5 Tips to Stress-Proof Your Marriage This Holiday Season

5 TIPS TO STRESS-PROOF YOUR MARRIAGE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON

Kyle Benson

When I was a kid, I was giddy when the holiday season came around. I opened presents, ate candy canes, and snuggled with my dogs near the fireplace.

But as an adult, the holidays come with a fair amount of stress. I found there was less fun and more planning, like how you’re going to visit family, what food you’re going to cook, saving money for gifts, going shopping, and so much more.

It’s not uncommon for couples to feel overwhelmed or disconnected during the holiday season, especially if one or both partners feel triggered by certain events. The added stress can create tension and highlight relationship difficulties during a time when it is important to stay connected and feel loved.

But there is a better way through the holiday season, which is getting through it together.

Having a plan and sticking to it is one of the most effective ways to eliminate stress and spend more time having fun and enjoying each other’s company.

Take the Stress out of Holiday Preparations and Decisions

The holiday season can leave a partner feeling unappreciated or resentful for doing all the shopping and cooking, or it can lead to another partner feeling pressured into doing things their partner’s way. But the holidays are a time to come together as a team and create a sense of balance. Try to follow this template toward creating a holiday plan:

1. List out all the chores and responsibilities that require attention. This will give you an objective view for determining who should be in charge of what.

2. Add three columns to the list: one for you, one for your partner, and one for both of you.

3. Read the list together. Talk about each other’s perception of how holiday responsibilities were handled in the past, and discuss how you would like them handled this year.

4. Go through the items that are easy to assign this year and choose who is responsible (you, your partner, or both), check the appropriate task and partner on the list, and set aside the tasks that may need to be talked through for later.

5. For the items you didn’t assign, take the time to ask each other open-ended questions about the task and the difficulties associated with it. Truly listen to what your partner likes and doesn’t like, which is an opportunity to learn something new about your partner and their preferences and concerns.

Then, after both partners feel understood, determine how you’d like to proceed this year, and compromise when needed so that both of you feel comfortable with your plans. You can cover a lot of different kinds of tasks, including cooking and cleaning duties, shopping, travel plans, and holiday traditions that you’d both like to include in your festivities.

ListPartner A’s ListPartner B’s ListTogether List
Warping gifts X 12/22/17
Organizing the grocery list X 12/21/17
Call family & see who is bringing what for dinner X 12/22/17

The goal here is to find win-win solutions that put your partner’s needs on par with your own. Your partner may agree with you or may suggest something else.

Sometimes you may have to do a task together, but that can be helpful if both of you don’t enjoy something that still needs to get done.

Work together to find a solution for this year that satisfies both of your needs. Then decide who is responsible, assign the task, and note the date that it needs to be completed by.

Now you have a better idea of who does what and when, which should already relieve a great deal of stress.

Dr. John Gottman’s research discovered that a purely equal division of tasks isn’t what matters (keeping score can lead to resentment), but instead that each partner feels like responsibilities are balanced. And, of course, modify plans if necessary. If your partner feels overwhelmed, then see if you can help out by taking on some of their tasks, and remember to support each other.

De-stress with Your Spouse

Throughout the holidays, try to take time to have a Stress-Reducing Conversation, which allows you talk about your stressful feelings and thoughts without actually discussing your marriage or any issues you may have with your partner.

Ask some open-ended questions about how they’re feeling this holiday season, but don’t try to problem solve. Instead, truly listen to your partner’s concerns and express empathy.

If you have this conversation every day this season, it can’t help but make your spirits bright.

Verbalize Appreciations

Another way to relieve stress is to offer compliments, gratitude, and appreciation to your partner, which can help your partner stay connected to you.

Make an extra effort to notice the small things your partner does such as grocery shopping, wrapping gifts, taking out the trash, or making time for just you, and verbalize your appreciation. Small acts of gratitude will help uplift your spirits.

If you cultivate an attitude of gratitude around your partner and loved ones during the holidays, everyone should feel more comfortable, appreciated, and emotionally satisfied.

Do the Small Things Often

As Liz Higgins reminds us, “Marriage is Not a Big Thing, It’s a Million Little Things.”

Take a few moments this holiday season and plan three little surprises for your spouse. This could be:

  • A short and sweet love note slipped into their wallet or purse
  • Filling up a hot bath for them to relax in at after a long stressful day (bonus if you join)
  • Dance to holiday music in your home

Take Time to Connect with Your Partner

Most importantly, try to schedule some time for just you and your partner to connect. It may be difficult to get away from family and friends during a busy holiday season, but making intentional efforts to spend a few hours or an evening together will help you feel more loved and stress-free.

