Malcom & Marie: A Look at Real Emotions

For anybody who has not seen the film Malcolm & Marie, I highly suggest you carve out some time between The Queen’s Gambit and Bridgerton to check out one of Netflix’s most debated relationship dramas where emotions run high.

We want to avoid spoiler alerts, as it is the only way to form your own true opinion without having online forums make you question your perception. Perhaps with a black and white film based entirely in one setting with only one actor and one actress, your hopes can’t be too high. That said, the storyline required us to dig deep – and frankly – we were taken aback. Throughout the film, and thereafter, we couldn’t help but recognize each of the relationship problems the couple revealed. In fact, they demonstrated those issues with a full-on, high-def, in-your-face display. The underlying issues, insecurities, and monologues in the film came directly from the not-so-pretty side of relationships—the side we try to hide or avoid—but are often very real.

Alas, this Atlantic piece, recently released, has a vastly different opinion. So, we challenge you to watch the film and come back with your own point of view.

Once you’ve done so, we encourage you to read how the examples below from the film exemplify a couple in dire need of Conversation Block™.

Repeated Issues

  • Avoiding the problem or sweeping it under the rug
    • The film starts out with Marie being overtly pissed-off while Malcolm struts around the house—high off his first movie premier.  When confronted with what’s bothering her, she tells Malcom, “Nothing good is going to come of talking about it.”
  • Not listening to each other
    • When Marie reveals the problem from her perspective, Malcolm immediately gets defensive and goes on a rampage about her ruining his special night, instead of inquiring sincerely about the problem as she sees it. So much of the dialog in the movie came off as monologue versus two-way conversation.
  • Bringing up past situations + not staying present
    • The couple goes on to blame each, while throwing guilt trips about the times they each went out of their way for each other. Malcolm reminds Marie of how he helped her get clean as a former drug addict, aiming to rub salt in her wounds.
  • Stonewalling
    • Several times both Malcolm and Marie withdraw, somewhat to avoid further conflict but mostly to intentionally hurt the other with distance and separation. Marie leaves the house on more than one occasion without as much as a word to Malcolm to say she is leaving, where she is going, or if she’ll be coming back. Malcolm does the same, accompanied by alcohol consumption and the use of loud music to drown out his verbal tirades—or Marie’s responses.
  • Acting out based on stories in our heads vs. what is true
    • The actress who played the lead character in Malcolm’s newly premiered movie is named Taylor. There seems to be some ambiguous question and innuendo about Taylor’s and Malcolm’s relationship. Marie wonders how much of it is her imagination vs. what is true of their working relationship. Likewise, Malcolm is seen shadowboxing in a field outside the house, while he agrees vehemently with the voices in his head and what they are saying about what is wrong with Marie.
  • Criticizing + using violent and inflammatory language
    • Throughout the film the couple’s fight gets more and more heated. They make points to purposely hurt each with claims and accusations of entitlement, narcissism, degrading each other’s work, selfishness, etc. 
  • Defensiveness
    • Scene after scene showcase Malcolm and Marie using a variety of defensiveness tactics—portraying themselves as the victim and reversing the blame. Rarely to they take responsibility for their own actions. On a few occasions, they do offer an apology to each other for their wrongdoing, but it was overshadowed by the self-justifications that came along with it.
  • Unhealthy boundaries + codependence
    • From the moment the film begins, Marie cooks Malcolm a box of Mac n’ Cheese, as if he couldn’t himself. Every time Marie disappears or steps outside, Malcolm anxiously calls out her name. In one poignant scene, Malcolm acts as a mirror for Marie (though in an accusatory rather than helpful way) and says that she can’t fathom that someone simply loves her for her—flaws and all—because she doesn’t love herself. 
  • Familiarity breeding contempt and blunting curiosity
    • Marie overtly cites this as one of the causes of their relationship strife. Her commentary was along the lines of when you admit you have someone, the mystery and tension dissolve, and there is no more curiosity about the other. And, in their case, familiarity bred visceral contempt.
  • Not recognizing or reciprocating bids for connection
    • bid is any attempt from one partner to another for attention, affirmation, affection, or any other positive connection. Both Malcolm and Marie did make bids for the other’s connection; however, things got in the way. Marie’s bid of making Mac ‘N Cheese for Malcolm went unnoticed. Malcolm’s bid to connect physically with Marie was reciprocated in a short-lived scene while they laid on the couch together and she playfully joked with Malcolm. But in other instances, it was rebuffed or delayed past the point of no return.
  • Seeing each other as the problem vs. teaming up to solve the real issue(s)
    • From the beginning, it’s clear that Malcolm and Marie see each other as wrong, self-centered, needy and/or crazy. They each willingly gave in to their primal, ego-driven need to go for the jugular and win at all costs. In fact, at certain points in the movie, each said out loud that they were about to take the other person down. Rather than using that forewarning as a red flag to stop themselves and regroup, instead they proceeded headlong to do so, sometimes with gleeful ruthlessness.
  • Not feeling appreciated + keeping score
    • The film concludes with Marie giving a heartfelt and prolonged message to Malcolm. She expresses a litany the things she feels he didn’t do for her in contrast to all those she not only did for him, but sacrificed for him, converting it into all she ever wanted was a “thank you.” As for Malcolm, throughout the film he recites a long list of things he has done for Marie but feels he hasn’t gotten appropriate credit or recognition for.

