General Articles

How To Improve Relationship Closeness–”Stop Talking”

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

While almost everyone working with couples and every self-help book underscores communication as central to any good relationship, there are times when the last thing that brings a couple together is “ talking.”cell phone couples

If you have ever said or heard someone say “ We Need to Talk,” you know that those words rarely invite closeness, valuable communication or good memories!

The reality is that communication between couples is complex and involves much more than talking–particularly when talking is on demand, without attention to the cues of the other and without the on-going life experiences that tell partners about each other in spoken and unspoken ways.

There is often more mutual understanding that comes from spontaneous sharing in the midst of living—than rehashing issues in the well caricatured “ Woody Allen Style.”

Here are some suggestions for those times when alternatives to talking may be worth considering:

After a Cease-Fire–Re-set the Relationship

The period of time in which there is a cease-fire after an argument is not the best time to talk.

Yes, there may be more to say…

Yes, You may feel you have the ability to just clarify…

But, the most effective thing you can do is to re-set the relationship with an experience of your positive connection as a platform for going forward.

“Do you want to get something to eat?”

“Do you want to see the next episode of that series?”

  • Making overtures to go forward allows time and connection which often soften the tension and the “ need to win.”
  • When someone isn’t forced to see something in a certain way, they often have the airtime to see it on their own.
  • Couples often find that when they can dare to put down the fight to make space for they’re positive relationship, a solution or negotiation spontaneously emerges that could not have been reached in the heat of the verbal exchange.

When Sharing Time Together–Use Affection

I have often had partners complain to me that when sharing time with their spouse or partner the other “ doesn’t talk.”

They, of course, are tired of making conversation and often complain to the other “ You never talk.” This …


Tragic Loss By Suicide and the Question “Why?”

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

shutterstock_148518026For every suicide there is an estimated six or more “suicide survivors,” people who are left behind trying to cope with this traumatic loss. They include spouses, parents, siblings, friends and relatives.

When the person lost is Robin Williams, a famous comedian and actor whose creativity and art brought laughs to millions, it illuminates the pain, confusion, shock, and even guilt suffered by others who have lost a loved one to suicide.

The Question WHY?

One of the haunting thoughts that survivors carry in the aftermath of suicide is “ WHY DID THIS HAPPEN?”

As Bev Feigelman, one of the authors of Devastating Losses, and the mother of a young filmmaker who died by suicide describes, “ The question mark stays in the forefront of your mind haunting you and only with time starts to slowly move toward the back.”

Depression, often unrecognized and untreated is considered the major cause of suicide. What complicates this finding is that those suffering often struggle with the fear that they will not find the proper treatment.

In her important book, Depression and Your Child, one of the contributions of author Deborah Serani, is a listing of over 300 names of famous people from athletes, actors to writers who have suffered with depression.

Suicide as “ Psychache”

In work with suicide survivors – be they family members, siblings or cops, the consideration of suicide as “ psychache” has been considered helpful.

Essentially it comes from the work of suicide expert, Edwin Shneidman who defined suicide as a misguided solution to unbearable psychic pain.

In such pain, thinking becomes constricted, there is tunnel vision and the only compelling need is to end the pain. When suicidal, the thought of ending the pain is not always equated with ending life.

Intolerable, Interminable and Inescapable.

Dan Bilsker and Peter Forster (2003) who also define suicidal thinking in terms of a crisis of pain–describe it in terms of “ The Three I’s” – The person suffering perceives the pain as Intolerable, Interminable and Inescapable.

When intervention is possible, it aims at relieving despair by demonstrating that emotional pain …


In a Relationship-Love Means Being Able to Say “NO”

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

Can you say NO to your partner?

Can you tolerate hearing NO?

In a relationship, the freedom to say NO may be one of the most important dynamics your share. If there is no space for NO, there really is no space for an authentic relationship. Partners believe in the “ I do” because it is a choice of Yes over NO.couple on the bench


Non-Medication Strategies for Reducing Chronic Pain: Use and Effectiveness

Friday, July 25th, 2014

About 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. Lasting longer than six months, such pain can be mild or excruciating, episodic or continuous, inconvenient or totally incapacitating.

