The Makings of a Healthy Relationship

Relationships aren’t always easy to maintain, which is why it’s important to learn strategies that help facilitate healthy communication in both good times and bad.


Estimated watch time: 55 mins 

Available credits: none


Relationships are what make us human, and how we “do” relationships strongly impacts our lives. Understanding what makes a healthy relationship and having skills to create one can vastly improve life satisfaction and success.

After watching this presentation, the viewer will:

  • Understand the three main ingredients of a healthy relationship
  • Know the 12 rules for fair fighting and how to implement them
  • Be aware of some tips and techniques for saying no in a caring yet firm way that helps maintain good relationships

Presentation Materials:

About the Presenter:

Kim Leatherdale is a well-liked presenter, board-certified coach and licensed professional counselor who speaks to Fortune 500 companies, colleges, state and national groups. She has over 25 years of professional experience teaching the relationship skills she herself uses. She communicates ideas in appealing and useful ways. People who have seen Kim present say, “You reached out in a way that was unquestionably generous and considerate,” and, “You just have a way about you that gets people interested.”

Kim is passionate about teaching people how to revolutionize their lives through easy and enduring skills. She has presented to and worked with thousands of individuals, and has been featured multiple times on television and online. Her talks receive heartfelt positive feedback. Additionally, Kim enjoys writing and has published two books on relationships and has multiple others in draft form. She is an honest relationship expert who shares valuable and effective skills. Kim and her husband are happily successful because they found and used the information she now teaches. She is the expert guide who has been there, knows where the pitfalls and traps lie and shows you a reliable map to a close, authentic and loving relationship.


Hi, everyone. Jordan Katz here with Advanced Recovery Systems. I’m a licensed social worker and clinical outreach specialist at The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper. We are a comprehensive treatment facility offering the full continuum of care, including detox, short-term residential, PHP and IOP programs for adults struggling with substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders. And we are so excited for you to join us today. I’m going to give an introduction for our speaker: Kim Dale is a well-liked presenter, board-certified coach and licensed professional counselor who speaks to Fortune 500 companies, colleges, state and national groups. She has over 25 years of professional experience teaching the relationships skills she herself uses. She communicates ideas in appealing and useful ways. People who have seen Kim present say, “You reached out in a way that was unquestionably generous and considerate,” and, “You have just a way about you that gets people interested.”

Kim is passionate about teaching people how to revolutionize their lives through easy and enduring skills. She has presented to and worked with thousands of individuals and has been featured multiple times on television and online. Her talks receive heartfelt positive feedback. Additionally, Kim enjoys writing and has published two books on relationships and has multiple others in draft form. Kim is an honest relationship expert who shares valuable and effective skills. Kim and her husband are happily successful because they found and used the information she now teaches. She’s the expert guide who has been there, knows where the pitfalls and traps lie and shows you a reliable map to a close, authentic and loving relationship. Welcome, Kim. We are so excited for you to speak with us today.


Thanks, Jordan. It’s always longer when you hear somebody read it than when it’s written out, oh my goodness. Anyway, hello folks. Kim Leatherdale here. You just heard the long, gory version of me, but truly, I am a person who’s kind of been there, done that, and likes to help other people get through it a little bit easier. And when I say relationships, I do a lot of work with couples, but I also do work with families. I do work with business relationships. In fact, my first business book is my book on business relationships.

All this stuff that I’ll be showing you today transcends to all your relationships, friends, family, significant others, business, co-workers, even acquaintances. I hope it’s helpful. And what I like to do when I do presentations — I don’t mind questions — if you want to pop them in the chat, that’s great. Jordan will give me a heads up if I seem to be rolling and I might’ve missed one. I’ll see a wave from the side over there or something, but I’ll try to keep a watch on the chat. There’s a time at the end for questions, and I will pause between ideas during the presentation and ask if there’s anything, so feel free to ask. If it’s going to be a longer question where you’re giving an example, we might wait for that one until the end, but if you have a specific question on information I’ve just given, that’s a good time to do it when I pause. Alright, so let’s get rolling. Let me see here. I’m having trouble getting it to forward — technical difficulties, please stand by.

Alright. Kim, if it’s open the way I think you had it, you can just click. You know how the sidebar has them on top of each other? Just click one at a time.

Yep. We tried to do a forward and backward and all that — nothing’s working. So, number two. Number two is: This is the presentation of making a healthy relationship. That’s me down there, Kim Leatherdale. I trained as an art therapist. I love metaphors. I love stories. I use those a lot. We’ll be using them a bunch in here, but we will be using pictures, which I think is fun. You heard all that. We’ll go to the next one.