Maybe you:

  • Sneak off to give each other a quick massage.
  • Find a mistletoe to passionately kiss under
  • Give each other personalized gifts before the holiday.
  • Snuggle while watching a holiday movie
  • Hold hands while taking an evening walk

If you follow these tips throughout the holiday season, it may bring you closer to feeling that sense of fun, excitement, and wonder that I once felt as a kid. While planning isn’t as fun as decorating and opening gifts, having a solid plan you can rely on enables you and your partner to spend less time stressing and more time enjoying the holiday season.

Time With Our Children

TIME WITH OUR CHILDREN

A primary school teacher asked her pupils to write an essay on ‘A wish you want from God?’ At the end of the day, the teacher collected all the essays written by her pupils. She took them to her house, sat down and started marking.

While marking the essays, she sees a strange essay written by one of her pupils. That essay made her very emotional. Her husband came and sat beside her and saw her crying.

The husband asked her, “What happened? What’s making you cry?”

She answered, “Read this. It is an essay written by one of my pupils.”

The pupil had written: “Oh God, make me a television. I want to live like the TV in my house. In my house, the TV is very valuable. All of my family members sit around it. They are very interested in it. When the TV is talking, my parents listen to it very happily. They don’t shout at the TV. They don’t quarrel with the TV. They don’t slap the TV. So I want to become a TV. The TV is the center of attraction in my house. I want to receive the same special care that the TV receives from my parents.

“Even when it is not working, the TV has a lot of value. When my dad and mom come home, they immediately sit in front of the TV, switch it on and spend hours watching it. The TV is stealing the time of my dad and my mom. If I become a TV, then they will spend their time with me.

“While watching the TV, my parents laugh a lot and they smile many times. But I want my parents to laugh and smile with me also. So please God make me a TV.

“And last but not the least, if I become a TV, surely I can make my parents happy and entertain them. Lord I won’t ask you for anything more. I just want to live like a TV. Please turn me to a TV.”

The husband completed reading the essay and said, “My God, poor kid. He feels lonely. He does not receive enough love and care from his parents. His parents are horrible!”

The eyes of the primary school teacher filled with tears. She looked at her husband and said, “Our son wrote that essay!”

What do you think of this boy’s essay?

Nothing I Do is Good Enough for My Partner

NOTHING I DO IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR MY PARTNER

Patricia Cochran

Relationships often start with plenty of demonstrations of affection and appreciation for one another. There is a sense of “this person gets me and accepts me for who I am”. The infatuation makes you want to attend to even the silliest requests from your partner. Then one day, seemingly out of the blue, your partners request feels like demands that can’t be met. You feel confused and hurt that no matter what you do it’s never good enough to please them.

At first you chalk it up to some stress that has been going on in your lives. Soon you realize that your partner is constantly criticizing and blaming you. And things like this happen:

5 Things a Hard to Please Person Does

There is always an “if you just…then I would…” bargaining/ blaming statement happening. The bargaining portion serves the purpose of pretending you have a choice in behavior – you can do this or have the consequences. The blaming serves to keep you responsible for their behavior and entitlement. Their frustration that something isn’t to their liking is usually your fault for not following “the correct steps”. It is a trap that you constantly fall into because you want to “get it right”.

Their expectation can’t ever be achieved. Even when you do what they want the response is that you didn’t do exactly how they wanted, you took too long or you have to do more now. The standards are constantly changing. They might take over the task without letting you try, which causes insecurity and resentment for you.

You feel invalidated in your feelings and needs. If you express disagreement or disappointment you are met with “I didn’t mean it that way, so you shouldn’t feel that way.”

Every argument ends with you giving up and letting them have their way as if it was a game they need to win.

They compare the relationship and/or you to their ideal model. This idealization might come from someone in their lives (parents, former partner) or from beliefs about relationships. In any case you always lose since you’ll never be as good as their vision.

Now that you can safely identify that your partner can’t be pleased you are left with a question: Why? You have been blamed for their dissatisfaction for so long that it is hard to imagine other reasons for such mind games and control. Before you lose all hope of happiness it can be helpful to understand why.

