Relationships Articles

The Importance of Connection, Part 1: How to Get and Stay Connected

Thursday, September 12th, 2013
Everyone needs to feel connected.

Everyone needs to feel connected.

When I first became a bird owner, I noticed that my cockatiel Sunshine would only eat when someone was near her.

Most birds are flock animals; they rely on the members of their community for companionship, safety, and parenting.

In the wild, Sunshine would only eat with her flock members there to watch out for her.

Like many other animals, humans have an inborn need for community that is crucial to not only our survival but also to our mental health and happiness.

Not everyone needs 40 friends, but everyone needs someone they can rely on to help them through the harshness of life.

WHAT KEEPS US FROM BEING CONNECTED TO OTHERS?

  • For some people, it’s depression. One of the key signs of depression is withdrawing from social situations. People who become depressed turn down invitations, fail to show up to gatherings, and limit phone calls and visits with friends.
  • Other times, it can be a change in life — a move, divorce, death in the family, or illness. Many adults I’ve spoken to have said that when they graduated from high school or college they found they had a hard time making new friends in the ‘adult’ or working world.
  • Many people are so afraid of rejection that they stay away from getting close to others.

Bad Relationship Advice: Our Top 10 List

Thursday, September 5th, 2013

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There is a lot of relationship advice out there; friends, family, and coworkers are willing and eager to share their thoughts.

Over the years, I’ve heard and read some awful pieces of advice.

Here are the worst of them.

10. If you love her enough, you can get her to change.

  • ANY advice that has ‘change’ in it is bad news. You can’t make anyone change, and if you expect them to you’ll be met not only with resistance and frustration, but failure.

9. No one will ever love you as much as he does.

  • This is a phrase that is often used to keep an individual in an abusive relationship. Love comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It might be true that no one will ever love you exactly like someone else,  you will be loved again. Don’t allow this bad advice to keep you stuck in a harmful relationship.

Excuse or Explanation: Is There a Difference?

Friday, August 30th, 2013

shutterstock_43783042“It wasn’t my fault!”
“She made me do it!”
“Everyone else was doing it!”
“I’m sorry, but…”
“He started it!”

Do these sound familiar?

For some people, these phrases may bring back memories of their childhood, or they may have heard these statements from their kids.

Despite sounding childish, everyone has said something similar in their adult life to a spouse, police officer, family member, or friend.

In counseling sessions, I frequently hear how people struggle with the difference between excuses and explanations.

Some people hesitate to give any explanations; they see explanations and excuses as the same thing, and they don’t want to be seen as giving excuses.

Others go to the other extreme and take no accountability for his or her own actions, blaming everything from their upbringing, their stress load, their partner or kids, for their wrongdoing.

Although it can sometimes be unclear, there is a difference between an excuse and an explanation.

People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Excuses are often used to deny responsibility. People make excuses when they feel attacked. They become defensive.

Explanations help clarify the circumstances of a particular event. Explanations are less emotional and less pressured than excuses.

Sometimes, the only one who can really know if their statement is an excuse or an explanation is the one saying it. Telling the police who pulled you over that you are running late for work is a good example of this. If you were hoping to get out of a ticket or lying, it was probably an excuse. If the officer asked why you were driving 30 in a 25, and you answered honestly, it was an explanation.

Why does it matter?

Consider the following situation:

Your 14-year-old daughter has brought home a failing grade on her science report. You ask her what happens. She says:

  1. “It’s not my fault! The teacher wasn’t clear on what to include in the project. Everyone else got a bad grade, too.”                                               or:
  2. “I didn’t understand what the teacher said, and …

Stress and Relationships

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

shutterstock_93694900Stress happens to everyone. But why do some people appear to manage it better than others? How does the way that you and your partner deal with stressful situations affect your relationship?

As a therapist, I work with people who have very different reactions to difficult situations. How a couple manages stress can either break down or build up their relationship. The following are two real life examples of people who faced stressful situations and had very different reactions. Identifying details have been changed.

Example 1: Stan and Beth were stuck in the airport, trying to return home after celebrating their 2nd anniversary. They missed their connecting flight, and it was clear that they would not make it back home until the next morning. Beth was furious and blamed Stan for the missed connection. As Beth fumed under her breath, Stan argued loudly with the ticket agent, criticizing everything from the layout of the airport to the polices of the airline. The taxi ride to a hotel ended up in a screaming match. On the flight home the next morning, they barely spoke.

Example 2: Brian and Mark were driving to visit family for a week’s vacation. On a long stretch of highway surrounded by corn fields, the car began to overheat. Mark pulled over as smoke poured from under the hood. Mark was visibly upset, complaining about Brian’s lack of attention to car maintenance. Brian resisted blaming Mark for driving too fast. Instead, Brian put his hand on Mark’s shoulder and reminded him that they would be fine and laid out a plan of action. After calling for a tow truck (and being told it would arrive in 2 1/2 hours), they sat on the edge of the road together. They made some humorous comments about their situation and the age of their car. When they arrived at their destination a day later, their road trip story was discussed as more of an adventure than a disaster.

