Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sometimes I Wish We Lived With My Parents

Okay, before you all gasp in fright, let me reveal the reason why I wish we lived with my parents: they're both psychologists. Psychologists who specialize in couples and, even, love. For the four years of The Cowboy Boot relationship, my parents have indirectly and directly guided us through some of our tougher times.

While growing up under the scrutiny of the ever-analyzing eye means getting away with, well, nothing (consequences involved passive aggressive guilt trips), it also has its perks. You learn how to be emotive (if not overly so), how to vocalize those emotions, you encompass a particular compassion for other people, you develop an ability to listen at exhaustive lengths, and, unfortunately, you are often unable to put a filter on raw emotion. In your world, in your little psychologist household, raw emotion is accepted, even celebrated.

So, when Mr. CB and I fight (Scorpio vs. Sagittarius--two fire signs--for you astrological types), it's stubborn. We're both strong-willed, we think we're right, and when you look up our compatibility on astrological websites, it says: "An affair without a future." I like to think they're wrong, that we're simply human and can work through anything--if we can work as a team.

My mom reminded me of this today when she sent me a link to an interview she just did on Marriage.com's blog. She reminded me of some of the important things to remember as newlyweds (because we too fight).

Marriage.com: What is the most common problem you have seen among couples?

Dr. Carr: Couples often come into therapy when they are caught in repetitive patterns of relating that have become painful. They have difficulty communicating and they misperceive each other’s intentions and behaviors. This can lead to a lot of blaming and criticism. At that point each has stopped listening to the other and responses are defensive. Neither feels heard or understood. There is a loss of empathy and resentment is blocking feelings of love and attraction.

It's easy to recognize ourselves (as a couple) in the above description. It's also easy to come up with fights that we have that are only budding but could eventually lead us into a therapist's office. Can being aware of those problems--those cyclical fights--early on save us from The Couch? I like to think so.

My mom also offered a few small things you can do every day to maintain a relationship's spark.

Marriage.com: Can you please give couples out there a tip or exercise they can do regularly to help maintain their relationship?

Dr. Carr: Sure. For couples who haven’t seen each other all day, I tell them to give each other a long hug upon first greeting. Just stay in the hug position until they feel their bodies relax. It usually takes longer than one initially feels comfortable with, but if they stick with it, they achieve a sense of connection and affection.

Another easy tip is to simply take a few minutes each day to check in with one another about the day (without distractions like the TV or cell phone). Even having a designated fifteen or twenty minutes to share a cup of tea, hot chocolate or glass of wine to express the things that are on their minds will enhance the sense of knowing each other’s inner world.

To read the whole blog, head here: http://www.marriage.com/archives/578

For a good therapist in the Los Angeles area, contact my mom here: http://www.mcarrmft.com/

I definitely feel blessed to know that I'm equipped with some of the tools (mentally) to succeed at a relationship and at marriage. But no matter how much you know about psychology, being human is important too. Listening to the other person and really, really taking their feelings into account is what matters most. That and remembering why you love the person in the first place.

The real deal sealer though? I have to agree with my mom on this one--a little conversation over a glass of wine or dinner each night gives us just enough to feel like we reconnect in that deeper way.

How do you connect with your significant other on a daily basis?