The possible reasons:

High anxiety: Your partner could have a high level of anxiety that is alleviated through taking control of situations and people – especially you. Notice that you are not the only target of their criticism. There is a constant hyper-vigilance about what is going on around them and how they need to make it right. People with high anxiety are very critical of themselves as well as others. The dissatisfaction is due to a high standard that basically no one can achieve for being so idealized. There is a belief that anything and everything can always be better than it is.

“Your partner could have a high level of anxiety that is alleviated through taking control of situations and people – especially you.”

The world is unsafe: Critical people might have learned that the world is unsafe and you must be always on the offense and defense to not get hurt. The critical and controlling behaviors are to keep them with the upper hand in life. In this case you will notice a “winning behavior” – a need to be always right and “win” arguments no matter what.

Resentment: Something might have happened in the relationship that triggered the dissatisfaction. Your partner has resentments towards you that they neither express nor let go. This is a passive-aggressive (though it feels very aggressive to you) way of dealing with conflict that has to be addressed.

Role models:  Dysfunctional role models of what a relationship looks like can cause your spouse to not know how else to interact with you. Experiencing negative role models also has a side-effect of leading him or her to try and maintain control of the relationship so they are not hurt like their parents.

Finally, we get to the part that concerns you: What can you do about it? Resolving conflict always takes both partners engaging in the work. You also have responsibility to change the situation.

What you can do about it:

Accept that you have responsibility: You have been reinforcing this behavior by trying to please your spouse at any cost. Every time you give in and do what they want you are sending the message that it is OK to hurt you that way. However, responsibility doesn’t mean blame. It is not your fault that your partner became critical and possibly abusive. Accept that you have been enabling the behavior and use the knowledge to change interactions.

Set reasonable boundaries: It is OK for partners to make requests, but not demands. Set a boundary of what you are willing to work with your partner and how you expect to be asked to attend to their needs. Don’t allow name calling, shaming or invalidation of your feelings. If needed take time out to cool off and re-engage in discussion later.

The Couple’s Guide to Fighting Better: Focus On the Issue

THE COUPLE’S GUIDE TO FIGHTING BETTER: FOCUS ON THE ISSUE

Kyle Benson

Love can be a battleground of mistakes, misunderstandings, and conflicts. Oftentimes when we want to discuss a specific conflict with our partners, we also want the floor to discuss EVERY conflict with our partner; every one of their 617 boneheaded mistakes. After all, we are an “expert” analyst of our partner’s behavior and personality disorders.

Meet Jasmine. Jasmine is a full-time employed mother of two. She’s married to Brian, a hard working business owner with 64 employees. Jasmine and Brian strive to be a super couple; the kind of couple that exhausts themselves trying to do it all.

Their childhood upbringing has taught both of them to be overachieving perfectionists who put a lot of pressure on themselves to be “happily married.”

Most of this pressure comes from Jasmine. She wants the best orgasms, a passionate sex life, millions in the bank account, and two adorable and successful kids. All this weight causes a lot of problems with Brian.

In her mind, Brian doesn’t help out with the children or house nearly enough. He doesn’t dedicate enough time to their relationship and he isn’t making enough money. Needless to say, Jasmine’s Love Laws puts Brian in Relationship Jail pretty frequently. As a result, she shames him. She makes him feel inadequate. She treats him this way so much that he has started to spend more time working than he does at home.

For Brian, work is a safe haven from the war at home. As Jasmine starts to realize their relationship is in trouble, she devours books on healthy relationships like a fat kid at a cupcake store. She heard about John Gottman’s famous State of the Union meeting that was created to resolve relationship conflicts. So she schedules a meeting to “talk” with Brian about their current conflicts.

Because she’s so eager to start the meeting, Jasmine takes the lead as the speaker. She tells Brian the role of the listener according to what she can remember: “just listen to me and don’t get defensive.”

Unfortunately Jasmine hits Brian so hard with criticism that his helmet in the football game of love pops right off. This leaves him vulnerable to a siege of attacks from his lover, who brings up every issue under the sun. His lack of help with the children. His lack of effort in keeping the house clean. His routine sexual performance that feels more like clockwork and less like lovemaking.

Hearing all this makes Brian feel inadequate. Something back in his childhood made him sensitive about that feeling. His body floods with negative emotions. Despite trying to do his best to “listen,” he emotionally shuts down to calm his anxiety.

Jasmine notices this and hits him even harder.
“You never listen to me.”
“What is wrong with you?”

By now, this relationship is on the road to the Hell, whether it be divorce or infidelity. But there are many lessons we can learn from this.

