I was listening to an interview with a nutritionist the other day, and I was struck by something she said. She said that when people come to her trying to get healthier and lose weight, she doesn’t focus on what to cut out, she focuses on what to add in. Eating more vegetables during a day, drinking more water, adding in more exercise.
I immediately relaxed hearing this. I could feel the shift from a depriving, rule-based mindset: “Don’t eat that! And definitely don’t eat that!” to one of addition, abundance, more generosity with myself.
I think we can approach relationships like this as well. It’s normal to think about what we have to stop. I need to stop yelling, I need to stop being so critical, I need to stop avoiding that conversation. And what we all know is, it’s actually really hard to stop things, especially when we’re desperate and scared.
Think again of hunger. If you’re hungry all day, you’re going to rip open that bag of chips before you even think through the other options. And you’ll get a moment of deep relief – finally! Food! And then the inevitable guilt comes. You’ve focused so hard on the stopping, your system is in a deprivation mode and will finally explode with what you need.
With relationships, what are the vegetables, fruit, and water we can add in?
* Saying thank you for small tasks
* Saying I love you
* Saying how nice someone looks
* Asking what your partner might need that day to feel supported
* Asking if they need a backrub or just adding in more hugs
* Reminding yourself of a time you felt your partner was there for you
* Asking for reassurance when you’re just a little “hungry”, which can sound like, “I’m needing something and it’s hard to ask for this …”
* Describing more what you’re feeling, “I’m feeling like you’re seeing me in a bad light right now, can we slow down?”
I think we will find that it’s easier to think of what to do more of, versus what to stop or control. Try thinking of 3 things you want to add in this week in your relationship and see how it goes.