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What Is Chemistry in a Relationship? Learn How to Recognize the Signs

Figure out whether the spark is truly there between you and your partner.

by Valerie Nikolas Carson
Updated Oct 04, 2021

We’ve all experienced chemistry in a relationship at some point. Maybe you felt an instant, inexplicable connection from the first date. Perhaps when you thought of them, there was a fire in your belly. The connection could even defy reason. Still, something drew you to this person like a magnet.

Wondering whether you have chemistry in your relationship? Keep reading for the inside scoop.

What Is Chemistry?

“Chemistry is energy,” says relationship coach Jaime Bronstein. “It’s an energetic connection you can feel.” Some indicators of this connection are body language cues like butterflies in your stomach, a rapid heart rate, smiling and prolonged eye contact between the two of you.

Many of these biological processes are caused by a rush of neurotransmitters, including dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, and serotonin, the mood regulator. “There’s so much going on biologically in the brain as people fall in love,” says Karen Bridbord, a Gottman-certified therapist. “It’s like a drug.”

While many of us equate chemistry with the heart-pounding, energetic feeling people get when they first meet someone they click with, Bridbord says that’s actually limerence, the feeling of infatuation that appears during the initial stage of a relationship.

Bridbord and Bronstein agree that true chemistry is much deeper and more complex. “Being with this person feels like home, and you feel peace in your heart,” Bronstein says. “There’s a feeling of being understood, seen and heard without the need to explain yourself. It’s innate.”

3 Signs of Chemistry in a Relationship

Bronstein, who hosts the radio show “Love Talk Live,” says the following three types of chemistry make for a healthy long-term relationship.

1. Physical Attraction

Physical or sexual attraction is often what first comes to mind when people think about chemistry, and it’s passion that stems from finding the other person attractive. Sexual chemistry is influenced in large part by pheromones, chemical signals present throughout the animal world that communicate between two members of a species. Bronstein says physical chemistry is, “either not there, or it’s on fire. With the person you marry, you want it to be on fire.”

2. Intellectual Chemistry

This type of chemistry comes down to communication. Two people who have mental chemistry should feel like peers. The conversations you have with this person should stimulate you and leave you energized. “You want to be intrigued by this person,” Bronstein says.

3. Emotional Connection

When two people understand each other’s wants and needs, they form a strong emotional connection. Bronstein describes this as a back-and-forth flow of energy and understanding.

The hallmark sign of an emotional connection is good communication. Openness, empathy and vulnerability are all necessary to build an emotional bond. “Building an intimate friendship is really important for chemistry,” Bridbord says. And for a long-term relationship, that includes learning how to be close friends in addition to romantic partners.

While all the types of chemistry are important, many experts consider emotional chemistry the most significant part of an enduring romantic relationship. “Emotional connection is a key marker of good chemistry,” Bridbord says.

Chemistry vs. Compatibility

There are distinct differences between chemistry and compatibility, but both are essential for a healthy relationship. Unfortunately, they don’t always go hand in hand: Some people have great chemistry, but poor compatibility, and vice versa.

“Compatibility is what’s on paper,” Bronstein says. This can include more logical considerations like age, race, religion and academic achievement. However, those who seem compatible on paper may not always feel chemistry with one another.

Likewise, people who have great chemistry may not be compatible for a long-term relationship. Bridbord says some couples find out this is the case when they move in together. “If people are incompatible, it’ll affect chemistry,” she says.

Can Chemistry Change Over Time?

You might be wondering whether a lack of chemistry initially can mean a relationship is doomed.

Opinions differ on whether chemistry can make or break a relationship. “True chemistry does not increase over time,” Bronstein says. “True love increases over time.” According to her, chemistry is a reflection of individual personality traits that either work together or don’t.

Bridbord disagrees. “I believe you can develop skills to hone chemistry together,” she says. “I’ve seen some couples start as a slow burn and others as a big fire.”

Regardless, initial feelings of limerence tend to fade in a long-term relationship, so it’s important to keep cultivating chemistry by maintaining open lines of communication and respect. “In order to preserve and protect the chemistry, you need to do the emotional work together,” Bridbord says.

One important thing to remember about chemistry is that looking inward is as important as looking outward. “Self-care is really important for cultivating chemistry,” Bridbord says. “Your relationship with your partner can only be as strong as your relationship with yourself.”

Originally published on The Knot.com

The hidden meanings behind celebrity tattoos, revealed — from Amy Winehouse to Post Malone

by Kaleigh Fasanella,Yahoo Entertainment Special Features

When remembering Amy Winehouse, it’s impossible not to visualize her vast and beautiful collection of body art. The iconic pinup woman on her right arm, the lightning bolt on her wrist and the name “Cynthia” — inspired by her paternal grandmother — are just three of 14 known tattoos the legendary singer had that gave people a glimpse into her world.