There are three things that you have to have in order to have a chance at a healthy relationship. And think for a second — if I were to say three things you have to have, most people would say, “Two people,” right? Probably right. It’s kind of a little more deeper than that. And a little more shallow than that, I guess I should say. So, the first thing you’re going to need is, like I said, two people — two freestanding individuals. Now, it’s not just two individuals. It’s two freestanding individuals. And what I mean by that is a person who is freestanding is able to function on their own, takes care of themselves, keeps themselves in a healthy space and is able to express themselves and listen to other people. Two things that I teach extensively in my work with people is boundaries and self-esteem. With boundaries and self-esteem, those are the things that help you be a freestanding individual.

The other thing I’ll do when I’m working with couples is, when I’m interviewing them or when I’m working along with them, I pay attention to how each of the individuals is and how each of the individuals functions. If I suspect there is something going on that keeps them from being a freestanding individual, I will be addressing that in sessions. I will be asking them maybe to get some work done on it. We will be working in a session, and what I mean by things that might get in the way — someone might be dealing with an undiagnosed mental health issue, they may be depressed, they may have anxiety, they may have bipolar disorder, they may have a borderline personality disorder, they have an addiction that they’re struggling with, or that they’re in recovery. And when I say undiagnosed and untreated, it doesn’t mean if you have any of those things, you can’t be in a relationship. But you need to be managing them, actually. No different than if you’re not taking care of your physical health. If you’re not taking care of your physical health, it is also going to weigh upon the relationship.

So, a freestanding individual is responsible for themselves and is able to function on their own. Hopefully, that all makes sense so far. That’s the first one; I’m going to scan down here for the next one. I’m doing this a little differently than normal. There are two freestanding individuals. The second thing that you need is they have to choose it together. Choice implies no force. It means that you want to be there, not you need to be there or you have to be there. This is sometimes a difficult one because you’ll get a couple of different things in here. You might have people who feel that they have to be in a relationship for a variety of different reasons. It could be family pressures. It could be because they’re married and they have to stay in it. And that’s good, but you have to make it to the point where you’re feeling that it’s a choice because anytime someone feels trapped, they start to be resentful or scared or unhappy, and that will take away from the health of the relationship. Remember, I’m talking about how to make a healthy relationship here.

Religion, sometimes, might be something that you feel like you have to be in or your community around you is forcing, or financial reasons, or sometimes even internal reasons. Some people learned — maybe growing up with traumatic experiences or just the way they were raised — they learned the issue that you must have somebody. That for some reason, if you don’t argue with someone, you aren’t married, you aren’t in a relationship, you’re somehow lesser than others. And really, if it’s not a choice, then you’re going to have a hard time making it be fully healthy. Does that make sense? I got a nod over there, so we’re good.

The last part of it: sharing fully. Jordan put in communication, and yes, communication is a definite linchpin for having a healthy relationship. And if you notice — taking a look at our little people, there are little avatars — they’re sharing not just their thoughts, but their feelings, and the sharing goes equally both ways. It’s not an arrow, which is going one way. It’s an arrow going the other, and sharing takes transmission and reception. So, when someone is sharing to you, you also need to be taking it in — that’s the fullness of communication. Some people are really great at sharing as in, like, saying, but they aren’t so good at taking it. Or they’re good listeners — they’re good at hearing, I should say — but they’re not as good at listening. They’re hearing what you’re saying, but they’re not actually listening down to what you’re meaning or trying to actually understand.

Let’s put it all together for a moment as one picture. So, a healthy relationship. We have the two freestanding individuals — little pink ones — who are, by choice, together. And they’re sharing, which is that number three in the center of their transmission, transmitting and receiving equally and respectfully. Now, I want you to see something here — that red circle in the center is the relationship. A lot of people also struggle with understanding when there’s a relationship, there are three things. There’s the two people and there is the relationship, and that relationship takes nurturing and care. It’s the same as, and maybe even sometimes more than, the individuals do. So, while it’s important to make your individual person healthy and freestanding, you also have to take time to make the relationship itself healthy and freestanding. This is something some people struggle with because I will refer to when I’m talking with them about, “You’re going to do something ‘for the relationship,’” and the person who I’m speaking to might say, “Oh, that makes a lot of sense.”

But a lot of times, I’ll get, “I don’t understand. I’m doing it for her,” or, “I’m doing it for him. I’m not doing it for the relationship.” If you’re doing something that nurtures the connection between the two of you, that is something that’s being done for the relationship. And it’s best if you think of it that way because if you think of it as, “I’m just doing it for him,” you might come to resent having to do it, right? But if you’re doing it because you realize that you get results from it too — that you benefit from doing this for this relationship — then it makes it easier to do. Maybe not easy, but easier because you’re seeing the benefit of it. It’s a little bit like — I saw a number of people were from treatment centers — when someone goes into treatment, they’ll often go into treatment for their family or for their children because they want to get in recovery for those other people. But when I’ve worked in addictions, I really see the shift happen when they realize that they’re there for themselves and that their family and everybody is going to benefit as well, but they’re really there because they want to do it and they need to do it. It’s similar with this. If you’re realizing that when you’re nurturing the relationship, you yourself are also benefiting — even if what you’re doing is what the other person is asking for — it makes a big, big difference in your attitude and how it’s received and how you will do it.