What Was Missing All Along

Communication. Conscious, healthy, productive communication. The kind that brings people closer together, even through high emotions.

From the beginning it was clear this film is about a couple who holds everything inside. They didn’t tell each other what they may have felt in their hearts; “You inspire me.”  They didn’t ask: “What do you truly want?” or “Am I helping you to get it?”

There were insecurities that neither Marie, nor Malcom, ever spoke of. Both may have had underlying feelings that what they were striving for—or who they are—was not good enough.

Though they did pay some attention to their partners behaviors, they were not fully present with each other. Malcolm and Marie chose not to have open communication to address any inklings they probably had along the way.

Most importantly, they forgot not to take each other for granted. We need to appreciate the other person who is there for us during our lowest points and who supports us as we “come-up.” Then we need someone to help champion who we are so we can own our life story and grow. And in healthy, fulfilling relationships, we also need to be that for the other person.

To Have Conversations No One Else Is Having, You Must Have Communication Skills No One Else Taught You

This week Jennifer Simmons, Co-Founder, asks readers from The Good Men Project to take a closer examination at what it means to have hard conversations.

• Diving deep into our own internal conflicts to reveal our vulnerabilities with complete transparency

• Why and how Conversation Block was created, and the science behind it

• Additional pointers to help set the stage for hard but meaningful conversations

Read on at the link: http://ow.ly/U6Vj50Dw4KH and leave your thoughts below!

What subjects do you find most difficult to talk about? Why?

What recurring challenges do you face in your relationships?

What techniques have you tried to work through conflict, and which are the most successful?

What are the conversations no one else is having that we need to, and where would you start?

Making Reasonable Clear Requests

It’s a funny thing when the majority of couples agree that ‘making reasonable clear requests’ is at the top of their ‘I wish I knew how to do better’ list. 

Not that it doesn’t make sense in terms of emotional reasoning.  We often take pride in the notion that our partner “gets us.” We typically shy away from conflict and the thought of making requests can feel like we are inconveniencing the other. So, the question is, how do we find that sweet spot between expressing our wants, desires, and needs, while being as much a giver vs a taker in our relationship? Logically, we should all be able to ask by simply stating our requests under reasonable and clear circumstances.

But, for many of us, it’s tricker than that.

We have trouble making requests for several reasons:

  • We expect our partners to know
    • We think they should know what we need without having to say anything – if they really love you and know you, or weren’t being selfish, they would just naturally do it.
  • We want it to come from a genuine place
    • Sometimes we might feel it is somehow less “real” or valuable if we have to ask for it. The voices in our heads say, “You’re just doing it because I told you I liked that, not because you really want to.”
  • We don’t know how to ask the right way
    • We fear what’s being requested is going to be over-analyzed. Inflammatory or accusatory language is the norm when our partner puts up their defensive armor.
  • There can be a negative stigma around asking for our needs
    • Societal “rules” and story lines say that it’s weak, codependent or needy if we ask for too much

Here’s the thing—we are wired biologically for safe and secure emotional connections. Tiptoeing around this fact doesn’t do anything for anybody. We must get clear about what we want and not be afraid to express it as our needs evolve.

Using the Conversation Block™ method, we present an illustration of what results from ineffective versus effective communication skills. We hope this will help you better understand how taking a conscious approach to the way you communicate will enable you to resolve issues and create a real, deeper connection with your partner.

Example: Asking for extra support when stress is high

Ineffective Communication: Avoiding the real problem and inflating smaller issues

Person 1: “I asked for one thing from you – to load the dishwasher – and you couldn’t even do that!”

Person 2: “I will do it right now, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Person 1: “Nothing is ever a big deal to you! I’m stuck doing it all while everything’s a big joke to you!”

Person 2: “Woah, calm down. Why are you freaking out? I don’t deserve this.”

Person 1: “That’s right I couldn’t ask for anything from you, that would be absurd of me! What’s the point of even being in this relationship?!”

It is clear there is more than what is on the surface.  While person 1 is holding in a lot of angst from circumstances in their life, person 2 is left frustrated and confused.  Without directly telling our partners what we need in difficult times we can’t assume our minds are being read. Below is an example of how this couple could use the Conversation Block™ method to communicate their requests directly.

Effective Communication: Making Reasonable Clear Requests

Step 1: Get Set Up

Find a time that both you and your partner can set other obligations aside and focus on the problem at hand.

Step 2: Get in the Right Frame of Mind

Draw two white cards that speak to you and one white card that is a challenge for you. Take turns explaining to your partner why you chose those three cards. Next take turns explaining your perspective on the chosen issue.