Two of the “Rehab” singer’s most meaningful tattoos — including the famous pinup piece that was etched on her upper arm — paid homage to her grandmother Cynthia, whom Winehouse was very close with until she lost her battle to breast cancer in 2006 (the same year Winehouse released her second album, Back to Black). Cynthia was also a singer and hugely inspirational to her granddaughter. So it’s no wonder Winehouse wanted to honor her life with some bespoke body art.

“She was a kind of beacon for Amy,” said the singer’s former tattoo artist and good friend, Henry Hate, in a past interview. “It was only later on in our friendship [when] she showed me a photo of Cynthia in her youth and I could see she had been a real head-turner,” he added. Given their strong connection, some believe Cynthia’s death contributed to Winehouse’s drug and alcohol addiction — a disease that took the talented young Londoner’s life in 2011, at just 27.

While we’ll never know for sure, there’s a solid chance Winehouse got these tattoos for her grandmother as part of the grieving process. (Almost like her way of saying goodbye.) After all, tattoos were a major form of self-expression for the British vocalist — another outlet, just like singing — so it’d definitely make sense if that’s what she did, even if it was done subconsciously.

“Looking at Amy Winehouse’s tattoos, and as a huge fan of her music, I believe that she was an extremely passionate soul who literally wore her heart on her sleeve,” says Beverly Hills-based tattoo artist Katrina “Kat Tat” Jackson. “I feel that her tattoos were not premeditated or thought out for years, but rather spontaneous and representative of her strongest emotions at the time that she got each piece done.”

Moreover, licensed psychologist Karen Bridbord says she has seen myriad people get tattoos to help heal from grief and loss. “The tattoo process is a journey where the recipient keeps alive what is no longer through one’s own physical body,” she explains. “It’s a way to hold on to — through physical representation — who or what is most important to them.”

In Winehouse’s case, it seems she wanted to hold on to her grandmother Cynthia — a woman who fully encouraged her to be the unforgettable artist she was and remains to fan.

Of course, Winehouse is far from the only celebrity who’s used body art as a way to work through adversity and express themselves mentally and emotionally.

Ariana Grande — who reportedly has over 50 tattoos now — got a tribute piece for her ex-boyfriend the rapper Mac Miller, who died suddenly of a drug overdose in 2018. In a similar vein, Lady Gaga honored her father with some ink shortly after he underwent open-heart surgery in 2009. (Thankfully, he lived to see it.) Then there’s Demi Lovato, who had “Stay Strong” famously tatted on her wrists after getting out of rehab, where she was treated for self-harm and bulimia in 2010.

See original article here.

How to Set & Model Realistic Work-from-Home Expectations with Your Team

Support your evolving company culture

by Beth Castle,Managing Editor, InHerSight

While researchers and media platforms (ours included) love to tout the benefits of working from home, it’s becoming quite clear that working remotely during coronavirus is vastly different from a standard work-from-home setup. The pandemic continues to take a toll on the mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of our workforce, with increased caretaking demands, anxiety, and loneliness and lack of work-life boundaries affecting employees in different but important ways.

More than half of women say their productivity and amount of work completed have changed since beginning to work from home during COVID-19. In a May 2020 survey by InHerSight:

  • 25 percent of women say their productivity has increased;

  • 31 percent say their productivity has decreased;

  • 32 percent say they’re doing more work on average;

  • 31 percent say they’re doing less work.

That means only 44 percent of women are as productive as they were before the pandemic, and only 37 percent are producing the same amount of work.

Job satisfaction is changing, too. Twenty-four percent of women are more satisfied, and 37 percent are less so. Only 38 percent are equally happy working from home as they were in the office.

What this tells us is that the majority of women are shifting the way they interact with work to accommodate a new and unprecedented environment. Whether that’s good or bad remains to be seen, but it’s crucial while we’re still in the early stages of a work culture shift to establish expectations, boundaries, and communication that protect employees from burnout and additional anxiety. Taking action now is a way of keeping that 37 percent of less satisfied employees from growing in number in the months to come. Low job satisfaction, we know from research at Columbia University and other institutions, contributes to increased turnover, while high job satisfaction is linked to higher productivity and better performance.

Organizational psychologist Karen Bridbord, who acts as a consultant for companies hoping to improve workplace dynamics, shared with InHerSight her tips for setting and modeling realistic work-from-home expectations for everyone on your team—the overworked, the overwhelmed, and the people who fall somewhere in between.

