another direction would grant you more peace and excitement and self-love. You’re allowed to quit if you want to quit.

You have to stop thinking of quitting as a bad thing. If it helps, call it moving on instead.

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By: Holly Riordan

 

 

 

Source: Stop Thinking Quitting Is A Bad Thing

Why You Should Stop Trying to Find Your Soulmate & What to Do Instead – Annabel Gutterman

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Hollywood, romance novels, picture-perfect depictions of relationships on social media: It’s all-too-easy to believe in soulmates. But while nearly two-thirds of American adults believe in them, according to a 2017 Monmouth University poll, psychology professor Gary W. Lewandowski Jr. says the term ‘soulmate’ can be dangerous. It can connote perfectionism — and perfection in relationships is essentially unattainable. “If you believe in soulmates, then you are less likely to work through [problems] because this person was supposed to be perfect and everything was supposed to be easy……..

Read more: http://time.com/5425170/stop-trying-to-find-soulmate/

 

 

 

 

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When You Are Unhappy In a Relationship, Why Do You Stay? The Answer May Surprise You – Samantha Joel

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Why do people stay in unsatisfying romantic relationships? A new study suggests it may be because they view leaving as bad for their partner. The study, being published in the November 2018 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, explored the possibility that people deciding whether to end a relationship consider not only their own desires but also how much they think their partner wants and needs the relationship to continue……

Read more: https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-10-unhappy-relationship.html?utm_source=tabs&utm_medium=link&utm_campaign=story-tabs

 

 

 

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Why Fluffer Friends Aren’t Good Friends — Success Inspirers’ World

Originally posted on Faithfully Falling Into Life: I have had many friendships throughout high school already. Some have stayed and are still alive. Some have withered away and no longer exist. Some are being revived because we have learned how to be honest. I have realized that the friendships that have lasted and kept strong…

via Why Fluffer Friends Aren’t Good Friends — Success Inspirers’ World

 

 

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Social Interaction Is Critical for Mental and Physical Health – Jane E. Brody

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Hurray for the HotBlack Coffee cafe in Toronto for declining to offer Wi-Fi to its customers. There are other such cafes, to be sure, including seven of the eight New York City locations of Café Grumpy. But it’s HotBlack’s reason for the electronic blackout that is cause for hosannas. As its president, Jimson Bienenstock, explained, his aim is to get customers to talk with one another instead of being buried in their portable devices.

“It’s about creating a social vibe,” he told a New York Times reporter. “We’re a vehicle for human interaction, otherwise it’s just a commodity.” What a novel idea! Perhaps Mr. Bienenstock instinctively knows what medical science has been increasingly demonstrating for decades: Social interaction is a critically important contributor to good health and longevity.

Personally, I don’t need research-based evidence to appreciate the value of making and maintaining social connections. I experience it daily during my morning walk with up to three women, then before and after my swim in the locker room of the YMCA where the use of electronic devices is not allowed.

The locker room experience has been surprisingly rewarding. I’ve made many new friends with whom I can share both joys and sorrows. The women help me solve problems big and small, providing a sounding board, advice and counsel and often a hearty laugh that brightens my day.

And, as myriad studies have shown, they may also be helping to save my life. As the Harvard Women’s Health Watch reported, “Dozens of studies have shown that people who have satisfying relationships with family, friends and their community are happier, have fewer health problems, and live longer.”

In a study of 7,000 men and women in Alameda County, Calif., begun in 1965, Lisa F. Berkman and S. Leonard Syme found that “people who were disconnected from others were roughly three times more likely to die during the nine-year study than people with strong social ties,” John Robbins recounted in his marvelous book on health and longevity, “Healthy at 100.”

This major difference in survival occurred regardless of people’s age, gender, health practices or physical health status. In fact, the researchers found that “those with close social ties and unhealthful lifestyles (such as smoking, obesity and lack of exercise) actually lived longer than those with poor social ties but more healthful living habits,” Mr. Robbins wrote. However, he quickly added, “Needless to say, people with both healthful lifestyles and close social ties lived the longest of all.”

In another study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine in 1984, researchers at the Health Insurance Plan of Greater New York found that among 2,320 men who had survived a heart attack, those with strong connections with other people had only a quarter the risk of death within the following three years as those who lacked social connectedness.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center also found that social ties can reduce deaths among people with serious medical conditions. Beverly H. Brummett and colleagues reported in 2001 that among adults with coronary artery disease, the mortality rate was 2.4 times higher among those who were socially isolated.

In a column I wrote in 2013 called “Shaking Off Loneliness,” I cited a review of research published in 1988 indicating that “social isolation is on a par with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise or smoking as a risk factor for illness and early death.”

People who are chronically lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of stress and inflammation. These, in turn, can undermine the well-being of nearly every bodily system, including the brain.

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Absent social interactions, blood flow to vital organs is likely to be reduced and immune function may be undermined. Even how genes are expressed can be adversely affected, impairing the body’s ability to turn off inflammation. Chronic inflammation has been linked to heart disease, arthritis, Type 2 diabetes and even suicide attempts.

In a 2010 report in The Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Debra Umberson and Jennifer Karas Montez, sociology researchers at the University of Texas at Austin, cited “consistent and compelling evidence linking a low quantity or quality of social ties with a host of conditions,” including the development and worsening of cardiovascular disease, repeat heart attacks, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, cancer and slowed wound healing.

The Texas researchers pointed out that social interactions can enhance good health through a positive influence on people’s living habits. For example, if none of your friends smoke, you’ll be less likely to smoke. According to the researchers, the practice of health behaviors like getting regular exercise, consuming a balanced diet and avoiding smoking, excessive weight gain and abuse of alcohol and drugs “explains about 40 percent of premature mortality as well as substantial morbidity and disability in the United States.”

Lack of social interactions also damages mental health. The emotional support provided by social connections helps to reduce the damaging effects of stress and can foster “a sense of meaning and purpose in life,” the Texas researchers wrote.

Emma Seppala of the Stanford Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, and author of the 2016 book “The Happiness Track,” wrote, “People who feel more connected to others have lower levels of anxiety and depression. Moreover, studies show they also have higher self-esteem, greater empathy for others, are more trusting and cooperative and, as a consequence, others are more open to trusting and cooperating with them.

“In other words,” Dr. Seppala explained, “social connectedness generates a positive feedback loop of social, emotional and physical well-being.”

She suggested that a societal decline in social connectedness may help to explain recent increases in reports of loneliness, isolation and alienation, and may be why loneliness has become a leading reason people seek psychological counseling. By 2004, she wrote, sociological research revealed that more than 25 percent of Americans had no one to confide in. They lacked a close friend with whom they felt comfortable sharing a personal problem.

For those seeking a health-promoting lifestyle, it’s not enough to focus on eating your veggies and getting regular exercise. Dr. Seppala advises: “Don’t forget to connect.”

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