Person 1: “I chose the card ‘focus on growth as the goal’ because I want this to be about gaining a better understanding which will help our relationship grow. I chose ‘Hold sacred space for the conversation’ because it’s a serious topic and I want that to be acknowledged. And I picked ‘Ask clarifying questions’ because it’s my job to make sure you know what I mean instead of just assuming and vice versa—and that’s not always easy for me.”

Person 2: “I chose ‘show compassion’ because I know you feel like I’m not always aware of your feelings. I picked ‘trust the process’ because sometimes I feel uncomfortable sorting out our discussions. I chose ‘Take a beginner’s mind’ because that’s a challenge for me as I often assume I know everything that’s going on when I don’t.”

Person 1: “I’m extremely stressed out right now and I’m not sure if that has crossed your mind or you are just expecting me to be strong all the time.”

Person 2: “I’m aware of the circumstances going on – and I know you don’t want to be babied either. I’m not sure how you want me to support you.”

Step 3: Find Common Ground

Identify at least one point you both agree on.

Person 1: “I do ask that you don’t coddle me… and I didn’t directly tell you, but I need extra support.  I want you to recognize that I can’t always be strong.  That during these times, I need you to step up and try to make my life a little easier. That’s what we do for each other.”

Person 2: “Yes, I should have recognized that.”

Step 4: Honor and Respect Differences

On points where you disagree ask each other why you feel or believe that.

Person 2: “I know you’re a strong, independent person, why is loading the dishwasher really what you need from me? It’s okay to need extra support but I don’t understand why the dishwasher is it.”

Person 1: “That’s right, I don’t want to come off as over-needy. It’s not just the dishwasher.  I mean it is and it isn’t. That’s a very simple request and I didn’t want to ask for too much from you. But that alone signals to me that you’re trying.”

Step 5: Talk About What’s Left Unsaid

Talk about topics that have been overlooked or avoided.

Person 1: “It’s true. I guess I don’t ask because I want you to show me you care… without having to ask.”

Person 2: “Of course I care and of course I’m here for you no matter what. But I can’t read your mind. I’d rather you ask and we can sort it out together, than you getting mad and resenting something I’m oblivious to. And I will make a greater effort to pay attention to these details because now I know how important it is to you.”

Step 6: Make A Plan

Action Plan:

  • Never assume someone else can read your mind
  • State the stresses in your life and don’t be afraid to ask for specific help
  • Always ask yourself when anger starts to emerge, where the root cause is

Don’t Lose Your Cool If Your Partner Can’t Read Your Mind

Even when you think your relationship is as close as can be – we all still see the world differently. Something may seem obvious to you, but simply does not occur to them – not because of some character flaw or lack of love – but because we think differently. Instead of seeing behavior changes you directly asked for as less valuable, appreciate the way they’re willing to meet that need, even if it doesn’t come naturally. It’s just as worthy as a gesture of love and commitment, if not more so.

With open communication, compromise, cooperation and conscious approach, we can gain clarity and have our requests, and thus need, met. 

Moving Past Old Habits to Create the Relationship You Really Want

We recently sent out a survey to collect new insight about the kinds of habits, relationship arguments and communication tactics couples typically find themselves using, along with the things people would like more of from their partners.

While an anonymous survey may grant participants the permission to write freely about their feelings and the status of their relationships, let’s face it, it can still be challenging to fully assess your own true satisfaction. 

To do so, there are a few questions we must ask ourselves with absolute sincerity. First off, how are we actually showing up in our relationship? Have we stopped striving or gotten lackadaisical about building a better connection with our partner? Could we gain more clarity on the subjects that keep us up at night? And what other, more effective ways could you ask for that—for yourself and as a couple?! How do you feel about conflicts—do you see them as a way to get to know yourself and your partner better? Or do you see them as a failure of sort?  How willing are you to talk about what’s bothering you—especially if it triggers something inside that’s not particularly flattering?  These are important questions that Conversation Block™ helps users address.

Other important, introspective questions might be related to what it is you find yourself in conflict about with your partner. What do we define as an argument vs. an opposing discussion? What subjects are you comfortable speaking up about and which ones would you rather avoid confrontation? 

Sometimes it’s helpful to keep in mind that we are not alone in our relationship struggles or our inability to clearly communication within our relationships. In our survey, the #1 topic that couples said they argue about is not listening to each other. Money, the amount of time spent together, family issues, housework and sex are the next most frequently cited topics of argument. Other themes that surfaced included pursuing personal or professional goals while balancing being in a relationship, misunderstandings or miscommunication, showing appreciation, socializing, pets, and food as topics of arguments. 

What We’ve Been Taught vs. What Could Be

Most of us spent at least 18 years in a school system (developing our first non-family relationships) where teaching mindfulness is practically absent. However, with a rise in mental health concerns over the past 10 years, including mental awareness in academia is starting to become more of the norm.

