Sharp pencils, shiny shoes, different teachers: fall will always mean the first day of school to me, with all its promise of a fresh start and new things to learn. Perfect time to introduce my redesigned website and new blog, created to make it easy for you to find lots of helpful information and for me to update easily and often. Thanks to the kindred spirits at Rowboat Media for this beautiful online environment, which conveys some of the serenity and imagination I hope you’ll discover on your journey here.
Speaking of newness, let’s talk about bringing it into our relationships. You know that toxic loop that’s so easy to get locked into? The familiar struggle where you know just what your partner’s going to say next and, worse, you know you won’t be able to resist replying with something equally predictable and hurtful? Long gone are the days when we thought a healthy relationship was all about “sharing your feelings.” (I’ll be speaking at the annual conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Psychoanalysis on this topic next month.) Now we understand that building a fulfilling relationship takes skills.
How about trying something new? Instead of saying that familiar thing that will only keep you locked in, take a breath. If you need time to cool off — and there’s no point in pushing things when you or your partner are emotionally flooded — don’t just stomp off to another room (if you have another room — definitely not a given, here in NYC!). Tell your partner you need to calm down. Agree ahead of time on a time-out word, even a silly one like elephant or meatball. Then, when you’re both ready to reengage, avoid blaming. See if you can approach the conflict as a team: How did we get into that? How can we do it differently next time? What do you want me to know about this issue? Can you hear what’s important about it for me?
That toxic pattern won’t turn around in a day. Like learning algebra, it takes time and practice. But the sooner you pick up that new pencil, the sooner you’ll surprise yourself with how much you can accomplish.