There is something quick and easy and powerful that could strengthen your relationship and help to protect it from turning into ash. It is something that can be done every day – many times during the day – and according to new research, it makes a remarkable difference to how your feel about your relationship, how committed you are to it and to how solid you believe it to be.
Relationships – the most rewarding, wonderful, excruciating and complicated of all our experiences. Here we look to psychology for new insights into how to make the most of being with our favourite, or not so favourite, others – lovers (or ex-lovers), children, family, friends.
Stress is a normal part of life, and so is our response to it. The physiological response to stress is hardwired into all of us and is evolution’s way of keeping us alive. In times of stress, our heart beats faster, our blood pressure increases, and adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) surge through our system to make us stronger, faster, more alert and more powerful versions of our normal selves. In short, the physiological changes that come with stress are to give us the physical resources to deal with whatever might break our stride.
‘Sorry’ is one of the earliest words we teach our kids but for a while, it can be a woolly concept to understand. Even as adults the meaning can sometimes be lost. Saying sorry doesn’t change whatever has happened and it doesn’t necessarily ease the pain. So what does it do, and how do we encourage a heartfelt one driven by empathy?
One of the joys of being human is that we don’t have to be perfect to be one of the good ones. At some point we’ll all make stupid decisions, hurt the people we love, say things that are hard to take back, and push too hard to get our way. None of that makes us toxic. It makes us human. We mess things up, we grow and we learn. Toxic people are different. They never learn. They never self-reflect and they don’t care who they hurt along the way.
We humans were born to connect and we were born to play. Put them both together and it can spark off a little bit of magic. When we play, we connect. When we’re connected, we get playful. Play boosts academic success, lowers stress, flourishes our innovative side and nurtures well-being, and that’s all backed by research. As for connection, we thrive when we have it and struggle when we don’t.
In many areas, I am a typical woman. I love to get dressed up, do my hair and put on makeup. I love to shop and cook and wear high heels. In so many ways, I am the quintessential female. But there is one difference that I see in myself that sets me apart from my peers and that is I don’t have an overwhelming urge to have children.
Old wounds have many ways of stealing into relationships. They can disrupt a connection, prevent a connection from reaching take-off, or slowly pull at a relationship until it’s gasping for air. Everyone is capable of having a connection that is loving and life-giving – a relationship that allows each person to be completely seen, stripped back to bare, pretences gone, flaws and vulnerabilities on full show. It’s beautiful, but it’s not easy, because this type connection requires openness and vulnerability. The walls need to fall and the armour needs to soften.
Anxiety is unpredictable, confusing and intrusive. It’s tough. Not just for the people who have it but also for the people who love them. If you are one of those people, you would know too well that the second hand experience of anxiety feels bad enough – you’d do anything to make it better for the one going through it.