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Understanding your partner requires the capacity to listen. Really listen. Couples are advised to hear each other's complaints without feeling attacked. As great as this sounds, it can feel unrealistic.

When something you said (or didn't say) hurts your partner's feelings, there's a strong impulse to interrupt with, “That wasn't my intention. You're misunderstanding me," even before your partner is done talking.

Unfortunately, when the listener reacts to what the speaker is saying before the speaker gets the chance to fully explain themselves, both partners are left feeling misunderstood.

This is why the N in Dr. Gottman's ATTUNE model stands for Non-defensive listening.

The defensive reaction

For most of us, listening without getting defensive is a hard skill to master. This is especially true when our partner is talking about a trigger of ours. A trigger is an issue sensitive to our heart—typically, something from our childhood or a previous relationship.

This could be a result of a number of things. Maybe you've been repeatedly hurt or have experienced injustice in your relationships. These moments from our past can escalate interactions in the present. Or, maybe you feel controlled like Braden does. So when his wife, Suzanne, tells him, “You have to make sure the kids have dinner cooked before you go to the gym," he responds with, “Stop acting like my mother!"

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After a few more defensive statements, Braden shuts down.

Braden's heart races at the thought of Suzanne bringing up a complaint during their State of the Union meeting (what Dr. Gottman calls a meeting to ensure that both partners feel heard and understood before problem solving together). Any complaint Suzanne expresses that includes a wish for him to change some part of his schedule around, makes Braden feel controlled.

Self-soothe to listen

While it's important for the speaker to complain without blame and state a positive need to prevent the listener from flooding or responding defensively, it's also vital for the listener to learn to self-soothe.

If you're unable to self-soothe, your emotional brain will overpower your rational brain—the part that is designed to self-regulate and communicate—and you'll “flip your lid" and say or do things you don't mean.

As Dr. David Schnarch puts it, “Emotionally committed relationships respond better when each partner controls, confronts, soothes, and mobilizes himself/herself." This is because the more partners can regulate their own emotions, the more stable the relationship becomes.

Self-soothing improves the stability of your relationship by allowing you to maintain yourself and your connection with your partner during a tough conversation.

Here is how Braden did it.

During their State of the Union Meeting, Suzanne started off as the speaker, protecting his triggers by stating her complaint without trying to control him: “When I asked about making sure the kids were taken care of and you responded by telling me I was acting like your mother, I felt hurt because it felt like our kids are not a priority for you. I want to make sure our kids are loved and I need some help."

While Suzanne expresses her experience using I statements, Braden has a hard time hearing her. He wants to defend himself and tell her how she is bossy and demanding. But he understands that he isn't supposed to mention any of these feelings until it's his turn to be the speaker. When that happens, he has to be sensitive to her triggers.

Below are some tools that helped Braden self-soothe instead of act out in defense.

1. Write down what your partner says and any defensiveness you feel.

Dr. Gottman suggests using a notepad to write down everything your partner says, which is especially helpful when you're feeling defensive. This also helps you remember what was said when you reflect back what you hear or it's your turn to speak. Remind yourself that you're listening to your partner because you care about their pain.

Lastly, it's helpful to say to yourself, I'll get my turn to talk and express my feelings about this.

2. Be mindful of love and respect.

During tough conversations, it's helpful to focus on your affection and respect for your partner. Recall fond memories and remember the ways your partner has demonstrated their love. Think of how they support you and make you laugh. Remember that the joy you bring each other is more important than this conflict—that working through this together will lead to more joy.

I've found it helpful to write a quote or a happy memory in the top right corner of my notepad, reminding me that I love my partner and that this conflict has the potential to bring us closer. Dr. Gottman suggests saying to yourself, In this relationship, we do not ignore one another's pain. I have to understand this hurt.

When you self-soothe, you learn to separate your relationship from the anger and hurt you're feeling over this particular issue.

3. Slow down and breathe.

Slowing down and taking deep breaths is a great way to self-soothe. Focus on relaxing your body. Sometimes doodling helps. When you do this, don't get lost in the activity or stop listening.

If your partner notices you soothing, just say, “I am trying to stay present as I listen, and stuff is coming up for me, so I am trying to calm myself so I can truly hear you."

Remember to postpone your agenda and focus on understanding your partner.

4. Hold on to yourself.

In Passionate Marriage, Dr. Schnarch advises partners to create a strong relationship with themselves as individuals by learning how to self-soothe and embrace their own emotions.

Oftentimes, when you feel flooded, it's not because you are reacting to your partner's words or behavior. It's because you assign personal meaning to their statements. Maybe their anger makes you feel like they're going to leave you. Or maybe it makes you feel like you're not being a good enough partner.

Look inward and notice what you're telling yourself about what this conflict means and how it may impact you. Holding onto yourself also means considering that your partner's complaint may have truth to it. Sometimes we hold onto a distorted self-portrait. I know I have.

