How to Effectively Create a Romantic Relationship that You Cherish CBaS cover art

Haruna Miyamoto-Borg shares practical tools to help you create your own toolbox for conflict resolution to create a healthy, satisfying romantic relationship. Learn what are the most common sources of conflict or dissatisfaction in your relationship, how can you communicate effectively and repair breaks, and the importance of savoring in your romantic relationship.


Haruna Miyamoto-Borg, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist with more than 20 years of experience of working in New York City—specializing in working with couples of diverse backgrounds, ethnicities, social-class, and sexual orientations. This rich clinical experience has fostered a deep understanding of the cultural and environmental influences that nurture and shape our lives. Individuals, people in intimate relationships, and families are seen through the lens of understanding, collaboration, and compassion. Clients continue to prove that, no matter where we come from, we all have inner resilience to cope with life stressors. And that it is sometimes the most challenging of these stressors that lead us to personal and interpersonal transformation and growth. She has a blog in Psychology Today called Couples and Culture. Her new book on conflict resolution will be coming out at the end of this year.

We recorded this episode on June 30, 2022.

Own your relationship, and doesn’t have to be always perfect, doesn’t have to be always Instagram pretty. It’s your relationship, a living, breathing entity that you co-created with your partner. And I wonder [if] you can cherish that and really own it. And if you really end up talking to your partner about the incident or that, and coming to this better understanding and accepting your mistake is mistakes and forgiving each other, that’s a real bond you’re creating with your partner and such a precious experience.

Haruna Miyamoto-Borg

Your Challenge Invitation

When you set up a date, savor the experience in the moment, whatever stage you are in of a romantic relationship.

If you’re in the early stages of dating, suspend your list in the moment and have fun. Enjoy the food, the ambiance, the music, the sky, whatever the experience is in the moment. You can refer to your list later, but in the moment, have some fun.

Contact and follow Haruna’s through her blog on Psychology Today and on Instagram.

You can connect with Damianne on the Changes BIG and small website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. You’re also invited to join the Changes BIG and small Facebook community.

Conflict is inevitable in a relationship. Differences are inevitable in the relationship. – Haruna Miyamoto-Borg

Similar Episodes

Timeline of the Chat

[00:27] Conflict resolution for couples
[05:17] Three practical tools for conflict resolution

[12:02] Conflict resolution vs repair
[16:17] Having Fun in the Marathon of Marriage
[21:04] How to break the barriers in romantic relationships
[27:37] What makes a secure relationship
[30:34] Examine your list of needs for wants
[33:07] Invitation/challenge

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Speak from the position of I. – Haruna Miyamoto-Borg

And when you are paying attention to the list, and I’m not dismissing of this, but you are not focusing on the time that you are spending with this person. – Haruna Miyamoto-Borg

Transcript of the Episode

[00:27] Conflict resolution for couples

[00:27] Damianne President: You’ve co-authored a book with your partner on conflict resolution. Tell us about this book.

[00:33] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: The book is likely coming out next year, mid 2023. So we wrote this book together because I’m a couple therapist, my husband is a couple’s therapist. And we have been going to this peer couples group for the last 14 years because we believe in the work.

In order for the marriage, long term relationship to work, I believe that we need to do the work. The work is I contribute to my marriage and he contribute to our marriage. So we have been going to this peer group and learning how to take care of this marriage?

 I’m a licensed therapist. Yet, I didn’t know much about taking care of my own relationship. So the book is very practical, relatable, focused on conflicts resolution. But really, we share a lot of practical tools that we learned from this group that we would like readers to also kind of experiment it and hopefully become their own toolbox.

[01:50] Damianne President: That’s really interesting because you’ve been married 16 years and so you started participating in this group two years after your marriage.

[01:57] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes. That’s when it become very challenging for me, at least I can speak for myself. We have two kids; both of them are teenagers now. And, you know, what couples fight about sort of money, sex, parenting, work, in-laws, all this.

 The very well known Gottman Institute that specializes in couples therapy did research and all these topics, a lot of couples fight about. And parenting, obviously, when our first one was born, I didn’t know how to do this co-parenting. I’m a parent, he’s a parent, co-parenting together. So we decided to form this group and we have been maintaining this group for many years.

