Category: Friendships/relationships

Eric Barker compiles 5 Shortcuts To Bonding Deeply With A Romantic Partner

| August 16, 2015 | Reply

As a person who is divorced and dating, it was with special interest that I read Eric Barker’s latest on “5 Shortcuts To Bonding Deeply With A Romantic Partner.” These shortcuts appear to be legit and powerful, maybe too powerful. Thus, one should be cautioned to not use these shortcuts on the wrong person or you might end up in a long-term relationship with the wrong person (I’m thinking of two things in particular: the task of staring into each others’ eyes for an extended period and a list of personal topics that, it is claimed, will rocket the relationship forward).

One of my biggest take-aways, though was this:

John Gottman, the #1 guy on making relationships work, says 69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year. Via The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:

Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind – but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.

The above finding would seem to be a warning to choose one’s potential partner exceedingly carefully because most of the conflicts of a relationship will remain conflicts for the entire relationship. On the other hand, I sometimes think and laugh at this episode of Seinfeld.

Barker’s advice, which he carefully compiles from many other sources, is something I will have at the ready, appreciating its power to send two people spiraling off into the wrong direction together.   One the other hand, these suggestions might serve as a tempting dose of jet fuel for what is already a good match.


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The power of listening

| August 10, 2015 | Reply

A good friend of mine named Tom was an excellent parent – his son was a really cool kid. When I was about to adopt my first child I asked him what advice he had for raising children. He said, “Listen to them. Listen actively. Everything else will follow from that.”

After having raised two children, I find that to be excellent advice. Eric Barker has published a post on the power of listening. He calls it, “How To Be Loved By Everyone: 6 Powerful Secrets,” which is not a good title, because I consider it self destructive to try to be loved by everyone. But I agree with the content of the post, which centers on improving relationships by active listening. Here are Barker’s take-aways:

Be a detective. You need to be interested. The best way to do that is to play detective and be curious.

How little can you say? Ask questions. Paraphrase to make sure you understand. Past that, just shut up.

Can you summarize to their approval? If you paraphrase what they said and they reply, “Exactly” — you win.
Don’t try to fix them.

Be Socrates. Help them find their own solution. People remember their own ideas best.

Monitor body language. Eye contact and open postures are good. Touch their elbow to help create a bond.

Review the common mistakes we all make. And then don’t do them.

Listen and people will listen back. In fact, they’ll do more than that. They will come to trust and love you.

He ends with this quote by David Augsburger:

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.”


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How to stay classy after a breakup

| July 26, 2015 | Reply

Good article by Seth Borkowski. Points to the frailty of all relationships.

However, watching “Annie Hall” after my relationship ended was unexpectedly different because I felt as if I had grown with Alvy. I felt comfortable with my understanding of the madness and the irresistibly addictive nature of relationships. With that understanding, I discovered the closure I had been searching for. Of course, it wasn’t entirely satisfying.


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Stop attending your kids’ organized sports games

| July 4, 2015 | Reply

Why shouldn’t you attend your child’s organized sporting events? It’s a form of helicopter parenting:

Compared to other parts of our children’s lives, sports are bizarrely parent-centric. We don’t gather in the back of algebra class and watch students solve quadratic equations. In music and dance and theater, we don’t attend every single practice, lesson and rehearsal. We just show up for an occasional performance, keep our mouths shut and applaud like crazy when it’s over.

So, here’s a better idea, especially for the legions of paunchy, stressed-out, middle-aged souls out there. Let’s banish parents from youth fields, courts, and diamonds, and let’s arrange for moms and dads to play soccer, softball, basketball, whatever, themselves when their children have a game.

Our kids would get more freedom, we parents would get more exercise, and all of us would remember why we love sports.


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The Best Questions For A First Date

| January 6, 2015 | Reply

Fascinating research indicates that certain questions one can ask on a date serve as proxies for complex realities. This is from OKCupid’s blog in 2011, but still quite relevant.