Often the trouble is that the volume in our head is turned up way too loud. We’re not taught to listen to other’s words—as well as their energy, body language, facial expression, tone and tenor—with the sole intention of empathizing with how they feel. Instead, the voice in our head tends to make quick judgements, thinking about what to say next, defending ourselves, armoring up, or wanting to win, amongst a myriad of other things. We are taught that each individual is separate, so we don’t ask ourselves (or the other) where they are coming from…what makes them think like that? Especially as relationships gain longevity, we drop our sense of curiosity toward the other. And when it comes to opposing views, it can feel like letting the other have their way is to “lose”.

Unfortunately, the poor tactics fall back on keep us running in a pointless and tiresome loop. When we’re left without effective conflict resolution skills, we end up repeating patterns that keep us from finding an outcome that isn’t so difficult to achieve. In our survey, while participants often reported that they don’t often use inappropriate tactics in their relationship communications, they do admit to falling into that trap on occasion, including:

  • Redirecting the conversation
  • Avoiding the real problem and inflating smaller issues
  • Sweeping issues under the rug
  • Hanging it over their partner’s head
  • Blaming their partner
  • Using the silent treatment
  • Yelling or screaming
  • Arguing in front of others to get sympathy
  • Leaving or walking away (and not returning later to resolve it)
  • Downplaying the importance of an issue 

Respondents realized that while some tactics may not be very constructive, being honest about the different ways they manage to get over rough patches in relationships is valuable. They reported balancing counterproductive habits with healthier options including talking to a friend, family member or therapist, using humor, reframing the situation or viewing it from a different perspective, focusing on the good, and finding some common ground where they could agree with their partner. 

Starting Anew Kind of Relationship

Conflict resolution isn’t rocket science, but it is a learned, practiced skill. Hyped-up and uncontrolled emotions, crappy advice from friends and fear (a huge causal factor of many relationship issues), can all cause us to feel like effective communicating just isn’t worth the hassle and the best resolution is to just let it go. That works only if letting go isn’t a cover for holding it inside.

Professional therapeutic techniques that include communication analysis, narrative therapy, and threads of the Gottman approach are embedded into Conversation Block™ to help couples learn and enhance their relationship communication skills. That was the entire genesis and purpose for which Conversation Block™ was first created.  So, couples could start to answer for themselves—what could their relationships really be and become?

Based on our survey results, there is a real need here. The data clearly shows that relationship communication skill-building is needed—to not only counteract ineffective, learned, habitual patterns that get us nowhere, but also to open us up to great possibilities, deeper connection and growth. In fact, the top ten skills couples wish to learn and improve:

  1. Creating deeper connections
  2. Making reasonable clear requests
  3. Transforming blocked conversations into the seeds of closeness and intimacy
  4. Reducing Misunderstandings
  5. Improving active full listening skills
  6. Building harmony by finding common ground
  7. Changing the narrative—recognizing what is real versus the story in your head
  8. Reducing judgements and replacing it with observations
  9. Surface hidden, underlying issues and assumptions so they can be addressed
  10. Using heads-up warnings to prepare your partner and prevent armoring-up or defensiveness 

In our next several weekly blogs, we will address each of these skills one at a time. Using specific conversation topics, we’ll demonstrate how the proprietary card sets and handmade block in each Communication Block™ package can improve listening, communication, connection, and fulfillment for couples who are ready to grow together.

Not Listening While Communicating

It may come as no surprise that the most common dispute amongst couples boils down to communication – or is it just a lack of listening?

Using words to communicate our needs and wants is something we’ve been practicing since the ripe age of two. So why do so many couples find that an inability to effectively communicate with each other leads to unhappiness in their relationship—many times eventually leading to divorce? The unfortunate fact is we are never taught to listen with compassion or with an intent to truly understand the other better. So often, our conversations are led by egos, which result in the desire to win and every word received can feel like a personal attack.

It’s not just arguments. Some of the other most common reasons couples feel there is a lack of communication relate to not being heard…

  • We Drown Out Voices
    • After spending years with someone their voice can start to sound like the teacher from Charlie Brown; many of us will admit to this. We take for granted things the things that have lost their “newness.”
  • We Don’t Speak Our Truth
    • Discussing important topics and speaking from the heart can be downright exhausting. Instead, many of us choose to sweep the things that irk us under the rug, leading to pent up resentment. 
  • We Lack Effective Communication Skills
    • A lack of know-how or what healthy verbal relationship communication even sounds like keep us from articulating in a way that creates effective change.  We can’t find the skills or time to relay important messages and we become weary and defensive when our partners feel attacked and/or annoyed.

Using the Conversation Block™ method and instructions, we’ve put together some illustrations of what ineffective and effective communication skills result in—to help users understand how taking a conscious approach to the way we communicate will help resolve issues and create real connection.

Example: Not Being on the Same Page about Scheduling

Ineffective Communication: Sweeping Issues Under the Rug

Person 1: “How was your day?”

Person 2: “It was fine, you?”

Person 1: “It was busy! There is a lot going on- as a reminder I need you to bring the kids to the dentist tomorrow. There is a conflict in my schedule and I’m relying on you.”

Person 2: (silence)

Person 1: “Did you hear what I just said?”