I’m going to stop there for a moment and see if there’s any questions from anybody. Anybody would pop anything in. This may seem simplistic, but I wanted to make sure I kind of defined this. Give the chat a quick second here to just catch us up. And if not, that’s perfectly fine. By the way, I love these little avatars from Canva. They’re so cute. I had fun changing the colors in each one each time so that they weren’t exactly the same. I will wait. If anything comes up in the chat, I’ll hit it, but let me go to the next one here.

The next thing I want you to understand is that every relationship has a cycle that it goes through, right? And again, like I said at the beginning of this, whether it’s significant-other relationships, whether it’s a parent-child relationships, somewhere else in the family, sibling to sibling, friend to friend, to your boss, to your co-workers, even to your clients if you’re working with clients — there are cycles. As therapists, we use those cycles where we’re familiar with them and when you use them in session. But the cycle is important to understand because if we don’t know or realize that these cycles happen, we get surprised and then we get upset and we fall apart. So, here’s what happens. Every relationship is permanent. This is what we want. This is what’s seen on Disney movies and the Hallmark Channel. It’s the, “We’re getting along, everything’s going great.” It feels really good; it’s what we think relationships should be at all times. And then if they’re not there, there are some underlying things in our head. A lot of times it says, “Oh, it’s wrong, it’s broken.” Even that unrealistic thing of, “Well, if we’re the right person, we’ll always be in harmony,” right? Which, no — like Jordan read at the beginning with my bio, my husband and I have done a lot of work. We’re really happy together, but that doesn’t mean we get along at every moment. Just remembering that helps me when we get off of the harmony, I’m not in despair or I don’t fall apart because I’m like, “Okay, we can get back there.”

So, we’re connected or you’re in that harmony space and something happens. Someone rolls their eyes, someone grumbles at somebody else, someone doesn’t come home at the time they said they’re gonna, your boss doesn’t give you the promotion you asked for, whatever it is — you fall into that disharmony. Okay, the relationship does sometimes. It’s one person in a relationship; sometimes, it’s both. Often, what I find is one person’s more disgruntled than the other, at least until they try to repair it and they mess up and then they usually both are disgruntled about the same. They’re both really grumpy, right? But you hit that disharmony spot — that disconnected spot — and you’re on top of it and you catch yourself, or one of you catches the relationship. Next, you move very quickly into trying to reconnect — into trying to repair whatever happened. Swing through the bottom. You hit repair, and if you repair successfully, you pop back up into harmony.

I say, “If you’re lucky,” or if you’re good at this — a lot of us aren’t so lucky. A lot of us aren’t so good at this. We don’t know what repair looks like because, a lot of times, we weren’t taught it. I’m going to say this, and you can all kind of look funny at me and I’ll explain it. But I tell my couples a lot of times, especially if they have kids, I say, “I want you to fight in front of your kids.” And I get funny looks, and I say, “No, I don’t want you to be disrespectful, screaming, yelling, beat them up, drag them out type of things in front of your kids. But what I want you to do is disagree, and I want your kids to see you disagree. And I want your kids to see you fixing it and coming to a solution together because that’s how kids are going to learn to move through this repair cycle.” Often, I’ll hear a client say to me, “We don’t fight in front of the kids,” and I say, “You’re doing your kids a disservice.” And like I said, I don’t want you to fight. I don’t want violence. What I mean by “fight” is I want you to disagree. I want your kids to see that people can be disciplined, disagree, come through repair of cycle and hit harmony again.

The other thing that sometimes happens for people is not that they didn’t see repair in that way, like they only saw harmony. Sometimes, they saw just a ton of disharmony in their growing up. They don’t really even know what harmony looks like. I’ve had some clients say, “I don’t even know how to be relaxed and calm with my spouse, at my house with chaos and lots of noise and lots of yelling and screaming. And I don’t know how to be in a good, respectful spot with my spouse.” So sometimes, harmony is something that’s uncomfortable. They’ll hit the harmony and then they pop back to disharmony because it’s more familiar, right? Now honestly, you guys all probably know this — I always see people when they’re in the red spot. I don’t see them in the nice, blue harmony section, right? They come to me when they’re feeling disharmonious or disconnected. I teach them how to go through despair, I teach all sorts of repair skills — and we’ll talk about some of those today — but what I want to talk about is what happens when you don’t do this.

