Increase Emotional Intimacy Without Pursuing More

You are feeling lonely, so you nudge your spouse: “I wish you listened to me like my friends do. It’s so hard for me to talk to you.”

Spouse responds with, “What are you talking about? I’m listening now.”

“When you stare at me with that blank face, I think you don’t care at all about what I have to say.”

Spouse reacts with, “That’s insulting. Of course I care about you.” Then spouse storms out of the room.

Has this ever happened in your relationship? You give subtle nudges for more attention and approval. Yet when you try to get closer to your spouse, you end up co-creating more distance!

That’s because our mate’s can sense when we are emotionally pulling and pushing on them, even if it’s subtle. And when we feel pressured or pursued, a natural reaction is to withdraw, shut down, or defend. Thus trying to pull your mate closer can actually bring more distance.

The key to increasing emotional intimacy is learning to see your spouse as emotionally separate from you, while maintaining good personal contact.

3 Ways to Increase Emotional Intimacy Without Pursuing More

Let’s break down how to feel closer without trying to pull your spouse closer, so you can find the choices you never knew you had!

1. View Your Spouse as Separate Than You:

If you think you spouse’s behavior is a reflection of how he/she feel about you, then you will start getting critical and increase your emotional distance. Instead of assuming your spouse is avoiding you, find a more objective way to think about his/her actions.

For instance, if your man is being quiet when you talk, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t care about you. He may be concentrating hard, preoccupied with his own stress, or nervous about how to respond. When you think of your spouse as emotionally separate than you, then his or her behavior doesn’t define your self-worth.

2. Change We Goals into I Goals:

“We goals” involve trying to get the other person “on board” with what you want to receive. When you approach someone with a “we goal,” you are either taking responsibility for the relationship or your spouse. So when you try to get them to be a better spouse, you may be met with defensiveness or distance. Examples of we goals: 

- To be closer as a couple

- For us to communicate better with each other

- To improve our relationship

Instead of pursuing your mate with “we goals,” try changing your interaction goal into something you can control. In doing so, you approach him/her with more confidence and intimacy. An “I Goal” is less dependent on your loved one’s response, because it is taking responsibility for your emotional needs. Examples of I goals:

- To tell spouse about myself without expectations or assumptions

- To be less critical and more curious without pressure for other to respond

- To take my spouse’s interactions less personally

3. Be Social and Develop Friendships:

I am not suggesting having an affair. Nor am I suggesting telling your friends and family all the negatives about your spouse, so you have more people on your side. Obviously this will help create more emotional distance in your relationship.

Instead, remember most relationships can’t handle being the only source of social support for each other. If you expect your spouse to meet all your social and emotional needs, the well may dry up.

When you are better connected socially, you have more wells to drink from. You come back from social outing with your well full, so you are less needy in your most important relationship. So how do you meet your social needs without solely relying on your spouse?

When you can see you and your spouse as more separate emotional beings, you can actually be more present and connected. You are freer to share yourself without pressing on your loved one to respond in a certain way. Thus increasing your emotional intimacy.

Questions and Comments are welcome…

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Emotional Intimacy Journal

Top 5 Focusing Tips in a Distracted World

Do you want to be less distracted by mental clutter? I think mental clutter comes in two forms: the worries we give ourselves and the information overload we receive from outside of ourselves.

In today’s age of instant gratification and touch screens, it can be hard to unplug and unwind. It starts with a beep, a ring, a tweet, or a status. And it spirals from minutes to hours mindlessly lost in a web of technology.

While I am often bombarded with technology pings and pulls for my attention, I find I need just as many reminders to be mindful of how I use and respond to technology. So I’m pulling out my review of Leo Babauta’s book, Focus: A Simplicity Manifesto in the Age of Distraction. Focus offers a wealth of practical information to help you focus in an age of increasing technology and available information.

