Monthly Archives: August 2016

Practice when things are good. Practicing during crisis is nearly impossible.

As I was in the middle of writing this post on the importance of practicing, something amazing happened. An email from Danielle LaPorte plopped into my Inbox and she, too, had written about practice. It moved me so much, I decided to fold it into today’s post because it hit me right in the feels.

In part, she wrote:

“This is why we practice. For times like these.

You don’t need to forgive until you need to forgive. You don’t need nerves of steel until you need nerves of steel. You don’t need to call on your reserves of compassion, or fortitude, or faith until you’ve used up everything else.”

Writing about practice today was purely selfish. It’s been on my mind a lot lately.

I have a painful habit of waiting until I’m in emotional crisis before saying scary things to my husband. Not all the time – just around one specific issue that terrifies me and hurts a lot.

Today, I texted him that I was really scared to talk about The Thing. I knew we needed to talk and I’d tentatively brought it up over the weekend, but I’d been avoiding it something fierce. Of course, as per usual, he responded with absolute love, acceptance, and empathy. It cracked my heart wide open.

As I thought about the relief I felt to have my fear held so lovingly, I realized how much easier this would be if I spent more time practicing in this space when I wasn’t in emotional crisis. In fact, with practice, the emotional crisis could either be entirely avoided or it would be much easier to navigate when it did arise.

It seems obvious, but gosh, us humans have a really amazing habit of waiting until we’re in crisis before really taking a look at ourselves and the way we relate to the people we love.

Time and time again, my clients don’t reach out until they’re in crisis mode and 99% of the problems could have been avoided if they’d practiced having open discussions about sex, or articulating their desires, or asking curious questions, or making a vulnerable share when things were really good.

We do not practice for when things are effortless and shiny. We practice for the inevitable storms that will come up in our lives, because that is a simple truth of being an adult.

Shit gets hard sometimes.

Figuring out how to say “I really need help. This isn’t working for me” when you are tired, overwhelmed, frustrated, and feeling super stuck can seem like a monumentally challenging task. (Statics show that people will wait 6 years in a relationship before seeking help from a 3rd party, and often they wait until it’s too late to recover from all of the hurt and resentment. I beg of you – please don’t do that to yourself.)

But, practicing those asks and finding all the ways that you and your sweetheart can support each other during the happy times means falling back on those skills during the tough times is so much easier.

Same goes for sex.

If there’s something your partner has been doing that you don’t like and you’ve been tolerating it for years without saying anything, and then one day you verbal vomit the truth out? That’s how so many folks end up completely disconnected – it can feel like the relationship is crumbling over one single pain point.

Consider what it means to practice, though.

Practice means trying something, again and again, making mistakes, failing, and keeping at it, until you start to feel skilled and more capable.

Sex takes practice.

Difficult conversations take practice.

Asking for what you want and negotiating with a loved one takes practice.

Holding space for a partner’s emotions without taking them on as your own takes practice.

Finding words for the feelings inside of you takes practice.

So many of us, though, fall into relationship and think everything will just coast along for as long as you love each other. The “happily ever after” trap. And of course, we all know relationships take work, but we kind of don’t really know what that means, in the grand scheme of things.

But, imagine what it would be like if you and your partner made it a practice to schedule sexy times, to check in about sex, to ask what’s working and what could use some attention, to make a game out of sharing your needs and wants when you’re both feeling connected and grateful and relaxed about your relationship.

How much more resilient would you be if you practiced during the good times for when shit got messy?

Click to tweet that statement!

Because no matter how strong, connected, and loving your relationship is…

No matter how secure you feel…

No matter how much terrific sex you’re having…

It’s inevitable that you will stumble, that your partner will say or do the wrong thing, that you’ll have a bad day and all the old demons that you thought you put to rest will come roaring back.

When you make it a point to practice how you want to handle the tough times, then you can navigate those choppy waters with a lot more confidence and grace, even if you’re hurting and feeling lost, because those muscles will be so much more developed and comfortable.

You’ll know that your relationship can weather a really tough time because you’ve done it before.

You’ll find your way back to self-compassion because you’ve rehearsed it thousands of times.

You’ll have a better way to say the scary thing because you’ve spent so much time talking with each other about all sorts of things, so it won’t feel like a surprise.