It looks a little bit like this. Harmony. Somebody rolls their eyes; you end up in disharmony. You don’t know how to go through repair, right? Or you attempt to go through repair, which might be attacking your spouse or partner, jumping on them, or what you say might come across — they may take it as attacking and they come back, and you have this really difficult time with repair. It doesn’t happen. It’s like this, but time passes. Something happens. A crisis happens, some kids need some help, something happens with the job or just time passes. It’s a day or two later. It’s a week later, someone cracks a joke and it feels like it kind of slides back up to harmony, and I got that nice wiggly zoom back up to harmony there. The problem with that is you haven’t repaired anything. You haven’t fixed what it was that happened, so you have this underlying undercurrent going on that’s just sitting down there, waiting to kind of suck you back out of the harmony and right back into the disharmony ‘cause you didn’t do the repair. Now, what I want you to understand too about repair is repair doesn’t mean you fixed something such that it goes magically away like it’s erased. Repair could be negotiating something. It could be — I always give this example with my clients. When my husband and I were first dating — I’m going to say the word politics. Everybody, please don’t fall off your chairs at that time.

This season is tough, but this was many, many years ago. My husband had a very strong political opinion at that point, and myself — being the type of person I am, becoming a therapist — I could stand on every side and talk every side out and say, “What about this? What about that?” It would drive him crazy, right? Because he was very strong in his opinion. So, the way we repaired this was we said, “You know what? This is a topic we just don’t discuss. I respect that you, John, have really strong feelings about that, and I still love you. You have those strong feelings. It’s great, and you respect the fact that I just play all sides and try to figure out what’s going on. And that’s okay for you to know, and we just won’t discuss this stuff because it’s not integral to our lives.” He can discuss politics with his friends if he wanted to; I could discuss politics with my friends, and we wanted to. And it was okay; that was not apart. So, that was a negotiation repair. It helped us with the arguments, but you notice it was respectful. It was, “I see where you’re coming from and I respect that and I love you, and you see where I’m at and we’re good.” So, you gotta watch because you agree to disagree. We’ll talk about that later — agree to disagree can be misused, right? So, you gotta watch because this whole feeling like you’ve gotten back to harmony — you have to go through repair.

I want to bring up something — I’m going to go backwards for just a second — about this particular cycle here. There is a researcher, his name is John Gottman. Probably many of you have heard of John Gottman; his name is floating around out there. He has multiple books out. He has the Love Lab out in California — was really interesting work — but he does longitudinal studies of couples and their happiness and satisfaction in relationships. So, it’s not a one-shot deal. He follows couples for decades. How are they doing with happiness? How is their marriage? That sort of thing over time. And he has what he calls the masters and the disasters, which is kind of funny. Something to think about with this cycle here is he says that the masters are only in harmony 86% of the time, so that means they’re in disharmony 14% to 16% of the time. If you really want to bend your math brains a little bit, that’s one day out of the week. Because think about it — 14% is about one-seventh, I think — 14% goes in 100 about seven times. Remember, I’m spitballing math here.

That does not mean, however, that highly satisfied couples — those masters — spend all day Saturday hating each other. What it means is they have that eye roll and they’re out for a minute, and one of them catches it, goes in to repair, fixes it and comes back. They come back. Those masters catch it quickly. They move into repair very quickly. They do repairs at work, or they get back to harmony, but disasters — the people that are not doing well. Gottman has claimed that he can predict — with I think it’s 94% accuracy — if a couple’s going to get divorced within five minutes of working with them. It’s an interesting claim; I’d like to see the study on it. But he’s really good. But the disasters, the people that don’t. I mean they’re way out a lot more. A lot of people think, “Oh, 50 would be great,” but that’s a disaster still. You want to bring it up better than that. And the disasters, what they do is they don’t move into repair quick enough. They stuff their feelings, they sit on it and they don’t repair, you know? They missed the boat, right?

I’ve been talking about repair or reconnecting. Let me tell you what that looks like. Here’s a list of some things that you could do that are repair or reconnecting. I’ve seen people take their phone and take pictures of things, if you want to take a picture of this instead of trying to write them all down. So, reconnecting looks like asking somebody what would help. We’re feeling out what would help right now or saying “I’m sorry” — sincerely, by the way. “I’m sorry” with a snarky edge too — it’s not so great. Giving someone a hug, giving them a smile, listening to them. Sincerely speaking up, caringly, to them. Doing what you were asked to do. Asking for what you want in a clear way. Sometimes, it’s a wink or a nudge.

