3 Relationship Blogs Worth Reading

Today I was thinking about the amount of time most of us invest in improving ourselves professionally, yet, how little time many of us invests in improving ourselves as relationship partners. It’s as if somehow we think this should just come naturally, but building healthy relationships can be quite a journey. Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, so I decided to review a few different relationship blogs that I think offer particularly good information, tools and resources.

The Gottman Institute Relationship Blog

The Gottman Institute was started by John and Julie Gottman, both couples’ psychologists. This blog offers couples and clinicians practical, research-based tools and skills to strengthen and repair marriages and relationships.

The Couples Institute Blog 

The Couples Institute was started by Ellyn Bader and Pete Pearson, both couples’ psychologists. This blog offers couples articles and practical exercises for improving their marriage or relationship.

Dr Sue Johnson Blog

Sue Johnson is a psychologist and primary developer of Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy (EFT). Her blog posts include lots of great information and research about topics ranging from love to neuroscience to attachment

Are You Inviting Your Partner to Lie to You?  

When asked most people say they don’t want to be lied to by their partner, yet consciously or unconsciously there are a lot of cues we can give to our partner that lets them know we are not prepared to hear the truth about what he/she is thinking or feeling.

Here is a quiz developed by Ellyn Bader and Pete Pearson of the Couples Institute that can help you to evaluate your typical responses to your partner:

When my partner begins to reveal a truth, emotion, or a disturbing aspect of himself or herself, I….

Almost Never Occasionally Very Frequently
Look forward to the conversation
Listen very carefully and non- defensively
Ask for more information
Coordinate with my partner and if necessary, negotiate a better time to talk
Try to draw out a more complete understanding of his/her perspective
Tell myself to stay calm and attentive
Tell myself not to take personally what is being said
Recognize and appreciate the risk taken to self- disclosure
Compliment myself for encouraging the truth


When I hear my partner saying something I really don’t want to hear, I….

Quite Often Occasionally Almost Never
Believe it’s mostly my fault
Withdraw and pout
Counterattack and blame
Don’t’ say much now but will dump on him/her later
Use the silent treatment or cold shoulder
Interrupt and change the topic
Tell him/her why he/she is wrong
Pretend to listen but tune out and don’t remember a word that was said


Add up your totals for each column

  • Column 1 = 1 point,
  • Column 2 = 3 points,
  • Column 3 = 5 points

9-18 Congratulations for your honesty

18-27 Watch out for your tendencies to discourage truth telling

27-45 You’re on a great track. You really know that eliciting the truth builds a stronger foundation

This quiz can be a helpful tool for increasing your awareness of the ways you may be encouraging and discouraging your partner’s truthfulness.

Fight or Flight = Bad Communication

Once your nervous system gets escalated and moves into fight/flight/freeze response, it’s next to impossible to have a useful discussion. And for many of us, we don’t even know when that response has been triggered in ourselves let alone in our partner. So we continue trying to communicate with little success. This state of nervous system arousal causes us to perceive almost everything in our world as a possible threat to our survival – we tend to see everyone and everything as a possible enemy. You both may still be engaging with words, but at the core all you can focus really on is self-protection – its pretty hard to be curious when your nervous system thinks you are under attack. Our hearts are closed. Our prefrontal cortex – related to empathy, is disengaged. Our systems become focused on fear and self-protection, not love and connection.

Because nervous system arousal can happen so quickly an important aspect of improving communication is to become more aware of when your nervous system has escalated into fight/ flight/freeze.

Here are some of the signs that the nervous system is in fight/flight/freeze:

  • We experience an adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol surge
  • Breathing rate increases.
  • Awareness intensifies and our impulses quicken.
  • We become hypervigilant, “looking for the enemy”
  • Fear becomes exaggerated and thinking becomes distorted as we see everything through the filter of possible danger.

Dr. Dan Siegel offers a nice demonstration that can help to make this brain process more concrete. Once you start recognizing some of the signs that you have moved into fight/flight/freeze you can start to experiment with ways of calming your nervous system before continuing a discussion with your partner. More on some of those strategies in the next post.

If you would be loved quote

If You Would be Loved…

If you would be loved, love and be loveable…

Courage Quote

You Don’t Develop Courage

You don’t develop courage by being happy in your relationship everyday. You survive it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity.

I Care About You Quote

I Care About You

I care about who you are, who you have been, who you want to be. I open myself to you to listen and learn about you. I cherish you, not just my fantasy of who you are, not just who I need you to be, but who you really are…

Jet Pack Solves All Cartoon

A New Way to Avoid Difficult Conversations


relationship communication cartoon from poorlydrawnlines.com



Being Heard Quote

Being Heard is so Close to Being Loved

Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.

The 5 Minute Listening Experiment

When conflict arises and people are feeling stressed, one of the first things that can disappear is the ability to listen to and hear each other.  Part of the reason listening becomes more difficult is that, as our nervous systems start to escalate, we tend to move into fight/flight/freeze mode, filtering out most of what the other person is saying in favour of our worst assumptions and interpretations.

