Your Game of Thrones Relationship Evaluator

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Winter came - so there are some SPOILERS!!! If you aren’t caught up, stop reading! As the record breaking show progressed, we’ve seen a number of GoT relationships grow and change. As experts in relationships we’re going to break down the core functionality and disfunctionality of some of the best ones, so you can figure out where your relationships fit in.

Personal

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Cersei and Jamie - We’re going to assume that no one reading this is actually in a deeply incestual relationship. Speaking of incest, do you know that in 26 states you can legally marry your first cousin? Only in 6 of them, do you have to explain why. That means in 20 states you can just get married to your cousin without any questions. Anyway…the core aspect of this relationship is that you will do anything for each other. You’ll move heaven and earth to be with each other and your passion extends beyond understanding. And if you’re going to die, you’ll do it in each others arms, even if one is gilded.

Tyrion and Sansa - Again, we need to throw out the whole “my family killed your father” bit, unless of course that’s happened to you. Tyrion is arguably the most noble of Lannisters, ignoring his tendency to hire prostitutes and drink heavily. While married to Sansa, he did not sleep with Shae, and did not force himself onto Sansa as was, after all, fairly customary in those times. She wanted nothing to do to with him, yet he maintained his vows and duties. This relationship falls into the “we stayed together for the kids” area.

Jon and Dany - They started out adversarial. Two high powered, high profile characters defending what they thought was right. Eventually, they came to understand and respect each other. One comes from ice and the other from fire. This is truly the opposites attract relationship. We have to follow Dany’s advice here, and forget that they are related. Looking strictly at chemistry, they’ve started hot and heavy but things quickly fizzled, as sleeping with your aunt/nephew tends to do. Dany crossed a line that, despite the love and being family, Jon could not overlook. Knife to the heart, literally and figuratively. Sometimes these volatile relationships, even with the best intentions, lead to a violent divorce.

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Missandei and Grey Worm - This is the classic office romance. Two people working closely together in a high stress environment start to catch feelings. It’s awkward at first, as they start to discover their mutual interest, and eventually buds into a full fledged romance. They’re the couple we all love to love, the Jim and Pam of GoT. Until, Missandei lost her head. Grey Worm’s only weakness turned into a blinding rage. When fury like this hits, logic goes out the window. This is the definition of a relationship where both parties lose themselves in the other, and when it’s done, you don’t know who you are any more.

Arya and Gendry - The sexual tension has been heavy since they reunited. Although their initial relationship seemed purely platonic, their bond has deepened as they’ve aged, culminating with a pre-Apocalypse one night stand. Since our sig-ots should be our best friends, sometimes it makes sense to have a friendship as a base. However, Gendry read more into their encounter than Arya did, and now that friendship may be ruined. Always the downside of getting together with a friend. This is the one-night-stand with a close friend….awkward…


Professional

Out of the bedroom and into the “office.”

Cersei and Jamie - We’ve all experienced this type of relationship. To start, you’re both on the same page every step of the way. Willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to get what you want, but eventually you start to see the world and the market differently. Priorities change, markets change, and relationships can change. What would have helped them? Sitting down and discussing long term, and short term plans together. Instead Cersei worked in the shadows, and Jamie ran headfirst into any potential battle. Even in the end, they disagreed. It was a business relationship turned sour, in which there was no coming back from.

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Sansa and Littlefinger - Littlefinger set the tone for all of his business relationships when he said that he should never be trusted. Littlefinger was playing coy and innocent most of the time with Sansa, while secretly planning and scheming behind her back. Sansa, on the otherhand, was young an naive. As she matured, she learned how untrustworthy he truly was. Overtime they became a power duo, able to countermove any of their competition. However, it’s hard to have two alphas. Valar Morghulis.

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Jon and Davos - The key to this relationship is respect. Davos met Jon before they started working together and quickly earned the respect of Davos. As time went by, Jon respected Davos’ counsel. Business relationships built on mutual respect are some of the best foundations that we can ask for. Through thick and thin they always had each other’s backs and believed in each other. They seemed like Apple’s two Steve’s only without the deep seeded issues that bubbled up overtime.

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Dany and Jorah - This one falls a bit into the unrequited office romance. Jorah definitely had a thing for Dany and she used it to her advantage. A bit like Jon and Davos, this relationship was built over mutual respect, however, the big wrench here was Jorah’s betrayal. When trust is broken, all of the other good aspects of your relationship also take a hit, and clearly Jorah had to go through a lot of earn his way back into his boss’ good graces, ultimately sacrificing himself for his partner and Queen.

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Brienne and Jamie - The office friendship, turned romance, turned one of you quitting. Their relationship started out pure. They both seemed to rub off on each other a bit and end up a little better for it. Over time, they clearly respected and would sacrifice for each other. One night, one thing leads to another, and their relationship has changed forever. Soon thereafter, the relationship takes a quick 180 when Jamie basically quits and becomes to same old jackass everyone thought he always was.