Pick One Issue and Be Specific

Instead of bringing up every issue under the sun, focus on one particular issue and stay on topic. Be detailed. Instead of saying, “you never help out around the house,” say, “It makes me feel abandoned when I feel like it is my responsibility to vacuum the house every week. On top of that, I have other chores I feel like I have to do to keep this house running. Would you be able to vacuum every other week for me?”

Telling someone they make you feel insecure gives them no feedback to change their behavior. However, telling your partner that you feel insecure when they make fun of you in front of your friends will allow them to fix that specific situation.

By focusing on one issue and the specific emotions it causes you (not your partner’s flaws), both of you can come together to fix that specific situation by changing both the meaning of the situation and each other’s behavior.

Avoid Your Partner’s Triggers

Lastly, be aware of your partner’s triggers. No one grows up without emotional scars. These lasting flaws can escalate conflict quickly. Tom Bradbury, a UCLA psychologist, calls these enduring vulnerabilities.

Imagine your partner’s weaknesses are tattooed on their forehead. What might your partner’s weaknesses and insecurities be? When they get blamed, do they immediately become defensive? Do they hate being lectured because it makes them feel inadequate?

Brian’s vulnerabilities of not providing enough make him feel inadequate. It causes him to close off from his relationship and the things he cares about. When his trigger is hit, it’s easier to become numb than to feel the pain of all his past traumas rising in the present.

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Your partner’s childhood baggage may be a source of problems in your relationship but it is unrealistic to expect that he or she will fix them immediately. Prodding or insisting them to “change” will only worsen the situation.

What you can do is prevent a particular vulnerability from causing friction by acknowledging it and working around it with compassion. If you know your boyfriend is sensitive about feeling left out, be kind when suggesting that he should stay at home so you can go out with your friends for a girl’s night. You could say something like “I love going out with my friends and you because we always have a good time. But would it be okay if I just went out with them tonight? I’d like to catch up with them on a more intimate level.”

Or maybe your girlfriend is a tad messy, and resents her childhood upbringing of rigid house rules. She may even appreciate a break when it comes to her messy clothes on the chair in the bedroom.

During my own relationship conflicts, I’ve found it helpful to remind myself that my partner is learning to work with my insecurities, just like I am with hers. Love isn’t always a comfortable ride. But having a partner who will drive around your potholes, while still addressing the underlying issues, is a partner you should keep.

How to Fight if Your Marriage Matters

HOW TO FIGHT IF YOUR MARRIAGE MATTERS

Kyle Benson

Tough marriage conflicts can turn into a perfect storm.

They can flood the streets of love with the sewage of personal attacks. From what I’ve learned, beating up a loved one is never a fair fight. You know their deepest vulnerabilities, their most important values. This gives you the power to structure what you say in a way that cuts them down with a machete of words.

Have you ever wondered why we do this? Why we intentionally hurt the one we love? Have you ever wondered why we shut down and become “emotionally unavailable” to our partners when they confront us on something that could improve our marriage?

The problem with intense conversations is that they confront the beliefs we hold about our relationship, ourselves, and our partners.

So when something threatens to contradict the beliefs we hold about how things are, our bodies flood with chemicals that increase our heart rate. Our bodies prime to run away or fight and defend our point.

This Happens in Three Stages

Stage 1: We feel shocked by our partner’s comments, actions, or lack thereof. Maybe they are blaming us or accusing us of doing something we didn’t. Either way, our bodies become tense as we experience something we didn’t expect.

Stage 2: We can’t calm down. As our insides flood, we become anxious. We feel as if our life is at stake. The more flooded we feel, the more likely we turn into a reptile. Emotionally flooded people and reptiles have two characteristics: they lack a sense of humor, and they eat each other.

Our heart rate skyrockets and our automatic instinctive reactive emotions take control of our thoughts and actions. The notion of “choosing” is erroneous because the section of our brain that chooses, our neocortex, is no longer in control. The idea of fighting fair is abandoned because reptiles never fight fair.

As we are emotionally hijacked, we become deaf to any positive things our partner may be saying. The narrator of our minds may take on a negative story of us. We blame our partners for the problem. We find flaws in everything they say or do.

And we tell them so.

Stage 3: Emotional Shutdown
If we continue to become flooded without resolve, we eventually become numb to our hurt. It becomes so overwhelming that we block it out completely. According to John Gottman’s research, men tend to become emotionally hijacked easier and stay flooded longer. Since we struggle to soothe ourselves and calm down, we withdraw and go ice-cold to protect ourselves.

