ERP 130: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love – Part Four [transcript]

ERP 130: How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love, Part IV

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Welcome to The Empowered Relationship Podcast, helping you turn relationship challenges into opportunities and setting you up for relationship success. Your host, Dr. Jessica Higgins, is a licensed psychologist and relationship coach who shares valuable tips, tools and resources for you to dramatically improve your relationship.

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Hi, thank you for joining today’s podcast episode. Today’s episode is 130. We are continuing the topic of how kindness can strengthen your love. This is part IV. If you missed the first few episodes, you can check that out on my website, which is DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Podcast, and you can find the episodes there, as well as whatever podcast player you are using.

Take a moment with me, if you will… Let’s just touch in on the intention of the Empowered Relationship Podcast, and that is to grow ourselves through the path of relationship, knowing that the terrain of intimacy is complex, sometimes surprising and sometimes will challenge us, and it will often feel like highs and lows, and that in both area of the high and the low there is a lesson to be learned, as well as everything in between – the consistency, the stability and the safety of the container of the relationship

The conversations that happen on the Empowered Relationship Podcast are in support of this intention. Many of you reach out to me with your specific relationship questions, other times the topics I bring are based on my clinical work and my coaching work, as well as interviewing other experts in the field. Occasionally, I have brave souls that wanna receive live, laser coaching with me, while being virtually a guest on the show.

If you want information about how to be a guest and receive live, laser coaching or how to submit a question, you can visit my website – again, that’s DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Contact and you can find more details there.

Okay, I also have had a 25-day challenge for you to be participating in, and that’s basically 25 days to strengthening your love with kindness, building the practice of kindness, building the muscle and the trait of kindness in your being. I have a free graphic for you to use through this challenge, and if you haven’t already downloaded it, you can find that on today’s show notes. Again, that can be found on my website, and you just click on Podcast, and today’s episode is 130. This is part IV of How Kindness Can Strengthen Your Love, and you can find the download button there.

If you’re on my e-mail list, you can check your e-mail; I have sent you the PDF directly, so you have that for your use. And I wanna just personally share with you, I have been doing this. December 7th was when I started the 25-day challenge, and you can start this at any time. The reason why I chose December 7th is that leads us right up into the new year, and what better way to really surround the holiday season but through kindness, and to actually go into the new year with more resource and more love?

If you guys know where I personally live – I live in Santa Barbara, California, and for I’d say about a week now we have been experiencing devastating forest fires in our area, in the Ventura County, which is just our neighboring county, as well as Santa Barbara County, and it has had a great impact on our community, and me specifically. My husband and I have not been directly threatened or were not required to evacuate, but we have experienced a lot of poor, really hazardous air quality, so I’ve been kind of locked up indoors, and we’re doing our best to stay safe, and we have an evacuation plan… But I’ve been doing this challenge, and I started basically when the fires were happening, and I just have felt really on edge, just feeling the sympathy and the grief for people who have lost their homes, and just all the animals that have suffered and died or had been evacuated, or just the trauma of this all… It’s been enormous, so I have felt pretty unsettled.

It is threatening, we don’t know this is a natural disaster, we don’t know what’s gonna happen exactly. Firefighters and everyone, all the support efforts and relief efforts are doing their very best to contain the fire. It’s just record-breaking. Nonetheless, I’ve been personally feeling this agitation, and simultaneously… Probably a little bit too much information, but hormonally I’m PMS-ing, and that just tends to for women typically – not every woman, but a lot of women will feel a little more irritable, on edge, not as their normal, happy mood. It can just be a little more edgy, and that has been true for me as well.

So this combined effect of the forest fire and the agitation and the trauma of all of that, then my hormones, and I’ve been trying to practice kindness… And it’s so funny, because as I mentioned in one of my previous podcasts, kindness can be pretty easy to do when you’re feeling good; it’s just a natural extension of your love and your move, and yet the encouragement is that kindness is not just something you do when you feel good, it’s something to be practiced when you feel challenged and perhaps stressed.

I wish I could report that this has been easier for me, but it’s actually been pretty challenging, surprisingly. You know, when I’ve created these episodes, I’m using examples either from my own life, or my client’s life, and I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what’s involved, yet when you’re in it and you’re feeling challenged, it’s much easier said than done… And I know this, yet it’s been hard for me.

