R-Relationships {ABCs of Health}

*This is a transcript from my interview with Kristen Duke. See video at the end of the post. To check out more of her resources, go to her website or instagram.

Aline
All right everyone! Welcome to the ABCs of health today we have another amazing interview. I’m talking to Kristin Duke and today is letter R, all about relationships. I met Kristen in a different lifetime. We both worked photography, I was starting my business and she was already the amazing photographer she is and that’s how I found her and we’ve been virtual friends for quite a while now. I don’t even know how long…

Kristen
It’s quite a while… I was trying to figure out when that was.

Aline
Well, I started the business in 2009, so it’s been over 10 years!

Kristen
Yeah, I think so. That’s awesome!

Aline
And she’s shifted a lot, and now she focuses on family, especially teenagers, relationships. That’s why I asked her to come here and share some wisdom. So let’s start. I gave a little bit of a blur, but what is it that you do, give us what you do.

Kristen
Well, I’m really passionate about parenting teenagers, and really just strengthening families, and so I really like to talk about different ways that I can help encourage parents as well as myself at the same time to strengthen the relationships within our family and especially with teenagers. I think people are who have little kids like yourself maybe are fearful of having teenagers someday, and so they kind of go into the teen phase with the armor on, and on the defense, and I really just want to help them be a little bit… you know, just flip that around. Be a little bit more offensive and go into it with tools and conversation pieces, and just ideas for how to better relate to their teenagers. But it is all encompassing, the way we treat our teens who may be challenging is the way we treat people that we know that are challenging. We all have family members or friends that are really difficult to have a positive relationship with, and so I think it’s just applicable to all relationships.

Aline
True. I’m gonna post her instagram, website, everything under here. So let’s start with the umbrella question, what do our relationships have to do with our health, in your opinion?

Kristen
Specifically when… no oh I froze. You said I had a little blur, yeah, okay.

Aline
Okay, so what is it that relationships in your opinion have to do with our health?

Kristen
I think ultimately… I think we might first think of our mental health, or you know, just stress. When we have a strain in our relationship with our spouse, or one of our kids, or another family member, or friend… it’s a weight that we carry around and I think whether it’s at the surface and we’re snapping at people that we don’t even have a bad relationship with, or snapping at the people that we do um or whether we bury it and it’s just this underlying that, maybe we don’t think about, but it can affect us. So I think emotional health, mental health, and I think physically, when our emotional and mental health are affected, it can often affect our physical health too. Our bodies very in tune with itself and I think whenever we have strained relationships it just affects us in so many different ways that we might not even fully realize.

Aline
What’s your… I know you have a few of these, but what would be a few of your tips to… because we don’t always, it’s not always glaringly clear when we’re having some trouble, or when someone might… when something may be out of tune. So what do you think are some red flags for us to say “maybe this relationship is a little out of sync”, “maybe I could fine-tune this a little bit”. What do you think?

Kristen
You know, I think… I talk so much about teenagers and so I’ll kind of go with that. I think a lot of times um you know I mentioned like the door slamming and the eye rolling. I think that’s the kind of behavior that parents can identify with that’s unnerving, that when a teen, or maybe it’s a spouse, or maybe it’s a young kid responds in such a way that… that’s kind of like a signal or a red flag that says something’s not okay. Maybe it’s them, maybe it’s you, maybe it’s the way that you’re communicating between the two of you. But I think whenever there’s any kind of a snap, maybe it’s a friendship that you’re not even having the door slam or whatever, I see that as something as: okay. Stop and think about what you could have done differently maybe, or even if you feel like you conducted yourself perfectly, think: what can I do to help ease their burden? Because something’s going on with them. I didn’t do anything, I don’t feel like I did anything. But something’s going on with them just from the calm conversation that we have. So I really do, and I also really believe in… it’s so hard I think to apologize. And so I think in parenting, I think we can lose our cool a lot. I just lost my cool a little while ago with my family because I was so stressed with this long to do list of it’s back to school time, and there’s all these forms, and my daughters are running cross-country, and then we had to go get a physical, and I think I got the wrong physical and then I was trying to upload it and it wasn’t working… all of these things were going wrong and I was irritated and I lashed out at my family because I was like: “why am I the one doing this? Why do I have to be the sole person responsible? Why isn’t my teenage daughter helping this process along?” And I was so stressed and I kind of… you know, it would have been nice for me. I apologized, but I feel like later I just can say: “Listen, I can’t do my to-do list, and your to-do list, and other’s to-do list, you know? We need to figure out a way to work together”. And I think… I just never underestimate the value of an apology. And it can be hard for some people, but I think our kids especially need to see that we recognize that we’re not perfect, and they need to see and recognize what it looks like to lose your cool and to come back and be apologetic and say “I was just frustrated, what can I do to make it better? What can I do to help you?” So I guess when I think of relationships my first is like family because we’re so close, and we kind of get impatient with each other, but I think it can extend to those that we don’t live with…

Aline
Okay, so go back to those that we don’t live with…

Kristen
Yeah, so I think it can extend to those that we don’t live with. I’ve had friendships that where we had a disagreement and apologizing. Sometimes they were like… some people just don’t want to deal with a friendship that’s hard, I guess. And not even hard, but just… I think everyone expects friendships to just… oh we’re supposed to be happy all the time, we’re supposed to agree, and it’s supposed to be easy. And the true friendships will have disagreements and I’ve done like apologizing, and didn’t hear anything back, and then I made a plate of cookies, or just going the extra mile sometimes if it’s a friendship that’s worth fighting for. And I guess we pick and choose, and then the people on the other end pick and choose if it’s worth fighting for as well.