From my own experiences, doing so has brought a sense of relief in the heat of a fight. The only problem is that shutting down only makes my partner’s heart rate increase, causing them to flood more. This only escalates the conflict.

Emotional flooding is a major reason why humans suck at tough relationship conversations. In fact, John Gottman’s research indicates that repeated flooding in marriages is a predictor of divorce. Flooding again and again, changes The Story of Us causing us to start to see our partners in a negative light. That light guides us towards the path of betrayal or singlehood.

So how can we not lose it during relationship conflicts? Here are the six steps I use and teach my clients:

The Marriage Conflicts Peace Treaty

Step 1: Awareness. I become aware that I feel like I am under attack by my partner. Sometimes I use the Instant Heart Rate Iphone App to notice how elevated my heart rate is. During emotional flooding, our heart rate can jump up to 20 or 30 beats per minute. My average heart rate is 65 BPM,1 so if my heart rate jumps to the 80’s while I am sitting down and having a conversation, I know my body feels like it is in a war zone.

You can also feel this in your body. You’ll feel overwhelmed. Anxious. You might desire to attack your partner. Be aware of how your body feels.

Step 2: Assert my Flooding. Once I have the awareness I am flooded, I tell my partner that we have to stop talking because I feel like I am going to start attacking her. This isn’t easy to do, but it prevents me from eating her vulnerabilities alive. You can say things like, “I’m losing it.” “I’m flooded and want to attack you.” “I’m getting upset.”

Step 3: Schedule a time to continue the conversation. This is vital if my partner brought up the argument. When I first learned to assert my flooding, I would get the space I need, but I would avoid the conversation next time I saw my partner. Over the following weeks, she would stew over her unresolved problem and tension between us would increase until we fought about it again.

Committing to your partner to continue the conversation allows them to calm down and realize that you can’t control your emotions in the present moment. But they know when you can, you want to solve the problem at hand.

Step 4: Non-negotiated distance. It’s your responsibility to calm yourself down and take care of your flooded state. This is non-negotiable with your partner. You need your space, otherwise your words and actions are going to nuke the love right out of the relationship. John Gottman’s research states that we should take a 20 minute break and emotionally distance ourselves from the conflict.

I go on a 25-minute walk while listening to my favorite songs. Other people play video games or find challenging tasks that consumes their cognitive awareness.

During this time, it’s vital that you think good thoughts about your partner. It’s very easy to stay in your defensive state and stew over feeling righteous, replaying wounding words your partner said, or allow yourself to feel like a victim. The problem is this only escalates flooding. Instead, ask yourself what is good and true about your significant other. Focusing on the good will not only soothe your emotions, you’ll also realize that they are not out to eat you alive!

Step 5: Note triggers. Ask yourself what caused yourself to turn into a reptile. Was it a word your partner said? A way your partner moved? By noting the triggers that cause your flooding, you can help them learn how to discuss uncomfortable topics without drowning you in your own emotions.

FYI – If you know your partner’s triggers, it’s your responsibility to not be a dick. Don’t push those buttons.

Step 6: Soothe each other. Before you bring up the topic of discussion, talk with your partner about what caused you to flood. Thank them for allowing you to take space to keep the relationship intact.

“I’m thankful you let me stop before I said things I regretted.”
“I felt triggered when you mentioned that you needed more space. I think I fear being abandoned by you.”

Battling and becoming aware of our instinctual reactions that cause a perfect storm in love is not easy, but the more times you practice the six steps above, the easier it will become. The healthier and happier your relationship will become. Remember, when emotions become tense, love becomes nonsense. If you want your marriage to last, give it the space it needs to breathe when the fire gets too hot.

  1. For reference. The average 30 year old man’s heart rate is 76. It’s 82 for women of the same age. 

69% of relationship conflict is unsolvable

69% OF RELATIONSHIP CONFLICT IS UNSOLVABLE

Kyle Benson

Does that statistic sound scary to you?

If it does, I totally get it.

Unsolvable conflict doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship is doomed to fail though.

It actually means the opposite. That is, if you manage conflict constructively.

Unsolvable conflict is defined as conflict between partners that is reoccurring with no long-term resolution. These unsolvable conflicts are rooted in fundamental differences or needs of the partners in the couple.

Couples who fail to build a bridge between these differences tend to attack the core of who each partner is.

On the other hand, couples who use humor, clear communication, and affection to navigate their unsolvable conflict often leave the conflict feeling closer and more emotionally connected to one another, despite not having a resolution.

