She’s killing me! While she may not be holding a knife to your throat (well let’s hope not), it is well researched that chronically sad, frustrated or fearful people tend to be chronically unwell and live less long. So it makes sense that if your relationship is fraught with difficult emotions it could be affecting your health.
Emotions linked with specific health problems. A recent New York Times article links your fighting style with certain body ailments.”How Your Fight With Your Spouse May Affect Different Body Parts.” Over decades couples were observed while they rehashed contentious issues. They then correlated emotional facial expressions with health questionnaires and found that certain emotions lead to certain body ailments. Partners that were overtly angry during the discussions reported cardiac issues (chest pain, high blood pressure) while the stonewallers reported neck and back pain.
Take a break from fighting. If during a fight you are starting to feel extreme physical symptoms it may be a sign to pause the discussion (not end, just pause). If it’s possible and even though the issue might not be resolved, make a plan to do something you both enjoy and that helps you each feel good. Perhaps even something that would address your physical symptoms. I’m sure the issue(s) will be there when you return, and your body will thank you.
I just watched an interview about Marianne Willamson’s newest book, Tears to Triumph; the video here is shorter but gets right to point!
Burying the sad leads to more sad later. We spend a lot of time avoiding bad feelings, but it won’t necessarily make you happier. Williamson explains how we need to treat our mental pains like physical ones. If we hurt our knee we don’t just take pain killers, we have physical therapy, look at what we were doing that caused injury and how to prevent it. Emotionally if we’re sad we often bury it in a movie, exercise, drink, or try to be happier. Instead she she suggests running towards the tears like the story of water buffalo running towards the storm- it’s the quickest way through it.
Two ideas to turn tears to triumph.
Exploration. Once you have run into the storm or “put the pain on the alter”, ask yourself: What is the meaning of this pain? What does this pain reveal to me? What is it calling for me to understand? Prayer. Prayer here is an solemn request. Here are a few lines from the longer version: “I surrender to you the pain that is in my heart…I give to you my failure, my shame my loss my devastation…help me remember and reclaim my good…show we me how I am to you that self hate will not defeat me.”
“It’s not hard to push a person away. The real work is to draw him close and uplift him.”- Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) who is regarding as a Jewish mystic said this. And this is why we have Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy…
Have you every caught yourself in the midst of a fight, seen your heinous defensive behavior and paused? Asked yourself why you are pushing him away when what you really want is more closeness? Countless couples in my office have moments like this, “Huh, why am I aggravating him when I want more of him, it’s producing the opposite of what I want, but I keep doing it.”
It takes practice to stop the protective pushing impulses ESPECIALLY when we are afraid or hurt. Look back on a disagreement you’ve had with your partner a while back (nothing too recent). Remember how you were feeling. Was it angry, hurt, resentful? Let that emotion be with you, allow it, breathe into it, mark it and set it aside. Now see if you can feel other emotions related to what you were wanting with him. Not thoughts, but feelings. They could be a longing for understanding, closeness, physical intimacy, partnership, appreciation. Accessing those longings will be your doorway to draw him close.
The glue of relationships. Much of the research around couples therapy tells us what makes relationships stick, and as community we do hold a lot of wisdom intuitively. Stories are such a powerful way to communicate this, and the Glue Project delivers in an beautiful and engaging way. What I most appreciate about these videos are real people talking about real obstacles. Infidelity, a wandering eye, loss of a baby – all relationships will go through challenges at some point – and it helps to hear about how others got through. Here’s a rule to live by from a couple on the site: “Only one of us is allowed to be an asshole at one time.” No wonder that made it on a t-shirt!
Unfortunately, all the wisdom can fly out the window in a heated moment with your beloved. As therapists we’re taught how to make the wisdom stick when you are in your worst self. In our real lives and the real dynamic that you and your partner have it can be hard to implement what we know. In emotionally focused couples therapy we retrain the brain to come online when it’s going down an unwise path, increasing our ability to USE our wisdom!
I can get myopic about Mother’s Day, my mother, my mothering quest, my friends that are or aren’t mothers, that type of thing. This post from the Compassion Collective blows open that personal perspective.
“Mother’s Day IS about Love. But it’s not about commercial, comfortable love that snuggles up and stays home—it’s about love that throws open the door and marches out of our homes, beyond our fences and neighborhoods and into the hurting world to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, comfort the hurting, mother the motherless. Mother’s Day love is dangerous, revolutionary love that unites our one human family and reminds us that we belong to each other and that there is no such thing as other people’s children.
Mother’s Day was not created by Hallmark, but by a revolutionary warrior for peace. Julia Ward Howe — abolitionist, activist and poet — was the founder of the original Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. Tired of war, tired of tribalism being valued above the lives of the vulnerable, her pain became her mission. She called out for revolution…Mother’s Day is that revolution.”
Under duress do you like to escape into your man or lady cave? Just to get away from…you know who. In emotionally focused therapy we might call la-la land a withdrawing, distancing or avoidant attachment strategy. Is going to la-la land healthy or unhealthy? Neither really, it’s usually a protective strategy that can sometimes work beautifully and sometimes reek communication havoc.
Jane: “Dear, you look stressed.”
Jack: “Yeah, I’m doomed with all my work pressure.”
Jane: “Let’s talk about it, tell me more about the stress.”
Jack: “Nah, lets go watch a sexy artsy film so I can forget about it.”
At this point Jane may just put her head on Jack’s shoulder and perhaps they do enjoy the movie, or she may feel irritated and shut out. The most important point here though is that we all have emotional strategies that aren’t right or wrong, it’s the awareness of if that strategy is working that’s key.
Money, recognition and what comes along with them are nice, (Hello Prada) but they won’t help you live longer and be happier. It’s having meaningful and safe relationships that cause longer lives and happiness. “…social connections are good for us and loneliness kills” Says Robert Waldinger a Harvard psychiatrist who directs a groundbreaking 75 year study on adult human development and happiness. It’s not whether you are married or how many friends you have but the QUALITY of those relationships that matters he continues to say. They found people that were the most satisfied in their relationships in their 50s were the healthiest in their 80s.
Why is blame so seductive and trapping? Brene Brown explains why.
Is finding fault part of your fights? If so what discomfort and pain might you be avoiding?