Day one, I chose Practice Acceptance, and I chose this act of kindness knowing that my husband and I were on pretty different paths in the way that we were processing the news and the event of the forest fire, the Thomas fire. And easily, it could have been challenging for us, given that we were in very different places and how we were processing it… And yet, with this intention, I kept coming back to practicing acceptance and not wanting to challenge him, or question him, or really wonder how come he was processing it differently. I really just chose to back off from that and to just really accept, but it was not easy.

Day two, I chose Forgive Your Partner’s Shortcomings. I will have, in my mind, a pretty humorous story to tell you. I’m gonna reserve it, I’m not gonna share it today… But what I wanna share with you is that particularly on day two I had felt like “I think I’m doing a horrible job at my own challenge with this forgiveness of day two.” It was a very small thing, and the context was humorous now that I look back on it, but I felt pretty challenged with forgiving his shortcomings without having to process it; the invention of this is just “Choose your battles. Cut your partner some slack. Do you have to take issue with every little thing?” So this was a little bit of a hurdle for me as well, and I had to keep chewing and keep really encouraging myself to do this forgiveness.

While I’m saying this, if you have joined me in this 25-day experiment and you have found one of the gestures rather difficult, I wanna just say it’s completely fair game to repeat the gesture. Choose another day, maybe the next day, and keep working it until you get it; that’s absolutely fine.

Several of the other days had been relatively easy, and I feel that I’m pretty good at doing some of these other gestures well, so just to give yourself some space that you might actually have some strength in some of these areas and need some work in other areas, and I’m giving you a perfect example that it’s fair game that this is partly just the process of growing, and that we have to sometimes feel not very good at it.
Let’s recap last episode, and this was Part III:

– learn how to address an issue

– practice respect during a conflict

– strive for a 5 to 1

– offer reassurance

– forgive your partner’s shortcomings.

For today’s episode, I am going to be sharing five more suggestions with you. Again, this is part IV, the fourth episode. I will have five in total, giving you 25 ways to strengthen your love with kindness.

Okay, number 16 – Accept your partner’s perspective. As you heard the recap, I was talking a little bit more about when you feel an issue or some type of conflict and how you negotiate with your partner, that that can be done with kindness or without kindness. This also relates to that terrain.

Most of the time, partners in a relationship want to feel heard, understood, respected and validated, particularly when there’s an issue or they’re having a difference of opinion. And what happens is when people don’t feel that respect and that understanding and that validation, most likely they will continue to repeat themselves, or the couple will go around and around with both partners explaining themselves in different various ways, but essentially the same message, in an attempt to feel that understanding. They can’t proceed until that baseline, understanding the two perspectives is met, but most couples get very stuck there.

When people don’t’ feel heard, they tend to raise their voice, or conflict escalates, or the disconnect increases, because we get that much more wedded to our position, because we wanna feel that understanding. When we don’t, we feel that we can’t move forward.

When partners can actually take the time to not just hear their partner’s words, but listen, and not just comprehend their partner’s perspective, but to understand it more fully… We often will hear the words, we comprehend them, but we don’t take the time to connect and really consider the perspective. I actually have a podcast about truly listening. If you’re interested in learning a little bit more about that, I encourage you to check that episode out.

One thing here too – I wanna give you a hint, and this is where I got really caught up and I see many couple get caught is that you actually don’t have to agree with your partner’s perspective to understand and entertain their experience, really imagine and get yourself in their world. You do not have to agree with that world, but to really understand it does require that perspective-taking.

A big key of being able to do this and putting yourself in your partner’s shoes is being able to slow down. So often we feel a sense of urgency. We’re uncomfortable, the conflict feels difficult and it’s not something we enjoy, and we wanna rush through it, we wanna get to resolution quickly, and as quickly as possible. However, with this rush to pace and urgency, we end up spinning our wheels, and it generally causes more problems than it does help.