The Takeaway

Now, just to reiterate: we’re not suggesting you use any of these relationships as models for your own but by taking the 30,000 foot view on Westerosi relationships, you might be able to gain a little insight into your own, both personally and professionally. Remember, this was just a show, and this is just meant to be a lighthearted interpretation of one of our culture’s most sensational characters. If you happen to find yourself in a Brienne and Jamie, or a Tyrion and Sansa, don’t fret. Your life isn’t scripted from the mind of GRRM. Make your own Season 8!

Live A Great Story

By Justin P Laplante

Live your story

If you’re anything like me, you’ve imagined yourself as the main character of a book or a movie once or twice — or imagined yourself hanging out with the main character of one of your favorite films. Anyone? No? Just me? Anyway, as humans, we are a story telling species. From cave paintings to Troubadours to Shakespeare to Toni Morrison, we have been telling different types of stories since we first became humans. Not only do we as a species tell grand, epic narratives, we as individuals also tell stories about our day to day lives: we tell stories to ourselves, we tell stories to our partners, we tell stories to our friends. The stories we tell influence the way we feel about our lives and our loved ones. If we can tell better life stories to ourselves, we can live happier and love stronger.


Main character vs side kicks

Thank you for reading

Thank you for reading

We all tend to think of ourselves as the main character in our story -- the Odysseus, the Elizabeth Bennet, the Jay Gatsby, the Katniss Everdeen. And of course, it’s important to have a sense of agency in your own life. But make sure that your partner doesn’t get relegated to a sidekick -- no one wants to play second fiddle to their romantic partner! Rather, think of them like your partner-in-crime: Batman and Catwoman, rather than Batman and Robin, Han Solo and Leia Organa, rather than Luke Skywalker and R2-D2, Xena and Hercules, not Xena and Gabrielle (or Hercules and Iolaus, take your pick). Think of you and your partner teaming up to fight life’s challenges together, to have each other’s backs. Being a Dynamic Duo is a great way to orient your story together with your partner.

Conflict

Wouldn’t this be easier with a partner?

Wouldn’t this be easier with a partner?

Speaking of life’s challenges, all good stories have some sort of conflict, or else they wouldn’t be good stories. In our own lives, we don’t have to deal with dragons or The Empire to get our narrative dose of conflict -- we can make due with getting stuck in traffic, parent-in-laws, or dealing with our bosses. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone, you’ve got your partner-in-crime on your side! Use each other to help get through the rough times in life, the times that would make for a great story (but that might be pretty terrible to live through).

[Editor’s Note: even a fight with your partner can be an opportunity for a collaborative team-up; rather than Me vs. You, it can be Us vs. The Problem. How can we, together, tackle this issue of ‘having a different strategy for spending money’? Turn the argument into the dragon, and then slay it together! Or maybe befriend it, name it, and let it live a little more peacefully in your home. I hear dragons are good at keeping pests away.]

A note on Fear

When some big conflict comes up, it’s natural to feel fear. Fear can be helpful for motivating you to do something! But sometimes it can also paralyze you. So think of yourself as the protagonist in a story: when they’re scared, they act anyway. And, often, when you conquer the thing you fear, you usually ends up creating a great story! Afraid of heights? Cliff jump. Afraid of the dark? Sleep outside. Take a chance on something you’re on the fence about. Taking a risk and putting yourself out there can lead to some amazing stories after it’s all said and done! 

Moral of the Story

“May the hair on your toes never fall out!”

“May the hair on your toes never fall out!”

What’s the moral to your life’s story? What do you think your life stands for? What do you want people to say about you when all is said and done? All stories have morals, even if they aren’t as obvious as Aesop's Fables. The Hobbit might have a moral about the importance of friendship, or bravery, or cleverness (or luck!) -- and different people might read different morals into Bilbo’s journey. We all have many positive qualities, the important question is, what is the significant guiding principle(s) of your life for you? Whatever it is, it’s important to acknowledge it, so you can start to live your story, and the moral of your story, more intentionally.

 

Our lives are a series of stories, and we’re the only ones who can write them. The stories we tell ourselves about how our life has been so far have deep impacts on us -- for good and ill. Don’t be afraid to change the story of your life that you’ve been telling yourself all these years -- let that chapter end and write your story for the better!



 

Our ASMR Day in the Office - Embracing Something Different

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Tatiana, our COO, came in today with….laryngitis. This caused her to whisper exclusively. It reminded me a lot of a genre of YouTube video called ASMR. What is ASMR? It stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, basically, the tingles. Definitely check out YouTube for some… interesting videos of people whispering, tapping their nails on things, scratching stuff, etc.