Person 2: “What?!”

Person 1: “Never mind you don’t listen, I’ll handle it.”

As person 1 storms away, they can’t help but wonder if they should have repeated themselves. The last time they tried, the conversation went nowhere. Person 2 is then left wondering why they feel they’re never enough; even while working overtime to afford a family get-away.

Effective Communication: Reduce Misunderstandings and Improve Active Full Listening Skills

Step 1: Get Set Up

Your objective will be to find a time that both you and your partner can set all other obligations aside and focus on the problem at hand. 

Step 2: Get in the Right Frame of Mind

Draw two white cards that speak to you and one white card that is a challenge for you. Take turns explaining to your partner why you chose those three cards. Next take turns explaining your perspective on the chosen issue.

Person 1:“I chose the card ‘breathe’ because the fact that I feel you don’t listen to me causes me to be extremely annoyed, and I want to feel more grounded. I chose ‘stay in the present moment’ because I want to find a solution here and now. And I picked ‘laugh at yourself’ because I believe it is one of the key traits we share that makes this relationship work, but I tend to be a serious person when it comes to disagreements so that’s harder for me.

Person 2: “I chose ‘find courage’ because I typically avoid this topic instead of explaining my reasoning. I picked ‘express tenderness’ because I want you to know I really do care. I chose ‘discover something new about each other’ because I want to understand how you feel but we’ve known each other for so long I sometimes go on autopilot.

Person 1: “I feel like I have to repeat little things over and over again, and you zone out what I say. We’re not on the same page when it comes to planning our schedules.”

Person 2: “For me, I think it’s more often the case that you are speaking to me when I am busy with something else or my mind is trying to solve an important problem regarding my work.”

Step 3: Find Common Ground

Identify at least one point you both agree on.

Person 1: “I know you want to be attentive, but it feels like you’re having trouble being present with me. Is there something going on for you?”

Person 2: “I agree. Right now, there is a lot at work that needs to be taken care of and it’s taking a toll on my stress and focus abilities. I wish you could see that. I would like to feel supported when it comes to work obligations.”

Step 4: Bridge Differences

On points where you disagree ask each other why you feel or believe that.

Person 1: “I do support how hard you work. Why do you feel that I don’t? What would help you feel more supported so that you are able to give me more of your attention when we are together?”

Person 2: “Thank you. I know I can overwork myself when I’m not prioritizing all aspects of my life. I do need your help in staying attentive to my surroundings and in understanding when work has to be taken home.”

Step 5: Talk About What’s Left Unsaid

Talk about topics that have been overlooked or avoided.

Person 1: “I was taking it more personally than I should have. I sometimes feel like I’ve lost my ability to catch your attention and it hurts.  I want to be included in what you are doing at work.”

Person 2: “I never want you to feel like you are being taken for granted. You are my first priority. Right now, my attention may be divided due to demands at work, but that doesn’t mean I’ve taken you for granted.  I’d be happy to show you what I’ve been working on so you can feel more included.”

Step 6: Make A Plan

Identify what each of you have learned and identify a few behaviors to change in the upcoming weeks. Write them down on a small notebook and use them to track progress in a few weeks.

Action Plan:

  • Help each other be grounded in the present moment by cutting out distractions
  • Carve out time, if necessary, to give each other undivided attention
    • Plan at least 30 minutes every day to discuss what you’ve been working on, reading or at a minimum watch a show together
  • Share your state of mind whether at the office or at home
    • I’ve had a stressful day and still have a presentation to finalize. Do you mind if we connect before bed?”
  • Show attentiveness and appreciation. Even in little ways.

Listening and Communicating with Conscious Intent

There is always more to learn about your partner as well as new experiences to be had. Don’t hold in feelings because you are afraid of upsetting each other or don’t want to come off as a nuisance.

Communication is the most powerful, (yet untapped) human tool we possess. With practice and intention, we can start using our words to evolve our relationships and give us the connection and fulfilment we long for. 

Turning Intentions Into Action

If you’re reading this now, a big warm congratulations to you!  Not only did you grit through a year where the world was flipped on its head, you’re taking time to read a blog centered around conversation, mental health and relationships. Thus, your intentions are set in the right place.  

This year has certainly given all of us time to become more aware of our own mental states and how they’re affected by those around us. Conversation Block™ was made so that individuals and couples could address the not-so-pretty parts of those mental states. For many, we’ve been forced to awaken unconscious states. With positive intent this has put us in a position where we must find a deeper understanding so that our relationships are met with less stress and more fulfillment. This is the momentum we want to continue to build going into 2021.

However, the awareness and conversations are the initial steps.  Without action, we are just giving hopeless energy, are let down or are left repeating patterns without real change. To uphold yourself, and your partner, we must ensure that our intentions and words and take action. 

Put it on Paper

There is a real intention in making Conversation Block™ an art piece for your home. It’s there to serve as a reminder. Whether you’ve used the tool to finally put a tough topic to rest, open up conversations that go deeper than the weather, or it’s used as time-out from technology; the conversations mean nothing if they’re forgotten the next day.