“You don’t have to resolve your major marital conflicts for your marriage to thrive.” – Dr. Gottman

Here’s an example:

Susanne and Kit have reoccurring conflicts over how much time to spend together. Susanne would complain about not being loved or cared for because Kit wouldn’t spend more time with her and Kit would whine about being smothered by how much time they already spent together. This fundamental difference in closeness and autonomy collided like tectonic plates. As they each fought for what they needed and dismissed what their partner needed, the foundation of their relationship became shaky.

When they were given the tools to explore this challenging topic, Susanne and Kit truly listened to each other and began to honor their unique differences. They learned how to manage this unsolvable problem by proactively discussing it in their weekly relationship meeting. They began to intentionally make space for we-time and me-time.

With the right tools, they were able to transform a problem that led to fights that got out of control into something that was manageable and honored both their needs. Not to mention, both partners have a deeper felt sense of being known.

Sadly we are often taught that if there is unsolvable conflict in our relationship that it isn’t going to work.

To change this message and teach you the skills to healthily navigate conflict, even the unsolvable ones, I decided to be part of Briana MacWilliam’s Relationship Rescue course.

Briana and I spent an hour talking deeply about unsolvable conflict, but we also tackle a ton of other important conflict topics, such as:

  • The Four Horsemen of relationship conflict
  • How to approach conflict in a healthy and effective way
  • The importance of being mindful of the way you navigate conflict conversations
  • Multiple techniques you can use for effective conflict management
  • The main differences seen between happy vs unhappy couples and how they approach conflict
  • And so much more!

Briana’s course is available for enrollment until Dec. 1, and believe me when I say that there is a bunch of helpful information in there for couples (and individuals) when it comes to really enhancing and healing your relationship.

Enroll now here.

Meaning of Safe Words & How to Use Them When You’re Playing Rough

MEANING OF SAFE WORDS & HOW TO USE THEM WHEN YOU’RE PLAYING ROUGH

Natasha Ivanovic

You know people use safe words but haven’t tried it yourself. Why do you even need a safe word? We’re going to share the meaning of safe words.

If you’re like me when I was younger, then you may not completely understand the meaning of safe words or how to use it. That’s okay because that’s why I’m here.

Up until a couple of years ago, I never used a safe word. I didn’t actually know they existed. In my head, I thought that when you said “stop” it meant to stop. Or when you push someone off of you and say “ouch” that’s a decent sign that what just happened caused you negative pain. I was so vanilla back then. I knew very little about the BDSM community and that’s actually where the whole concept of a safe word originated.

The meaning of safe words

A safe word is a word that you and your partner choose pre-sex, that either partner can use when they feel that the experience is becoming too much. The minute you say the safe word, all sexual activity stops. The dominant partner stops what they’re doing to their partner. It’s basically like a sexual time-out.

Having a safe word provides the submissive partner the opportunity to express to their partner if the pain becomes uncomfortable. Of course, if you’re dominant, you may not exactly know the strength you have. When you’re in the power position, you can get carried away. It happens to everyone.

But now, the concept of a safe word has reached past the BDSM community, making its way into mainstream culture as many couples now have a safe word for when they’re in the bedroom. You don’t have to be tied to a bed or having wax poured on your back in order to know when you’ve had enough.

The great part of a safe word is that it allows you to have fun and explore your sexual boundaries while giving you the opportunity to stop at any time. You basically create an exit that gets you out of the situation. Plus, by using a safe word, you’re free to say whatever you want, even if it’s “that hurt” or “stop.” Because your safe word is usually something non-sexual that you would never use in the bedroom.

But do safe words actually work in real life?

Listen, there are some instances where using a safe word will be difficult. For example, if your partner has gagged you, you’re not going to be able to speak properly. Though, just because you cannot verbalize your safe word, doesn’t mean you cannot create a gesture which means stop. Many people found different ways to show their safe word when unable to say it.

Now, if you’re not into BDSM, that’s cool. You can still use it effectively for consent. During sex, sometimes it can get a little rough. For many people, instead of saying stop, they feel uncomfortable and just wait until it’s over.

I understand why people do that, they feel bad saying something. But with a safe word, you’re nicely telling your partner the boundaries in a way which doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable. You don’t need to explain anything, you simply say your safe word. They stop. So, yes, a safe word actually does work in real life.

How do you choose your safe word?

