The Art of Self-Compassion

Compassion is usually seen as how we utilize kindness and understanding with others. As with most acts of kindness, the capacity to be compassionate starts from within. When we lack self-compassion it is generally a lot harder to be kind to others. When we view this self-love as beginning internally, it can then radiate outwards and color our interactions with others in a beautiful way.

What is self-compassion?

The act of treating ourselves with compassion is not one that many people place importance on, yet we are expected to treat one another with kindness. We are taught from a young age to treat others the way we want to be treated. However, we generally engage in self-criticism and self-talk that is far more harmful and hurtful than anything we would tell someone else.

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Communication in Relationships: Brian

We have all heard that in many situations "communication is the key to success." The same goes for relationships: the more communication the better. I'm not talking about texting. Talking face to face is by far the most effective. Even Leslie and I had to work through this the hard way. I will give you some examples of how our communication has evolved and improved.

In the early stages of our relationship Leslie and I would text often. Even more so when we were discussing something that we disagreed upon. Naturally, communication via text began to get lost in translation. Too often things were taken the wrong way and only made situations worse. When our relationship was getting more serious, Leslie continued to try to have long conversations via text, explaining that she could write things better when she was upset. However we never seemed to get anywhere and things would often turn out worse than when they began. I eventually refused to text anything that had to do with a serious issue and Leslie began to agree with me. 

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Communication in Relationships: Leslie

Communication is arguably the most important aspect of a relationship. More than chemistry, similarities or differences, communication is the lifeblood of making a relationship last long term. This goes for any relationship: romantic, friendly, work, etc. Without communication, we are left to assume what the other person may be thinking, feeling or wanting and you know what they say about assuming...

Good communication starts with a solid understanding of communication styles. In relationships, those styles have to be built, developed, and evolved through change and circumstances. I cannot tell you how many times I have said to my clients, and my husband, it is not what you say but how you say it. One thing could be said at least 5 different ways. The challenge with healthy communication in relationships is being aware of and sensitive to what both you and your partner needs. 

In romantic relationships, this may mean knowing how to preface a conversation that is very important to you because you know your partner could be distracted otherwise.

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Embracing Each Other's Differences: Brian

You probably have heard in wedding vows or cheesy love stories that a person has finally found their counterpart. One person is loud and the other is quiet; one is a free-thinker and the other is technical. Whatever the differences may be in a relationship they allow partners to learn from each other. It is likely that partners in a relationship have just as many opposites as they do similarities. While having differences may make the relationship challenging at times, dealing with them in the right way can bring you closer together.

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Embracing Each Other's Differences: Leslie

If you read last week's blogs on finding common ground in relationships, this week is for the alternative: embracing each other's differences. When Brian came up with these two topics, I was impressed and excited to highlight the things that make us work. It is not only a couple's commonalities that make them strong, but also finding the strength in each other's differences.

It was apparent from the beginning of our relationship how different we are. It did not deter me from pursuing a relationship because I love how differences can make people grow individually and together. Socially, I am much more introverted, while Brian is more outgoing and extroverted. I crave time alone or with just the two of us, preferably at home on the couch with a good movie. Brian's idea of a good time is going out to dinner with friends followed by some live music surrounded by a lot of people.

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Finding Common Ground in Relationships: Brian

Relationships are built on many things: physical attraction, compatibility, trust, and eventually coming to respect each other's differences and finding those common things that each of you love. When Leslie and I first met the only thing I thought we had in common was that we worked in the same restaurant.

During our time dating I began to notice the commonalities, the first of which I can remember is our fondness of some of the greatest comedic movies of our era. You know the ones: Superbad, The 40-Year Old Virgin, I Love You Man, etc. We tend to quote these movies in our daily lives which, in a weird way, brings us closer. Inside jokes are established and most times we can relate ridiculous quotes from these movies into our daily life. 

After beginning to spend almost every night together, whether working or not, food became a very important part of our relationship. Nights we spent off the clock we would always either grab a bite to eat out together or make something at home. We learned that it was always more exciting and fun to make a homemade meal. Luckily we have continued this tradition over the course of our relationship.

We have learned to communicate better through the course of many arguments over who is the chef and who is the helper (more about that later, though). Since moving to NY our shared love for food and cooking together has grown. Now that we have a bigger kitchen and an actual dining table we can host dinner parties. We have successfully cooked for 13 people! Cooking together is something that we do on a daily basis and something that brings us closer together. 

The lesson in this is not necessarily to enjoy the same movies or always to agree on the same food, but to find something simple and enjoyable with your partner. Something that can bring you laughter in the most awkward of moments and something to enjoy together when all other options are non-existent.

So whether it is starting your day off together with a cup of coffee, meeting for lunch, cooking dinner or reading together before bedtime, find a way that you can share the love on a daily basis. I'm grateful for those moments in our relationship.

- Brian Jay

Finding Common Ground in Relationships: Leslie

When I first proposed the idea of writing together to Brian he was totally up for it. I wanted it to be something we could both easily speak to. I asked him what he believed we could write about regarding our relationship and the things that make it work well. I was pleasantly surprised by his answers which will be the next two blog topics. 

