Archive for June, 2012

Renovate Your Relationship: Replace Unsafe Couple Dynamics

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Regardless of how new or old your relationship, most couples can benefit from changing relationship dynamics that cause marital deterioration.

In a recent study in The Journal of Family Psychology, researchers, Lavner, Bradbury and Karney found in surveying 251 couples every six months for the first four years of their marriage, that despite the wish for marital fulfillment those whose marriages deteriorated were dealing with unsafe dynamics like verbal aggression, repression of feelings and denial of needs. Left unattended, such dynamics compromised the bond despite commitment, personality strengths or stress level.

In a similar way, no matter how beautifully a couple might decorate a home; a leaking roof or cracking foundation can not go unattended without consequences.

A closer look at a three “ unsafe couple dynamics” may invite mutual consideration of your relationship and the possibility of some renovations.

Verbal Aggression

“Living like this is like living in a minefield.”

  • Verbal Aggression is toxic to relationships because it destroys communication, trust and intimacy. Usually taking the form of taunts, personal insults, accusations, threats of separation or divorce, it locks the partners in pain.  Nothing changes. Nothing is learned about self or other.
  • The person who is verbally assaulted may retaliate or withdraw. At the worst, studies of intimate partner violence find that verbal aggression is a predictor of physical aggression.
  • In an atmosphere of verbal aggression, real connection is impossible. Often one or both partners go through cycles of guilt and fear. With time, emotional and physical health is compromised

Appropriate Assertion of Anger

The hallmark of a viable relationship is the ability to feel anger and express it in a way that communicates a problem, disappointment, conflict, or feeling without frightening, threatening or verbally assaulting one’s partner.

Renovations that make the healthy assertion of anger possible:

Stepping down by one or both in the face of verbal aggression is not giving up – it is protection for both. No one can fight alone. The mutual call for a “ Time Out” or the individual message, “ I can’t really respond if we are screaming,” …


‘Friends With Benefits’ or Friends With Complications?

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

According to the urban dictionary, ‘friends with benefits’ are defined as “Two friends who have a sexual relationship without being emotionally involved.”

Wait a minute… didn’t someone say that once people see each other naked they can’t be friends?

In my experience working with people, I have found that those who have acted on what is now termed, “friends with benefits” often end up as “friends with complications” – or not friends at all.

Both men and women who sleep with a friend often start out believing, or telling themselves and each other  “It’s no big deal. Why not?”

The reality seems to be that it is a big deal emotionally – if not for both, often for one. Sleeping with a friend changes the definition of the relationship in terms of physical boundaries, emotional connection, conscious and unconscious expectations, view of self and other.


Grandpets: An Unexpected Love Affair

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Few would argue that this is a country involved with pets.  With 93.6 million cats, 77.5 million dogs, and a wide variety of other pets, there is an increasing appreciation of the growing trend in pet ownership, recognition of pet expenditures that outspan the rate of inflation and mounting evidence of the physical and emotional benefits in having pets.

One trend that is less noted but emerging in this “state of the pet nation” is an increasing number of grandpets – The pets of your adult children with whom you have a special bond and connection.

A closer look at situations involving grandpets suggests that the care and connection to grandpets is more than an easily dismissed event or another version of “ you do what you have to do for your kids.”  Rather it seems there is a confluence of needs faced by parents, adult children and pets for which grandpetting seems a workable solution.

For example, in this era…

  • There are some 79.6 million baby boomers on the brink of retiring, re-inventing or changing lifestyles that have the time and need to help their children.
  • There are financial insecurities that make jobs scarce, commutes longer, travel necessary and pets at risk of being left alone.
  • Close to 46% of young adults return home after college because the cost of living makes moving out impossible – they often come with more than baggage.
  •  Men and women in the military face multiple deployments – someone who loves them needs to love their pet.
  • Married couples often juggle jobs, children and long distance relationships – who do we trust with the kids and the dog?
  • One in two marriages end in divorce – who can help maintain the bond with the pet?

These are situations where having and keeping a pet in a safe and loving way can be a challenge. These are situations where the needs of a pet can be a dilemma for one family member and a way to feel needed by another. These are the situations where families who might not talk enough or might not agree on anything will agree to care for a pet.


Enhancing Your Sexuality: Six Important Strategies

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Anna Freud invited us to consider that “Sex is something you do, sexuality is something you are.”

Building on this, we can define sexuality as the way we experience and express ourselves as sexual beings. What makes sexuality a complex dimension is that it is determined by many factors including our body, gender, age, culture, history, media, religion and family.

What makes our experience of our sexuality important is that it affects our overall sense of self, our relationship with others and the life we live.

The most important factor enhancing our sexuality – one that is often overlooked but can out-trump age, culture, prior history, and body type is ATTITUDE.

  • The man or woman with an accepting sense of self is most often the most attractive person in the room….
  • He/she is not necessarily the person with the classic looks, the newest car or the best paying job; but rather, the person smiling, making eye contact, enthused with others and enthused with life.
  • The positive way we think and how we feel about ourselves plays a major role in our sexuality and in the pleasure we have in expressing it.

Developing a positive attitude will enhance sexuality. Here are some strategies.


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Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP & Dianne Kane, DSW are the authors of Healing Together: A Couple's Guide to Coping with Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress. Pick up the book today!

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