But this soon gave way to a larger discussion. Why did I know about ASMR culture? Was it a fetish? Have I recorded one? I saw it a while ago on Vice news or some blog. Not a fetish, but I did find it a very interesting sub-culture. In fact, most ASMR personalities claim that it is not sexual in any way. And no, I haven’t recorded one, but I totally would!

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In an office setting, there’s a great opportunity to learn about all sorts of cultures, events, and interests that you may have never heard about. Sometimes it’s a great TV show, a new spice or recipe, a holiday you’ve never celebrated, etc.

We recommend using these little nuggets as a way to bond and engage on a deeper level with a coworker. For all you know, you might have stumbled upon a new favorite activity.

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As far as personal relationships, discovering a partner’s “weird thing they like that no one knows about” can be incredibly intimate. I suggest embracing whatever their thing is — as long as it’s consensual and non-harmful. Generally, it’s best not to leave these things buried deep in the dark left to fester until it becomes a thorn in the relationship.

Stay open to new experiences, big or small, in the office or in relationships. You never know when something as little as laryngitis will lead you down a rabbit hole into a new and interesting world of ASMR (or something else).

If you can’t handle me at my worst . . . then you have healthy boundaries and we can have a vibrant intimate relationship

By Tatiana D. Gray, Ph.D.

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All too often I hear the phrase, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.” It is running rampant in songs, movies, TV shows, memes, and statements from my couples.

 

And it’s ludicrous.

 

Truly. Complete and utter unhealthy nonsense.

 

I suppose the sentiment stems from our innate desire to be loved unconditionally, however, it typically functions as an excuse for unskillful emotional reactivity. The truth is, when we are “at our worst” we are, more often than not, misbehaving: saying whatever thought pops into our mind, being reckless, careless, and thoughtless with our words, melting-down, blowing-up, and acting-out. 

 

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And this is the thing: as much as we long for unconditional love, another word for conditional is boundaried – and healthy boundaries are essential for true intimacy. Since intimacy is rooted in our ability to feel safe being our vulnerable and authentic selves with our partners – then that can only be achieved within a safe, stable, and boundaried context. So while the love for our partner may be truly boundless – the structure of our relationships needs to rest on actual conditions. And what are those conditions?

 

Actually, it’s quite simple – the condition is kindness. We vow to do our best to do no harm.

 

And, so, we nurture intimacy within compassionate and loving conditions. We vow to:

 

Nurture Intimacy and Compassion

Nurture Intimacy and Compassion

  • Stay connected when we are upset.

  • Be relentlessly kind and not intentionally hurt one another.

  • Recognize our shared vulnerability, and honor that by treating each other gently.

 

Of course, we all have rough days and none of us are perfect – and sometimes our partners get caught in the cross-hairs of our emotional arrows. AND YET, it is our responsibility to notice when this has happened, and intentionally, thoughtfully, effortfully aim elsewhere. If you want your partner to feel emotionally safe with you, then you have to be their safe place – always.

It is absolutely not ok to lose your cool on the reg, scream, yell, name-call, slam doors, and, for all intents and purposes, have an adult temper tantrum – and then threaten your partner by withholding the calm, warm, and loving parts of yourself if s/he “can’t handle you” in those moments. That’s not the context for love to thrive, it’s certainly not within the vows we take, and it doesn’t allow for either of you to feel truly loved and taken care of.

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So, we need to do better.

 

We need to own our own strength to tolerate our intense emotions. Believe in our power to hold our strong emotions with kindness, and behave with compassion in the world – even when we are upset, brokenhearted, or enraged. Recognize the vulnerability that our partner has chosen to share with us – and treat the fragility of our safe space with love, attention, and gentleness. Because what you say cannot be unheard and what you do cannot be undone.

And it is no one’s responsibility but our own to love with kindness.

10 Ways To Make Every Day Valentine's Day

By Dr. James Cordova

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner! Since Arammu means love - this is easily one of our favorite holidays. We are delighted to have a day devoted to expressions of love, and our hope is that we can all continue that spirit of gratitude and generosity the other 364 days of the year. Below are our tips for making every day Valentine’s Day - with a little extra inspiration from some of the best love poets of our time, musicians!

(Bonus: clicking on the song title will bring you to the music video)

1) I Just Wanna Know You Better. If you’ve been with each other for a while, you might think you know each other better than you know yourselves. Fortunately, you don’t know each other as well as you think you do. You are always changing and growing and becoming – and so is your partner. Don’t fool yourself into thinking there is nothing more to learn about each other. Even if you think you know the answers, or used to know the answers, ask each other intimate, interesting questions (such as Art Aron’s 36 questions). This can be a fun, flirty, and surprisingly intimate practice of continuing to get to know your ever-changing and always interesting beloved other. 

