changes in partner Articles

The Big Value of “Small Talk” in Our Emotional Lives

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

value of small talkThere 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.


Re-Connect With an Ex? Crucial Considerations

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

reconnect with an ex?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?


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,” …


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.


Are You Invalidating Your Partner – Without Realizing It?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Probably the hardest things to change are the things we don’t realize we’re doing – like invalidating our partner.

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.”

Invalidation

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.


Who Says ‘I Love You’ First? Unexpected Findings

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

If you were asked whether you think men or women are the first to say, “ I love you” in romantic relationships, what would you say?

Most people – both men and women – believe it is women.  Such beliefs are congruent with those who have studied gender differences. For example,

  • Women are generally thought to be more interested in and willing to express love and commitment than men.
  • Women are considered to have an easier time than men expressing vulnerable emotions such as love.
  • A content analysis of emotional expression in Valentine’s Day cards, for example, found that women were more likely than men to express love and fidelity.
  • A questionnaire study of 55 men and women walking across a college campus which asked, among other questions, “Who normally says they are in love FIRST in romantic relationships?” found that both men and women believe that women are more likely to be the first to confess love in relationships.

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.


Strategies for Healing the Psychological Impact of Medical Illness

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

In the preceding blog, we considered the importance of recognizing medical illness as psychological trauma.

In this blog we report on an interview with Michele Rosenthal, author of the trauma recovery memoir, BEFORE THE WORLD INTRUDED, survivor, and host of ‘Your Life After 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.


Medical Illness as Psychological Trauma: Overlooked Pain

Friday, April 20th, 2012

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.

  • While some efforts like the emerging field of Psycho-oncology are starting to address the totality of the patient and the American Psychiatric Association now officially considers “ being diagnosed with a life –threatening illness” a potentially traumatic event, it is perhaps most important that patients and families understand why and how medical illness often brings with it- anxiety, anger, depression, panic and post-traumatic stress symptoms.
  • Understanding, normalizing and validating common stress reactions can demystify and lower anxiety at a time when so much feels beyond understanding or out of control.
  • Given that the experience of trauma is a function of many variables including age, nature of trauma, duration and personal meaning, people will differ in their psychological response to medical illness.
  • Some may experience a few symptoms which abate within months, others will deal with a delay in the experience of depression or anxiety until well after the medical crisis, and for others the persistence of emotional distress may warrant professional help.

Enhance Willpower: Change Your Inner Dialogue

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

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.

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:

  • Recognizing and understanding your inner dialogue
  • Altering the negative messages
  • Accessing the positive ones.

It makes the difference between heading to your goal with an inner critic or a positive internal coach.


Midlife Dating: From Solution to Evolution

Monday, December 5th, 2011

middleaged coupleFew 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.


 
Healing Together

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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