I’ll give you an example for my relationship. So, my husband and I, for years, raised angelfish. Angelfish are a fish that have this really cute little thing they’ll do when they’re territorial. Get face to face with each other, and they’re like twitching. Each other, like, nose to nose. It’s almost like, “I’m bigger than you,” right? Sometimes, when we’ll get in that spot —the eye roll happens, somebody is feeling out — the other person will come up and do the angelfish thing towards them, and it makes you laugh, right? It’s like the wink and the nudge, and it breaks the tension. And then you can talk about it. Now, humor is a hard thing sometimes, and I will put that out there. Humor is very healing and it’s very great, but humor sometimes has bad timing, right? You can’t use humor to avoid talking about things either, but humor can be a great icebreaker or a great reconnect. Just so you know, it looks like multiple small and large things. It doesn’t have to be reconnecting, does not have to be a three-hour discussion about the problem — it can be, but it doesn’t have to be that intense.

Any questions on the cycle? Like I said, as we’re going, if you have a question, feel free. You don’t have to wait to type them in the chat until I stop; you can put them in the chat and I’ll catch them up as we go there. So, reconnecting can happen, definitely if you use the rules for fair fighting. That’s the next thing I want to talk about. I said I was going to do that for this talk, and there are 12 main ones. And remember, I said, “Yes, I want you to disagree in front of the kids.” And the 12 rules — I’ll start with the first four. The first one is: Use “I” statements. Now, we’ve all heard about “I” statements. I’m hoping “I” statements are where you speak from your point of view. However, the thing I want you to think about with “I” statements is you can speak from your own point of view and still attack people.

So, “I” statements need to be done from a point of, “I’m sharing something.” I’m sharing something. An “I” statement needs to be something about reconnecting — not, “I saw you do this and you were wrong.” That’s still not an “I” statement, technically, but it’s still an attack, right? An “I” statement is something along the lines of, “When this happened, I felt this and I felt this.” There’s actually a process I teach my clients about talking. How do you speak? What’s the format for it? And it actually involves a couple of predisposition things. Like, you only do it when it’s a good time. You give the person a chance to say no, they’re not ready. You make sure you’re both in good space boundary-wise and self-assess, and then you use the “I” statements, which go down through a particular format. One thing with “I” statements that’s often helpful is when you are speaking about the event or thing that you’re upset about, make sure that you say it as if it was just a video camera watching the event. Video camera does not interpret, a video camera does not put a spin on it. So if I say to my husband, “When you came home the other day,” let’s do the spin version. “You came slamming the door the other day and you threw your briefcase so hard it bounced off the couch and slammed to the floor, and you stomped through to go into the bathroom. And then you didn’t even say hi to me or look at me.” Let’s say that’s the spin version.

What a video camera would have seen is, “When you walked in the door and you tossed your briefcase and it fell on the floor and you went straight to the bathroom without saying hello or looking at me…” Now, that’s the setup on a nice statement, and then your “I” statement would be how you felt. So, “I thought that you were mad at me or dissing me or whatever, and then I got angry in return.” That would be an “I” statement. And then the next steps would be what you would need to help that situation, right? And it might be a variety of different things. Now, mind you, he may just really have had to go to the bathroom and was running, but the thing is, I’m responding to my interpretation of being in the event and I need to acknowledge that. That’s what “I” statements do.

When you’re talking, talk about yourself. Don’t attack the other person. Focus on what you were discussing, right? Do not multitask when you are arguing. This thing should not be in your hand. It should not be activated, it should not be playing. This thing needs to go somewhere else. When you’re discussing stuff, you shouldn’t be doing it while you’re trying to do something with the kids, while you’re trying to figure out something from work, anything like that. If you’re having an argument or you’re upset about something, you need to be able to focus on that thing at that time. No multitasking. It also means that you focus on one thing. When I teach this format for talking, I say you start with the event. You know what happened. And I don’t tell people — notice it says event, not events. There’s no S at the end of it, right? It’s not a kitchen sink discussion, meaning you’re throwing everything plus the kitchen sink into it. Because the problem with doing that — if somebody comes to you and they unload 15 or 20 different things that they’re upset at you about, are you going to be able to listen and have a coherent conversation with them? Don’t think so. Really important to focus on one thing. It’s tempting to get drawn off because something else is similar to what it looks like. If you or your partner or your child or your boss or whatever starts to go off onto something else, you can stop and say, “Look, I want to talk about that. Let’s finish this first and then we can go to that.”

So, you’re not going to disregard, or you’re not going to tell them of it. Just say, “Let’s finish this first and then we can go to that.” No name calling. This probably is kind of “no duh” in fair fighting. But name calling isn’t just four letter words. Name calling is as much about the attitude and how you do it. It could be you say, like, “You’re being such a Smith,” as something about their family, or, “You’re such a man.” Again, it’s the attitude. None of that name calling. Name calling puts somebody into a label, but it doesn’t acknowledge them as a person. It’s usually nasty, so it just doesn’t help. Like I said, it’s a “no duh,” but I put it out there because people don’t think of non-four-letter-word names that you could use.

