There is nothing small about “small talk.”
Defined as polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially used on social occasions, small talk has often been seen in a pejorative or dismissive way.
Actually, small talk has a much broader meaning. Whether we love it or dread it, whether it serves us as a “ tool or trait,” we use “small talk” for meeting important psychological needs. We use it to make connections, to regulate anxiety and to facilitate the interplay between these two necessary functions.
When you met your partner or spouse for the first time, did you open with a question like: Will you marry me, sleep with me, and have my children?
More likely, you used what would be deemed small talk to show some interest and bridge an initial connection:
“So you are the new guy in the office.”
“What’s a female with a Yankee hat doing in Boston?”
It is also likely that whether shy or outgoing, you have found yourself in a hospital waiting room, a delayed airplane, or the crowd outside a funeral home engaging in small talk – and that it helped you.
Recycling is a good idea, except when it comes to relationships.
Regardless of what people tell themselves about the time invested, the good times missed, the great sex, or the feeling that things will be different; in most cases the re-connection with an ex rarely brings a better outcome.
Research tells us that rekindling a relationship decreases happiness. Studies of college grads as well as larger national studies of older couples reveal that those people who cycle back to relationships, often over and over again, experience less satisfaction, more uncertainty and more disillusionment in their relationships than non-cycling partners.
Let’s face it – breaking up is hard to do. When it has happened there is usually a good reason on the part of one or both partners.
Why then do people look backwards? Why do they imagine it will be different?
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.
“Living like this is like living in a minefield.”
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,” …
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.
Developing a positive attitude will enhance sexuality. Here are some strategies.
Thanks to a plethora of self-help books on relationships, most partners, whether dating, committed or long married, have become aware of the value of listening for improving understanding and connection. Most recognize or are reminded by their partners when they are not listening.
Validation is much more than listening or even active listening. It is a verbal affirmation of another’s right to think or feel a certain way.
“I can see why you felt embarrassed when I said that in front of our friends.”
“Most people would feel betrayed in that situation.”
The problem with invalidation, and the reason it is so caustic to relationships, is that it is not simply the absence of validation.
Invalidation is actually the disqualification of another person’s thinking or feelings. It carries the implication that you must be crazy, bad, over-sensitive or inept to feel a certain way.
Most people – both men and women – believe it is women. Such beliefs are congruent with those who have studied gender differences. For example,
REALTY suggests something different. MIT researchers Joshua Ackerman, Griskevicius & Li (authors of the questionnaire study above) found across a series of studies that what men and women believe and what they actually do is quite different.
In the preceding blog, we considered the importance of recognizing medical illness as psychological trauma.
Diagnosed with a rare disease, Stevens Johnson Syndrome, at age thirteen, Michele journeyed through two decades of undiagnosed PTSD to eventual recognition, recovery and support of many as the founder of www.healmyptsd.com.
What she offers in lessons learned is of value for parents of children who have faced illness, as well as adults who wonder how they will ever reclaim their bodies, heal their sense of self and take a new self into the future.
Michele, your journey from illness started when you were only thirteen. Parents suffer so much when they see their children suffer. How did your parents respond?
My parents were phenomenal! They were there in a very active way. Their presence next to me, their translation of what was happening to me, their role in helping the staff understand me in a certain way were all crucial to my safety and comfort.
In this era of advanced medical detection and intervention, the medical care of patients and the reduction of mortality for life threatening illness has never been greater. Against this backdrop of success, however, what is often overlooked by professionals, family, even patients, is the experience of medical illness as psychological trauma.
A recent survey reported by the American Psychological Association of 566 adults revealed that most people(93%) made a resolution to change some aspect of their behavior in 2012. Many did not succeed. The top reason most gave for failing in their efforts to lose weight, save money, exercise or make other lifestyle changes was lack of willpower.
What Accounts For This Lack Of Willpower?
Willpower is defined as the inner strength that enables us to make decisions and carry them out. What many may describe as a “lack of willpower” may actually reflect a tendency to overlook an important factor that influences our determination to make something happen – our inner dialogue.
Our inner dialogue is actually the fabric of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Sometimes the inner message is very conscious; sometimes it is so automatic that we hardly know we are thinking it; and sometimes it is without conscious thought.
Often if it is negative, we may just feel down, hopeless, unmotivated, angry or anxious – the associated feelings to defeating messages sent to self.
“Outing” the Internal Dialogue
Stopping to consider your inner messages – what you tell yourself about yourself – is invaluable in harnessing willpower. It involves:
It makes the difference between heading to your goal with an inner critic or a positive internal coach.
Few people have a long range goal of dating in midlife. To the many who find themselves faced with the possibility, midlife dating can seem like a mystifying, even overwhelming, journey to find a partner.
The reality is that despite the horror stories of friends or the fictional depictions of perfect couples repelling down snowy peaks, the experience of midlife dating really depends upon your goal.
When you expand the goal of midlife dating from finding someone to finding and re-defining yourself, the experience changes. Instead of a solution to being alone – midlife dating becomes an evolution of self.
Why Midlife Dating?
Usually something has or has not occurred in the lives or personal relationships of people ages 40- 65 that makes midlife dating a consideration. Some have left a troubled or contentious marriage; some feel they have been the one left; some have never looked up from a career; some have weathered the illness and death of a partner; and some have decided they are finally ready to settle down.” Most don’t want to be alone.