This week, we will each be sharing our thoughts on finding the common ground: common hobbies, passions and interests. Next week we will be talking about the opposite: our differences. Each week we will publish my perspective and then follow-up a few days later with his. Thanks, Brian for the excellent idea!

Common interests are often what draw couples to one another in the first place. Whether it is from an online profile or friends setting you up or even a random meeting, chances are you are with someone because you have something in common. 

For us, it was our love for food, adventures, outdoors, and animals (mostly my dog, Betsy) that helped us to initially bond. What has happened over the past nine years is that those interests have developed into a lifestyle that has helped us to stay connected and strengthen our relationship. Whatever the commonality, it is the glue that holds relationships together. Whether friendships or intimate relationships when things are shared, even if it is just a lot of history, a bond develops.

The role that food plays in our relationship is significant. Yes, most people enjoy eating, but we are of the "foodie" crowd. We enjoy looking at all types of food, grocery shopping, prepping, smelling, tasting, admiring food, and then talking about it in detail afterwards. Another very important part of our relationship is our adventurous spirits and desire to be active and outdoors. Our love for the outdoors became a way that we love to experience the world together. Our passion to travel has allowed us to experience different places in a similar way and has taken us across the globe to Italy.

This is one of the key things all relationships need. The spice, if you will. These shared interests, hobbies, and passions have given us the chance to keep our relationship interesting and exciting even if what we are doing is routine. I encourage you to find your mutual spice, your relationship's passion, and dive into that. Brian and I can always opt for an adventure or fondly remember our experiences from the past. The counterpoint of the spice, because balance is always necessary, is to just be happy together. Be content where you both are, whether it is adventuring or watching Netflix on the couch. Finding common ground on your Netflix preferences is, of course, equally as important!

Introducing the Relationship Series: Leslie & Brian Jay

Therapists are taught that non-disclosure is the best practice. As with most things taught in school, the reality is more difficult. In practice it is often challenging to be a blank slate to our clients. I got engaged and married in the course of the three years at my last job. It was impossible to pretend like that did not happen. My goal is always to be a real human for my clients.  

Clients often open up to me about their relationship issues and may ask things like "does that ever happen in your relationship?" or "what would you do if that happened to you?" I feel a sense of obligation to them and myself to be real with them. I do not act as if my relationship exists in a perfect vacuum void of any problems. I prefer to balance the boundary of giving helpful personal details while remaining professional. 

For the next month, I am going to get a bit more personal. I aim to continue being professional while offering personal insight and examples from my own relationship. My objective is to share with you, my lovely readers, how and why our relationship works as well as I think it does. My other goal is to include my wonderful husband's perspective on our relationship as well. So without further adieu, here are a few disclaimers: 

  • I am not a relationship therapist; they have a special degree for that in NYC.
  • I have never online dated. Nine years ago we met the old fashioned way before it was a thing i.e. I flirted with him and made it really obvious that I was interested until he responded.
  • I do not think our relationship is perfect, but I do think it is functional. My hope in letting you in like this is to encourage better communication, inspire couples to travel, and to normalize bickering (in Italy it is so commonplace it would be unhealthy for us not to!). 

To give you a little background information on the two of us, Brian and I met while working at a restaurant in Tallahassee, Florida during our college years. We dated for one year before I offered Brian our first adventure: move to New York City so I could go to graduate school. He accepted and we have been living in NYC ever since. As with any relationships, we have had our share of ups and downs. What I believe has kept us strong is our individual sense of selves and our communication.

As in any new relationship, communication styles have to be learned and jointly developed for a healthy dialogue. Being a therapist, I pride myself on my communication skills. I almost always know what I want and I know how to effectively communicate my thoughts and feelings. Brian is an excellent communicator, even though he might not always know what he wants. We balance each other out in that I can be a bit too outspoken and he can be a bit too laid back. Most of all, we respect each other's differences and embrace one another for who we are, rather than expecting the other person to change. 

After nearly five years, Brian proposed at the very same restaurant where we worked and met. Wedding planning brought up issues we had never encountered before, but we worked through it and are stronger because of it. On our wedding day I vowed to be present in our relationship and I encourage the same for all of you. This vow has been crucial for me to remember since at times I can be stubborn and emotional which takes me away from the present moment. During the course of our marriage, we have dove into our respective careers and worked far too many hours all while trying to make our relationship a priority. Even when we are stressed we always come back to the things that we enjoy and make us happy as a couple: cooking, eating, being outdoors, being active, and going on adventures. 

Last year we decided that we would go on the ultimate adventure and live in Italy. So here we are working together again, this time on a farm in Italy. It is not always easy to be around each other 24/7. Most couples do not have the opportunity to work with one another once, let alone twice. It takes a critical amount of communication, love and patience. It also takes a lot of appreciation for each other, our environment, and the life we are building together. 

We are looking forward to sharing our ideas on what it takes to build and sustain a healthy and happy relationship. I welcome any questions that may be unanswered over the course of the series. Ask away! I'll get as professionally personal as I can allow myself to be!