Emphasize the importance of deliverables

Employees who are parents or caretakers are distracted; so are employees struggling with isolation. Take that into account as you communicate needs with your team. “Billing hourly is not practical when people are distracted during work hours,” Bridbord says.

She recommends “working smarter, not harder.” Employers often follow the utilization model, which measures employee worth by hours spent working, but Bridbord says a value model, wherein employees are evaluated based on deliverables met, is more flexible and sustainable. “Punching in simply is not realistic,” she says. “Remote work becomes more efficient when managers set goals and expectations so employees know what they’re being evaluated on.”

Schedule boundaries

When working from home, some employees might find it difficult to separate their home and work lives, which is why Bridbord recommends helping them to map out firm, even scheduled, times to step away from their computers. “Take breaks, and make sure you have downtime in the morning and at night,” she says.

Going for a walk or listening to a podcast can help overworked team members reset. Bridbord also says many employees might miss unwinding during their commute to and from work. Encourage them to reserve that time for self-care activities, and if you’re manager or executive, make sure you’re doing so yourself, and sharing out your activities, so your team sees what boundaries look like in action.

“It’s a trickle-down effect,” Bridbord says. “Employees look to managers to see how they should respond in crisis.” If you’re working all the time, your employees will, too.

Structure check-ins

“It’s through our relationships that we often get work done,” Bridbord says, which is why she encourages managers to schedule a consistent time for their entire team to meet to talk about something besides the pandemic.

She says fun icebreaker questions are good ways to get everyone involved in the conversation.  “Get connected by asking questions we normally wouldn’t ask:‘If all these restrictions were lifted, what would be the first thing you’d do?’ or‘What is the most obnoxious thing your kid has said to you in the past 24 hours?’”

Besides relationship-building, another benefit of regular check-ins is guarding your employees’ mental health. Bridbord says, at this point, loneliness is akin to cigarette smoking. “Loneliness is detrimental to people without friends or family at home,” she says. “Work becomes their venue for getting social contact. Knowing that, it’s important to check in with how employees are doing.”

Read more: How to Check In with Employees When Everyone Is Overwhelmed

Build understanding

Everyone on your team is experiencing the pandemic differently, which is likely why InHerSight saw such varied results in our productivity poll. Family, money, health, personality, race, gender, and a host of other factors impact the burdens your coworkers bear in a crisis. In fact, when we look at data just from working moms, the percentage of women saying their productivity has decreased jumps from 31 percent to 59 percent.

Encourage your team to be patient with one another, especially as you navigate conflict. Bridbord says to lean on using in-person chats over email and Slack, and to “Imagine the positive intent of each other instead of the negative.”

“Understanding and mutual respect are key,” she says. We’re all in this together.

About our source

Karen Bridbord, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and consultant who combines the expertise of clinical psychology, organizational behavior, and counseling. She works on a personal level with couples and individuals as a therapist and on an organizational level to help corporations with her firm Karen Bridbord & Associates.

See original article on inhersight.com.

Interview in California Business School Magazine

Psychologist, organizational consultant shares next steps for leaders as they prepare for the new school year

By Julie Phillips Randles

Relationship counseling may seem like an odd place for educators to turn for job advice, but the need for this kind of input will be greater when educators and students head back to school sites.

California’s students will re-enter schools carrying more than backpacks, tablets and colored pencils. Many of them will be toting worries, fears, even trauma from the covid-19 isolation experience that turned their childhoods upside down.

Educators will need the right skills to cope with these emo- tional needs in conjunction with math, reading, science and the arts.

Karen Bridbord, Ph.D., is the right professional for these times. Her career is built on a unique combination of clinical psychology, organizational behavior and counseling, and her clients include business owners, corporate executives, couples and individuals seeking to solve relationship problems and achieve life goals.

To read the rest of this story, download the PDF.

On-Demand Webinar Available Coping, Cooperation and Conflict Resolution Skills for Parents and Co-Parents during COVID-19

Many parents and co-parents are being exposed to an unsettling amount of stress during COVID-19, whether it’s from being quarantined with a soon to be ex-spouse, dealing with the added responsibilities of schooling children, or trying to overcome an impractical custodial arrangement. In this prerecorded webinar, led by our matrimonial and family law co-chairs Lynne Strober and David Carton, and psychologists Dr. Naama Tokayer and Dr. Karen Bridbord, we offer a few coping, cooperation and conflict resolution skills that you may find helpful during COVID-19.