For too many, chronic pain is an invisible and debilitating condition. Often employers and even spouses can’t quite appreciate the impact of a migraine or the limitations imposed by back pain. As such, those who suffer often report feeling isolated in addition to feeling depressed, worried about levels of medication and anxious about a future of no relief from pain.file0001875581713

Scientifically Proven Non-Medication Strategies

The good news is that in addition to ever expanding medication options, there are an increasing number of scientifically proven non-medication approaches to reduce chronic pain, increase the effectiveness of medication, address flare-ups, and in some cases reduce need for medication.


Understanding and Using the Thoughts and Feelings After Divorce

Monday, July 21st, 2014

Divorce statistics tend to obscure the emotional impact of divorce. Whether a divorce is chosen, imposed, contested, litigated or mediated, divorce is difficult.

What often adds to the difficulty even after a divorce is finalized are lingering thoughts and feelings that bewilder, disturb, preoccupy and interfere with moving forward in a self-productive way.


Dissatisfied With Your Appearance? Re-set The Criteria of Beauty

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

How satisfied are you with your appearance?

Across the ages, norms of beauty have been set by cultures and passed down in the context of family, close community and friends. With time and technology, however, the setting of norms has changed and so has their impact.looking in the mirror gown


Illusions of Self-Knowledge: Findings and Benefits

Friday, June 20th, 2014

How well do you really know yourself?

Have you ever discovered with surprise that the type of movie you hate was actually interesting; the sushi you would never try was delicious; or the cruise you resisted was really a blast?

Have you ever thought that if anyone had told you what you had to face yesterday, last month or this whole year, you would have said, “No Way, I can’t do that.”girl on the train

You are not alone.


Look Who’s Laughing: Similarities and Differences in Men and Women

Saturday, June 7th, 2014

Laughing is a wonderful human trait that we all share. It is something we do from earliest childhood and something that benefits us in many ways.

  • Physically, laughter relaxes skeletal and cardiovascular muscles. The rapid breathing associated with laughter increases oxygen level and improves respiratory function.
  • Psychologically, laughter has been associated with reduction of stress and anxiety as well as improvement in mood, self-esteem and coping skills.
  • Cognitively, neuroscientist, Scott Weems tells us that humor is like exercise for the brain. It necessitates insight and flexibility because it involves following the thread of the story and then enjoying the surprise, the pun or the unexpected. It is delightful when you realize from a child’s giggle that they “ get the joke” and heartwarming when the elderly are still “getting it” and laughing.
  • Socially we know that laughter invites connection and is contagious. If you enter a room where everyone is laughing, before long there is a good chance you will be laughing even without knowing why. Some feel that the purpose of laughter is to strengthen human bonds.

Whereas men and women both enjoy humor and benefit from laughing, there are some interesting gender differences.


Superstitions: Coping with Uncertainty

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

black catAre you superstitious? Do you knock on wood? Wear a lucky jersey when your favorite team plays? Believe deaths occur in three’s or use your horoscope as a life guide?

If so, you are not alone. It may surprise you to know that according to a 2012 CBS News poll, 51% of Americans endorse “knocking on wood” to insure good luck or ward off adversity, and 17% of Americans believe in the power of sports superstitions, like fans wearing lucky hats, to determine the outcome of a game!


Reducing Procrastination By Addressing The Role of Anxiety

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

Most of us procrastinate about doing some things, some of the time. I may put off folding clothes and you may find yourself avoiding the mail, the boxes in the garage or the report due next week.  For 20% of men and women in the US, procrastination becomes a pervasive life style pattern that impairs quality of life by limiting success, compromising relationships and lowering self-esteem.boy sitting with dog

Procrastination and Anxiety

While there are many different reasons offered for procrastination, one dynamic that underscores many of them and much of the delaying or postponement of responsibilities is the difficulty regulating anxiety. In a sense, procrastination becomes a default position which offers a temporary fix but ultimately adds more anxiety.


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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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Recent Comments
  • RexDoctor: This is good, sound advice in the “less-is-more” school of thought. Thank you! P.S. Also, just...
  • dawn: And I am the other woman as well. Have been for 3 years now. I was made to believe in that he was separated in...
  • Stegner: Clearly you do not experience empathy for his wife. You actively deal in lies and deception and yet you...
  • Lin Agostinacchio: Great writing. You pinpointed so much about divorce. I know many friends and relatives that are...
  • Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP: Becky: Thanks for adding these. My intention was to mention some as examples of the...
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