When partners can see the validity in each other’s experience – that’s listening and seeing the merit, getting the value… “That makes sense, I get it. I see how you would feel that way.” Again, you don’t have to say “Yes, I agree, that’s the actual fact of what happened”, because your experience might be completely different, but again, if you can see the truth of their experience in their worldview, couples begin to work together, and their conflict starts to dramatically diminish… Their interactions greatly improve.

When you can let your partner know that you get why they feel the way they do, or again, how their perspective makes sense, it helps them feel received, seen, acknowledged and even respected. That validation (they’re not crazy) is so important, because then once they feel that understanding, that acknowledgment, most likely they’re gonna be able to move forward, they’re gonna be more interested in collaborating, and together you guys can work more easily towards a creative solution. This is given that they would be also returning this favor of taking the time to understand your perspective.

If as a couple, you’re interested in using a template to help guide this type of conversation that facilitates a little more of a slower pace, as well as an equitable opportunity to share and to be acknowledged and listened to, I have an article here, a step-by-step guide to turn any argument into effective communication. I encourage you to check that out, and that will, again, help support and guide these difficult conversations. And again, this is not something you would do moving forward every time, it’s just learning the system and then being able to use it and make it your own.

In the last several months I’ve had an opportunity to practice this myself, and as I talk about on this show, I am a person on this path as well. Yes, I help facilitate others and teach these principles, but I also practice everything I talk about to the best of my ability, and some of this stuff I have more strengthened, and other times I’m also just learning to bolster my skill.

What also happens is sometimes we will confront new territory and we have to apply the principles we know, but in a new area; I feel that’s more or less what had happened in the last few months with my husband… So it’s something that I have felt in our dynamic before, but I just never quite understood it. And we were actually getting support, we were in a session in a therapist we’ve worked with for a couple of years now, and just go to him periodically for tune-ups and just to check in and really have a safe space to just flush out anything that has felt a little bit like a challenge or has brought up emotion. My husband and I do a lot on our own, but it’s just nice to have that extra set of eyes that is trained, that can guide us and deepen in our growth together.

So we were in session — I feel like this was several months ago, and I was bringing up… I can’t remember exactly even what the issue was now, but the thing that I was trying to accept and I was having a really difficult time coming around to really accepting his perspective — now, I’m usually pretty good at this; sometimes it might take me a few iterations of reflectively listening and really trying to get myself in his position, getting curious and say “Okay, if it was me in your shoes, the way you’re describing it, I would feel this way. Is that what you’re feeling?”

Sometimes it takes a little while for me to really plug in to what his experience is. In this particular thing that we were discussing, it was more about the fact that he doesn’t always know what he wants, where from me, my experience is I typically know what I want, and sometimes it’s vulnerable to ask for what I want, or if I didn’t get what I want, I usually can talk about it with my husband… Where for him, if he has a need, he doesn’t even always know what his need is, so I think I was taking issue with “Help me help you” type of thing; I want to give you what you want, I just sometimes have no idea what it is… So I’m doing my best to be a good partner and support you in the ways that I think you need and have expressed, but if there’s something you’re wanting, whether or not I’m working and you’re wanting my attention, or if you’re wanting some couple time, or whatever it is – if you don’t tell me, sometimes I’m not gonna know.

There are times when he’s working on his stuff; he’s got a full-time job, and then he’s got a side-project he’s working on that is his own venture, so often times he’s wanting to work on his thing, so I don’t always know when he’s wanting attention from me and when he’s wanting some time to himself, whether or not it’s for alone time or to do one of his pursuits. So when we were in this session, I just was having a really difficult time understanding how he would not know. I was more thinking that he was feeling uncomfortable or didn’t feel safe, or for whatever reason couldn’t bring it to me, couldn’t alert me to.

This is what it was – when he would fill me in would be when he was already upset; his feelings were already hurt, and he was complaining to me about not having X, Y and Z… So I said, “I would love to know if there’s any preamble or preempt to knowing you have a need; I’d rather know, so that I can give you what you need, rather than hear the upset of not having had it.” So I just was kind of pushing back against this “I don’t know what I need.”