View the webinar recording here

5 ways to get along with your new coworker – your spouse

By Kathryn VaselCNN Business

(CNN) For many couples, a good portion of the week used to be spent apart at their jobs.But with so many people now working from home, partners are getting an inside look at each other’s work lives.
And while you might be comfortable working side-by-side with your co-workers, you may find yourself clamming up when having to make a call with your partner next to you.

“This is the person you are most intimate with in the whole world and you realize there is a domain of their life that you know very little about,” said Jennifer Petriglieri, author of “Couples That Work: How Dual-Career Couples Can Thrive in Love and Work” and a Professor at INSEAD business school.
Here are a few ways to break the tension.

1. Address the elephant in the room

Knowing what your partner does is one thing, but seeing them in action is another.
“We are forced into the intimacy, not just with spouses, but also with kids or whoever else is in the home,” said Karen Bridbord, a psychologist and organizational workplace consultant in New York City.

The first step in making this situation work is to talk about it. Talk about any insecurities you may have whether it’s participating in a video meeting or being eavesdropped on and what you need in terms of a work environment. Then create a schedule and set boundaries when it comes to separating work life and personal life.

“Have a more general conversation about concerns: what are you worried about vis-à-vis work — your partner seeing you work being one of those — and why you worry about them,” said Petriglieri.

By keeping your concerns as part of a bigger conversation, you’re more likely to evoke empathy from the partner which will help negotiate boundaries, she added.

If a relationship had issues before, working in such close quarters under stressful conditions will likely magnify them.

“Issues will come bubbling up in different ways,” said Bridbord. “When everything is irritating you about the other person, that is when you have to look at yourself and why you are so triggered.”

2. Provide an inside look

Sometimes, our partners only hear the bad stuff about work: the micromanaging boss, that loud co-worker and the impossible deadlines.

But being forced to work out of the same office now can help change perceptions and even help partners and kids better understand what we do all day. And that’s not a bad thing.

Make your work part of the daily conversation by talking about what you’re working on and why it’s important to you, suggested Petriglieri. And if applicable, how your work relates to or has changed due to the pandemic.

“When everyone understands the priorities… and why they are important and what they contribute too, we’re more likely to be respectful of boundaries and appreciate each other’s work space and then make the most of when we’re together without work.”

Getting an inside look can help make late nights or missed life moments more justifiable once there is a return to office life and separate careers.

3. Use project management tactics

Tackle this situation like you would a challenge at the office: get organized, communicate and delegate.

“Take those business principles and apply them to your life at home right now,” suggested Bridbord. “Our lives together are, in essence, a business with lots happening at once,” she added.
That means defining everything that needs to be done, including child care, cleaning and cooking, and then delegating.

Having daily meetings to plan or assess the day or documenting all the responsibilities can help keep everyone on track.

“These systems allow us to focus and plan — and helps share the cognitive load,” she said.

4. Avoid treating each other like colleagues

You might be learning that your spouse is a fan of all the office clichés or holds too many meetings — but it’s best to keep that to yourself.

Even if you think your intentions are good, don’t offer any unsolicited feedback when it comes to your partner’s work style.

And don’t mistake complaining as an opportunity to critique.

“Even if a partner is complaining about work, you shouldn’t see that as an invitation or opportunity to provide critical feedback,” said Anthony Chambers, couple and family psychologist and chief academic officer at The Family Institute at Northwestern University. “Allow them to vent and be heard.”

5. Don’t go tit for tat

These working conditions aren’t ideal for many people right now — especially if you are juggling kids and other care giving responsibilities. It can feel overwhelming and exhausting, but try not to keep score of who is doing what around the house, or who’s work is more pressing.

Being competitive can be a sign of a deeper issue. “Feelings of competition can arise when people feel that they are not on the same team and there is a zero/sum experience in the relationship,” said Bridbord. “And they are not supporting one another emotionally and pragmatically on a day-to-day basis.”

Originally published on cnn.com

Relationship Expert: During COVID-19, ‘Project Manage’ Your Partnership 5 ways to get along with your new coworker – your spouse

We asked The Gottman Institute how you can do less housework

by Beth Castle

Ever fantasized about dating a coworker? Congratulations. You and millions of other Americans are now living that dream. At home. Every day. With your kids.

Did I mention you’re married and we’re in the middle of a pandemic? How could I forget.

Whatever your situation, if you’re struggling to work from home with your partner—or even your roommate—during coronavirus, you’re not alone. COVID-19 has brought a new and exhausting challenge into our lives: navigating a personal relationship while also juggling work, our mental health, caring for kids and loved ones, and the fear of the unknown in a living space that seems to get smaller every single day. This is the garbage compactor scene in Star Wars if there ever were one.