Now that you know the meaning of safe words and the reason they exist, you may be curious how to find a safe word. Well, there are a couple things to consider when thinking of a safe word.

#1 Use one word. You don’t need a safe word that’s going to be two or three words long. You need one short and strong word that indicates to your partner that they’re going too far. It’s easier not only for you, but also for your partner. You want them to be able to clearly hear and understand the word.

#2 It can be a random word. You do not want your safe word to be something that can be used in the bedroom. In other words, don’t make your safe word “yes” or “no” or “spank me.” Choose a word that no one would hear in a sexual encounter and something that sounds so out of place, your partner notices it right away.

#3 Make sure it’s easy to pronounce. If you cannot say it properly while you’re jogging, then you shouldn’t use it as a safe word. Remember, you want your safe word to be easily audible as that’s the whole point. Make sure you can clearly say it.

#4 Tell your partner the word. You cannot just have a safe word and not tell your partner the word. You need to tell them the word. Make sure they understand what they need to do once they hear the word. Does it mean that they completely stop? Does it mean they continue but be gentler? You decide and then tell them.

#5 Use a common safe word. There are a couple common safe words that many people use which seem to do the trick. These words follow the suggestions above. So, they’re quite effective at what they’re supposed to do.

The most common safe words to use

Not feeling inspired to choose a safe word? Don’t worry, here are some of the most common safe words people use during sex.

#1 The traffic light system. This is an easy way to alert your partner of what they need to do. You say ‘red’ to stop, ‘yellow’ for your partner to slow down, and ‘green’ for them to keep going. All three words are short and sweet to say, plus, everyone can relate to them easily.

#2 Safe word. This is a great safe word when you simply don’t like any of the other safe words, but, can’t come up with your own. Safe word is pretty dull, and well, it’s very clear as to why you’re saying it.

#3 Apple. Well, it’s a pretty unsexy word, in general. So, that’s probably why it’s so popular. If your partner hears ‘apple’ during sex, they should know it’s meant for them to stop.

#4 Vanilla. This is associated with having vanilla, non-kinky sex. If you say vanilla, it’s a cute association that you want your partner to ease up on you and take a gentler route.

#5 Pineapple. I guess this is truly a word you’d never use in the bedroom… unless you’re into pineapples. If so, don’t use this as your safe word. But, pineapple is actually an extremely popular safe word as it’s highly unlikely that they’ll mix it up with anything else.

#6 Unicorn. Yeah, you were probably getting used to all the fruit safe words, but don’t get too comfortable just yet! Unicorn is another common safe word. I guess the odds of you seeing one during sex is pretty rare.

#7 Banana. Unless you refer to your partner’s penis as a banana, I’m pretty sure this is a good a safe word to use.

See, the meaning of safe words doesn’t have to sound serious. You can have fun choosing one and use it in a way that doesn’t make you feel uncomfortable when telling your partner that you’d like to stop.

Encouragement for Single Parents

ENCOURAGEMENT FOR SINGLE PARENTS

Family Life Radio

God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, “Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.” Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink. ─   Genesis 21:17-19 NLT

Encouragement for Single Parents

It’s been called the hardest job on the planet—being a single parent. Well it can be overwhelming, but being a single parent is more than just a job. If you’re a single parent today, you need to know that you have more strength than you realize. You are going to make it. God is going to supply your need just as He provided for Hagar and Ishmael in the desert in our scripture for today.

Here are five things successful single parents think about:

  1. Forgiveness – it’s imperative for you to reach the point of forgiveness. We are to forgive one another just as Christ forgave us. Unforgiveness hurts you, and often harms your kids.
  2. Goals – start working toward new goals. Consider and pray about God’s intention for you as a single parent to raise your children His way. 
  3. Friendships – make sure the friends you bring into your life are healthy relationships. You need people who are going to take you to another level of growth in different areas of your life.
  4. Boundaries – establish healthy boundaries and enforce them.
  5. Expectations – set realistic expectations and dream new dreams if the dreams you had before you became a single parent are gone. Be open to new ideas and a new direction for your life.

As a single mom or dad, you are not stuck. It’s tough, but just as God opened Hagar’s eyes to see His provision, He will also show you His way. Stay positive.

How do you respond to your strong-willed child? Can you do better?

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. ─  Galatians 6:9 NLT

Today’s One Thing

Review the list above of the five things single parents think about and choose one area to focus on for this week. Spend time in prayer about it, and then take necessary action steps to move forward in that area.