The therapist was asking and prompting and routing around with him and really just got to this place of accepting, like “What if he just doesn’t know?” and I had to just ponder, and I was like “Okay… He doesn’t know, and that is part of what his process is like sometimes.” So it was really helpful for me to have somebody just really validate, and I think that’s sometimes what good coaches and therapists will do – just really understand the other person’s perspective and really accept it and validate it, see the truth in it, and it really helps allow the partner to pivot a little and see a different aspect or see a different nuance that allows them to come to the table and really accept their perspective.

While this might be challenging, I wanna encourage you that if you have an opportunity to see some different perspective with your partner, what would it be like to really accept that as much as you might not understand it, doing your best to try to understand it, and then just really accepting that this is their truth, and not trying to fight it or resist it and just fully embrace it.

Number 17 – Empathize and apologize. Again, working with the terrain of when you’re having a difference of opinion or some level of discord, taking this one step further… So understanding your partner’s perspective, accepting it and validating it is one thing. Then, perhaps what would it be like to empathize? When you’re taking on your partner’s perspective, putting yourselves in their shoes, what would it be like to imagine what it’s like for them emotionally? Attuning to their emotional world, as they’ve described it, trying to understand what they’ve been feeling, and better yet, even imagine yourself in their shoes, as they’ve described it in their scenario. Again, it might not be your experience of the scenario, but as they’ve described it, what would you feel?

Brené Brown, who I’ve mentioned many times, has done great work to really teach us about the power of empathy, vulnerability and human connection. I recommend her TED talks, as well as there’s an RSA animated short video which I’ll also post a link on the show notes for… And it’s about empathy; it’s the difference between empathy and sympathy. I’d encourage you to check that out if you have not watched it.

The goal of empathy is to really be present with… Being present with your partner’s emotion, and their pain, and not turning away, or not even disconnecting from it; being willing to feel with your partner, resonate with, and it might even remind you of your pain, or something similar that you’ve experienced, and it does require a willingness to go into that hole with them.

Empathy can be conveyed through words, through non-verbal expressions and gestures, just even in your body language, and your face, conveying that you’re experiencing the emotion with them. You’re not kind of looking at them from… I mean, the short animated video, the difference between empathy and sympathy — it’s cute, because it’s showing this person’s in a hole, and the sympathy person is like looking down from above, and like “Oh, it kind of sucks to be you down there…”, kind of putting the silver lining on “At least THIS isn’t happening…”, but really not getting down in there with the person. And it’s not easy to do; it does require accessing our own emotional vulnerability to really connect with someone else’s vulnerability.

But we wanna, again, do this for our person, our significant other, the one that matters most, and we wanna nurture this emotional bond, and this is a source of deep connection. Building the practice of empathy can be incredibly powerful.

Empathy helps people feel accepted and connected, rather than feeling shame and feeling isolated and alone. Just even a little bit of empathy can go a long way in building and solidifying that emotional bond and that sense of togetherness.

Apology – this can be a little bit trickier; this is the area where we recognize our ways have impacted our partner, and maybe even where we admit fault. I think apologies can be ways when we know we dropped the ball, we made a mistake; we messed up and we can easily say “I am so sorry, I totally forgot”, or “I completely dropped the ball there” and really get the pain involved of the disappointment.

An apology is much harder when you had no intention to hurt your partner. Sometimes people feel that apology means that “I meant to hurt you.” So just acknowledging that sometimes pain can be inflicted even without malintent, and just to really apologize for the pain that was endured.

I think even harder still is an apology when you feel that your perspective makes sense. In these cases, it’s like “If I were to do this over again, I don’t know that I would do it any differently.” You feel very justified for your actions; you didn’t know. In the example that I was sharing, if my husband wanted my attention and he felt hurt that I wasn’t giving him time and affection when he wanted it, but I didn’t know, looking back, I don’t know that I would know again if he didn’t tell me. But in this instance, we can apologize and really feel the pain, and there might be certain things that you can tease out.

In this case, it might be easier to apologize for a certain part of the interaction… Okay, so after dinner, I know you tend to wanna spend time together, and instead of just going directly to working, I could have asked “Would you like to spend some time together? If not, I wanna go get this work done. I could have, and I’m sorry I didn’t give that priority.” I could apologize for that; this doesn’t mean that I apologize for not knowing that he wanted to spend time with me.