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2) Kiss. Find a secret place and make out; whether it’s the back row of a movie theater, the backseat of your car, or a closet in your house, channel your inner teenager, grab your sweetheart, and kiss for the pure sake of kissing. Kissing can be intensely intimate and too few couples nurture the art. Nurture the art.

3) Maps. Carry your connection with your partner even while you art apart. At the beginning of the day, ask your partner what his day is going to look like and carry that map with you. Leading couples researcher, John Gottman, calls this making a love map. Send loving encouragements to one another throughout the day. “Good luck in your meeting today sweetheart! You’re going to rock it!” This will help you stay connected and let your partner know that you are thinking of her and holding her in your heart throughout the day.

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4) Cheeseburger in Paradise. Share a meal. Put some preparation into packing a picnic, baking dessert, cooking dinner, or picking up your love’s favorite yummy treat. Then sit down together and literally share food with one another. Eat off of the same plate, feed each other raspberries, split an Oreo, or even try out the classic meet in the middle of a spaghetti noodle move. Since eating is something we do every day, it can begin to feel routine and automatic. Slow down this process and be mindful of your delicious meal and your loving company. This very simple, yet very intimate act of sharing food can nourish the health of your relationship. It has been said that if we truly knew about the power of giving, we would not let a single meal pass without sharing it in some way.

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5) Give a little bit. Practice giving. Sometimes giving can seem like an obligation, especially around Valentine’s Day. But rather than the obligatory roses and chocolates, practice cultivating the intention to be generous towards your partner. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, or an expensive thing, or even a thing; simply nurture the desire to give your partner something meaningful. Shift the thought, “I have to get him a gift,” to “I want to give him a gift.” That small change of one word can make a world of difference. Whether it’s bringing her a pack of gum, taking him a coffee at lunch, sending a heartfelt e-mail, or extending a soft touch, the key is that it is an expression of generosity, a gift to the connection between the two of you.

6) Killing me softly. Write each other poetry. You don’t have to be Shakespeare, Whitman, or Cummings, simply take a few moments and allow an image or a feeling to come to you. Then express it in a few simple words. Don’t judge whether it is good or bad, just true. Then make a gift of it. A few loving words can make an ordinary moment extraordinary.

Remember the time

When we danced in the kitchen

With no music

7) Say something. We can often fall into the rut of rote over-used statements such as “luv ya” -  “luv ya too.” Find a different, new, authentic, heartfelt way of expressing your love, affection, and admiration, to your partner every day. This can be as simple as taking a small moment to feel it when you say it – I love you. A loving touch, a heartfelt compliment, or genuine praise and gratitude nurture us like little else does. There is no such thing as too much loving speech.

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8) Love your curves and all your edges. Find a way to let your partner know that you find him/her attractive – always, over and over again. In our culture, we are barraged by messages that make us all feel less than, lacking, and ugly. And it is never true. Ever. Be a light in the darkness. Make your partner feel beautiful, gorgeous, and treasured.

9) Take Me to Church. Deep within, there is an ancient and sacred heat. Reclaim it. Reignite that passionate connection in your relationship. Let yourself fall back into your sexual chemistry and spend some time worshiping. Honor the sacredness of your partner and your relationship. Incorporate a sort of sexy playfulness together throughout your day.

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10) Try a Little Kindness. We tend to be harshest with the ones we love the most. We often think that when we have been in a relationship with someone for a long time, we don’t have to be as careful with their feelings, that we can just ‘tell it as it is,’ without ‘sugar-coating it’. However, it is essential to remember that this is the one person in the whole world who is the most easily and deeply hurt by our unkindness and most nourished by our kindness.

As the Dalai Lama puts it, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Your Quick Guide for Workplace Superbowl Chatter if You're not a Football Fan

By Justin P Laplante

I’m told this is what a ‘football’ looks like

I’m told this is what a ‘football’ looks like

On Sunday, the world, or at least most of the US, will stop for a few hours when the New England Patriots take on the LA Rams. If you’re a fan, good for you! If you’re not, then this post is for you. Fear not! I was once where you are: watching the game for the commercials and the snacks, cheering when other people cheered, and getting a blank look on my face whenever Jeff at work would ask me anything about the game more specific than ‘What a game, huh?’

Thank you Matt!

Thank you Matt!

But don’t worry — I’ve learned about the game, and watched ALL season (A special thank you to my guide, mentor, and coworker Matt here), and I’m here to give you some talking points, so you can hold your own in a conversation, and maybe even impress Jeff with your newfound insightful commentary! Sure you might still only be watching the game for the commercials and the chips, but Jeff doesn’t need to know that! Read on to learn enough to sound impressive and knowledgeable about the game.

What’s the Story?