No wonder it’s so easy to skip listening and go straight to defending, attacking, and blaming. It can also be tempting to move straight to problem-solving, in hopes that a quick solution will make the discomfort of conflict go away. Problem-solving is certainly an important step in conflict resolution, but it is difficult to do effectively without all parties involved feeling listened to and heard. Learning to tolerate discomfort, while listening to another’s points of view, is an essential, though often difficult step, toward de-escalating and resolving conflict.

Because listening can be tough, especially during conflict, it’s a great skill to practice on a regular basis when things aren’t so stressful.  As the listener, you can increase your ability to remain curious, without becoming defensive or judgmental. And by listening to the other person you are giving them a pretty rare gift. As the one being listened to, you can practice sharing how you feel or how your are perceiving a situation, without moving into accusations or blame.

If you are curious, give this 5 Minute Listening Experiment a try with a friend or partner. Set a time aside and decide who will talk and who will listen. Set an alarm for 5 minutes, and then switch roles. Initially it’s best to stick to topics that are not too sensitive.


  • Pay attention to when you are truly feeling curious and when you are feeling defensive or judgmental. Notice any differences between these experiences.
  • Notice how strange it can feel to simply listen and not respond or try to problem-solve.
  • Remember that the other person is only sharing how they feel about something. It’s only one perspective.
  • Listening does not mean you have to agree with what the other person is saying. It does show that you are curious to know more about why they feels the way they.
  • Try imagining you are an interviewer, trying to gather information.


  • Its a real gift to talk about your experience without interruption, so take advantage of the opportunity to openly and honestly express how you are feeling or perceiving a situation. Be careful not to move into blaming or accusing.
  • Once the 5 minutes is up, thank the other person for listening.

Life is busy and it would be unrealistic to expect people to devote endless hours to just talking and listening in this way. The good news is that this skill can be practiced in a very short period of time. Why not give it a try and see?

Love is a Verb – 12 Ways to Get More Active in Love

“Love is a verb. Love – the feeling – is the fruit of love the verb or our loving actions.” -Stephen R. Covey

An all-too-familiar sentiment that I hear from clients to explain why they are thinking of leaving their long-term relationship is “I love my partner, I’m just not in love with them anymore. When I follow up to ask how they know this, I hear variations of “I’ve lost that lovin’ feeling.” That love is just a feeling seems to be a pervasive belief. It often follows that if you are ‘not feeling it’ that must mean it’s time to exit the relationship and find that feeling somewhere else.

That’s not to say that there aren’t times when leaving becomes the appropriate choice. However, it’s generally helpful to get clear on the concrete reasons that this relationship is no longer where you are choosing to stay. Basing a choice to leave on a feeling is often an indicator that people have bought into Hollywood’s version of love and don’t have a good understanding of love beyond the fluctuation of feeling.

So if love isn’t just a feeling, what is it? It’s also action, it’s commitment, and it’s an evolution. Love is a crucible for both partners’ growth, learning and healing. When love is all about feeling, you are usually in the honeymoon stage of relationship. It’s a great and important stage and a lot of the connection that develops in this period of time helps to sustain the relationship when the going gets tough. But if you keep leaving your relationships once the honeymoon stage ends because the ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling starts to fade, you may find yourself missing out on the opportunity to experience the deeper more profound shades of love that come with action and commitment.

So what to do when you still love your partner, but you’ve lost that lovin’ feeling?

Here are twelve ideas to experiment with; why not try one or two of them for a few weeks and see what happens?

  1. Write a bunch of post-it notes with things you like about your partner and stick them places your partner will find them. For example, on their pillow, in their car, in their briefcase or purse, on their laptop screen, get creative.
  2. Give more than you take in your relationship. Instead of getting stuck keeping score, see what happens when you give more than your partner without expecting anything in return.
  3. Communicate! Pay attention to what your partner is saying. Put down cell phones, close laptops. Set aside time to focus on your partner. If you are struggling with communicating, get some help. Attend a workshop, read a book together, go to counselling.
  4. Before you blame, take a look at anything you might be contributing to the situation. Make a real effort to see the situation through your partner’s eyes – it doesn’t mean you have to agree with how they see things but can go a long way in helping them feel less defensive.
  5. Hold hands, hug, give a little shoulder rub, touch your partner’s arm, affection is connection.
  6. Accept and celebrate your differences instead of feeling threatened by them.
  7. Remember that you are a team and you can accomplish much more when you work together then when you get entrenched in defending your turf. Notice if you get stuck on the concept of winning or losing. There will be endless give and take over the long haul.
  8. Laugh! Whether that requires a funny movie, a funny joke, a tickle fight or sharing a funny story. Laughter is a great way to build connection and stop from taking yourselves too seriously.
  9. Develop rituals that are meaningful to the two of you.
  10. Attend a couples retreat
  11. Create some common goals and work towards them.
  12. Have a weekly date time whether it’s an activity in the home, a hike or a dinner out. Time together is essential.