[02:48] Damianne President: Now, your last name is Miyamoto Borg, which makes me think that you and your husband are from different cultural backgrounds.

[02:56] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes.

[02:57] Damianne President: How does that play out in terms of all of the types of conficts that come up in a marriage and the resolution of conflicts as well.

[03:06] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes, Damianne, that’s a very good question you have. I think conflict is inevitable in a relationship. Differences are inevitable in the relationship.

A little bit about myself. I grew up in Japan. I live in New York city. I came here for college and ended up staying here. So I identify myself as Japanese immigrant in United States. And my husband grew up here; he’s from California. And so we have a lot of apparent differences, how we see things differently, how we saw parenting differently many years ago. And now we have a two teenagers. How we deal with, how we take care of them, again, I have a very different picture compared to my husband. So kind of like coming to this awareness, hey, we need to talk about this instead of fighting about it.

[04:10] Damianne President: You’re listening to Changes Big and Small with Damianne president Big and Small will help you take action in your life with intention and purpose. In each episode, I invite you to accept unexpected challenges that will help you take action to live the life that you want.

[04:29] Damianne President: I lived in Nagoya, Japan for four years.

[04:32] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Uhhuh, that’s a long time.

[04:34] Damianne President: I was a teacher at the time and so sometimes I would make presentations for parents on different aspects of technology and children. And it was very interesting the conversations I would have with one parent versus the other parent. It was often biracial marriages but even the same cultural background doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the same values or the same experience of parenting or of being in a relationship either. So I think, although some challenges might come up in relationships where people have different backgrounds, all relationships benefit from figuring out conflict resolution.

[05:16] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes. 

[05:17] Three practical tools for conflict resolution

[05:17] Damianne President: You talked about your book having a lot of practical examples. Is there something that listeners could learn from our conversation today in terms of some practice they could put in place or habit they can develop for helping with conflict resolution.

[05:32] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Absolutely. We have a list of tools that readers can use. But I think at least three tools I would like to share here, very practical and very helpful for not only a romantic relationship, but for any type of relationship.

One is keeping that focus on yourself. So when fight happens or argument happens, you really wanna, you know, state your opinion, where you stand; you want it so bad. You want your partner to understand so very much that you have difficulty listening. The conversation itself gets heated. Your partner kind of join and, you know, kind of like escalate. So sometimes your conversation starts with parenting issue, but your conversation can end with a shouting much and you are not listening. Rather you are more angry, more resentful maybe, or more frustrated. So the first tool is pause, pausing. Because when that conversation is escalating with your partner, there is, no point of continuing the conversation. You can imagine this conversation with your friend, you probably won’t keep engaging in this conversation. You say, I’m going to take a pause. So taking a pause, taking a moratorium, taking a break. I need to cool myself down and that piece again, keeping that focus on myself that I need to take a break so that I can calm down and collect myself. And then, I can talk to you again. So let’s kind of stop.

[07:23] Damianne President: And that’s very different framing than saying you’re getting angry. You need to take a break, or I am too frustrated with you. I think sometimes we mix the me and the you, which can alienate the partner or the person that we’re talking to as well. So I think it’s very important what you’re saying about framing it in terms of I need, what you can control or what you can contribute toward’s deescalating the conflict.

[07:50] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes. In our book, we talk about the fighting, the arguing is a co-creation. You are not along in this, so hopefully your partner can understand that he, she, they need to do the work too. So it’s both of you. You can say yes, I agree, I need to take a break too. So you pause first and speak from the position of I. I want to. I need to. I need to calm myself down.

And the next phase or next tool is accountability. So you think about what just happened, but from the position of I. It’s clear, you know, he was saying this, they were saying this, she was saying this, but how did I contribute this? I was saying I, but maybe after a while I started saying you did this, how come you do this, how dare you, all this escalation. So you reflect on your process contribution. But here, sometimes people have difficulty focusing on themself because they never really reflect on themself in this particular way. So I would say bring kindness and love when you are reflecting on your contribution. Because sometimes, this is my experience, I say things that are hurtful and it’s hard for me to admit that, but I say I really made a mistake. I’m just another fellow human. I make mistakes. I am learning still. But I get to the next kind of toolbox, collaboration. I get to then ask for, we call it meeting in the middle. Let’s meet in the middle.