5. Don't take your partner's complaint personally.

I know this sounds impossible, especially if the complaint is about something you did or didn't do. If you feel yourself getting defensive, seek to understand why.

Ask yourself, Why am I getting defensive? What am I trying to protect? Your partner's complaint is about their needs, not yours. Soothe your defensiveness so you can be there for them.

6. Ask for a reframe.

If your partner says something that triggers you, ask them to say it in a different way: “I'm feeling defensive by what you're saying. Can you please reword your complaint so I can understand your need and explore ways we can meet it?"

7. Push the pause button.

If you notice you're having trouble focusing as the listener, ask your partner to take a break from the conversation. This is a proactive way to self-soothe and prevents your emotional brain from flipping its lid.

You can say, “I'm trying to listen, but I'm starting to take things personally. Can we take a break and restart this in 20 minutes? Your feelings are important to me, and I want to make sure I understand you." During this time, focus on the positives of your relationship and do something productive. I prefer to go for a walk.

Once you've learned to self-soothe, it becomes a lot easier to ask your partner to help you calm down. If you find yourself struggling, tell your partner what's on your mind. For example, “Hon, I'm feeling flooded. Can you tell me how much you love me? I need it right now." vs. “You're the one with the problems. Fix yourself!"

The latter reaction comes from a place of fear and often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. The former gives your relationship a fighting chance and the possibility to create a more secure bond.

Conflict is not only a catalyst for understanding, it's also a vehicle for personal growth. I like to think of relationship conflict like an oyster. Oysters don't intend to make beautiful pearls. Instead, pearls are a byproduct of the oyster reducing irritation created by grains of sand. In the same way, conflict can inadvertently create connection and closeness.

After listening to Suzanne, Braden takes a deep breath. “I hear you saying that my reaction to your request for help with the kids made you feel like family doesn't matter to me. I can see why you'd be so upset with me." A tear rolls down Suzanne's cheek. This is a major breakthrough for their marriage.

Long-lasting love requires courage. The courage to be vulnerable and to listen non-defensively, even in the heat of conflict – especially when we are hurt and angry.

Originally posted by Kyle Benson on The Gottman Relationship Blog.

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

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Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


This article was sponsored by Lovevery. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Breastfeeding is not easy. But neither is weaning. That's why this powerful photo from Brazilian mama Maya Vorderstrasse is going viral. Her husband captured the first time she ever breastfed their second daughter and next to it, almost two years later, the last time she fed their daughter from her breast.

And it's not just the photo that is powerful. In her caption Maya shares her emotional struggles with weaning and the tricks they used to make this transition easier for their youngest daughter. The caption reads:

"The first and last time my precious daughter ever nursed.

I didn't know that one person could feel so proud and so broken at the same time, right now I am a hormonal, emotional, and mental mess.

Raising my arm in this picture was very difficult for me as I had to fight through uncontrollable tears: this picture meant that I would never breastfeed my daughter ever again. I have been nursing for so long, that I don't know what it's like to not nurse anymore.



As I looked behind the camera, my husband is crying like I had never seen him cry before, like seriously, a deep gut cry. I was her comfort, her safe place, and I hope she still finds me that way. A month shy of 2 years old, she finally has a bed in a shared bedroom with her sister. We bought her her first bed, used any distraction we could come up with, snacks and new toys to keep her mind off of it.

My husband has taken over bedtime completely, including all nighttime wakings. We are on our third day, and every day gets a little bit easier. The guilt I feel for not putting her to bed is so intense and I can't wait to go back to it once she doesn't ask to nurse anymore. Closing a chapter is painful, but I am hopeful that this new season of our lives will also be special in its own way.

Through this maturation step she will not only grow more independent, but I will get a much needed break. She unlatched for the last time and sobbingly I said to my husband: "I did my best". He hugged me and responded with: "No. You did THE best, because you gave her your all". I love my family and am so thankful for such special and unforgettable moments like these. 💛

*my lazy boob has no clue about what's going on, but thoughts and prayers are accepted for my good one, I really think it might explode🤱🏻

**thank you to my husband, for insisting on filming this, I will treasure this forever.🤳🏼👩"

You've got this mama!

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If you're looking for basics for the kids for summer, you're in luck, mama. Primary clothes don't have logos or sparkles—they're classic prints and colors that can easily transition from one kid to the next. And this week, Primary is celebrating the new season with a major summer sale.

Items, like swimsuits, dresses, polos and more, are over 50% off. Most pieces are under $10 so you can stock up on an entire new wardrobe without breaking the budget.

Here's what we're adding to our carts—shop the entire sale here:

1. Baby rainbow stripe rash guard

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4. The short sleeve twirly dress

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Being an adult is no joke. Beyond dressing ourselves and our kids and, ya know, feeding and bathing everyone, there are so many other things that life throws at us. And because we're adults, we have to take care of these myriad to-dos. Welcome to: Adulting!