InHerSight isn’t here to dish out relationship advice, but we believe work, paid or unpaid, is work, and we know the unpaid bit is most likely to cause burnout for working women right now—because there is just so much of it, and many households don’t divide up chores evenly. That’s where your work and home lives are entirely, and very messily, intertwined.

Clinical psychologist Karen Bridbord, an organizational consultant for companies and startups and a certified Gottman Couples Therapist, says now is the time for couples to take a more business-minded approach to their relationships. If you’re going to successfully work, raise kids, eat, sleep, and whatever else at home together in the middle of a global health crisis, then you need to learn to “project manage” your lives. Here’s how.

Schedule a ‘State of the Union’

Welcome to the only in-person meeting on your calendar for the foreseeable future: the “State of the Union.” Bridbord says every couple should schedule a “planning and implementation” meeting to talk about what needs to get done and who’s doing what. Assign tasks just like you would at your monthly business meeting. “We need to bring some of the strategies we use to manage companies into how we manage relationships,” Bridbord says.

This regularly occurring meeting is also a time for partners to talk about what isn’t working and how you, as a team, will readjust to better meet each other’s needs. “The first 30 seconds of a conversation determines how the rest of the conversation will go,” Bridbord says, suggesting that couples dealing with conflict use a “softened startup,” a formulaic way of framing problems, to ease into tricky subjects. That phrase sounds like this:

I feel ______ about  ______, and I need ______.

Watch out for the ‘Four Horsemen’

Communication in relationships (and quarantine) is key, and productive communication will need to happen whether you’re in your State of the Union or not. The Gottman Method, which is the research-based method Bridbord uses in her therapy sessions, says a first step in forming productive communication is ridding conflict discussions of the “Four Horsemen”: criticism, contempt, stonewalling, and defensiveness. “Within this crisis, there is great opportunity, and that opportunity is connection,” Bridbord says.

Couples should deal with conflict at the most stress-free time possible to keep the Four Horsemen from derailing the conversation. “Right now, all of us have anxiety, and it’s being directed in different ways,” Bridbord says. “When you’re in a state of overwhelm, you may become flooded. That’s not the time to talk.” Take a break and, as your coworkers say, circle back.

She also recommends reminding yourself that your partner can’t read your mind. A lot of conflict stems from this belief that partners should be able to guess how we feel. That isn’t going to happen. “And it’s not something we usually do to our colleagues,” Bridbord says.

Remember the principle of ‘aikido’

You ladder-climbers who’ve read up on persuasion tactics will recognize the principle of aikido, or the Japanese martial arts strategy that roughly translates to “yield to win.” It’s the idea that in order to have a positive conclusion to your conflict, you need to accept and understand your partner’s perspective and feelings. In martial arts, it’s about victory, but in relationships, it’s about coming to a solution both of you are comfortable with.

Bridbord says that instead of telling your partner what you think is going wrong, you should invite them to first share their thoughts on your relationship. Try questions like, “How do you think things are going at home?” and “What do you think is going well and not going well?”

This approach fosters discussion and collaboration, and it gives you the opportunity to see your relationship from your partner’s vantage point. “Sometimes we assume our partners are not doing their best, but what if we flip that script and assume they’re trying their hardest?” Bridbord says.

Practice stress-reducing conversations

Anxiety is contagious, meaning when you’re tense, other people around you are more likely to become tense. What a wonderful time for everyone to be trapped in their homes with their partners.

Bridbord says there are ways to mitigate mounting anxiety. “One of the key factors in successful couples is the ability to have stress-reducing conversations,” she says. In those conversations, a proper response to “I’m having a really hard day” isn’t “Me too” or “Just wait until you hear about mine.” It’s “Tell me about that.”

As a listener, don’t try to fix your partner’s problems, either. “People aren’t looking for someone to solve their problems, just to listen,” she says. Ask prompting questions to dig deeper. Empathize.

In terms of your relationship, this kind of active listening is a sign of friendship, which Bridbord says is fundamental to romance. “The hallmarks of friendship are trust and commitment. We’re looking for partners who will show up for us emotionally.”

That doesn’t mean showing up is easy. It’s not, and neither is building an equitable relationship in the best of circumstances. Everyone is struggling with it. “These kinds of dynamics transcend socioeconomics,” Bridbord says. Simply put: “It’s hard to work together.”