Instead, find a small notebook where you and your partner can jot down important things that were said to each other. You may find it useful to take notes about your state of mind prior to using the tool and after. When you’ve overcome something together, write down your promises to each other, date it and sign it.  This way, you’ll both avoid misconstrued intentions, and your words won’t fade. 

Start Acting Right Now

We are creatures of habit. As much as we want to bring our full intention, awareness, and complete will into each moment, we often fall into a default state of mind. The good news is that our brains are malleable and a true desire to obtain a better relationship, goal, or lifestyle, we can replace old habits that block us from obtaining what we want.

Often the problem lies when we think we need to wait until all of our ducks are in order. “Once I get X, I will start doing this for myself.” “If my partner follows through with Y, I will then uphold my side of the bargain.” Forgot the rules and be a leader. Create the relationship you want (with others and yourself), realize your timelines start at this moment, and don’t stop until you’re proud. 

Reflect Alone and Together

The benefits of putting blocks in your schedule to reflect and note the progress toward your goals is key. Some prefer re-centering themselves or sweating it out over Pilates, others find journaling their thoughts useful.  Always look for the truth in what you want and what you are doing to get there. 

Also, ask your partner to hold you accountable. Whether you share the same goal or find it a challenge, make a bet on it, or at least promise to encourage one another no matter what. Your partner can be the one that helps you make sure you don’t cut your dreams short. Use the journal in concert with Conversation Block™ to track your intentions and reflect how you’ve upheld those promises. Never stop finding ways to improve.  

We can too easily get overwhelmed by the chaos of everything going on around us. Remember to stay centered and focused by going within. Observe your thoughts, write them down, chase down your curiosity, and never underestimate the power of connecting with others. Go into the new year with the intent to bring the light inside of you to as many new people as you can. Stay in the moment and use it as you wish to execute on the things that will get you to your bliss.

Conscious Communication Around Family Holiday Gatherings

It seems that the Holidays bring out two different types of people. Yes, the ‘Whos’ spend the weeks leading up to the holidays sharing recipes and planning games, amongst other shenanigans. The other group—let’s call them ‘grinches’—are more likely to find themselves mapping out ways they can coyly get out of the gathering. Hoping the “unplanned circumstance” for which they have to skip this year’s holiday get-together won’t be met with a guilt trip. The thought of being completely conscious around family sounds like a challenge in itself.

What is it about holiday gatherings that brings out the best (or worst) in us? Deep history, perhaps. These are the people who have seen you through almost every stage of life and frankly, there’s nothing they haven’t seen or don’t know about you. Sometimes it seems there’s an extra strong wall blocking us from having empathy for our family members. As Ram Dass once famously said, “If you think you’re enlightened, go spend a week with your family.”  We’ve been through the same rocky waters, yet we don’t allow much latitude or excuses to be made in their circumstances. 

That said, how can we take a different approach to the judgment and tension in which we sometimes find ourselves surrounded during the holidays? Is there a better way to navigate these stressors and bring conscious communication to the table? Here are 5 tips you might want to consider.

Know what you’re getting into

It doesn’t hurt to do a little meditating before setting out. Know yourself and know your triggers. If it helps to discuss with someone, make sure you confide your concerns to someone who can view things objectively and provide the support you need. Set boundaries if you must and don’t be shy about enforcing them. If a topic is brought up that you believe is better off being avoided, make it your rule to exit the room.

Don’t be afraid to address elephants… consciously

This has been a hectic year to say the least. It’s also been a year for many of us to look within. Perhaps addressing sensitive topics and conveying your new outlook or perspective can be a great way to connect on a deeper level.  Be respectful about the words you choose and stay open-minded when receiving and asking thoughtful questions.

Catch-up…learn something new

Stepping out of our comfort zones, aka our own egos, can allow us to learn something new about each other. How has each of your family members handled 2020? What ways have we found creativity in riding the waves of uncertainty and chaos? Weigh both the pros and cons of the year. What have you taught yourself and what are you listening to—what podcasts have caught your attention? Engage in conscious communication.

Bring a little cheer!

Remember the movie you all grew up watching? How about the inside joke (dad doesn’t get) and how it never gets old? Reminisce about your favorite memories. Don’t be afraid to bring out the jukebox and do a little dancing. Be the light for others.

Be grateful

Remember to be present in the moment. Whether family gatherings are a huge source of anxiety or just whizz by because of all the catch-up you get to do—soak up each moment. Learn something, create a bond, cherish what you have. And who you have.

While a Zoom meeting may be the most probable celebration in 2020, we can all recognize and be thankful that we have the opportunity to connect, regardless.  Stay with that theme and celebrate this year by taking on new conscious perspectives. Dig in, look to understand each other, and if necessary, let go of history. With every challenge we’ve overcome this year, connecting on a deeper level may be just what we need. Close out this year by reaching new relationship milestones.

