Dr. Randy Kamen’s advice for happy couple was featured on MindBodyGreen:

Do you notice happy couples around you and wonder how they continue to have fun together year after year? Of course, appearances aren’t everything — and there’s often more to relationships than meets the eye.

That said, there are certain couples who have a palpable level of trust and respect for one another that makes it harder for us to imagine them fighting about the silly stuff that most of us get into.

So … What are they doing to maintain this high level of connection?

Well, the truth is that most, if not all, couples have their differences. They fight and have moments in which they are deeply frustrated with one another. And there are times when even the happiest couples look just like unhappy couples!

However, there are some important distinctions between happy and unhappy couples. Basically, happy couples know how to fight fairly and how to continue to strengthen their bond.

With practice, we can all develop the following skills that fortify relationships:

1. Happy couples trust each other.

Even when happy couples disagree they trust their partner to be kind, faithful, honest — to care and to have their best interests at heart.

Researcher John Gottman found that couples who trust each other live healthier and longer lives. He found that trust is related to the release of oxytocin, which is the feel good, “bonding” hormone. It’s the same hormone secreted when we have an orgasm — and the stronger the orgasm, the more oxytocin we secrete.

Happy couples tune into one another and step up when the other is in need. When disagreements arise, they default to trusting and forgiving rather than doubting and begrudging.

2. Happy couples don’t despair about their differences.

They know that their differences exist — and sometimes these differences are quite dramatic. Every couple has their ongoing clashes in which their personalities and preferences collide. They notice, ”There it is again — that dance that we do when you do what you do and I do what I do.” But noticing and judging are very different.

Gottman’s research reveals that most marital conflicts are unresolvable. But this doesn’t necessarily mean despair. It all comes down to perspective.

Happy couples duke it out fairly knowing that, even with an unresolvable conflict, they are in it for the long haul. They can tolerate the feelings that arise from a dispute and may even accept or laugh about their differences.

3. Happy couples are kind.

They know that their words and behaviors count. Arguments are not a free-for-all. They take care about the words they choose to express frustration and disappointment.

The intention in their communication is to listen carefully and tell their truth kindly. Even when the message to be delivered is difficult to say — it is said with honesty and compassion.

This builds a reservoir of trust and safety. Listening deeply to your partner allows him or her to feel truly seen and heard which is what we all long for.

4. Happy couples can successfully repair the damage.

We all have within us the potential to speak or act badly. It’s about being able to successfully manage the harm or hurt. Happy couples can empathize, apologize and forgive.

The key is to remain conscious of how we express ourselves and listen to our partners. The way we deliver messages is more important than the words we use. Keep in mind that “tone always trumps content.” For example you can say, “I heard you.” Depending upon the tone of voice used, the meaning can vary wildly.

5. Happy couples schedule fun.

They share conversations where they recall sweet memories. They offer up what they love about each other, which can jump-start loving feelings and diffuse bad ones.

But they also don’t rely on thinking about the honeymoon phase to fuel the fire of their relationship in the present and into the future. Rather, they build on the pre-existing strengths of the relationship by scheduling fun experiences together that keep things new and fresh. They may even choose to spend time with other couples who have a healthy bond, which reinforces the positivity in their own relationship.

6. Happy couples have rituals.

They generally go to bed at the same time and wish each other good morning and good night regardless of how they feel and usually add a hug or kiss. They connect during the day, not only because they love each other and have the desire to be in touch, but because they realistically acknowledge that relationships are a practice.

7. Happy couples behave like good friends.

They handle their conflicts in primarily positive ways. They honor their individual needs and their shared goals — helping each other realize their goals and dreams. They do what they can to promote and safeguard each other’s happiness.

Most importantly, happy couples are committed to working hard on keeping their connection strong. They don’t take each other for granted and they actively practice these strategies and acts of lovingkindness.

Self compassion differs from self esteem in that it is about relating to ourselves kindly even with our flaws and imperfections.

This is not just true for the dying…For most of us, suffering comes from a feeling that we’re not living and loving fully—and that we are not reaching our full potential.

The tapes that run through our minds can be filled with negativity about ourselves without our even being conscious of these thoughts.

This negativity and feeling of being unworthy or “less than” interferes with our relationships with others, our sense of joy, our productivity and every aspect of our lives.

We are all familiar with compassion. It is that feeling that arises spontaneously within us when we bear witness to the suffering of others, and that triggers a wish in us to take action to alleviate their suffering.

Similarly self-compassion is about becoming aware of the experience of pain in our bodies, minds, thoughts, and behaviors—and then taking steps to quiet or eliminate that pain.

Do you notice that it’s easier for you to tune into the suffering of another…than your own?

Probably because of cultural influences, practicing self-compassion is generally more challenging than tuning into the pain of another. It can be misconstrued with being selfish or self-centered—when in fact self-compassion gives us the wherewithal to be more present, available for and with others.

I’d like to digress for a moment and explain the difference between self-esteem and self-compassion.

Self esteem is a global sense of self worth. We feel self esteem when we have performed or done something well—something special—above average. Self-assessment or self judgment is a part of of self-esteem.

This can create a system for competing, meeting certain standards, looking and acting in certain ways—which can run interference with our well-being.

We get these messages from our families, from our friends, and of course from the media. If we do not measure up in these ways something is wrong with us and we will not feel as valued or lovable.

This can be profoundly­ threatening to us because everything in our wiring is about longing to belong and be part of the greater community.

Feelings of loneliness and self loathing in more extreme circumstances can be perpetuated and It is often the unspoken pain that we endure day in and day out — all the while longing to fit in.

Self compassion differs from self esteem in that it is about relating to ourselves kindly even with our flaws and imperfections.
According to Kristin Neff, self-compassion has three components:

  1. Treat yourself gently and with kindness like a dear friend.
  2. Witness the humanity that you hold in common with others. We are all imperfect and we share the human experience that connects us to each other.
  3. Be mindful with what is happening moment to moment without judgment and quieting that self critic that resides within.

Creating a practice to integrate self-compassionate feelings into your life can heal your mind and body, and open your heart to new heights. including ourselves in circle of compassion—not just others.

Three way to practice self-compassion:

1. First recognize—bring up to your conscious mind whenever you find yourself thinking unkindly towards yourself. Notice what you are experiencing in that moment. Then allow yourself to engage in a conversation with the part of yourself that you’re rejecting. In doing so create the space to move from self­ aversion to self­ acceptance and love.

  • Look beneath the surface at the shame and disappointment you might be feeling—and find a way to make peace with that experience. This practice is about coming to terms with painful feelings about oneself. Seeing the truth and moving through the difficult feeling is the only way to get to the other side of self love and compassion.

2. Put your hand over heart and after a few breaths, repeat a phrase like: “I love myself unconditionally.” “I am love.”

3. Take a few deep breaths and relax the body from head to toe and repeat:

  • May I be safe
  • May I be well
  • May I be happy
  • May I live with ease

What do you do to strengthen your feelings of unconditional self-compassion?

As always I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and feedback.