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Licensed Psychologist

What Do Women Want

Originally written by Deborah Fox, MSW What do women want?" is an age-old question that rolls off the tongue of many men with alarming regularity. The nods of other men confirm the mystery. Women will be happy to tell you if you ask. And men have. What keeps the mystery going is that the answers are so different from how men think and operate that they're too often tossed out simply because the answers don't seem to make sense. Knowing what makes women tick is discoverable, but you need to suspend your beliefs about what you think she wants and be prepared to be impacted.

A woman wants to be understood for who she is, how she thinks, what's important to her, how she feels, and why she feels what she feels.

Tip #1 - Listening

Understanding can't happen without listening, really listening means being fully attentive. It means putting aside your frame of reference. It means checking your assumptions at the door. It means not interrupting. It means saying, "Help me understand why you felt dismissed?" If you ask, "Do you think you could've done...?," she'll feel abandoned. She'll let you know if she wants your help to problem-solve. Shaking your head, glancing at your phone, looking away lets her know that you're not listening to what she has to say. She gets the message you're judging her, disagreeing with her, and just waiting until she's done talking so you can tell her so. You may think you're not helpful by just listening because this isn't what men want or do. Women tend to find their way to a solution by sharing their stories. And she will ask for help if she trusts you to help her brainstorm and not take over by telling her what she should do. When my six-year-old daughter recounted the playground drama of the day at dinner one night, my husband asked her if she wanted to call her friend Susie to say something about what had transpired that day. My daughter and I looked at him as if he'd suddenly grown three horns. She and I understood that what she wanted was simply to share the story and be heard. The woman in your life needs you to tune into her emotions, not merely the facts of a situation. Men tend to be very uncomfortable when their partner is distressed. They feel their job is to make their partner feel better, so they rush into righting the wrong. This skips over what women need most, which is for their feelings to be acknowledged and understood. Period. It's highly unlikely that you woke up that morning and said to yourself, "Hmm . . .how can I hurt Stacy today?" Of course not. But you did, unintentionally, by not listening.

Tip #2 - Trustworthiness

A woman wants you to be trustworthy. Say what you mean. Mean what you say. Do what you say you're going to do. She needs to feel secure with you. Be a safe person for her to be vulnerable. Don't judge or placate. She wants you to have her back. Stand up for her if there's a potential for her to be embarrassed. Be protective. A woman steps out into the world with an eye out for danger and lives with a heightened degree of vulnerability that is her "normal."

Tip #3 - Sexuality

Women do want to be desired sexually by their chosen partner. This can be a complicated one for men. You might be understandably confused about how to find a balance between being considerate and being passionate. It can be confusing when you hear women want a sensitive man and capable of talking about his feelings. It's not such a leap for you to assume this means she wants a gentle lover---and this might be true. Women can seem to be a walking contradiction because this same woman may want to be ravished or desired passionately by her partner. The answer to this mystery is good communication. Talking about sex is uncomfortable for many people, but the alternative is literally and figuratively groping in the dark. In Dr. Emily Nagoski's book, Come As You Are, she writes that stress, mood, fatigue, trust, and body image are central to the sexuality of a majority of women, not just peripheral factors. For these women, understanding that openness to sex is context-dependent and that everyday life affects that context is vital. The source of sexual desire is often relational for women. They don't tend to be frequently struck with desire walking down the street on a given day. However, a shared activity, a conversation, flirtatious banter, an affectionate note are door openers for her to feel desire. You might have to enlarge your definition of what it means to be a good lover. Men tend to make assumptions about what is satisfying to a woman, which she often finds oppressive. Again, ask her.

Tip #4 - Being Your Priority

She needs to feel she's a priority to you. Let her know she matters to you. When you have some good news, please share it with her first. When you have a problem, go to her first. Ask her what makes her feel loved. You may think that doing household chores shows your love, but perhaps what makes her feel loved is spending quality time with you or hearing what you appreciate about her. If she's distressed, assume it's something for the two of you to resolve together. Put your relationship at the top of your "to-do" list, not something you attend to after...everything else. We learn what we observe in our families as children and adopt tons of mythology from our peers and the media. With the growth in understanding of yourself and your partner, your relationship can become secure and satisfying.

6 Tips When Fighting and Arguing

Do not look for inconsistencies in the story line.

This will make our partner feel as though they need to edit their words in their head and doing so with impact their ability to authentically express themselves. This also creates a dynamic where the facts are given far more importance than they deserve. The emotional expression is more important.

Do not respond with explanations as to why they are wrong (and we are right). Do not try argue our partner out of their emotional experience.

Being an empathetic listener allows our partner to heal by allowing a space for an emotion to be expressed and understood. Being right is irrelevant. Our partner feels the way they feel. It is irrational and unhelpful to suggest that they should feel or perceive differently. To do so implies that perceptions and emotions are objective and consistent (which is not true).

