Thriving Through Tough Times

Screen shot 2015-06-03 at 12.08.47 PMYour partner is going through a rough patch. You suspect they may be slipping into a bit of a depression. Maybe a chronic injury is preventing much-needed regular exercise. Maybe they’ve been skipped over for a promotion again and now feel both undervalued and trapped.

You love this person – in theory. But you don’t feel those loving feelings right now, and its been a while. You’ve checked your relationship tool kit and tried a bunch of stuff.

You’ve met with those Parts of you who feel triggered by depression and/or work-place inertia so you could listen to your partner non-reactively. You recognize your partner might be stuck in a Part of him or herself which is young and vulnerable and right now this is just how your partner is facing the world.

But none of this is helping your background ticker-tape-script of frustration, resentment, and exhaustion. There’s this nagging “I could do better! I deserve more! Is this it?”

What happens now in a relationship is often what sets a mediocre or doomed relationship apart from a great and robust relationship.

  • How do we thrive through tough times?
  • What allows a relationship to survive after those fuzzy “in love” feelings fade?
  • What’s the antidote when resentment and disappointment creep in?
  • How can we dwell in the presence of another human being for years and manage to not allow familiarity to breed contempt?

Two things.

  • Empathy – for your partner
  • Compassion – for yourself.

What do I mean by empathy for the other?

Screen shot 2015-06-03 at 10.08.29 AMIt’s the social and emotional glue that connects us to one another. It allows us to see things from the other chap’s point of view by going within ourselves to cross-reference our own experiences and feelings.

We can imagine the joy of another by remembering our own joy. We can imagine the sadness of another by remembering our own sadness. We feel into ourselves in order to extend outward.

The limit to empathy might be, of course, our inability to cross-reference every human condition.

If your partner is injured, or flat-lined at work, it’s very possible you can dig into your own life-story and remember how you felt when you were prevented from exercising or overlooked at work. You can allow an upwelling of understanding through shared experience. Thus reminded, thus equipped with a memory for who you were under these same burdens, you can also remember what helped you.

Probably you responded well to patience, understanding, kindness. And, if you came through those tough times, you have a sense that ‘this too shall pass.”

Screen shot 2015-06-03 at 12.20.11 PMSo, the extent to which you can dig back into your own experience and resonate with your partner allows you to stay the course. You’d hate to have been ridiculed, chivvied, belittled or worse – abandoned – at a time such as this.

It’s the good old Golden Rule ~ “Do unto others as you would be done by.”

What do I mean by compassion for oneself?

Screen shot 2015-06-03 at 10.10.23 AMThis is the astonishingly transcendent ability we humans have to stand beside, to be with, in the face of the unknown.

You may not be able to tap into your own experience of someone else’s difficult situation, but you are willing to stand beside them: with feeling; with caring; with an outpouring of human-to-human connection.

And (or, but) the magic of compassion is that “It has to begin with me”: With compassion for Self.

Right there inside your wonderful complex inner world of opinion and judgment, right there where your background ticker-tape-script of frustration, resentment, and exhaustion deliver the nagging sense of “I could do better! I deserve more! Is this it?” you get to STOP . . .

and stand beside your Self with love. With a hug. With a sort of “welcome to the deliciously imperfect human condition – isn’t it amazing! Aren’t I amazing, to be standing here right now noticing my judgments. Noticing my partner’s frailty. Maybe there never was a memo that life should be easy. Maybe simply being present to this particular version of imperfection is perfect.”

Screen shot 2015-06-03 at 12.26.50 PMFrom this place of deep compassion for yourself, you can respond using the lesser known Platinum rule ~

Do unto others as they would be done by

Untethered from your experiences of what might be their pain, you are free to simply BE. It’s a form of radical acceptance.

Here are 2 quotes from one of my favorite mentors ~ and John Gottmans’ pick for the best living couples therapist ~ Dan Wile.

  • Despite what you might have been told, you can expect your relationship to solve your problems, fill gaps in your personality, and help you love yourself.
  • When choosing a long-term partner, you will inevitably be choosing a particular set of unsolvable problems that you’ll be grappling with for the next ten, twenty or fifty years.

So, before we dive more deeply over the next 3 weeks into whether and how empathy and compassion can be taught, I’m inviting you to simply experience your response to this Rumi meditation.

Screen shot 2015-06-02 at 3.51.43 PM

FIRST TIME HERE?

This is the latest article in a year-long series on the “12-most-important-relationship-skills-no-one-ever-taught-me-in-school-but-I-sure-wish-they-had.”

Click the box for the full list.  Top 12 Relationship Skills

If you are interested in reading this blog in sequence, below are links to the series to date, beginning with the first posting at the top.

OVERVIEW

SKILLS FOR UNDERSTANDING

SKILL ONE ~ Recognize (and get to know) the many “yous.”

SKILL TWO ~ Learn how to be pro-active: choose how y’all show up.

 SKILL THREE ~ Accept (and get curious about) other peoples’ complexity

SKILLS FOR CONNECTING

SKILL FOUR ~ Master the Art of Conversation

SKILL FIVE ~ Learn How To Listen With Your Whole Self

SKILL SIX ~ Crack The Empathy Nut

  • Thriving Through Tough Times

Thanks to Ernest Howard Shepard for the wonderful Winnie The Pooh illustrations. 

30 thoughts on “Thriving Through Tough Times

  1. peggyjo617

    Wow, as always! Poignant, provocative combined with great illustration and inspiring quotes. Thanks, Gemma!

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Teaching Empathy to Adults | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ A Skilled, Experienced Therapist & Coach

  3. Pingback: Teaching Empathy to Children | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  4. Pingback: Living Empathically | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  5. Pingback: Kindness Is Key | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  6. Pingback: Cultivating Kindness | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  7. Pingback: Can We Ever Be Too Kind? | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  8. Pingback: Independence, Co-dependence and Interdependence | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  9. Pingback: One Small Step Toward Self Compassion | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  10. Pingback: The #1 Reason Marriages Fail | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  11. Pingback: How To Negotiate The Small Stuff in Marriage | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  12. Pingback: How To Negotiate The BIG Stuff | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  13. Pingback: Values Worth Fighting For | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  14. Pingback: The Alphabet of Trust | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  15. Pingback: Can We Trust Too Much? | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  16. Pingback: How To Trust Yourself | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  17. Pingback: Before You Trust Again | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  18. Pingback: Apology ‘Fails” | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  19. Pingback: The Anatomy of a Bad Apology | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  20. Pingback: The Anatomy of a Good Apology | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  21. Pingback: The Anatomy of a Great Apology | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  22. Pingback: Cake or Death? Forgiveness & Revenge as Evolutionary Bedfellows | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  23. Pingback: Why Forgive? | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  24. Pingback: The Nine Steps to Forgiveness | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  25. Pingback: Forgive Yourself Already! | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  26. Pingback: Letting Go of The Past | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  27. Pingback: In This Moment, Let This Go… | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  28. Pingback: Great Expectations – A Story | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

  29. Pingback: The #1 Relationship Skill | Gemma Utting MA, LMFT, CLC ~ Couple & Individual Therapy, Parent Support, Pre-Marriage Prep & Relationship Skill Building.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s