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In favor of non-holidays

| December 1, 2014 | Reply

I had a wonderful visit with a friend yesterday. She and I have been friends ever since we attended law school together in the late 1970’s. We had an engaging conversation in her living room. I couldn’t imagine a more enjoyable visit. We traded numerous stories and observations, sharing more than a few laughs. As I was traveling back home, it occurred to me that we accomplished this without any of the following:

Handing each other gifts;
Dressing up in fancy clothing;
Blinking lights, ornaments or decorations;
A television turned on;
Singing or listening to ritualistic songs;
Eating special food or drinks;
Making unsupportable claims about events that happened 2,000 years ago.

Instead, we celebrated a friendship and took an active interest in each other’s lives. This is an activity that can be enjoyed simultaneously by small or larger groups of good-hearted thoughtful people. In fact, some of my favorite moments this year have involved

Recently, another friend of mine mentioned that her favorite holiday is Thanksgiving because it is the holiday most devoid of commercialism and religiosity and jingoism. I mostly agree, but even Thanksgiving has been clouded with commercialism, obsessions with spectator sports, and the perceived need to display ourselves through decorations, special clothing and special food. To be fair, I do enjoy the spread of food one encounters at Thanksgiving, but it is a secondary consideration to the occasion. What would be more meaningful as a Thanksgiving celebration: A big feast without anyone to share it with, or a room full of special people without special food?

I would like to nominate Non-Holiday Spontaneous Visiting as my favorite “holiday,” because it is this “holiday” that gets even closest to the core of the most important part of what makes us humans at our best.


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Eulogy by the Deceased

| November 18, 2014 | Reply

Eulogies are best when given by the (not-quite-yet) deceased.


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About excellent and troubled romances and marriages

| October 21, 2014 | Reply

I’ve really enjoyed receiving posts by Eric Barker. Recently, I received this post on How to Have a Great Relationship. He really boils things down, peppering his posts with links to the research and more expansive articles. Here’s an excerpt:

Love isn’t an emotion, really. When you look at fMRI studies of the brain it shows up more as a desire. A craving.
And that explains why it feels so good. As far as the ol’ gray matter’s concerned love’s right up there with cocaine and cash.
All three activate the same area of the brain — the dopamine reward system . . . So, yeah, even neuroscience agrees that love is intense. But can anything that powerful last? Doesn’t it eventually have to fizzle? Not necessarily. Research shows some couples are very much in love 40-50 years later. Want your marriage to last more than 30 years? Just “being married” often isn’t enough: you also need to be good friends.

But this is only the entry point to dozens of clearly written text loaded with links. Really smartly outlined and inviting. I find myself looking through many of the links, including this way to shortcut to romance.

Here are a few more links that spun off the main article:

John Gottman’s four things that kill relationships.

Criticism – Complaints are fine. Criticism is more global — it attacks the person, not their behavior. They didn’t take out the garbage because they forgot, but because they’re a bad person.
Contempt – “…name-calling, eye-rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor. In whatever form, contempt – the worst of the four horsemen – is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust. It’s virtually impossible to resolve a problem when your partner is getting the message that you’re disgusted with him or her.”
Defensiveness – “…defensiveness is really a way of blaming your partner. You’re saying, in effect, ‘The problem isn’t me, it’s you.’ Defensiveness just escalates the conflict, which is why it’s so deadly.”
Stonewalling – Tuning out. Disengaging. This doesn’t just remove the person from the conflict, it ends up removing them, emotionally, from the relationship.

Here’s a gem from the same article:

69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual. These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year:

Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind – but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.

What is one of the best predictors of the well being of a relationship? It’s how much you THINK you are similar.

What’s the best time efficient way to enhance your relationship?  Share your favorite part of the day with each other.

I realize that none of this is rocket science in the abstract.  As a man who recently became divorced, however, it’s not easy to put these into play every day.  Keeping these ideas in the forefront would seem to be a good way to making it easier to put these ideas into play.


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How to get respect

| September 7, 2014 | Reply

Lots of good information here, provided by “Barking Up the Wrong Tree.” Much interplay with competence, power and money.


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