“The stream of news, information, and messages we get these days is enough to drown us.” Leo Babauta

Leo’s not drowning, he’s choosing a different path. If you don’t know Leo, he is the humbly, wise and prolific writer of Zen Habits. He writes about simplifying life for a more peaceful, productive, and happier you.

When I get bored, lonely, or worried, I can get really distracted. What about you? Yet, if I add focus to any task, I create a peaceful productivity.

To learn the art of focusing, I’m choosing my 5 most favorite, focusing tips from Leo’s book. And, taking steps that I can apply to my everyday life. Will you join me?

Top 5 Focusing Tips:

#5 - Limit Streams of Information

We sit down to read, but what do we pick up? A book, magazine, blog, newsletter, e-book, or professional journal. There is a mega amount of information literally available at our fingertips.

How do you reduce information overload? Here are some steps I’m taking to limit the constant stream of information that I consume:  less Facebook, TV shows, blogs, and unsubscribing from newsletters.  This is where focusing begins for me.

#4 – Prioritize Less Tasks

I have always prioritized daily tasks, but almost always try to complete more than is realistic in a day. Now, I limit myself to 2-3 important tasks per day. How do you decide what tasks get priority in your day?

I also separate important from routine tasks. I start on the important tasks first, before I start on one of the many mundane tasks, such as errands, chores, filing, copying, etc.

#3 – Take an Information Cleanse

I resist unplugging from the computer, unless I’m on vacation or out of town. Yet, I’m tired of waiting for travel to take me away. What would it take for you to unplug?

Start with a half a day. Move up to a whole day. Unplug from the technology of your choosing, phone, computer, TV. Initially, I was anxious about unplugging, worried about missing out and getting behind. Yet, I’ve found I’m more focused on essentials and the loved ones right in front of me during an info cleanse.

#2 – Practice Single-Tasking 

I’d like to think I’m a master, multi-tasker. Opening emails, talking on the phone, and checking my to do list. What’s wrong with this picture? There’s a million things running through my mind, but I’m not fully present in any of them.

Surprisingly, doing one task at a time is exhilarating and relieving. Practice completing one task at a time, as if you have nothing else to do. And, then practice again and again. Be completely in the moment, no matter how mundane the task.

#1 – Do Something Amazing Each Day 

I saved the best for last. Think about what you love about life. Intentionally, do at least one thing each day that inspires, energizes, or motivates you. You may already be doing something amazing each day.

Is your most important task also something you love to do? If not, carve out time to do something you are passionate about before you go to bed. Again, give your amazing experience all of your focus, for as long as it lasts. Enjoy!

“Be like water. Flow, respond to the landscape, move around obstacles, and be graceful in your movement.” Leo Babauta

Mental clutter is not like water, it’s a pool of nagging thoughts that you haven’t done enough. Break through by simplifying, unplugging, and focusing on the essentials.

I’m going to be working on putting less on my daily to do list, so I can enjoy that amazing moment! What focusing practice will you start practicing?

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2011, but you can still download Leo’s book on Focus for FREE or purchase a premium version, here.

How to Stop Emotional Eating Habits

Have you ever had a stressful day and reached for a bag of chips or chocolate bar without thinking?

Food is comforting, satisfying, and calming to the brain. So it is almost automatic to turn to food when you are anxious, tired, or angry. It is among many quick fixes that are proven to help reduce that stressed out feeling.

Of course it’s hard to maintain a healthy weight when food is your only comfort for stress. So many people are looking for ways to stop their emotional eating, especially when it becomes a mindless habit.

To explore the topic of conquering emotional eating, I have invited Lauren Chitwood, Health Coach for Take Shape for Life, to share her empowering story.

Marci: Many people struggle to set new goals for their health because they feel helpless about change. What helped you begin to shift how you thought about changing your habits?

Lauren: I knew I had to make a change in my life when I noticed my medical bills increasing. I was gaining weight each month and nothing I tried was working. I realized that I had an unhealthy relationship with food, and I wanted to stop being on yo-yo diets.

