Christmas Presence


Recently, I stood in the arrivals gate at the Toronto airport waiting to pick up our daughter who was flying home for Christmas. We hadn’t seen her since she left for College in August, so to say we were excited to see her would be an understatement.

As I waited I couldn’t help but notice all of the happy reunions that were happening around me. There were homemade banners and cardboard signs with greetings of “Welcome home”.  There were hugs and tears as people welcomed their family and friends in their arms. At one point, two little girls waiting beside me suddenly burst into shrieks (ear piercing shrieks!) of joy and ran toward a woman who had just walked through the gate.

I was struck by how something as simple as the presence of one person can bring so much joy.

As we are approaching the Christmas season, I wonder if sometimes we make Christmas more complicated and stressful than it needs to be. Rather than rushing through the holidays, distracted by trying to find the “perfect gift”, what would it be like to slow down long enough to notice and take interest in the people around us?

While there is value in the giving and receiving of gifts, I wonder how Christmas would be different if our focus shifted from giving “presents” to offering our “presence”.

In the busyness of our everyday lives, we can easily fail to notice the true needs of our family and friends. The truth is that each of us are surrounded by lonely, hurting, grieving people every single day. It’s easy to underestimate the value our presence offers people around us. But for people who are grieving, stressed and lonely, there is no substitute for true friendship and support.

Regardless of our financial situation, each of us can give the gift of ourselves to people around us. Whether it be something as simple as silencing our phone to play a board game, or driving across town to visit an aging parent in a nursing home, showing up for people is an invaluable gift.

Amidst the busyness of this holiday season, may you take time to consider who in your life could benefit from a listening ear, some encouragement, or simply your quiet presence.

*The brief video clip below is a reminder of how valuable our presence can be to people who love us.



Three Tips For Better Conflict Resolution


Many couples fear that experiencing conflict is a sign that their relationship is in distress. However, this is not necessarily true. Healthy individuals bring their whole self into a relationship; their values, their tastes in music, and even some “annoying habits”.  Sometimes the very things that caused you to fall in love with your partner, can become a source of conflict over time.

It is not the absence of conflict, but how conflict is resolved that indicates the health of a relationship. When couples learn to resolve their conflicts well, it can actually increase feelings of closeness and intimacy between them.

Sometimes it’s helpful to establish a few ground rules before engaging in conflict with your significant other. Below are 3 tips that may help you work through your next disagreement:

1. Ask for clarification.

Sometimes the message your partner is sending you is not the same message you are receiving. It’s easy to jump to conclusions and assume the worst of your partner. Many times, we hear what our partner is saying through our own distorted lens and may read a tone or an intention that was not intended by our partner. When we take the time to ask for clarification, it communicates to our partner that we are listening and gives you the opportunity to better understand their intended meaning.

2. Don’t interrupt each other

When partners agree to give each other “equal airtime” to express themselves, it fosters mutual respect. When you offer to let your partner voice their position, they will be more likely to listen to your perspective in return. When we speak over our partner, we are sending the message that our opinion is more important than theirs. This tends to “escalate” disagreements and often ends in one of two ways: a shouting match where neither partner feels heard or understood; or one partner will shut down while the other does all the talking. Either way there is no resolution. Giving each other the opportunity to be heard, helps both partners feel valued and strengthens the connection between them.

3. Take a “time-out”

When your partner says something that triggers an emotional reaction in you (as only a partner can) take a moment to pause before you respond. If you feel your heart racing and your jaw clenching, it might be wise to let your partner know you need a “time-out” before you can finish the conversation. When we respond in anger, we are more likely to do or say things we will later regret. Anger creates a lot of energy that is better burned off by taking a walk or a trip to the gym. It’s important not to use a time-out as an “escape hatch”; conflicts need to be resolved, but they are more effectively resolved when both partners are in a calmer state of mind.

While disagreements are inevitable, sometimes relationships need the extra support and guidance of a professional counsellor. If you need help reconnecting with your partner, call me for a free phone consultation. I have training in emotionally-focussed couple’s therapy and can support you in regaining or strengthening your connection with each other.