Aline
Yeah, and when you talk about the apologizing and because there’s a weight right? There’s a personal weight when something like this happens. Even if, okay, maybe it wasn’t my fault. Maybe I didn’t do anything, or maybe I did the best I could in this situation but it still wasn’t the best that could have happened, or the best and just that eats up at us as well, right? It’s hard to be in a good space and have that weight in the back of your mind. Another question for you is what is your… maybe go to isn’t the the best way to say it, but what is a strategy that you feel is good to use in relationships to kind of create that balance when you feel like something isn’t going great. How do you bring that back to a good spot?

Kristen
So I talk a lot about connecting in my online space, and we all have different love languages, we all have different ways that we connect. I think we have to figure that out with the people that we care about. What’s their love language? How do they like to connect? I’ve really kind of done a lot of research and created a course really that talks about different ways to connect. Some people, like myself, I connect through conversation. I love talking, I love hearing stories, I feel very fulfilled when I hear someone that I love sharing with me. And then I have a son who’s just not so much into talking, and I found he connected as a teenager through he loved video games, and I asked him about his video games, I asked him tell me about the world you know that you’re creating in this video game, or tell me… I would often say “oh, what happened at school?” “Oh, I don’t remember.” “How was your day?” “Good.” Those are the kind of questions that that’s not a really true connection when you’re just getting one word answers. I remember feeling frustrated thinking I must be a terrible mom because we can’t connect through conversation. Well, that’s how I connected, but I had to figure out how he connected and I think with each person it takes some discovery for that. And for our family we found we connect through family hikes, and some families are like “my kids don’t like hiking so we don’t connect through it. I’m dragging them and they hate it.” Okay, sometimes you connect through going out to dinner, or sometimes you connect through watching a movie, or listening to  music, and um speak to somebody, and the ways… and really that’s how you really build it. And it doesn’t often mean communication, it often just means like having a shared experience. Going out to lunch, a simple getting ice cream together or something, but finding that true connection that it reciprocates, that builds the unity and allows for people to open up their hearts when there is some sort of disconnect. They can have fond memories to look back on, and not just the negative memories.

Aline
And how would you say, turning back to the yourself, or to the person in question, how does having these good relationships in your family, with your friends, how does this make your health, how does this make your life better?

Kristen
I mean, relationships are all around us. They are integral parts of our everyday life and when we have fractured relationships life is just gloomier. When we have flourishing relationships we flourish, and we can be our best self and we can do… you know, cross off the goals that we’re wanting to, our our own self-worth is enhanced, and it is self-care to be able to continue to nourish those relationships. We all know when we are caring for ourselves that we can do so much more, we can be so much more, and so I just think it’s just so encompassing. There’s nobody out there that doesn’t have a relationship. Whether it’s a friend, or a family member, or a child, or something. We all are surrounded by people, and it’s a challenge every day of life because we’re surrounded by so many different people. Even if we’re just frustrated with somebody at the grocery store, or somebody that was in line who was mean to us and affects us. Those are passing relationships, but there’s people all around us and we all need to figure out how to live in this world and not just survive, but thrive in our relationships well.

Aline
And the worst punishment you can give a human is solitary confinement right, so we we have to find a way. I was hearing an interview the other day and this guy was saying that I think it’s 60-something percent of our interactions during the day are not the closest relationships we have. Now of course this isn’t for everybody, but it’s the grocery store, it’s the traffic, it’s the… so it’s it’s more than just that little unit of your tiny family, it’s this bigger thing. That’s all the questions I have for you, but I want to know: do you have any last words of wisdom that you want to impart?

Kristen
I think one of my overarching themes that I really try and remind people is to preserve the relationship, and I use an analogy with a strawberry. I think strawberries are just so cute and adorable, and I think a lot of people like to… if you don’t like to eat strawberries, you like strawberry jam or something strawberry related. So I really like the visual of preserving the relationship. And you think about preserving a strawberry. If we love strawberries in its natural form and we want to know how to preserve them, there’s a process to preserve them, right? We buy them at the grocery store, they’re going to go bad in five days unless we preserve them. And so thinking about this jam making process, it’s intensive. There’s a certain way to do it, you know. You gotta chop them, you gotta boil the water, you gotta clear the jars, you gotta stuff them in the jars the right way, and seal them, and preserve them so that we can enjoy them in a year, maybe in five years, however long. And so thinking about your own relationship like the strawberry, whether it’s a friend, or spouse, or child, if we want to preserve the relationship long-term, if it’s something that is valuable to us now and we want to continue to have that, there are certain steps to doing that. And sometimes it’s a painful process, and sometimes it’s a long process, but if we want to enjoy the fruits of our labors years down the road, and especially with teenagers, when I talk about that, if you want to have a good relationship with your teens as adults, focus on what you can do now and how you can preserve that relationship with your own personal behavior. We can’t control what anybody else does, we can only control ourselves and how we respond to eye rolling, door slamming, unkind words. And really it’s just a lot about controlling our own emotions which is not easy. But if we tell ourselves in advance: I’m not going to be affected by unkindness. I’m not going to be affected by eye rolling. I recognize that it’s something within them and I’m going to strive to be patient and understanding and ask questions. I love the phrase be curious and not furious. If you ask questions like: “I’m just really curious why you felt like slamming the door when I was having a calm conversation with you”, you know? If we can think of those things and then we can enjoy the fruits for years to come.

Aline
Wonderful. See, I knew you would be perfect for this. All right everyone. So that’s Kristen and I am going to link all the things. Instagram, website, everything and again, thank you so so much and everyone keep following along. This was letter R for relationships. Bye!

Keeping it simple,
Aline

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