My feet hurt from carrying extra weight, and I was concerned about preventing diabetes. I knew my health was declining, and decided I could no longer put off making a permanent change in my eating habits. It was getting hard to enjoy being active with my family.

Marci: Many people turn to food for comfort during stressful or lonely times. Was this true for you?

Lauren: I was a stress eater. It was very easy for me to turn to food for comfort. One of my unhealthy habits was stopping at Quick Trip on my way home from work. I was stressed about my day and anxious about keeping up with my family’s evening activities.

I convinced myself that I deserved to grab a snack on my way home to have “me” time. I would eat a combination of candy, chocolate, salty foods, and diet pop. By the time I arrived home, I had eaten everything and felt guilty about my binge.

Marci: How did you stop turning to food for emotional reasons?

Lauren: I haven’t eliminated all stress or chaos, but I have found a new way to comfort myself. When I feel the urge to turn to comfort food, I stop myself by performing the following “Stop-Challenge-Choose” exercise:

  • Do Self-Inventory: “Why am I desiring junk food? Am I feeling anxious, bored, or stressed?”
  • Think about Long-Term Goals: “If I eat this candy/food will I sabotage my progress and possibly put myself off course?”
  • Replace Food: Find another way to calm myself that isn’t food.

Marci: What helps you stay motivated to keep working on your health goals?

Lauren: I read some books by Dr. Wayne Anderson explaining how motivation effects your results. Developing “outcome oriented motivation” instead of “conflict driven motivation” is what’s led me to maintaining my health and weight loss goals.

“Conflict driven motivation” is when an emotional conflict leads you to take action. Once you take action, you start to feel better. Yet your motivation to follow through on your goal decreases when you feel better. I realized this was the classic yo-yo dieting pattern I had tried with no lasting results.

“Outcome oriented motivation” focuses on what you want, not what you don’t want.  It focuses on a desired state that you want to create. I envision what optimal health means to me:

  • I want to stabilize my blood sugar, have healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • I want to run a 5K with my family.
  • I want to wear a tank top and shorts and be full of energy.
  • I want to be active even when I am a grandmother.

Shifting my motivation toward these goals helps me get through holiday parties and buffet lines. Focusing on the outcome I want helps me keep the weight off that I have  lost.

Marci: If your progress slows or you take a step backward, how do you get yourself back on track?

Lauren: Life still gets bumpy, but I keep my forward thinking goals in front of me and keep on moving toward my goals. When my weight loss slows down, I also take a deep breath and remember how far I have traveled on my journey. I look at the fact that I’ve made significant progress in a short amount of time. I hold onto knowing that I have found the last weight loss program I would ever need.

Marci: What unexpected benefits have you encountered along your journey?

Lauren: Losing weight and regaining my health has changed my life in ways I never expected. I had become socially reclusive, stopped reaching out to new relationships, and ignored my old friendships. I was embarrassed by how much weight I had gained, so I avoided people and social events. Emotionally I felt like a failure when I let food have control over me.

As I began losing weight, I almost immediately felt like I was back in control. That was one of the most empowering moments of my life. If I could conquer my food addiction, I could conquer anything!

As I continued losing weight, my social, friendly, and caring personality started to return. I began forming new relationships and reconnecting with old ones. I have a new level of confidence and sureness that I never embraced before now.

Marci: I want to thank Lauren for joining us today and sharing her struggles with food as well as her triumphs. Having only known Lauren after her health transformation, it’s hard to imagine her ever feeling insecure and unsure. She truly has transformed not only the outside but the inside too!

Anyone else have a question for Lauren about her health transformation or the program she coaches?

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Lauren guest

Lauren Chitwood is a Certified Health Coach with Take Shape for Life. Lauren has a passion for coaching others who are struggling with their weight and health goals. Watch this video to learn more about the Take Shape for Life Program, inluding free health coaching.