“Of course I used free-range avocados for my guacamole!” ~Me, trying to sound cool in in LA

“Of course I used free-range avocados for my guacamole!” ~Me, trying to sound cool in in LA

If you happen to live in New England, this is probably all people have been talking about for the past few days (years? decades?). If you live in LA, hey you guys have not one, but two football teams! Isn’t that cool? The Rams are very good and the Chargers are pretty decent. Luckily, most everyone in LA is probably in the same boat as you (i.e. heavy on the artisanal guacamole and chips, light on the nuance of the game), so you might end up sounding like an expert in front of your friends by the end of the article. You’re welcome.

First thing’s first: There are two big story lines here. When the Patriots won their first Superbowl to kickoff this huge dynasty way back in 2001, it was against the St. Louis Rams! (Dun dun dun!) That’s right LA, the Rams moved from St. Louis to LA. So this is a bit of a revenge game, although the only player that was there for that game was Tom Brady (Or, as he’s known to the insiders, TB12). (Also, that’s because his jersey number is 12. Real original, I know).

Promotional material for the Goff v. Brady showdown

Promotional material for the Goff v. Brady showdown

The second story line is the TB12 is old and Jared Goff (the Rams QB) is young. Brady has won a bunch (* brushes shoulder *) and this is Goff’s first Superbowl. Will Father Time finally catch up to Brady? Can The Kid keep himself from wetting his pants? We’ll know late on Sunday.

OK, those are the easy story lines. Here’s where the good stuff starts. Put down the chips and salsa and get ready for some football!

The Players

LA RAMS - Brandin (not a typo) Cooks - Used to play for the Pats. Now plays for LA.

NE PATRIOTS - Rob Gronkowski (Gronk) - Hasn’t had his typical year, could retire after the game.

LA RAMS - Aaron Donald - Bill Belicheck (NE coach) LOVES Donald.

NE PATRIOTS - Julian Edelman - Spent the first four games of the season suspended due to PEDs. Has had a great year since.

LA RAMS - Ndamukong Suh - One of the dirtiest active players in the NFL. Watch for him to pull some tricks in the biggest game in his career.

NE PATRIOTS - Jason and Justin McCourty - Your eyes are not playing tricks on you. These are twin brothers. This is Justin’s first playoff run, but Jason has been here his whole career. Rumors of retirement if the Patriots win.

LA RAMS - Todd Gurley - Stud of a Running back for the Rams. Sat out most of their last game due to attitude it seems like. But when he’s on the field, it’s been dominance.

NE PATRIOTS - Sony Michel (again, not a typo) - Rookie Running back for the Pats. Some say he was drafted too early.

LA RAMS - Aqib Talib - Another former Patriot. This guy loves to run his mouth. Also, he once shot himself.

NE PATRIOTS - James White - Mr. Superbowl. This guy seems to show up in force in big games. He’s a utility player who is fun to watch.

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LA RAMS - Nickell Robey-Coleman - This guy made one of the most blatant penalties in recent memory. He’s also run his mouth a lot during the lead-up to the Superbowl.

NE PATRIOTS - Chris Hogan - This guy didn’t do much all season, but tends to show up when they need a big play.

Advanced Knowledge

OK, you’ve got the basics, you know the main characters. Now for the really impressive stuff only a TRUE fan (or whomever else reads this article) would know! These two story lines will definitely impress your SuperFan friend Jeff and make it seem like you actually watched during the season. Read on:

NE PATRIOTS - Cordarrelle Patterson - This guy was a reclamation project. He was supposed to be great when he was drafted, but ended up being a bit of a bust. Womp womp. The Pats signed him as a return man but he quickly became a ‘Do Anything’ kind of player. Plays Running Back, Receiver, and anywhere in between. Look for him to be in some unique plays during the game!

LA RAMS - C.J. Anderson - The Rams picked this guy up off of the street. He an old vet who apparently spent most of the regular season eating. I can relate. He’s an absolute Unit now and runs like a battering ram. He puts the ‘Ram’ in Rams. (Thank you, thank you! I’ll be here all week!) He had a huge game in the Conference Championship when Gurley decided he was too pretty to play.

Coaches

Me, feeling clever about the Revis Island joke

Me, feeling clever about the Revis Island joke

OK, now you know about the players, but what about the Coaches, you ask? Great question! I’ve got you covered, like vintage Revis Island, but you probably won’t get that reference otherwise you wouldn’t have read this far.

NE PATRIOTS - Bill Belicheck - This guy finds a way to win. Most non-New England fans hate him. But he’s a genius when it comes to football and game planning. He’s easily a Top 3 coach of all time, and arguably the best Head Coach in NFL History. (Fight Me.) He shows zero emotion to the media, and loves to yell on the sideline. He’s a ton of fun to watch!