“Always” and “never.” Always and never are fighting words. They’re not constructive argument words. So if my husband says to me, “You never take out the garbage,” I’m going to say, “April 19th, 1999, I took the garbage out.” It becomes that objectivity battle of, “Yes I did, I did it this time.” If you’re using “I” statements, you can say something along the lines of, “This happens very infrequently, right? That’s different than always, right?” And it opens up discussion about why is it really infrequently? How often is it or whatever, if that’s what you’re going at. That’s what the focus is on — frequency of something. But you have to watch that — always and never. “You never do this,” or, “You always do that.” It’s immediately going to put a person on defense, right? It makes sense for now. Eight more to go.

No past history. This is kind of similar to focusing on what you’re talking about, but it’s a couple of things in it as well. No past history means if you’re focusing on talking about a particular activity, like a particular thing or event. Don’t keep pulling in all the other events that looked like it, or every time in the past that they have done this. Because you’re trying to repair this particular event, this particular thing right now. What you might say — again, like in your “I” statement, like your interpretation — you might say I interpret this or what I thought was, “Oh my gosh, this is happening again. It’s happened many times before.” So, you can admit that that’s where your head went, but you’re not going to keep bringing it up again. It’s kinda like the kitchen sink thing. You’re not going to throw 20 million things on top of that. The other thing with no past history is you sometimes might bring on something that they’ve done wrong and beat them up about it. If you’re really trying to make a solution on something, what you really want to be focusing on is, “How can we move this forward?” This is repair. This is not damaged. This is not hurt.

This kind of segues, and there’s a lot of no’s, by the way. And these are rules, by the way. So, no hitting below the belt. No hitting below the belt. Especially with your family, your spouse, people you’re really close to — you probably know exactly what will hurt them the most, right? Don’t say it. Don’t put it out there. If you’re really trying to be constructive, leave that off the table. You don’t want to say something like, “No wonder your first wife divorced you.” That sort of thing just doesn’t help, right? We know what hurts the other person because they’ve allowed themselves to be vulnerable to us, so don’t play on those vulnerabilities. Don’t jab them, right?

Silent treatment. I will admit, and with great chagrin, that I used to be very good at the silent treatment. Or, very bad at the silent treatment. It’s part of what drove my husband and I to find the stuff that I teach now. I was — it’s a bad word, so I won’t say it. I was very cold when I got silent. Like, I could not talk to you for days or weeks, and the silent treatment is that thing where — sometimes, a silent treatment isn’t even silent. The person comes into a room and goes, “Hmm.” You turn away, you’re emoting, you’re banging stuff on the table and stuff. Or it can be the total shutdown silent treatment where you’re not emoting at all, so there’s two types of it. I was bad with the first one. My husband used to say, “Oh no, the ice witch,” but it wasn’t “witch.” That’s what he said he would think in his head, which I can laugh about now. And he told me many years later, after I’d done a lot of work and he’d done a lot of work and we were good. So, the silent treatment doesn’t help any. The problem with the silent treatment is, what does it really accomplish? I don’t know. What I realized over time is that when I would shut down or I would be in that emoting stage but not actually saying anything, he had no clue what I was actually upset about and he had no clue what to do to fix it. And until I told him, he wasn’t going to be able to.

I was just with a couple yesterday, and she’s like, “I don’t like to ask for what I want; he should just know.” And I went, “uh uh.” And she said, “I know. You could yell at me.” I said I don’t yell, but people sometimes get into this thing. Like, the other person should know — they don’t unless we express it. And honestly, sometimes I also hear, “Well, I’ve already told them.” And my question is, have you told them in the midst of a screaming fight or in the midst of you being really upset and crying a lot? ‘Cause if your spouse is under stress, they’re not going to remember things. We’re not going to take it in as easily. Same thing for you. If they told you something they want and you’re in a stressful situation or they’re very upset at the time and you’re upset because of it, you’re not going to take it either. So yes, we do have to repeat ourselves and sometimes, you have to say it differently.

Number eight: Take a break if you need to, but make sure you come back to the issue. A break is not a chance to drop it, sweep it under the rug and hope it disappears after time. You’re going to have that elephant under the rug that keeps moving around. Come back to it. My rule for taking a break is no more than 24 to 48 hours. And the person who has called the break is responsible for bringing it back up. Now, if you’re a partnership, it can be helpful to help your partner bring it back up. Usually what I say is when you’re taking a break, you have to identify when you’re going to come back to it. So, “Hey, let’s take a break. Let’s talk about this tonight after dinner. Let’s take a break. We’ll talk about it tomorrow when I get home from work. We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

We also hear that “don’t go to bed angry” thing, right? That does not mean you fight and discuss till four o’clock in the morning, especially if you’re going around in circles and nothing’s really coming up at this moment. You can take that break when you take that break. The understanding is you will think about what you guys were talking about. You will think about what the other person was saying. You will try to see where they’re coming from, and you will reenter the discussion more openly, hopefully. Taking a break is not about marshaling your defenses and your arguments. I want you to really think about that. If it’s late at night and you both need to get to sleep because you gotta get up in the morning — you have to get the kids to school, or you have to get to work, you go do whatever — the understanding is we’re taking a break so that we can sleep. We can let this percolate in our head and tomorrow, we can make coffee and then we can actually talk about this in a clearer way.