After pause, cool down kind of reflect on my process, how I contributed. And collaborating is, you know, I basically wanted to talk to you about this. This is how I was feeling. I’m sorry I kind of came across in this, I said this, and I apologize.

So those three are crucial tools in conflict resolution. I actually practice it. My partner also. We do this together because we really think that the fight or argument happens because we co-create this sometimes dysfunction.

[10:31] Damianne President: And what do you do if the other person is persistent? So for example, you say, I need a pause right now. I need to step away and take a minute before continuing our conversation, but they don’t want to pause, and they’re trying to follow you around to continue the conversation. What helps in that situation?

[10:52] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes. I think we all possess a very unique timing. So one wants to keep going. The other one wants to pause. No, I’m overloaded with information and emotions and just can’t process anymore. So we recognize that each one of us possesses a unique rhythm and unique way of wiring almost, that if he or she wants to keep going and the other one says no, that’s not because your partner doesn’t wanna talk to the person or be punitive. It’s just we all possess unique rhythm so understanding a person who is persistent and why can’t you forgive me, why can’t you talk about it, recognizing that you are not alone in this and sort of adjusting your dial almost, rhythm dial is helpful for the relationship, helpful for the partner and helpful for that person too because you are learning to co-create a rhythm that’s more of we.

[12:02] Conflict resolution vs repair

[12:02] Damianne President: I was thinking about conflict resolution and repair and what’s similar between those two concepts. Are they the same or… No, I don’t think they’re the same but what’s the relationship between conflict resolution and repair in relationships.

[12:19] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: I think conflict resolution and repair are, I would say very similar. I think if you can take some time to resolve your conflict, you create an opportunity to repair. And repair process, I think you put pieces together so that you have this strength and bond and unit that you can understand your partner more, you let yourself be understood by your partner. And there is forgiveness. Maybe it doesn’t happen immediately, but you are speaking with honesty from the position of I, owning your contribution. You are letting your partner talk too, from the position of I. And you are creating this unit, stronger than ever. And there is intimacy in admitting that I made mistakes.

Well, we ended up also making mistakes together. We kind of derailed, but we did the work to put the derailment back on track and there is a lot of strength, forgiveness, and almost intimacy in that process.

[13:48] Damianne President: Are you enjoying listening to this podcast? Please take a minute to review it wherever you’re listening. This helps other people find the show.

[13:59] Damianne President: And I think sometimes, what may happen is that we think it’s something small and we let it pass. Or the next day you overcome it without talking about it or without apologizing or without going through any sort of conflict resolution process. When is that okay and when should we reconsider just letting it go.

[14:24] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: I would say that you feel it out. It’s a subjective experience we all bring to our relationship. So you end up having maybe a small argument, let’s say, the previous night, whether that’s like who get to watch what channel, what TV show, or who forgot to put a key at the counter, that’s where the key is supposed to be. Or, you know, all these small things in your marriage, long term marriage, it’s endless, I think. Sometimes I think about it’s an endles s marathon. You are doing this endless marathon together. And sometimes mindless things happen because you are tired, you know, and your partner is tired. And if it’s a minor thing, would you let it go? Is this something that I want to let my partner know? Or this just happens; it’s life. How important is this? I can just put the key back in a place where we usually put it.

[15:36] Damianne President: I think the other part that comes into play here is what matters to each of you, because maybe it’s really important for me for the keys to be in a particular place on the counter, but the other person doesn’t care so much. And so who decided that I always have to get my way, I think is sometimes the unsaid part of relationships where one person may not agree. It may not seem like a big thing and so they’ll try to do it rather than making a fuss about it, but they may not have the same dedication to it as you do. And so if you care enough, if you’re the one who cares more about something, maybe it’s okay if you fill in some of the slack.