LA RAMS - Sean McVay - This guy is 33 and was the youngest NFL head coach ever, and what a looker! (Fun fact, he has a “coach” who’s job it is to pull have back from the sideline if it looks like a ref or player might run into him.) He and Belicheck have very different styles, so it’s another new school versus old school battle.

I’m not crying at a superbowl commercial, YOU’RE crying at a superbowl commercial!

I’m not crying at a superbowl commercial, YOU’RE crying at a superbowl commercial!


There you go — everything you need to know in order to hold your own during the office chatter on Monday morning (and then some!) Just remember, if all else fails, just bring up the Budweiser commercial — you can’t go wrong with that!

How to Make Sure Your Relationship Doesn't End Up Like the Fyre Festival

What Not to Do: Exhibit A

What Not to Do: Exhibit A

By Justin P. Laplante

Have any of you caught either of the two documentaries about the Fyre Festival that just came out? About the “Luxury Music Festival” that, if you’ll pardon the pun, went up in flames? We all love watching something fail spectacularly (or is it just me?), but perhaps we can learn something from this particularly dazzling failure that will help keep our relationships winning!

1) Planning

Make Elmo happy, have enough bathrooms.

Make Elmo happy, have enough bathrooms.

Never underestimate the power of planning! Whether it’s a multi-day music festival on a private island or a day trip to the beach, planning is key. No one likes getting to the grocery store only to realize they forgot their shopping list and reusable bags at home, or worse, getting to an exclusive, expensive music festival and realizing there aren’t enough bathrooms!

Odds are your partner is either a planner, or very much NOT a planner. If they enjoy checking items off their to-do list more than life itself, why not give them the gift of taking care of all the planning and details for a day trip? (Start small, it still counts!) Just remember — cross your t’s and dot your i’s, if your partner is a planner, you’ll have to bring your A game. And don’t forget those lower case j’s.

If your partner ISN’T a planner, then what better way to show them you care than by taking care of all the details for a fun little day trip? Let them know up front you’ve got everything covered, and they just need to come along for the ride. (Pro tip: Tell them one detail, like ‘make sure to bring a bathing suit, I’ve got everything else taken care of’ in order to pique their interest!)

2) Give credit where credit is due

It works for Mr. T!

It works for Mr. T!

One of the worst parts about the Fyre Festival (in my opinion) was all the work done by the local workers in cooking, building houses, ect. that were never paid. While I’m not suggesting you start paying your partner, a little appreciation goes a long way. Did they cook dinner? Give them a heartfelt thanks. Did they take out the trash and recycling? Let them know that you appreciated it! Try to appreciate both the many things they do around the house that may have become habitual and taken for granted, but also try to notice more unique, little things they do that you appreciate. Don’t keep it to yourself, let them know! There’s nothing worse than not feeling appreciated — don’t follow in Fyre’s footsteps.

3) Cook a nice meal

Honest to goodness what they ‘served’ at the Fyre Festival. See how low the bar is?

Honest to goodness what they ‘served’ at the Fyre Festival. See how low the bar is?

Did you see the “meals” that were distributed at the festival? Let’s just say, it makes me think fondly of my elementary school cafeteria. Don’t make the same mistake! Instead, kick it up a notch and make something classy for your partner! Bam! If I may recommend an easy, favorite recipe, this grilled cheese is to die for! (Plus, you get to stick it to the Fyre Festival a little bit by showing them how a REAL cheese sandwich is supposed to taste! Bam!)

Pro Tip: Presentation! Don’t neglect presentation, a little ambiance can go a long way. Light some candles and dim the lights, put on some nice low key Jazz music, bring out the fancy China, learn how to fold a napkin, put on some nice clothes, cut your sandwich into little pieces and put them on a big plate so it looks classy, the little things can make a big difference. (Plus, if you give ‘em the ol’ Razzle Dazzle, it can make up for slightly sub-par cooking. Not that I’ve ever used that trick…* cough * *cough *)

4) Don’t Over-Hype and Under-Deliver

Far better to under promise, over deliver — and not just at work! Keep expectations low, and then wow them! Taking the cooking example above: You know you’re going to make a Bam!-worthy sandwich, and present the heck out of it. What’s a better way to tell your partner:

A: Hey honey, when you get home I’m going to cook you the best food you’ve ever eaten in your life! You’re going to love it! Get ready, it’s going to blow you away. I hope you’re hungry, cuz you’ve never eaten anything like this ever before! Bam!


B: Hey honey, don’t worry about dinner tonight, I’ll cook.

Me after I over promise, right before I under deliver.

Me after I over promise, right before I under deliver.


(Full disclosure, I got anxious just writing about A.) If you keep expectations low, the comparative luster of the food will be comparatively so much higher! (Bonus: you get to play all humble, like ‘oh, this little thing? I just whipped it up, no big deal’ and you get bonus points, and a great meal!)