Originally published on Inhersight.com

12 Things You Should Never Say to Your Partner (They Could Cause Irreparable Damage)

Even though the ability to be open and honest with your partner is a technically good thing, there are some thoughts you really should keep to yourself and not say to your partner. The reason being that saying certain things to your partner could cause damage to the foundation of the relationship—the type of damage that’s especially challenging (though not impossible!) to come back from.

Known of the most legendary relationship experts of the 20th century, Dr. John Gottman, and his wife, Dr. Julie Gottman, conducted numerous studies on couples, specifically focusing on their communication methodology and how key markers were high indicators of a future divorce. Through their work, John Gottman found that four specific behaviors—Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling—“are so predictive of killing a relationship, he gave named them using them an apocalyptic reference—the Four Horsemen,” explains Jonathan Shippey, LMFT, a Certified Gottman Therapist and Master Trainer in Louisville, KY, specializing in intensive couples therapy and workshops for military families. 

“Dr. Gottman found that if people engaged in these behaviors in a conversation, it would degrade rapidly, and if couples experience enough degraded conversations, the result will be a degraded relationship over time,” Shippey elborates. “Of the four, contempt is the most potent,” he explains, and notes that Dr. Gottman refers to its use as the “sulfuric acid on the fabric of love”. In fact, as Dr. Gottman’s research has proven, “Contempt is one of the biggest predictors of divorce,” adds Mike McNulty, Ph. D., a Certified Gottman Therapist and Master Trainer with the Chicago Relationship Center.

However, no matter where you and your partner are currently in your relationship, “People have the ability to repair in the aftermath of betrayal,” says Certified Gottman Therapist, clinical psychologist and organization consultant, Karen Bridbord, Ph. D. “People can transcend deep hurts to transform their partnerships for the better.”

And rethinking how you communicate with your partner, so you can break any patterns of negativity, is one of the best ways to start! What’s important to remember is that, “Behind every complaint/criticism that your partner makes, there is a longing,” says Dr. Bridbord. Your job is to “Figure out what the longing is and see if you can fulfill it.”  

This expert advice from three Certified Gottman Therapists on the 12 things you should never say to your partner will help you improve your communication skills as a couple, so your relationship can benefit as a result.

12 Things You Should Never Say to Your Partner

1. “I should never have married you.”

“We want to hear that our partners would marry us again and again,” Dr. Bridbord says, which is why this is so painful for your partner to hear. “It is a statement that undermines the covenant that was created when you committed to the partnership,” she explains, “and creates deep resentment and feelings of insecurity” that can be incredibly challenging to repair. 

Related: Here Are the Four Horsemen Behaviors Coined by John Gottman That Will Ruin Your Marriage—Plus, How to Avoid Them

2. “You…”, “You always…”, “You never…”

“‘You,’ ‘You always,’ and ‘You never’ statements tend to come off as blaming or critical when a partner is trying to express an honest complaint or concern,” says Dr. McNulty. “An example of a ‘You’ statement is, ‘You always forget to take out the trash,’ or ‘You never think of me.’” However, starting with “You” only emphasizes differences and is not a proactive, reparative approach, which is why “I” statements are a better approach. “People who own their feelings and needs with ‘I’ statements communicate their complaints or concerns with their partners in a healthy manner,” Dr. McNulty explains. “An example of healthier communication with an ‘I’ statement is,  ‘I feel frustrated when you forget to take out the trash.’” Communicating in this way will make your partner more receptive to the information you’re sharing, while still allowing you to express your concerns openly.

3. “I’m no longer attracted to you.”

“This is one that is very hard for people to overcome, even if it was not something that was intended,” says Dr. Bridbord, which is why it can be such a damaging thing to say. “We human beings have a very difficult time being told that we are unattractive and then believing that our partner didn’t mean it. It can really stop sex in its tracks for long periods of time,” she explains, “and it is a hard one to repair.” 

4. “You are such a slob.”

This type of statement is criticism in the form of name-calling, which is damaging to relationships. “Instead, ask for what you need with gentleness,” Shippey says. A better approach would be rephrasing your wishes gently but clearly by saying something like, “Would you please put your dirty dishes in the dishwasher tonight before you go to bed?” he suggests.

5. “Help me to understand why??!!” (with an eye-roll or sneer)

“This is another statement where the language looks correct, but the tone and the nonverbal communications makes the person asking the question to come off as superior or disgusted,” Dr. McNulty says. “If the question is asked with an honest, open, curious tone, it is fine because the person asking is really trying to understand. If it is asked with contempt, the person asking is expressing disgust and/or superiority, and most likely does not want to know the answer,” he explains, which can further increase tension and distance in your relationship.

6. “Here you go again! You always ruin every dinner out!” 