A Certified Life Coach’s Take on Conversation Block™

conscious communication

A big warm thank-you to Jay Shetty Certified Life Coach Sara Kubica (sara-kubica.com), for her thoughtful blog reviewing her own experience using Conversation Block™. Sara is dedicated to helping people transform their mindsets and their lives. And she knows first-hand the personal development work it takes to make your relationship with yourself, no less loved ones, the best it can be.  Here’s what Sara has to say…in her own words.

Conscious communication is one of the most, if not the most, valuable tools for any human relationship. There are two parts to this process. The first is being very deliberate, honest, and intentional with your words to another person. It means you can share how you feel in a direct yet loving way. It means having no hidden agenda and not being aggressive or defensive. It means you are able to respond to a situation, versus reacting and flying off the handle. We all have the need to be heard and understood by the people we love. Which makes the second part equally as important. We need to be able to listen consciously as well. That means holding space and understanding for whatever it is the other person is saying through conversation and how they are feeling.

Seems like a lot to remember and do when you might trigger… right?! Let me be the first to tell you, this hasn’t always been easy for me to do. Sometimes I just felt the need to yell profanities and STFU when I was mad. And the last thing I felt like doing… was hearing someone else’s side of it. These are all things I’ve been working on now for the past few years. Because these arguments and disagreements won’t ever disappear.  They are part of every relationship. In fact, they are necessary for the growth in every relationship – so I better embrace it all and learn to do better.

Conscious communication is a practice. It’s not a skill you typically can pick up in a day. Over time, as part of a practice, it becomes your habit. There is inner work that needs to be done in order to consciously communicate, and then, there are amazing tools like the Conversation Block. I was given this by my dear friend Jennifer Simmons, who is the co-creator of this tool along with her partner. Their adorable story is here. So, it comes with this beautiful hand-stained wood block, and 2 sets of cards. The smaller set of cards has words or actions that describe the state-of-mind most conducive to facilitating mutual understanding between people, meant to guide and enable users to access their highest state. AHHH! There are 48, with two blanks for you to add anything you feel is missing. The second, larger card deck has insightful questions and phrases to help people address any difficult topic or situation. These really bring things to the surface and push us to move through barriers and get unstuck. It doesn’t come with rigid instructions—there are basic guidelines—but you use the cards in a way that feels authentic to you and your partner, family member, friend, or kid! The block though – that is set on the table. Because the block is stained different colors, each person has a different view of the block. It serves as a constant reminder that there is always more than one vantage point, and there isn’t an always a right or wrong view. “There are differences of opinion or ideas that are uniquely yours that are not visible to the other person.” Reminding us that holding space for other people is KEY to successful, conscious communication.

So, of course, I sat down and used it with the girls right away. Not when there was any argument or behavior issues, but as a way to engage in something different (which we all need right now!) and to do some bonding! It gave us all a chance to speak about ourselves and really hear each other. One of the questions that we all loved was “Even though we’ve known each other a long time, are there things that we don’t know about each other that we could learn and discover?” I told them funny stories from when I was little, and they told me thing that they didn’t think I knew about them. Wink wink. But really it was such a great conversation to have with them, full of laughs and hugs. One of the questions from the deck that I now use in everyday conversation with them is “What do you need from me right now”? What an incredible way to empower my kids to ask for what they need and for me to show up for them in that way. Boom. Whether it’s help with virtual school, a bagel for lunch, or a big hug, this question has made such a positive impact in our relationship. Now there are some tougher questions and statements as well. Tougher for the simple fact that it really pushes the vulnerability and understanding on both sides. “I don’t know how get it right with you, and I really want to”. And – “I’m afraid you’ll be upset with me, but I really want to share my feelings”. PHEW! Hard to start these, but I promise if you and your partner are committed to conscious communication, this is an incredible tool that will bring you closer together.

Now, as a Life Coach, all this stuff is right up my alley. I love learning and practicing it. But it can still be a little uncomfortable. Why?  Because it pushes me to get vulnerable when sometimes I want to stay quiet in order to stay safe. But – comfort is the enemy of progress, so bring it on! I’m also recommending this to my clients who want to see growth in their relationships. Any relationship – definitely romantic relationships, but parents, friends and kids too.

Holiday Gift Ideas For Your Relationship

relationship gifts

2020 has been a trying year for the majority of us. Some have been let go from their jobs, others have been forced to take on new family roles. Being under one roof for prolonged periods of time has put us in situations where we are feeling stressed and farther apart more than anything. Perhaps, a small gift is just what we need.

While we can’t predict the future, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t so far away. Throughout the ups and downs, what matters is our ability to stay conscious in our thoughts, practicing patience, understanding, and always believing in one another. This may be the perfect year to give your partner something with extra meaning. Whether homemade or something that gives peace of mind; we’ve gathered seven ideas that will show your partner the importance of your relationship as well as your care for their state-of-mind.   

Gift Idea #1:

The Science of Trust: Emotional Attunement for Couples

World-renowned for his work on marital stability and divorce prediction, John Gottman has conducted 40 years of breakthrough research with thousands of couples. Based on principles from Dr. Gottman’s work, Conversation Block™ embodies the practices and tools based in his research (oh wait, sorry, that’s gift idea #6).  Back to the book…schedule a weekly date night to ditch the technology and take turns reading to each other. Openly discuss what you can relate to from the book.