We are taking a break for hope. We are not taking a break for hate. That’s really an important difference. So, take that break, but always come back to it because if you don’t come back to it, what happens is the person who really needs to talk about it because — often in relationships, one person who really wants to talk things out and one person who is not as comfortable talking things out, right? What happens is the person who wants to talk things out will go after the person who doesn’t and say, “I want to talk about a talk,” and this person will be like, no. And this person’s really uncomfortable. This was also uncomfortable, by the way, and they keep pushing, and this is where you get the “nagging me about it.” Well, they nag you about it because you don’t talk about it and they go at your heart because they don’t feel like they get to that repaired resolution, right? If they have assurance that you’re definitely going to talk about it, they usually can let it go until it’s time to talk about it again. But the thing is, again, if you’re the person that says, “No, not right now, I can’t talk about it. Let’s talk about it tonight after dinner,” then you need to make the effort to say tonight, after dinner, “Let’s sit down and talk about what we were dealing with earlier.” ‘Cause that’ll reassure this person and they won’t keep going after you. By the way, that’s something to remember.

Last four. No blaming or shaming, no blaming or shaming. So, blame and shame are interesting things. They’re the opposites, right? Blaming and shaming is, everything is the outside’s fault. If I’m the person blaming, everything is something else’s fault. It’s blame, right? Shame. If I’m being shamed or I’m feeling shame, I feel like everything is my fault. It’s taking a hundred percent. It’s an all-or-nothing type of thing. It’s making people feel bad and giving them all the responsibility or taking on all the responsibility yourself. And we’re talking about a relationship here, folks. I won’t say always or never, but it is often something that both of you might have contributed to. So, remembering that — remembering that both of you might have. It may be one person has a lion’s share — has a large amount of it — but understanding not only that you both might’ve contributed, but that you both have an opportunity and the choice to change the pattern or to change the symptoms.

So, blaming and shaming puts all of it on one person. There is, in our particular field a lot of times, a concept called the identified patient when you’re working with families. And that one person is kind of given the, “Oh well, you’re the one that’s broken, and the rest of the system and the family’s fine. If you just get fixed, this’ll all be fine.” But you gotta remember if one part of the system is broken or having trouble, it has impacted the whole system, and the whole system has played into itself. I want people to understand that there’s a system here, and especially when talking about relationships. So, even if it’s a parent-child type thing, there is no blaming or shaming. It’s looking at, how did each of us contribute to what’s going on here? That’s what I like to do. Family contracts. A lot of times, with parents and teens or parents and kids, contracts aren’t just what the kids are gonna do. It’s what the parents are going to do. So, what are the parents going to be doing in this situation?

Anyway, no blaming or shaming, no hitting below the belt, and I said something similar to that. I actually have that on here twice. Oh, what’s the — drop one off of here. When that happened — I will look at my other stuff in a moment, ‘cause there are 12. So, we talked about no hitting below the belt. No saying, like, “No wonder your first wife divorced you.” ‘Cause I know I said that before, so that one’s on here. We’ll skip past that one.

No violence. Again, this is probably a “no duh,” folks. No violence, but I’ve got to put it out there. Violence is not just violence directed straight at another person. Violence can be verbal and can be intimidation. It can be doing things to property. I had one client who got mad with his wife and went and destroyed his electric guitar in the next room. And his response was, “Well, it was mine. I bought it. I should be able to do that.” We had to work on the fact that that’s violence. You know, that’s a threat — it’s an indirect threat, but it’s threatening to a person. Terry Real, a gentlemen I trained with up in Boston; he runs the Relational Life Institute. And he talked about, at one point, he had a couple in his office and the guy could not understand that when he threw things — even though he wasn’t throwing it anywhere toward or near his wife — his wife could be sitting over here and he picks something up and he throws it that way. He didn’t understand why that bothered his wife and how that was violent. And Terry sometimes is a little bit direct. Terry said he went around and around and around with this guy about this, and finally he said, “I reached over and I picked the clock up off my desk and I threw it across the room. The clients are sitting across from me.” Like, thrown it across the room and it smashed against the wall. He turned to look at clients and they’re going. But eventually, he says, “Now tell me, was that violent?” Now, mind you, that is not an intervention that I would tell everybody to do; please do not throw things in your office. That is an example that Terry used. You can contact Terry and ask him about it. But some people don’t understand that even indirect violence — like, if you’re stomping around swearing and yelling at your computer at the top of your lungs — it still is discomforting to the person that’s living with you or the people that are with you. But in the moment of argument, obviously no violence, no kicking things, throwing things, punching walls, crushing things, screaming in people’s faces, getting right in there in their space, no physical stuff. I just have to put that in there.