1 More Way to Quiet the Negative Voices Inside You

1 MORE WAY TO QUIET THE NEGATIVE VOICES INSIDE YOU

Angel Chernoff

It’s Sunday, and I want to remind you of another effective method for quieting that negative inner voice of yours. But first, let’s examine a super-common mistake negative people make…

Negative people are often proud to describe themselves as “realists.” Of course, anyone who holds a strong belief thinks they are being “realistic” by holding it, whether it involves UFO encounters or perfectly truthful politicians.

The “being more realistic” declaration is a favorite of cynics everywhere. And in a way they are correct. But only because negative thinking causes us not to try – or if we do try, to do it half-heartedly and give up sooner – so the negativity itself influences our outcomes. Self-fulfilling predictions like this really do happen. Research has even found that in some cases what we believe about our health can have more bearing on how long we live than our actual health.

What makes all of this so scary is the fact that it means negative thoughts can plague us even when things seem to be going relatively well. For instance, the thought “It’s too good to last!” quickly wrecks havoc on a positive situation. Thus, my tip today has to do with how negative thinking can distort your perception…

Stop yourself from over-generalizing the negative (and minimizing the positive).

Ask yourself: “If something negative unexpectedly happens, do I over-generalize it? Do I view it as applying to everything and being permanent rather than compartmentalizing it to one place and time?”

For example, if someone turns you down for a date, do you spread the negativity beyond that person, time, and place by telling yourself: “Relationships never work out for me, ever”? If you fail an exam do you say to yourself, “Well, I failed that exam; I’m not happy about it, but I’ll study harder next time”? Or do you over-generalize it by telling yourself you’re “not smart enough” or “incapable of learning”?

Remember, negative thinking stops us from seeing and experiencing positive outcomes, even when they happen often. It’s as if there’s a special mental block filtering out all the positives and only letting in data that confirms the ‘negative bias.’ So, do your best to catch yourself today.

Being able to distinguish between the negativity you imagine and what is actually happening in your life is an important step towards living a happier life.

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of this, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and get our lives back on track.

What dogs can teach humans about approaching conflict

WHAT DOGS CAN TEACH HUMANS ABOUT APPROACHING CONFLICT

Kyle Benson

Have you ever watched two dogs meet each other? When some dogs meet, they are gentle and curious about each other. When other dogs meet, sometimes one of the dogs is growling and showing its teeth.

How does the one dog respond to the growling dog?

The dog may reciprocate, showing its teeth and growling in return.

The way these dogs approach each other closely resembles the way couples sometimes approach conflict with one another.

If one partner brings up a topic in a harsh and accusatory way, it makes sense that their partner wouldn’t respond with kindness, empathy, or understanding. Instead, the response would likely be negative.

In fact, Drs. John and Julie Gottman have found that 96% of the time the way a conflict conversation ends is determined by how it begins.[1]

How conflict is brought up, including with difficult topics, influences how well your partner will hear your needs and understand you. It influences how well you two will work together to better understand how to make the relationship better for both partners.

In other words, a positive and healthy startup will more than likely result in a positive and healthy conversation and resolution.

A harsh startup is the opposite and usually includes someone starting a conversation with some form of an insult. In fact, a study of 124 newlyweds validated that it was possible to predict who would divorce within six years based on the presence of a harsh startup during the first three minutes of a conflict conversation.[2]

A harsh startup often includes the presence of what Dr. Gottman calls the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling).

These four horsemen are the equivalent of showing your teeth and growling at your partner. It doesn’t make them feel safe to be honest or listen to your needs. Instead they feel attacked.

Let’s revisit our dogs at the park. Dog A has approached Dog B in a gentle and curious manner, and now the two of them are rolling in the grass and chasing each other as if they’ve been best friends for years. Their tone at the start of the interaction set up the dogs for an overall positive outcome.

How can couples have a startup that will allow them to also end up frolicking in the field of conflict resolution and intimacy together?

To learn the necessary skills to implement a soft startup, read:

● Help Your Partner Understand Your Side of the Conflict in 3 Steps

● Transform Criticism into Wishes: A Recipe for Successful Conflict

When we use these speaking skills, we are able to significantly increase our chances of getting our needs met while also strengthening our emotional connection with our partner and helping them understand what we feel and why. And your partner will feel less attacked and may be more willing to make adjustments to improve the relationship with you.​

So the next time you have a “bone to pick,” approach your partner with softness and a curious stance, and you may be surprised at how quickly you both will get back to having fun together.