Two couples in two similar stressful situations had very different responses. In the first example, missing a flight was an event that turned the couple against each other. There was blame and anger. In the second example, the couple pulled together and tackled the problem as a team. Blame and anger were quickly pushed aside.

When a couple faces a difficult situation, they have three choices to make. The first is how they approach the problem.


Lessons in Love Part 1: Helping Children Learn to Love

Monday, February 11th, 2013

shutterstock_114535009One of the most important jobs of a parent is to teach a child what it means to love and to be loved.

When a child learns to love herself, she learns acceptance, pride, self-esteem, and inner strength. When a child learns to love others, he learns how to make connections with others, how it feels to be kind, and how to be vulnerable. When a child learns how to be loved, he learns that he is a person worth loving, that he is valued and wanted.


Relationship Destroying Statements, and What to Say Instead

Sunday, February 10th, 2013

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Words are powerful, and in a relationship they can be used to both bring people together or push them apart.

As a therapist, I’ve noticed that there are several statements couples commonly make to each other that destroy the foundation of their relationship. Sometimes the words are used deliberately to hurt the other person, and sometimes the destruction comes about through carelessness.

If you want to have a healthy relationship, it’s important to be aware of the impact your words will have on your partner.

Here are the top relationship destroying statements that couples make to each other, and some ideas of what to say instead.


7 Things You Can Do NOW to Make Yourself Happier

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

 

 

Have you ever felt as if happiness is something that you have to wait to come to you?

Do you ever wonder why other people are happy, and you’re not?

The good news is that being happy is more of a choice than you might think.

Happiness doesn’t have to be an elusive idea that only some fortunate people are able to obtain. Here are seven simple things you can do to increase your happiness.


Talking to Your Children About Mental Illness

Monday, January 28th, 2013

 

If you’re a parent with a mental illness, or if someone in your  family is mentally ill, you may struggle with how to talk about it with  your children. You may feel embarrassed or even ashamed about your disease.

Even thought it can be difficult, it’s important to create a safe space for kids to hear and ask questions about the illness that affects you or your partner.

Here are five tips to help you get started.


Kids and Online Pornography – What You Need to Know

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Many parents have a strong gut-reaction when they discover that their son or daughter has viewed sexually explicit content.

The internet has made hardcore pornography easily accessible to anyone with a computer and online access. 20 years ago a person would have to take multiple steps to see porn. They would have to find out where it’s sold, get to the store, find the gumption to go in and make the purchase. And the magazine would have a beginning and an end.

Now one simply has to Google whatever they’re looking for, and hundreds and thousands of pictures, webcams, and videos pop up, many for free. Unlike the pornography that shows up in print, the internet doesn’t end. A person could look at pornography day and night and still see new images.

As a parent, or adult who works with or cares about kids, here are some things you need to know about online pornography.


6 Tips for Surviving the Holidays

Monday, October 15th, 2012

Another year of holiday joy is upon us; another year of holiday chaos, stress, and anxiety is here, as well.

For many families, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Years are times for reunions, reconnecting, and enjoying one another.

Yet however great the celebrations are, holidays are stressful. Here are six tips for making your holidays as peaceful and stress-free as possible.

  1. Don’t over-plan. It can be tempting to arrange to first swing by grandma’s, then see your in-law’s at their home, then return and make a holiday dinner for your family and your out-of-town brother and his five kids. Don’t do it. The holidays are time for reconnecting, but if you’re bitter, grumpy, and yelling at your spouse, you (and the rest of your family) will be miserable and disconnected.
  2. Realize that you can’t please everyone. The more people who are involved in a situation, the greater the chance for hurt feelings and misunderstandings. This year your parents might not be able to see the kids open up their presents or you may miss seeing your sisters at Thanksgiving. Do the best that you can with the limited time and energy you have.
  3. Make a budget, and stick to it. Don’t go into debt purchasing things you can’t afford, or else come January you’ll regret it.  Families often will have a year when to make all of their gifts by hand, or they’ll do a gift exchange rather than purchasing things for everyone. The holidays are a time for sharing and showing love. You don’t need to purchase anything for this. Remember, you and your family and friends will not remember the gifts you gave them, or the amazing pies you baked. They’ll remember the feelings they experienced, and the stories and laughter shared.
  4. Think about what feelings you want to experience during the holidays. Do you want a frantic excited holiday, or a serene and peaceful one? Do you want to be surrounded by tons of people, or have a more intimate time with your loved ones? Plan your day with this in mind.
  5. Be aware of your anxiety and stress …

 
 

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