So there’s a subtle distinction, but I do feel like there can be a genuine apology for a specific part, and the real goal here is not to be “I’m sorry that you feel upset.” It’s really “I’m sorry I got defensive” or “I’m sorry I got mad at you and reacted” or “I’m sorry I hurt your feelings. That’s not my intention. I feel sad that you feel hurt.”

A genuine, sincere apology can repair and resolve hurt, and it can do a lot to build a sense of safety and connection.

Number 18 – Acknowledge places you and your partner agree. As I mentioned before, I believe, in last week’s podcast episode (Episode 129, Part II), I talked about the ratio of five to one – this is five positives to one negative interaction, and that’s essentially what you wanna strive for at least, as the minimum. And why this is true is negative emotion carries a lot more weight, it’s a powerful emotion, so it essentially takes five positives to counteract the one negative. I think we even hear in the business sector, in regards to customer service for businesses, that customers will typically give way more negative feedback than positive feedback.

We typically hear people complain about a concern or an issue they have, but perhaps not talk that much about a positive experience, unless it’s drastically positive, and surprisingly positive. I think this is also true in relationship. We will vocalize our complaints and our issues, but we don’t always express our positive feedback when things are going well; it’s that concept of “No news is good news.” But at the same time, if we’re looking at the ratio, we wanna actually do our part to give attention to these positive areas, the places of agreement.

During conflictual times, it is so easy to lose sight of these positives. We forget in the heat of the moment that our partner loves us. We will overlook all the ways they give and care for us, we ignore their good intentions and all their positive efforts to help. We forget too that they’re hurting, so we can be very in that kind of narrow, threatened mindset that’s very much about survival, and we start to see that our partner is an adversary.

One way to acknowledge these areas that are working well is to look at the places you agree. I even think it’s a good idea if you’re in a specific argument to take a moment and identify where you guys are in consensus, where you agree, because I do believe that this can build a sense of collaborative spirit, and I think it also helps break down the interaction, so it’ll feel less daunting and perhaps a little more doable, because you can laser focus on the parts that maybe weren’t in agreement… But you can look at all the places that you do agree and that you are on the same page. Finding these places of agreement really allows for the opportunity of that sense of alliance, because I mentioned it’s so easy to see our partner as the adversary when we’re feeling threatened… So it helps shift the direction of the conversation where you can start to work together as allies, and any form of agreement can really help build this quality of togetherness.

I’ve even had some couples share with me that in their previous work, if they perhaps had a bad experience with a therapist or a coach, they would tell me one good thing that would come out of the experience is that they joined together in their complaints about their therapist or coach, so ironically, it had a positive impact on their relationship because they joined forces against the therapist… I’m sure it’s not necessarily what the therapist was aiming for, but it had a bonding impact.

Number 19 – Work with your partner. This also still relates to the zone of discord and conflict, and I’ve focused pretty heavily this episode and the last episode on conflict, because it’s probably the most important area and place that we’re gonna feel challenged in relationship. Yes, we’re gonna be faced with life difficulties and hardships, but when we can work with our partner, there is a sense of togetherness and bond and closeness that you can feel, and it almost makes you stronger and brings you closer in a sense of more intimacy. But when we feel that separateness and we’re not working together, that can be devastating in and of itself, and then when we’re experiencing stress or life events that are challenging, it can feel completely overwhelming.

I will add in this suggestion of kindness, of working with your partner, if you on a day-to-day basis feel that you and your partner have power struggles that don’t actually cause conflict, what would be like to follow their lead? Work with them, and maybe do a little bit of ebb and flow, so it’s not so much butting heads all the time. Just a short example – my husband and I got away from the toxic, smoky air this last week and we went to a town North of us called San Luis Obispo, and had a breath of fresh air, and it was so lovely… We went for a hike, and we soaked in the hot springs, we ate lunch and we sat on the beach, and it was just a lovely day, and I really just could feel that my husband wanted to lead.