[16:16] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Mm-hmm

[16:17] Having Fun in the Marathon of Marriage

[16:17] Damianne President: You just talked about marriage as being a marathon. When I think about a marathon, I also think, okay, there needs to be some reward, some pleasure, some fun as well. So let’s talk about that in terms of on the other side of the equation, either in conflict resolution or just in day to day marriage, when you know that there are tiny conflicts that you might have to resolve or let go at different situations, how do you keep that balance? What else do you need to do to make sure that the relationship is healthy, satisfying?

[16:57] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes, I like the word balance. Absolutely. I think balance is so important. You might be very good at resolving conflict, but if you don’t create time and space for fun and play; what’s the point of resolving the conflict with your partner.

And I think it’s important for couples to have some form of a date night. It doesn’t have to be a formal one, but you take some time to check in, to talk to each other, to have a full meal without, you know, having people interrupting maybe, whatever the version is.

I have a very busy schedule; my partner does too. So instead of having a late, you know, sort of like a evening, let’s say Friday night date, we have a morning breakfast date that we go to our favorite restaurant for nice, sit down breakfast, and we just talk to each other. And they usually have nice music, etcetera.

A lot of people did in house date night during pandemic; you couldn’t go out so you stay home and you pick a movie and, you know, buy a nice bottle of wine maybe or whatever the drink you like to have, doesn’t have to be alcohol. And have a sit down dinner and enjoy each other.

[18:31] Damianne President: The other thing that also occurs to me is about having conversations. And I think sometimes, especially when people are busy, the conversation can seem too big, like there are a bunch of things we need to talk about and we keep being tired so when do we make space or time to have these conversations? And I’m wondering are there topics or are there types of conversations that couples need to be careful to have on a regular basis?

[19:02] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes. I think it’s something to think about. I encourage people to think about this because I think marriage is a unit, so the relationship couples part, and if you have children, you are parents. And also in order to do these things, being married and, you know, raising children, you have to talk about business, money, and maybe division of labor. Those things also are topics in a long term relationship.

Business owners, they do inventory of what came in, what went out and what’s the revenue, probably once a month, maybe. Some people do it every other week, depending on your, again, rhythm, whatever the rhythm is. But you go through it and review it maybe on your own or with a co-owner. So marriage can require that kind of work too, because you are spending money for groceries, phone bills, gasoline, and mortgage, or a rent, whatever you have. It’s I think helpful to look at that together. And do we need to do something about it? Maybe not, maybe status quo is fine, but again, you get to collaborate.

You get to say, what do you think about this? I was kind of like, you know, thinking about this piece; maybe we can eliminate this expense. If you are concerned about what’s going out and your partner said, no, maybe not, but something to think about. Yeah, I’ll think about it. And if you have some form of a cadence, then you can revisit at the next, you can call it some resource meeting because money is resources that your partner and both of you can use. 

[21:04] How to break the barriers in romantic relationships

[21:04] Damianne President: Sometimes people have a hard time with those conversations, especially when people don’t have the habit of it. Or if you come from a family that didn’t talk very much about these issues, it can be hard to have that level of revealing of yourself to a partner, even. I’m sure in your experience, you see lots of situations where people are not able to be completely honest with each other, or don’t have the habit of having conversations around all sorts of topics with each other. You’re a therapist so maybe this is some of the work that you do in terms of helping people through those conversations.

So if somebody’s listening and they know they should be having these conversations, but it’s a barrier or there are some barriers to it, what do you suggest?

[21:51] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: You know, I think that’s a very good question, Damianne. It’s sort of like, how do you break that barrier? I mean not many people heard their parents talking openly about money, what they have, what they don’t, et cetera, etcetera. I think, again, this is something that we all learn when we are in long term relationship, marriage.

So all of us are. and there is some anxiety and fear when we talk about money, because this is something new. When we do something new, obviously there is anxiety, excitement, but anxiety and fear around it. If you use muscles that you haven’t used ever, well, there’s gonna be some muscle soreness that you are going to have. So think of it as some muscle soreness that you are dealing with.