I'm not just talking laundry, filling up your car's gas tank and stocking the fridge with groceries. Getting life insurance. Refinancing your loan debt. (Students loans? Us, too.) Marriage counseling. Yep—I'm talking about all the cringe-inducing to-dos that you've likely been putting off for a few months… or years.

But guess what? Because it's 2019 and a little something called technology exists, these seemingly heavy-lift tasks are now a whole lot easier and faster to tackle. Here's how to check off your most tedious adulting chores.

The life insurance

When you're a single with no descendants, life insurance doesn't seem like a top priority. But when you suddenly have a kid (or three), setting your family up for longterm financial success is a must. And thanks to Ladders, obtaining a policy isn't the taxing, cringe-inducing process it used to be! Modern and so easy to use—seriously, you can even get one from your phone or tablet—Ladders makes it possible to obtain a policy in under five minutes. Yes, really. See? No need to procrastinate!

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The student loan redux

You have the degree and the career—and you also have the debt. And like us, you're likely just paying your monthly minimums without a thought to ever refinancing your student loans. Because that sounds hard and complicated, right? Right. Not so with help from Laurel Road, however. On this straight-forward site you can check your rates in only a few minutes —fear not, doing so won't impact to your credit score!—and refinance your debt, saving yourself (and your family) thousands of dollars.

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The marriage counselor

Did you know that 66% of couples report a drop in marital satisfaction when new arrives? It's not surprising considering the stress an infant creates for mamas alone, but all that pressure affects your relationship, too. But taking the time to really invest in marriage counseling often falls to the bottom of the to-do lists because of the many hurdles—finding a therapist, traveling to appointments, the cost of copays or out-of-pocket fees, the stigma of need therapy. With Lasting, however, you and your partner pair your apps and can begin working on your relationship together on your own timeline.

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A lot of women are literally walking around in fashion mogul Jessica Simpson's shoes, but there was no way she was going to be getting her feet into any of the footwear with her name on while she was pregnant.

A few months ago, back when she was still super pregnant with her third child, Simpson posted a photo of her left foot on Instagram and honestly, just looking at it was painful.

"Any remedies?! Help!!!!" she captioned the pic of her incredibly swollen ankle and foot. Thankfully, now that she's in her fourth trimester and no longer pregnant, Simpson's feet have chilled out. She posted a new pic with the caption: "I spy....my ankles!!!!

Before + after

The commenters on Instagram are now as happy for Jessica as they were were as shocked back when she posted the first foot photo.

"Omg Jessica call your Dr. Keep feet up lower salt intake and no heels," one wrote (although the last bit seems like it probably wouldn't be an option even if she wanted to wear them).

Calling the doctor is not a bad idea if your foot look's like Simpson's before photo, because swelling during pregnancy can be a sign of preeclampsia, according to the Preeclampsia Foundation, which notes that "a certain amount of swelling is normal during pregnancy," but suggests that moms-to-be watch out for "pitting edema" (which means that when you press on the skin an indentation stays for a bit) and leg discoloration.

"If you suspect this kind of edema, notify your healthcare provider. You should also put your feet up every day, but avoid sitting for extended periods of time," the foundation states on its website.

What mamas need to know about swollen feet

Simpson took her swelling with a sense of humor, posting a before and after pic of some super high wedges and her swollen pregnancy foot with the caption #tenyearchallenge, but swelling can be serious in pregnancy.

It can be related peripartum cardiomyopathy a rare kind of heart failure that can develop in the last month of pregnancy or in the first five months postpartum, but, according to the the American Heart Association, isn't easy to diagnose as the symptoms (like swollen ankles) are also symptoms of third trimester pregnancy.

So swelling is something to watch and definitely talk to a health care provider about—but it also happens in many uncomplicated pregnancies, as a lot of Jessica's IG followers pointed out. "That happened to me with my 1st pregnancy. Lots of elevation for my feet and fluids. Watch the sodium intake. Hang in there," one mama wrote, throwing in a 💞 emoji.

Jessica Simpson just launched a collection of flats 

Another commenter offered a funny story to put Jessica at ease: "My feet looked like this the last month of my pregnancy (if not worse) and I had normal BP and didn't have preeclampsia. I'm 5'0" and retained so much water. My OB-GYN at the time (a 65 year old man) told me that I had what he called "Fiona feet"....yep, the ogre from Shrek. Yep. 🤦🏼♀️ Needless to say, I switched doctors after my daughter was born."

Jessica Simpson's shoe collection currently includes a wedges, booties and a gorgeous stacked stiletto, and she recently launched a collection of flats, which should be helpful to all the mamas-to-be who have swollen feet (although not as swollen as hers were, she should design an extra-wide slipper for that season of life).

[A version of this post was originally published January 11, 2019. It has been updated.]

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