Even when we got in the car — I don’t know… Like I said, I’ve been a little more edgy, and we were taking off and we were driving to the main street and he was turning a direction that seemed opposite of where I thought we should go… And there’s two ways to get to the freeway – you can go right or you can go left, but I was thinking one was faster, because it’s in the direction that we’re going, and I was trying to say “Oh, well why aren’t you taking that road?” and he didn’t really say very much, so I was like “Okay, I’m not gonna micro-manage”, and I try not to micro-manage anyway; I do love to feel his leadership… And we were talking about whether or not we wanted to hike first, or go soak first, and he had an opinion, and I could have questioned – I tend to have a lot of questions – but I really just wanted to work with him and follow his lead, and so I didn’t try to collaborate… Like, it’s okay to just kind of really surrender and let your partner lead at times. That’s just in a smaller way to work with your partner, but I’m gonna turn our attention a little bit more towards the conflict, because that’s where I see most people get stuck.

So when we’re in conflict – again, if you’re starting to see or feel as though your partner is the adversary and you feel threatened, you feel scared, it could feel as though your partner has the power to hurt you greatly, and probably the last thing you’re gonna wanna do is open, and be gracious and kind and emotionally vulnerable, because everything in your nervous system is gonna be telling you “Protect at all costs” – that’s what everything that’s wired up in you is gonna be… Alarms are going off, just to get yourself in protection mode. Yet this is the very thing that’s gonna position you in opposition to your partner, and over time will create great disconnect, and possibly even tear your relationship apart. If you can’t soften and be vulnerable and work with your partner, it’s very difficult to overcome conflict and differences of opinion.

As I’ve mentioned before, I love John Gottman’s saying about every couple has a minimum (I believe he says) eight irreconcilable differences… And that’s every couple! So the goal is not about trying to find somebody that’s like “I’m a perfect fit”, it’s more about being able to work with your partner, gain creative solutions and overcoming these differences. Do you plan, or are you a little more spontaneous? Are you on time, or do you tend to be late? Are you an introvert or are you an extrovert? These types of things. So working with your partner.

True understanding, empathy and collaboration cannot happen when we’re focused on protecting and defending ourselves. The goal here is to first calm yourself down, get regulated, then re-orient your goal towards “Work together”, towards a resolution.

When I started practicing some of these relationship principles when I was much younger, I remember having to check in on a frequent basis during a discord or an argument that I was having with a boyfriend at the time. I would have to ask myself “Do I want to win right now, or do I want to work towards a resolution?” and that was my checkpoint. Many times, my honest answer was “I wanna be right. I am right, I wanna win.” If that was my answer, I would do my best to shift my goal and my focus towards working collaboratively, towards a resolution, or to end the conversation or argument to readdress later.

In an e-mail that I sent to my list several weeks ago I was talking about the fact that when we are in this heightened, threatened state, that we will see our partner as an adversary, rather than as an ally… Rather than reminding ourselves, giving our partner the benefit of the doubt that they care, that they love us, despite whatever difference is occurring. Because again, when we are in that threatened state, we are likely to see the way that they treat us in a particular way, and we jump to conclusions, and most of us will feel pretty certain about that. And I was pondering this and basically saying how interesting it is in the United States in our legal system we talk about the “Innocent until proven guilty”, yet in our intimate relationships we tend to accuse each other as guilty with the utmost certainty, even before having a dialogue, and it’s just fascinating to me that we can be that sure of our partner’s offense and why.

So part of this invitation of working with your partner is giving them the benefit of the doubt, and when there is a miss or a place of disconnect and a real cause for concern, and even when we feel that protectiveness emerge, can we again get to a position of wanting to get to a resolution, getting regulated, and then getting curious… “Can you help me understand?” It can be an incredibly powerful question, because “I’m confused. I respect your experience and I’m having a really difficult time understanding how to make sense of what you’re doing, and your actions… Can you help me understand?” Less of a place of interrogation, but more of a place of “I’m struggling, I’m hurting, and I need yo. I wanna feel your care and I’m having a difficult time finding you. Can you help me?”

Most of us need practice in this, and need extra guidance, so if you’re struggling in this arena, you are not alone, and I encourage you to get support, whether or not it’s through a coach or a therapist or some type of program to really practice this; this is a skill to be developed, and truly, it’s one of the biggest keys  to long-lasting intimacy – to know how to do these conflictual times well, seeing your partner as an ally and working with them.