Sometimes the worst unmitigated disasters can have a silver lining, so let’s learn from the dumpster fyre that was the Fyre Festival, and use it in the service of strengthening our relationships. Might as well learn from their mistakes while laughing at them!

Flexing the Gratitude Muscle

By Tatiana D. Gray, Ph.D.

 We’re running late for work. Our car needs gas. We received a snarky email from that co-worker. Facebook has gotten so negative. We can’t remember the last good night’s sleep we had. Traffic is outrageous. Why do they cut us off and then immediately slow down? Why? Really, why? Our coffee is still sitting on the counter at home. No one seems to understand how to load the dishwasher.

 

Our ability to note the negative things in our lives and spend our emotional energy scanning for threats is one of our strongest automatic processes – right up there with breathing and temperature regulation. This propensity seems to be true in all realms of our lives, and our relationships are no exception. It is so easy, so natural, to focus on fault, disappointment, hurt, and frustration. Our partners didn’t respond in the way we wanted, didn’t act in the way we expected, and didn’t communicate in the way we asked. If we simply allow this natural process to evolve, it becomes the lens through which we see the entire world: our life, our work, and our love. 

 

Our minds work like a muscle. The part that pays exquisite attention to all those things we dislike and fear is exercised daily, often constantly, and without rest. Someone forgot to take the trash out. Flex. Loan rates continue to rise. Flex. A storm is approaching your city. Flex. Your boss asked for a last-minute meeting at the end of the day. Flex. This is what our mind does. It scans, catalogs, and stores all negative and threatening experiences in our lives, of which there is no shortage. So this mind muscle is strong. It is powerful. It is without equal. I imagine it looks something like Dwayne The Rock Johnson.  

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The other part of our mind, the part that balances out the negative with the positive, the part that recognizes beauty and joy and love and peace in the world is at a distinct disadvantage. We often joke that our ancestors who took the time to smell the flowers ended up getting eaten, so those “appreciation” genes never had a chance to evolve. This part of our mind that is grateful simply doesn’t seem to exercise on its own. Which is truly unfortunate for us, because research finding after research finding notes the benefits of a gratitude practice – on our physical health, our mental health, and our relationship health.  And yet it seems to actually need to be a practice – an intentional effort - like actually lifting weight. At the start, I imagine that the gratitude part of our brain looks something like Olive Oyl. This imbalance seems to be the cognitive processes we inherited, and, now that most of us aren’t facing actual threats to our lives on a daily basis, it has outgrown its usefulness.

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So what do we do? How can we surmount our own complicated and intricate minds?  We are called to notice the discrepancy between fear-tuned mind and love-tuned mind – and set out to even the scale.

 

Gratitude is not automatic. It is a practice of mindfulness – intentionally tuning into the present moment, deliberately looking for what soothes and nourishes us, and purposefully taking the time to savor all that is good about it.

 

This coffee tastes divine. Flex. This food gives me fuel. Flex. I have the means to drive to work. Flex. My dog gave me a sweet snuggle. Flex. My partner sent me a funny text message. Flex. I can communicate with my friends from near and far just with Internet access. Flex. The sun is shining. The leaves are gorgeous. Someone let you merge on the highway. Flex. Flex Flex.

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It might feel slightly awkward and uncomfortable at first, just like any new practice. But with time, it does become easier and more natural – and some day you won’t actually have to look for the beauty around you, its abundance will simply be felt in your bones.

 

This practice is perhaps most powerful with those we hold most dear. It is our nature to take for granted and get caught up on all the little things that drive us crazy in our relationships. But what if we could interrupt this natural flow – defiantly and wholeheartedly rebel for the sake of our own happiness? What if we could change our nature to one of treasuring and getting swept away by all the little things that save us?  If we could notice the depth of wisdom in our partner’s eyes, the healing quality of their hug, the humor that drew us to them in the beginning, the hard work that they do every day as a demonstration of their commitment, the way that they hold your children, or play with your fur-babies, or place their hand on the small of your back when they pass behind you. If we can start to tune in, notice, and savor the love in our lives – then we can start to balance, even over load, the scale so that everything that we do, every moment of this precious life that we experience, is seen as a gift.

 

And for those with a truly advanced practice, if we are able to put words to these experiences – actually say out loud what we are grateful for, what we appreciate, and what nurtures us  - then not only will we benefit from this new exercise program, but so will everyone around us, especially the loves of our life.  

 

If we can view gratitude as a discipline, and commit to flexing the muscle over and over and over again – even when it gets heavy, even when we are tired, or hungry, or just plain old not wanting to, then maybe we will not only transform the lens through which we see the world, but the world itself.