Going global with your criticism and applying it in sweeping generalities doesn’t give your partner much insight as to where you’re coming from or how they can avoid repeating it in the future. To get more on the same page, work on improving your communication in the relationship. “Make a specific, temporary request instead,” Shippey suggests. For example,“Tonight when we go out with my brother and his wife, please don’t bring up politics,” is much more clear cut.

7. “Really??!!”  

“One partner typically says this to the other when they cannot believe what their partner wants, needs, or believes,” Dr. McNulty says. But “This statement is contemptuous: The tone is very negative and indicates a sense of superiority or disgust. The partner uses the correct language to convey a sense of interest, but in a sarcastic, incredulous manner.” This doesn’t work, he explains, because “The other partner immediately feels defense.” That’s, in part, why “Dr. John Gottman says that each time we use contempt with our partners, it is like ‘pouring acid on love,’” he says.

8. “Why can’t you be more like her/him?”

“Negative comparisons of one’s partner to others creates insecurity and hurt between people,” says Dr. Bridbord. “They may feel that they can never live up to some imagined other and/or that they are unworthy. Or, they may just get really angry and decide to check out.” Ultimately, “Negative comparisons are highly unproductive and erode trust in relationships.”

9. “You know what your problem is? You’re just selfish.”

Placing the problem within your partner is an especially damaging form of criticism, says Shippey, that can breed insecurity or disdain in your partner. “Instead, complain without blame,” he suggests, by saying something like, “I was surprised to see you ate all the leftovers. Please check with me before doing that again.”

10. “I feel you…”

“Sometimes, ‘I feel you statements’ are people’s attempts to use ‘I’ statements, but they are actually ‘You’ statements in disguise,” Dr. McNulty explains, which is why this type of dialogue should be carefully monitored. “For example, a statement like, ‘I feel like you never remember to take out that trash and I feel like you just don’t care,’ still blames the other person and attributes negative intent to them,” he elaborates, and “People tend to get defensive around statements that come off as critical. Using soft startup is a much better approach.” He recommends trying this method: When making a complaint, say ‘I feel, about what, and I need.’ Use ‘I’ statements to discuss your feelings and needs, and try to have a receptive tone when you ask questions or when you are in conflict with your partner.” And lastly, “Be ready to say ‘I am sorry,’ and try again when you fail to do so, because we all do. Good relationships are mostly built on repair because we are all human,” he reminds us.

11. “Clearly, you let people down all the time.”

“Avoid using information that your partner shared with you about other conflicts in their lives against them when you argue,” cautions Dr. Bridbord. “A sure fire way to damage the trust between you is by using your knowledge of some vulnerability that they have against them when you are in conflict. This is siding with the enemy and you will become part of the enemy,” she explains.

12. “Oh yeah? What about you?!” 

When you’re on the receiving end of criticism, it’s tempting to respond with defensiveness. But, while it might feel good in the moment, it won’t help you and your partner work through any relationship problems you’re dealing with. “Instead, own any part that’s true,” Shippey suggests, by responding with something like, “I apologize for doing that. It was inconsiderate of me.” Notice how, with time, it can help disagreements get resolved more easily by making your partner feel heard and understood. 

From Parade Magazine

How Do I Make Time for Family Issues Without Work Slipping?

A Gottman therapist on how to attend to your loved ones while giving your job the attention it needs.

Editor’s Note: Strong relationships are at the core of a happy life, but sometimes, dealing with the people in our lives is tricky. That’s why Thrive Global partnered with The Gottman Institute on this advice column, Asking for a Friend. Every week, Gottman’s relationship experts will answer your most pressing questions about navigating relationships — with romantic partners, family members, co-workers, friends, and more. Have a question? Send it to ask@thriveglobal.com!

Q: I have a lot going on in my personal life right now. How do I make time for family without slipping up at work? The past couple months have been busy at home, and not in the most positive ways. I find myself being a constant mediator between siblings and parents. I want to make time for my loved ones and show them that I’m truly there for them, but I also have an extremely busy job, and I work pretty long hours that aren’t always conducive to me leaving before sundown. How do I show up as a loved one without letting it make me look bad at work?

A: A true work/life quandary! It sounds like you’re managing a disruption to the delicate balance between attending to your loved ones and giving your job the attention that it needs. Being pushed and pulled in different directions like this results in an imbalance in need of recalibration.

You have added a new role to your daily to-dos: family mediator. And I truly feel your pain. Being thrust in such a role to your own family is brutal. Distressing. Emotionally exhausting.

You’re correct in your concern that work will be negatively impacted, not just because of the time involved in attending to your family, but the family drama that you can’t help but internalize may become a real focus buster.