Gift Idea #2:

Picture Frame

It’s likely you have a handful of these as decor around the house already.  What if you were to surprise your partner with a picture they didn’t expect? How can you turn an ordinary day into a precious memory with a frame and note explaining why this particular day is now a memory of lifetime?

Gift Idea #3:

Wine or Beer Cap Collector

Let’s face it, we may have visited the liquor store a little more than usual this year.  But along with that, laughs, tears, and memories were likely made. Maybe uncorking a bottle of wine is a fine way to unwind and have a conversation over how to handle tough situations. 

Gift Idea #4:

Journal

For couples who have discovered the power of self-reflection, we highly recommend giving your someone special a special tool to help them understand themselves better. Go an extra-step and write your intention on the inside cover of the journal.

Gift Idea #5:

Essential Oils

Step-up their self-care toolkit with essential oils.  Show that you’ve done your homework by pairing lavender or chamomile based on your partner’s needs. Offer to give your partner a foot or scalp massage. Or draw a bath, add essential oils, a few candles and sink in together. Enjoy what it feels like to be in the moment, with no goals or distractions, and literally nothing getting in the way between the two of you.

Gift Idea #6:
ConversationBlock.com

Conversation Block™ was built to deal with realities in relationships. There may be no better time than now to address the challenges you and your partner have stormed throughout the year. If you’re a growth-minded individual and want to feel a stronger connection, to get past situations weighing your relationship down, and attain greater fulfillment, then Conversation Block™ is the perfect gift for telling your special someone how important your relationship is.  

Relationships Take Work and Communication; It’s Worth It!

Relationship communication

While love can certainly produce feel-good chemicals in our brains, we want to address what it means to commit to the long-haul. Butterflies in your tummy? Sure, they’re nice. But remember feelings are fleeting. Conscious communication takes work. 

Major media outlets have a reputation for branding true love as an ever-lasting, unbreakable bond between humans. It’s no wonder so many people give-up when the going gets tough.

Monogamy, polyamory, free-union, marriage, open-relationships, you name it: none of them bring everlasting love without A TON of work.

So why does it seem like so many of us struggle with this truth? How can we better illustrate what comes with a healthy relationship (ups and downs) and prepare committed individuals for the realities of a long-term relationship?

Don’t Drink the RomCom Juice

The story usually begins with a lonely man or woman. This starry-eyed dreamer longs to find someone that will sweep them entirely off their feet, thus wiping away every other trouble in their life. The plot usually includes a romantic encounter, a few cheesy lines, a devastating fight, a catchy love song, a reconciliation (with hot sex) and … you have a smidge of a love story.  

In reality, that’s 1,600 meters in a 1000-mile journey. The problem is many believe overcoming one situation with a partner can solve it all. The truth is that hurdles will be thrown in your paths much more often. It will come down to your willingness to find shared understanding and the measures to which you both practice conscious communication.

Real love is about a deeper understanding of how we work together, find a solution, and remember what there is to be grateful for.

Reality T.V. Ain’t Real; What it Really Takes

A better approach would be to think of being in love as you think of being in your dream body.

You know that it takes discipline and a serious desire to get in shape. It must be earned week after week. Get lazy, cave into a junk meal, and you’ve washed away a week’s worth of hard work. On the other hand, you can delay gratification. Realizing sore muscles from a day lifting is a more satisfying feeling. Set a 5am alarm clock. Get on the treadmill. You must decide what it is you want more. 

Similarly, we must learn to hold our tongue when we want to yell.  We have to get over our fear of difficult or uncomfortable conversations. On the other side of it, an immeasurable feeling of being understood can be had. Are you willing to find creative ways to keep the spark alive? Are you willing to learn new ways to communicate so you can both overcome underlying issues? Will you commit to growing with each other, challenging each other, and working through the misunderstanding so you can feel more connected and fulfilled?

Like any gym routine, you will have hot and cold streaks in your relationship. Some things will require a brand new perspective or creative strategies to solve. By learning to be patient, flexible, and consciously communicating your day-to-day triumphs and struggles, the contributions to your relationship will be more sacred than any short-term easy button can bring. 

Reach New Destinations in Love and Communication

Over the years, your commitment to each other can sway between feeling like it’s bonded by steel or hanging by a thread. You’ll each adapt to new interests, take on different challenges, and your perceptions may change. It’s in how you communicate these changes that determines how you will feel when your connection naturally ebbs and flows.

Be willing to let your relationships naturally enfold. Partnered with mature conscious individuals, we can learn so much about ourselves and others. Be willing to take experimental approaches through open communication. Write your own story, not the one Hollywood has standardized for us.

The commitment of standing by each other through thick and thin, is not for the faint of heart. Those that continue to work on how they communicate, will tell you that for every high and low, they have learned more about themselves and just how resilient love can be.