Monthly Archives: March 2016

Relationship Lessons: What Can we Learn?

Have ygay-marriage-ringsou heard of Dr. John Gottman? He is a professor of psychology that has spent decades studying couples trying to understand what keeps them together or drives them apart. Most of his research at the Gottman Institute has been focused on heterosexual couples; however, more recently he has been studying lesbian and gay couples and believes they may be better equipped to have mature relationships. Really? Now why would that be?

A recent article in Psychology Today by Hara Estroff Marano suggest that there are five lessons everyone can learn from same-sex couples. Let’s take a look.

  1. Fluid roles: Same-sex couples do not automatically divide household chores or parenting along gender lines. In fact, they usually explicitly decide who will do what and spend more time jointly sharing household tasks.
  2. Sexual Experimentation: In a similar vein, without predefined social assumptions about sexual encounters, same-sex couples experiment more freely, including sexual play.
  3. Conflict: Same-sex couples approach conflict more gently, with less belligerence and domination. Gottman’s research suggests that same-sex couples are more honest with their partners, a trait which makes for more stable relationships in the long run, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
  4. Attractive People: Gottman’s research indicates that gays and lesbians have learned how to be friends with people they are attracted to without acting on those attractions. There is an implication here that straight folks can learn to have more friends that are just friends and not potential sexual partners.
  5. Less Micromanagement: Same-sex couple tend to have more flexibility around money or extended family obligations. Often, same-sex couples have shared money and separate money, and have a more equitable power balance around money.

And what can we learn from the relationships of polyamorous people? Carolyn Yates of Autostraddle has some thoughts on the matter.

  1. Communication: It’s really important in relationships to keeps the lines of communication open. We all know that. But, polyamorous folks have to keep the lines of communication open with multiple people. That’s a bit tricker, and is a skill that is transferable to all kinds of family relationships.
  2. Consent: Consent is not just about not saying “no”. It’s about actively saying “yes” to some things and “no” to other things. It’s about knowing yourself well enough to know what you want, and to know what you don’t want.
  3. Feelings and Needs: Everyone has them. And everyone is an important person. Keeping the feelings and needs of others in our minds helps us to choose actions that are supportive and not hurtful.
  4. Jealousy: Can we be pleased when the people in our lives experience success, joy or pleasure? Or do we become envious or jealous? Polyamorous people learn how to deal with feelings of jealousy, if and when they arise, without projecting blame upon their partners.
  5. There’s always more than one way: Just like water will find it’s way around many different obstacles going over, under, around, and through; there are many different ways to be in relationship. Societal conventions may try to make us believe that there is only one way to be in relationship, and that’s just not true.

Are there other lessons we can learn from Dr. Gottman’s 35+ years of research about relationships? Well, he’s written books on the subject, but there are two things I would like to highlight.

  1. Four Don’ts: Gottman’s research indicates that there are four behaviors that lead trouble in relationships, and he calls them the Four Horsemen.  They are criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling.
  2. One Big Do: Take time each day during what seem to be inconsequential moments to honor, love, and connect with our partners. Gottman calls these Sliding Door Moments, and the basic idea is to tune into what is going on with the important people in our lives. There are an infinite number of these moments where we can either choose to attend to our partners, or stay absorbed in ourselves.

Relationships have their ups and their downs. I think in our culture we are taught to believe in “happily ever after”, when actually, relationships take time, patience, practice, caring, and deliberate effort. So let’s put aside criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and jealousy, and instead put effort into building precious moments by tuning into the people we love each and every day.

How can I switch my mind off?


For decades, I have had problems with insomnia. Like many people, I have trouble turning my mind off. It goes around in circles thinking about this or that. I call it the hamster wheel. It just goes around and around, expending energy without accomplishing anything.

So my interest was peaked when I came across this article from Good Relaxation by Unmet Seepter about ways you can turn your mind off, particularly before going to sleep. Seepter advocates that you can try:

reading a book
taking a bath
listening to calming music
doing some stretches
turning off the electronics
writing down your worries or thoughts
visualizing something positive

I would also add a few other things to this list, such as:

drinking a cup of tea
massaging your feet, neck, hands, or temples
petting a cat, dog, or something soft
deep breathing
or progressive muscular relaxation

So how about tonight, instead of tossing and turning, try some of these strategies to relax yourself. Perhaps the hamster will get off the wheel, your mind will switch off, and you can drift into a peaceful sleep. Now wouldn’t that be lovely?


Try some silence; it’s good for you

Recently, I wrote about the benefits of meditation. Today, I’m writing about silence. While meditation is definitely good for you, we don’t always have time to meditate. This article in the Huffington Post by Carolyn Gregoire, talks about the benefits of silence such as:

  • relieving stress and tensionSilence
  • replenishing mental resources
  • regenerating brain cells

Silence also helps us to:
tap into our inner resources,
make meaning in our lives, empathize with others, and
reflect on our own experiences.

Just a few minutes of silence, perhaps five minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening has been shown to have positive influences in our lives.

Good Relaxation notes that the benefits of silence are relaxation, clearing your mind, quieting the noise inside your mind, and refreshing your mind.

So, turn off the television. Turn off the radio. Put down the podcast and the music and the phone. Close your eyes, and sit for five minutes in silence. Notice your breathing. Notice your feelings. Notice your thoughts. Just be for a few minutes. Relax into your breathing. Enjoy a few minutes of silence a few times per day. It’s good for you.

Meditation, Does it Really work?

Statue representing the portrait of Buddha in meditation. Copy space.Well, yes. That’s the short answer. Meditation has been shown to be effective in reducing emotional distress and increasing clarity. And it works with as little as 15, 20 or 30 minutes a day. But the key is consistency. A daily meditation practice, consistently applied has 76 benefits per this compilation of scientific studies by Giovanni at, including:

Our Emotional Well-being:
improving mood and wellbeing (up 65%) by decreasing anxiety (down 30%) and depression (down 75%)
reducing stress and improving self-esteem
increasing optimism and relaxation
reducing fear and loneliness
improving resiliency

Our Minds
Improving focus and memory
Improving thinking and creativity
reducing distractions

Our Bodies
Improving immune system and breathing
reducing blood pressure and heart problems
enhancing longevity

So with all of the benefits meditation has to offer, how can someone get started? Well, thanks to Leo Babauta at Zen Habits here are 20 practical tips to help you start meditating -> meditation for beginners.