I already talked a little bit about being able to agree to disagree. I do want to come back to that because I’ve also seen this very misused. What I mean by being misused is I will see people — they’ll unload all their information and all of their ideas and what they have to say, and then they’ll stop the other person and go, “But we can agree to disagree,” because they’ve just said everything they want to say, and they didn’t give him the other person a chance to talk yet. Or, “Let’s agree to disagree,” and then a minute later, come back to it and start talking about it again or start making their end points. If you agree to disagree, that means you would let it go. Just something to be remembering. Agree to disagree has to be done, like I said earlier, very respectfully — very much with, like, “I love you and I see that that’s where you’re coming from, and I don’t agree with it. I’m not going to call you an idiot or anything like that about it because I love you, and I think you’re smart enough to figure it out for yourself on your end and that’s what you feel. I’m okay with it.” So, agreeing to disagree. I don’t remember what 12 is at this point. You guys are gonna have to have 11 at this moment, but that’s okay.

The last thing I want to put down for you is, when in doubt, breathe deeply and listen. Deeply breathing, deeply. I teach my couples what I call the loving breath, and I’m going to tell you what the loving breath is. Loving breath is, you sit comfortably, feet flat on the floor, hands in your lap; you take a lovely deep breath all the way in your belly button and back out. And then you do a second breath, and with your second breath, you think about the person you want to be talking to right now. And what you love and care about about them. Take a nice long breath, in and out. You do that three different times in your life, right? The first time you use that loving breath is whenever you want to share something with your partner, for your child, even your boss. You don’t have to be so obvious about it with your boss, but you know what you respect about them, et cetera. You use that breath when you’re in that disconnected spot. By the way, that breath is a start on the repair, and that will slow you down and it will change what you say.

So, you use that breath first. Second place you’re going to use that breath is when your partner, boss, child, et cetera, has just unloaded something onto you. They’ve just said something to you. They’re upset with you. They’re upset about something or whatever, and they say blah, blah. Take a moment. You take that nice, loving breath and you respond. I’m going to talk about those two. I’ll talk about the third one in a second. The reason why they work is because they take you out of fight or flight. That nice, deep breath takes your body down off of arousal a little bit. That’s one way it works. The second way it works is because if I take a breath after you say something to me, I slow the conversation down a little bit so I’m not just jumping in. And it gives me a chance to react from a little bit of my heart, as well as my head, and not be defensive. The third thing it does is it really shows respect, especially in the responding part, but even before speaking. When I was training to be a therapist, I had a professor that always said, “When a client says something really big and really deep to you, take a deep breath before you say anything. It shows respect for what they just gave you.” And I think by doing that and being reasonably obvious about it, not like a sigh but a very respectful, “taking that in” type of feeling. It slows the whole conversation down because when you get fast, you start to escalate.

The third time you’re going to use this, as I was telling my clients, is anytime you think about it, you do the breath. Usually I say anytime you’re sitting at a stoplight, because that gives them a trigger. They’ll sit at a stop light and they’ll remember me and go, “I gotta do that loving breath thing,” because what that does within the relationship is especially — again, people come to me when they’re in disharmony — it starts to build a little bit more of the positive feeling again. Because they’re thinking about the things that they love and care about this other person on a regular basis, instead of thinking about what they’re upset with about this person. That can work with that with your children, it can work with your boss. Maybe you don’t love your boss, but if you’re doing it because you want to respect your boss, you want to feel that you can talk to them. So, that’s it, breathe deeply, listen deeply is another. These two are core skills. Listening deeply. I could go into listening for hours, but the real thing you want to get when you’re listening is you want to understand the person that you’re listening to. You don’t want to understand a situation you don’t want to, and you don’t have to agree with it. You don’t have to feel the same. You don’t have to be convinced of anything. You just want to get the sense that they make in their own head and in their own heart. So, make sure when you’re listening deeply that you really focus on just understanding, if you can do that.

Well, all the other skills that I teach are just gravy. The listening is key, so just focus on understanding. I appreciate everybody who came, it was awesome. Thank you.

Thanks so much, Kim. This is great. Well, I think we’re going to end it here, but we’ll hang on. Thank you again, and have a great rest of your day. Thanks again. Have a great rest of the week, guys. Bye bye. Thank you for watching this video. We hope you enjoyed the presentation.

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