Now, when you have a conversation about money with your partner, that’s worthwhile; you are strengthening your conversation skill, your relationship with money and not only you get to share your ideas about money, your partner can put in his or hers. Then you are creating synergy, your ideas, your partner’s ideas, put it in a pot and create a better one.

[23:32] Damianne President: And I guess there are other topic where I hear this comes up, where people may have some sense of dissatisfaction, but not be able or willing to have the conversation is around intimacy issues, where people may have different expectations around sex or intimacy in the relationship.

[23:53] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Mm-hmm, I think a lot of people have trouble bringing it up. And the number one dissatisfaction in sexual intimacy is frequency, how often you want to have it. And that’s completely up to the couple to decide how often. It’s differences between you two, how much he wants to have it, how much she wants to have. So I would say how to bring this up. Sex in a lot of culture is considered as taboo; not many people talk about it with each other.

[24:34] Damianne President: And then also there is people religious upbringings, where there isn’t really even the language of what to say or how to say anything around the topic.

[24:45] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: We are identifying this barrier that prevents us from talking about it, bringing it up with your partner. This awareness of sexual intimacy is increasing globally. Just think that, to begin with, as sexual intimacy is something that you create with your partner. You are creating in sexual intimacy, a connection with your partner and that involves sex.

[25:19] Damianne President: It sounds very similar to the conversation about finance, where if you’re uncomfortable, it’s kind of the same principle of making some steps to have the conversation; you don’t become more comfortable having the conversation unless you start having the conversation.

[25:35] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: I think it’s yes noticing the discomfort. It’s going to be uncomfortable and maybe you need to break it down. Start talking about one piece of it at a time. Don’t expect the conversation to be thorough and deep from the very beginning. And I’m thinking also sexual experience is that two people are involved. I think historically speaking, there have been a lot of professional writing about this perspective, sex what’s portrayed from the perspective of heterosexual men. And women feel very uncomfortable about it. It’s because it’s a very male perspective. But also I think we are taught to be cautious when somebody came to us and made some sexual advances. So we grow up having a lot of mixed messages.

As a child, be very careful with men coming to us and making sexual advances. But then when we become mature adults, then all of a sudden the message is we need to be open about sexual experiences with our partners. It’s very conflicting. So I would say for a lot of women, it’s okay to feel discomfort.

If you have a secure, loving relationship with your partner, maybe having a conversation about sex or connecting with him, I’m talking about from that the perspective of a woman, is opportunity to explore sexual intimacy. And perhaps you get to own your sexuality or sexual health, sexual being.

[27:37] What makes a secure relationship

[27:37] Damianne President: I wanna dig into one thing you just said, because you talked about, if you are in a secure relationship, then you can have this type of conversation. What are the elements of a secure relationship? Does it depend on person to person or are there some universal components that make up a secure, romantic relationship?

[27:56] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: I think what secure relationship or what is good enough relationship might look different depending on the couple, depending on people who are in it. But I would say overall, I think secure relationship has a bond where you feel understood by your partner, also compassion and empathy for each other.

[28:28] Damianne President: I found it interesting that you just said that if you’re in a good enough relationship. In my recent interviews, we’ve been talking about how people have this romantic ideal of perfectionism in relationship sometimes. And maybe what we should be thinking about is good enough in a relationship as opposed to the best relationship or whatever other superlatives we can use about relationships.

[28:54] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes, I think it seems like a lot of people are very ambitious about finding a perfect relationship, finding a perfect partner. I sometimes hear my partner needs to be not only a partner, but a gym buddy and also she’s interested in books and I want her to be ambitious and I want, you know, all this kind of expectations. It’s hard to find the person and it’s hard to be the person always.

I sometimes ask are there any way that you can let go some of this, because let’s say you find she’s your gym buddy, then you get to go to the gym with your friends and that’s diversifying and creating more support system who can back your relationship up instead of expecting your partner. This is what I need from you.

You don’t need to do everything together. The relationship can have some flaws. I mean, you are working on yourself. Your partner is also working on herself, on himself. And relationship is always evolving and requiring work from two of you.

And that is a lot of still, I think, mystery and unfolding and developing that happens and I would say, let it be magical. Let it be, yeah. 