You’re not alone. Many very well intentioned, peacemaking types end up playing the role of mediator in their families. At times, this role can feel manageable, but when it crosses over into impacting a full-time job, the role of mediator is simply no longer one that you can play.

In fact, it can be detrimental to your own well-being and may not actually be what your family members need, although they may try to convince you otherwise. Might I add, you are not in an objective position to mediate, as well intentioned as you may be, given that you are part of a family system and may inadvertently be contributing to the continued drama. Family therapy and professional mediation are disciplines that have developed for this very reason.

So you will need to set boundaries with your family. Setting boundaries doesn’t mean shutting the door on them while they are in need. Rather, you are moving into a supporting role rather than a primary role. It means getting them the type of assistance that can actually help them move through this conflict without harming and negatively impacting your own life.

Seeking a skilled clinician or mediator, depending on what the conflict is about, will be a wonderful way to effectively help your family through this time. You can find a Gottman-trained clinician in your area on the Gottman Referral Network.

You are not a mediator or a family therapist, you are a family member. Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself, which will ultimately help your family, whether or not they acknowledge it in the short term.

It’s the best gift that you can give them to help them through their current conflict.

I Worked Hard for My Manager Position, But I’m in Over My Head. Should I Say Something?

A Gottman therapist says if the new role is taking a toll on your well-being, it’s time to speak up.

Editor’s Note: Strong relationships are at the core of a happy life, but sometimes, dealing with the people in our lives is tricky. That’s why Thrive Global partnered with The Gottman Institute on this advice column, Asking for a Friend. Every week, Gottman’s relationship experts will answer your most pressing questions about navigating relationships — with romantic partners, family members, co-workers, friends, and more. Have a question? Send it to ask@thriveglobal.com!

Q: I’ve been at the same company for a few years, and I’ve finally gotten a managerial position that I’ve worked so hard to achieve. I love the people I work with, and I’m glad to take on the new responsibilities, but at the same time, I’m completely overwhelmed. Managing other people is harder than I thought, and I’m way over my head. I want to succeed in the position, but I’m having trouble prioritizing my tasks, managing my workload, and getting home in time each night to still connect with my family. Should I say something to my boss or just try to power through? And how do I get my family to understand what I’m dealing with?

A: Yes! By all means, speak up! Do so ASAP, both to your manager and to your family. And with that said, congratulations on your promotion!

But truth be told, the very skills that landed you your promotion — being good at the technical aspects of your job — are different from what will make you successful as a manager.

It’s a funny thing that promotion into management often takes you away from the very things that brought you that promotion in the first place. It’s not more of the same — it’s actually something totally different. I’ve worked with many first-time managers who have privately confessed that they feel like a fraud in their new role as a manager. And research substantiates this: For example, a 2016 survey of 500 managers found that 44 percent felt unprepared for their role, and 87 percent wish that they had more training before becoming a manager.

While we need a license for so many different activities and jobs, people often become managers without any idea of what that means. Many executives that I coach are surprised when they receive negative feedback about their management style — they are unaware of how they are perceived.

The parallels of managing your personal relationships and your workplace relationships are evident, as both require strong communication skills and a high level of self-management.

I’m hopeful about your future success because although you are overwhelmed, you recognize it. This self-awareness is key. Great managers have high levels of self-awareness. And management is mostly a set of learnable skills. Within the management skillset is a significant core skill: relationship management.

It’s obviously beyond the scope of this column to provide management training, but let me introduce you to the Sound Relationship Workplace (see image), a model that I’ve developed based on Dr. John Gottman’s Sound Relationship House. Over the years, I’ve trained many a first time manager using this framework. Whether you’re building colleague maps, learning how to provide feedback and effectively delegating, learning to manage conflict, and intentionally building a positive workplace culture, these relationship skills are critical to succeeding as a manager.

Many new managers are thrust into their new roles without their organizations setting them up for success. The costs for the organization due to failures in management are significant, so it’s your responsibility to tell your boss that you are in need of support. Turn towards your manager. Go get some management training. Ask for it. Get a mentor. And get clear on your goals (are they the same as before the promotion? If not, how have they changed since you signed on for your new role?). For the members of your family: turn towards them. Explain to them that your promotion is, in essence, a new job. There is a learning curve, and you will need some time to get up to speed. Share with them what you learn as you learn about being a manager. Inform them regularly about your journey as you build love maps with them pertaining to your job. Assure them that things will get better (because you will take the steps to receive training and support). As you become better at managing yourself, all of your relationships will improve.