7 Tips to Help you Through Your First Thanksgiving with the In-Laws

Here at Arammu, we’re experts in understanding people and their relationships. And since we’re big on being pro-active in your personal and professional relationships, we’re going to begin a blog on a wide variety of topics. We’ll do fun light-hearted lists (like the one below), poignant pieces on love and intimacy, and more scientific posts rooted in empirical studies of the field of Psychology and relationship health. We’ll touch on professional and personal relationships, and anything related to life, love, and work.

Got an idea for a topic? Shoot us a message on Facebook or Twitter.

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Me? I’m not the scientist of the group. I’m the plucky comic relief to James’s and Tatiana’s science. Kind of like Beaker to Dr. Bunson Honeydew. Hopefully you get a few helpful nuggets out of this, but mainly, I hope to make you chuckle.

Here we go on the tips:

1) Have a Fall back Topic

In the lead-up to T-Day, spend some time grilling your spouse, in the nicest way possible, about some of the family members that will be attending the festivities. Find out who’s into what, what they do, where they grew up, hobbies, friends, etc. You should know a decent amount already, but dive deeper. That way, when you walk in, you know some places you can turn a conversation if things get…awkward.

Worse case, you can fall back to what Netflix or Amazon show they’re currently binging. Just be careful of dropping a spoiler. Spoiling will likely land you next to the turkey giblets and scraps.

2) Wine, lots and lots of wine.

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Don’t show up empty handed, and as long as there isn’t a recovering, or current, alcoholic in the room, wine is a great gift. Remember, white typically goes with turkey, but honestly, wine is wine, no one will turn you away if you bring a heavy red. Our friends at Vanderbilt Wine Merchants say Zinfandel is the safe bet.

It’s always nice to have some wine with dinner, but don’t get sloppy. I repeat - don’t. get. sloppy. You know what people aren’t thankful for? The person who ends up drunk crying on Thanksgiving.

3) Be polite, no one likes ‘that guy’ or ‘gal’

The only thing worse than drunk crying on Thanksgiving is someone who is meeting the extended family for the first time and forgets their manners. Most families want the Brady Bunch Thanksgiving, minus someone breaking their nose on an errant football pass. Help them create that feeling by being on your best behavior.

“Please” and “Thank You” go a long way. Use a napkin, push in your chair, help gramdma or grandpa stand up or sit down. Thanksgiving is such a great opportunity to leave having them all sing your praises for being such and nice and thoughtful person. This one should go without saying, but it’s worth putting in a little extra effort to be consciously kind.

4) If you didn’t cook, make sure you clean

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Yes, there’s a mountain of dishes on Thanksgiving. Yes, tryptophan is real (99% of scientists say it’s real). So you’re tired and full and there’s a lot of cleaning but tighten your belt and suck it up. Chances are you’ll get the “thanks so much for offering, but we got it”. Big win for you if that’s the case, but if not, roll those sleeves up and try not to drop the family heirloom serving platter.


5) Take time for the two of you

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The holiday season can be draining. Dealing with tons of extended family can also be draining. Take some time to step back, find a quiet corner, and just check in with each other. Ask your Sig-O what they’re thankful for, how the day is going, what the crazy Aunt who trapped them in a conversation was talking about, etc. Check in and decompress.

Sometimes it’s just the recharge you needed, sometimes it lets your partner get something off of their chest, or give you a heads up that someone’s going to bring up something annoying. Think of it like going back into the locker room at halftime, chatting about the 1st half, and preparing a gameplan for the 2nd half.

6) Tough Convo Topics

If you’re engaged, everyone’s going to ask about wedding prep. This can be a stressful topic. Married already? Be prepared for the “when are we seeing grandkids?” convo. Someone getting super political? Got a sketchy past someone’s asking questions about?

Being able to gracefully deflect or evade a potential conversational landmine is a must. That’s a topic better broached when you have a handful of holiday dinners under your belt with the new group. As such, my advice is simple. AVOID! Don’t stir the pot, just politely deflect and re-target.

What does the mean specifically? Someone starts talking about the healthcare debate, rather than engage, spin the conversation about someone you know who’s a nurse or doctor, or in the medical field, or share the story about the last time you had to go to the hospital. Worse case, find some sort of common ground, such as, “no matter your politics, premium prices are so high”. When all else fails, just say “Canada!”.

7) Find the elder-statesman and make nice

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Want to really make a good first impression? Find the oldest matriarch or patriarch of the family and sit down and talk to them. Ask them their life story. Nothing will make them more proud than to share their early life and how they helped create such a large, and loving family that surrounds them today. Seeing one’s offspring, and their offsprings’ offspring all in one place is one of the greatest sources of pride for people.

Also, you’ll learn a ton of really interesting stuff about your Sig-O’s family history and probably a few things they didn’t even know. You MIGHT have to fix their phone for them, but it’ll be worth it. Again, it makes a great impression if your in-laws see you genuinely caring and speaking to the eldest in the room.