Okay, last tip for today, number 20 – Put yourself out there. Okay, we’re moving on from conflict, and now we’re just talking about general ways to infuse kindness in your relationship to strengthen your love.

In the beginning stages of love and romance, men and women will go to great lengths to show appeal and sexiness to their partner. Then, as time proceeds, the demands of life set in. We get into relationship, we get married, we might have children, we have careers, we have a home, we have pets – you name it – and the schedule gets overloaded and we start to feel drained and depleted. Then the goal shifts from sexiness, romance and connection to, most likely, when partner bonding happens, to more practical things, along the lines of comfort, relaxation, soothing… “Let’s watch a movie, let’s cuddle…” – these are all amazing things, those comforts and soothings and relaxation time together; they are key, I’m a big fan… And have we lost sight of going that extra step to put yourself out there or to create something fun and sexy and romantic?

I remember when I was writing the notes for this the movie Sex And The City – I think it was the first one – and they’re all on vacation, and Miranda is by the pool, and Samantha looks at her in her suit and everything, and she recognizes she’s not as well-kempt as she remembers, and her bikini line is basically not waxed… And Samantha is giving her a hard time, and Miranda is like “What?! I’m married. Priorities have shifted”, so she’s in defense, but it’s this classic “We don’t always take the best care that we would when we were dating when we get married. Priorities shift”, so it’s just kind of a humorous example. I have the link to that clip; if you’re interested, you can find that on the show notes.

Essentially, I’m describing how unfortunately over time it can feel as though this burden and the heaviness of our schedules erodes those feelings of care and concern, even in the best relationships. People stop doing those little nice extra things that we used to do for each other, because we’re too tired, we’re too stressed, or we’re waiting on the other person to take the first step.

Partners can feel taken for granted and horribly lonely sometimes… Doubt whether or not they matter or if they’re important or special. So the question is “Have you gotten lazy or too comfortable in regards to romance and extra gestures of love and care?” If so – and I can even raise my hand to this and say that I have really put a lot of focus on my work, and we have both (my husband and I) prioritized our careers, and we live in an expensive area, I actually have quite a bit of student loans, and it’s just demanding. So that has taken a lot of the time and energy. And we share a lot of really beautiful things, but the romance – we do do that, but I don’t know that I’ve been giving as much of attention as I’d like to in this arena.

So then the invitation is “Can you plan something special, express romance and/or sexiness with your partner?” Maybe it’s having a candlelight dinner, slow-dancing, getting dressed up, wearing a sexy undergarment. Using your imagination, but to actually go out of your way to do something romantic or have some sexiness infused in your relationship.

I don’t know if you guys ever watched the show “This is us” (I think it’s on NBC), and there’s a couple examples where a person in their marriage will do a romantic gesture, and I think Jack, and it’s the main couple, their whole show is revolved on their family that they created… And Jack I think in one episode took her back to their first apartment together as a date, as a real special evening, and he had lit all these candles in the bathroom… It was just this beautiful evening, and [unintelligible 00:45:41.04] I can’t remember, but he had done some really special things…

These gestures – we tend to now put ourselves out there in this type of way, or wear something sexy, or dress up nice… So I encourage you to perhaps choose one way that you could do a little extra in this regard and put yourself out there. Again, this is all within the theme of strengthening your love with kindness.

To recap, today’s five tips are:

16. accept your partner’s perspective

17. Offer empathy and an apology

18. Acknowledge the places you agree

19. Work with your partner

20. Put yourself out there.

If you have been engaging in the 25 days to strengthening your love through kindness, I would love to hear your experience. Please feel free to e-mail me, jessica@drjessicahiggins.com. You can also comment on one of the show notes, and that can be found on my website, DrJessicaHiggins.com, click on Podcast, and scroll down to the bottom and you can find the comment section. Or, what I’d love for you to do is post on Empowered Relationship Facebook page.

Next week I will share the last five suggestions of how to build kindness in your relationship to complete the 25 suggestions. Again, I encourage you to share with me how this is going for you if you are engaging in the challenge, and if you would like to join, there’s no need to have to do the 25 in complete; you can still download the PDF graphic and join us. Until next time, I hope you take great care.

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