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Questions to Ask in a Relationship: A.R.E you there? A.R.E you with me?

You have likely heard some version of the importance of physical safety in relationships – and yes, this is essential! However, we tend to talk less about the importance of emotional safety in relationships. Feeling emotionally safe in your relationship goes even further than not being emotionally abused or manipulated (also essential!). Feeling emotionally safe can have everything to do with how emotionally available you view your partner as. Do you avoid talking about your frustrations or worries because you feel like it will be met with an eye roll? Maybe you predict that it will be brushed off completely? Maybe you’ve experienced these reactions so many times that you feel like it’s better to just keep your thoughts to yourself to avoid disappointment or rejection.

Dr. Sue Johnson, in her book Hold Me Tight, discusses three questions you can ask yourself to assess how emotionally safe you feel in your relationship with your partner.

A: Accessibility – can I reach you?
R: Responsiveness – can I rely on you to respond to me emotionally?
E: Engagement – do I know you will value me and stay close?

If the answer seems to be no to even one of those questions, it may be time to examine how that can change. Thankfully, becoming more emotionally responsive and available is something that you and your partner can improve on if you don’t feel its presence. In the process, try to examine how emotionally available you are to your partner as well. Sometimes it’s easier to point out what your partner is doing that feels “wrong,” but true change comes from examining your own role as well and changing your responses and actions accordingly. These can be intense and difficult conversations to have, but feeling emotionally secure in your relationship is vital to its survival. Sue Johnson uses the acronym A.R.E. because all of your attempts to connect boil down to the questions: Are you there? Are you with me? You have to admit, life tends to feel more bearable when you know you have an unconditional safe place to land. What conversation can you have today to make this shift more viable for your current relationship?

Book Review Series: Why reading should still be important to you

So you’ve just finished reading the last chapter of your scary huge textbook, you have to collect and read a pile of research articles, and you have to find time to proof read your 15 page research paper before tomorrow. Academic reading has consumed your life? As a graduate student with year-round school, please trust me when I say ME TOO. When I get home from class at night the LAST thing on my mind is reading a nice book for my mental and emotional health. To be completely frank, I’m so sick of reading that I’ve completely lost touch with how much books used to take care of me. I always feel so conflicted when I pick up a book, thinking “if I have time to read this, that means I have time to catch up on readings for school.” I get in such a weird headspace that I end up putting the book down and doing something else, whether it’s productive or not. I feel like I’m cheating my grades if I start reading for “fun.” This continual pressure is taking away my time to care for myself and I need to make a change. Recently I’ve made a deal with myself that I am going to let books start to take care of me again.

I want to see myself in their characters, I want their stories to make me think about the world, and I want their messages to comfort and ease my soul.

Books are such a magical way to find connection with people and stories without having to leave the comfort of your own thoughts. I love books. I’ve lost touch with what they used to mean to me, and that troubles me beyond words. They are the ultimate daydream. When I want to find a little solitude and enter a new reality where my stresses don’t exist, I read a book. Books have become the enemy and I am not okay with that. I want to renew my relationships with books and let them ease my stresses and soothe my soul.

I will be reading a new book every month and writing a short review about what the book has meant to me, how the book has impacted me, and how it might impact you in some way. Books are for learning. Books are also a form of rejuvenation for your mind and soul. I will be reading the soul hugging kind and recommending some of my favorites to the folks out there like me who have taken an accidental leave of absence from books and want to find enjoyment and fulfillment in them once again. I want to let books take care of me in the way that they used to. If you find yourself making these same remarks or these same excuses, please let me validate for you that you are not the only one. If you’ve recognized your relationships with books needs some attention, I invite you to join me in this new promise of self-care.

If you find some connection between my thoughts and your own experience, let’s meet back here and start a dialogue on the books I have chosen. The first book I am going to read (actually revisit) is a classic comfort read of mine that I just recently re-read as I renewed my commitment to reading: The Giver, by Lois Lowry. I love this book. Meet me here and let me tell you why you would too.

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