[30:34] Examine your list of needs for wants

[30:34] Damianne President: What you just said was you invite people to see if they could let go or release some of their expectations. And so maybe that’s something interesting for listeners. If they have a long list of must haves if they’re dating, what could you let go? What’s the minimum you could have on your list? I think the approach often is what are all of the things that I want instead of what are the essential things? What are the things that are closest to me? And maybe those are just one or two or three, as opposed to pages long.

[31:10] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes, absolutely. And I sometimes think about this. So when you meet a person, what do you expect? Are you having this list of things, like, I want her to be this, you know, a, B, C, D, E, after this maybe goes on and on and on. And when you are paying attention to the list, and I’m not dismissing of this, but you are not focusing on the time that you are spending with this person.

I think it’s really important to really feel it out, stay here and now, and see whether you get to have a fun conversation with him or her or them, fully in it because this kind of invisible, some people call it chemistry, this initial kind of very exciting, flattering feelings you get. I would pay attention to that. And if you like the person again, you ask him out, you ask her out. Maybe if you have a long list, I encourage people to cut it down.

I’d also ask people to think about this, my partner talk about it too, sort of like what’s your need instead of wants, that basic need from your partner. Want, can go on and on and on, but need, the really minimum need you must have. You want your partner to have a secure job. Okay. Let’s have that.

[32:56] Damianne President: I think that’s a nice reframe to think about your needs rather than your wants. If you are creating long list of needs, you’re probably getting into the category of wants more than needs. 

[33:07] Invitation/challenge

[33:07] Damianne President: I would like to ask if you have an invitation or a challenge for listeners, whether people are dating or in a romantic relationship, do you have an invitation that they can use for having a stronger relationship, less conflict, being better at conflict resolution, any of the topics we’ve talked about today?

[33:31] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: I think Damianne, I thought about what you said sort of, I really want people when they set up a date and see your potential romantic partner, you go to the site or restaurant or cafe, there’s all this expectation. I would say drop that list and have fun. See whether this person can have fun with you. Enjoy the restaurant, the food and the ambience, and maybe the music. Or if it’s outdoor, look at the sky and enjoy the moment. Without this, you can’t do the conflict resolution down the road.

[34:20] Damianne President: So it’s really the idea of savoring. And I think if people are already married or in a committed relationship of some sort, then you can also savor. What’s the most fun you can have on the next date that you go on. Or if you’ve slacked off a bit, maybe you need to set up a date with your partner and don’t make it too complicated. Like you’ve said, don’t let that be a barrier to actually spending time with somebody that you love.

[34:50] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: Yes. Yes, absolutely. That can happen at home. Yeah

[34:57] Damianne President: Haruna, where can people go to learn more about your work or if they wanna connect with you?

[35:03] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: My blog site is at Psychology Today. I write blogs about relationships. And my website is That’s where you can find me.

[35:19] Damianne President: Both those links will be in the show notes for listeners as well.

As we end. Is there anything else that you want to make sure listeners know or that you want to share?

[35:28] Haruna Miyamoto-Borg: I’m thinking sort of like you mentioned about how people are aiming for getting a perfect relationship. And, you know, I think we live in that the time that’s surrounded by this perfect maybe images, perfect this, perfect that, Instagram, etcetera portraying this happy maybe vacation picture with your partner, et cetera. That doesn’t, you know, tell a story.

I would like listener to really maybe own your relationship and doesn’t have to be always perfect, doesn’t have to be always Instagram pretty. It’s your relationship, a living, breathing entity that you co-created with your partner. And I wonder you can cherish that and really own it. And if you really end up talking to your partner about the incident or that, and coming to this better understanding and accepting your mistake is mistakes and forgiving each other, that’s a real bond you’re creating with your partner and such a precious experience. I would like the listener to own it really and say I’m very grateful for my marriage.

What’s your need instead of wants, that basic need from your partner. – Haruna Miyamoto-Borg


Well, we ended up also making mistakes together. We kind of derailed, but we did the work to put the derailment back on track and there is a lot of strength, forgiveness, and almost intimacy in that process. – Haruna Miyamoto-Borg

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