My partner and I practice asking each other questions about our hopes, dreams, wants, desires, fantasies, sexual landscape, and regrets because it not only helps us to build really solid love maps, but it gives us loads of practice in sharing openly and understanding how each of us likes to communicate. That way, when we feel disconnected or sad, it’s a heck of a lot easier to reconnect and support each other instead of driving the wedge further between us.

How are you practicing in your daily life? What could you practice more of when it comes to love, communication, sex, and navigating problem spots?

What would it feel like if instead of feeling stuck, unseen, or unheard, you had loads of practice in co-creating solutions as a team?

As for me, my beau and I are chatting tonight about the scary thing. I will probably hurt. I will definitely fumble. But by taking the time to do it now, when we aren’t backed up against a wall, I know we are both practicing so that we’ll do even better the next time.

 

Are criticism or sarcasm showing up in love? The balm is kindness.

How kind are you being to yourself? How kind are you being with the people that you love?

The answer says an awful lot about your life, your needs, and what isn’t working.

Why?

Because as soon as kindness takes a hike, it’s time for massive change. Over and over again, this has proven to be true in my own life (and it’s backed by science).

If I catch myself being unkind in how I think about my body or my work, I know something is woefully out of balance and needs attention. Perhaps I’ve been comparing myself to someone else or reading too many fashion magazines. Maybe I wasn’t able to do something I really wanted to do because I’m too out of shape or maybe some anonymous jerk made a comment that stung. Whatever the reason, if self-kindness is hard to come by, immediate action is needed.

If I turn to criticism, cruelty, or sarcasm in my relationships rather than kindness, it’s a big red flag that a need is going unmet or I’ve checked out in some way.

Looking back at past relationships, it’s rather obvious when kindness stopped being the default behavior and when other less-nurturing behaviors set in like resentment, frustration, doubt, or exasperation. Patience suddenly became dangerously thin, and it seemed as if everything my partner was doing was for the sole purpose of annoying me.

That’s usually the moment the relationship goes from being a source of renewal and support to one that is careening towards catastrophe and pain.

Don’t believe me? Check this out, from an Atlantic article about John Gottman and his Love Lab:

“Research independent from [the Gottman’s] has shown that kindness (along with emotional stability) is the most important predictor of satisfaction and stability in a marriage. Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved … There’s a great deal of evidence showing the more someone receives or witnesses kindness, the more they will be kind themselves, which leads to upward spirals of love and generosity in a relationship.”

Kindness is one of the most important predictors of relationship happiness and personal satisfaction.

When was the last time you caught yourself being unbelievably kind towards yourself? When your thoughts were full of nurturing thoughts and genuine admiration of self?

How much kindness are you offering in your intimate relationships? If it’s not very much, then it’s time to step back and figure out what changes need to happen in order for you to find your way back to generosity of thought and action. Otherwise, you’ll just end up hating each other.

Kindness translates to your sexual experience, as well.

If you and your lover are swimming in kindness, your sexual experiences will probably feel incredibly safe. Within that sense of safety, you’ll be more likely to ask for what you want, to withhold judgment when your lover shares feedback or fantasies, and it will be a lot easier to experience pleasure with all of you being so open.

It’s incredibly easy to fall into the habit of ignoring our loved ones, which is the same as taking them for granted. Just because they’ve been tolerating the tension for 20 months or 20 years, doesn’t mean they always will.

And the same goes for you.

One of the reasons I ended a relationship in my mid-20’s was because I felt like nothing I said or did would be met with genuine interest. To be ignored is not an act of kindness. To go through the motions, is also not an act of kindness. I was tired of the bickering and feeling unimportant, and so we both turned to criticism, contempt, and passive-aggressive jabs.

Another sign that kindness isn’t present? Feeling like you’re broken or like something is wrong with you. If you’re constantly being asked why you don’t want more sex or if your partner badgers you about your eating habits, that can feel unsafe at a profound level.

Kindness is accepting someone for who they are and inviting their experiences in, as-is. Kindness is offering someone the benefit of the doubt before anything else when they make a mistake or fail in some way.

Kindness is lifting each other up as a team instead of being combatants with a winner and a loser.

Click to tweet that statement!

Kindness has become a core behavior that I work to cultivate in my life.

Whenever I catch myself thinking something unkind about myself or my partner, I know it’s time to take a step back and find out where I’ve been silencing myself…because it’s almost always a case of my not asking for what I need or neglecting myself in some way.

So, I’m curious. How much kindness are in the thoughts you have, the words you say, and the behaviors you exhibit with your sweetheart? Same question but towards yourself?