Do not offer them an alternative way to perceive the situation. Do not offer forced or contrived optimism.

This belittles their subjective experience and is generally both annoying and aggravating. An ability to vent their experience to foster acceptance is the goal. We can help them by listening and reflecting their experience. People do not find it helpful to be forced towards a new perspective, instead they prefer the safety of a nonjudgmental ear. Forced optimism is different than authentic encouragement. Gently saying that we are there for them or that we will support them, is perfectly fine.

Do not respond with defensiveness.

When we defend, we put the attention on ourself, which is rather selfish. Doing so tells the listener that our own emotional reaction is more important than their feelings. When we are defensive, we are focusing attention and energy on ourselves as opposed to offering support and understanding to our partner.

Do not use tangents to change the subject.

Allow the focus to stay on them. Bringing up other issues will confuse the interaction and will distract them from getting their needs met. As the listener, our job is to listen. At some other time, we can have the space to be the speaker.

Do not be belittling, sarcastic, or mean. Do not use verbal aggression to attempt to steal power from the speaker.

Even as adults, we may find ourselves engaging in rather immature behaviors. Being mean is a poor way of saying, “I am overwhelmed by what you are saying and feel the need to attack you to get you to stop.” Asking for space is perfectly appropriate if we need a bit of time to be fully available for our partner

What should you expect from Couples Therapy?

Tip #1 - Better Communication.

You should learn new skills to help you communicate more effectively and navigate the relationship road's inevitable bumps. In Imago, we use the "Intentional Dialogue" as our primary tool. This method has been used and refined for over 25 years, and has been the standard by which many other approaches have followed. You will learn to listen deeply to your partner and manage your reactivity in ways that allow both of you to feel safe, heard, and understood. This is an essential skill that leads to relationship success.

Tip #2 - Truly Understand the Core Issues

You should gain an understanding of your "core issues."  In my experience, every relationship has just 2 or 3 core issues that come up over and over again. These issues can turn what is essentially a great relationship into a nightmare! When these issues get triggered, we can become so hurt and angry that we forget all of what is good in the relationship. Some common issues include:
  • Feeling criticized
  • Feeling under-appreciated
  • Feeling disconnected to our partner
  • Feeling smothered by our partner
  • Feeling controlled by our partner
  • Losing our sense of independence or sense of "Self" and so on.
Couples therapy will help you identify what the core issues are that are operating in your relationship. It will also help you understand why those issues are there and how you can not only end the pain but also get your needs met in ways that you may have never experienced before in your life!

Tip #3 - Relationship Growth.

You should learn how to grow in your relationship. We believe that relationship is both our greatest source of satisfaction and our greatest source of challenge. Intimate relationships often force us out of our comfort zone. They require us to see the world through our partner's eyes and to "stretch" into parts of ourselves that may be undeveloped. For example, if your partner is the more "emotional" one in the relationship, they may be calling you to stretch into awareness of your own feelings and emotions. If your partner is the more logical/rational one in the relationship, you may be called on to learn to contain your emotional reactions and to develop your rational side further. When we stretch to meet our partner's needs, we "grow ourselves up." But first, we have to…

Tip #4 - Learn to be a more generous, loving, and giving partner.

Marriage or couples counseling is not just about solving problems or resolving conflict. It will also help you enhance the positives deepening your connection, and your ability to give and receive love more fully. We can all learn to be more loving, generous, patient, accepting, and so on. I hope these four tips help you and your partner get more connected and grow your relationship.  Every couple is different, and effective therapy will address your particular needs as a couple. It is more flexible now than ever with online therapy for couples as well. I am hopeful these general principles that I have found to apply for most couples and most couples therapy are helpful.

6 Tips on Managing Conflict in Marriage

Conflict is normal and inevitable. Here are some tips that will help:

Tip #1 - Learn to talk about issues without blame or criticism.

  • You can learn to ask for what you need without making the other person "bad." It's your need, not their shortcoming.
  • "Keep your claws in."

Tip #2 - Always fight or argue face-to-face.

  • Never try to resolve conflict on texts or emails.
  • All of us automatically add tone and attitude to the written word, whether it is real or imagined (that means YOU too).

Tip #3  - Cool down for 30 minutes if it's getting overheated.

  • Agree to meet one another back in 30 minutes on the couch to talk it through without distractions.
  • Cool down by letting it go, not by building a case.

Tip #4 - Slow down and take turns talking.

  • Do not interrupt each other.
  • Listen to your partner to understand. Don't listen to form your response.
  • When they finish, tell them what makes sense to you about what they said. When they feel understood, ask if they can hear a response.
  • This kind of dialogue will actually turn conflict to closeness!

Tip #5 - Take care of the conflict as soon as possible.

  • Don't sweep things under the rug.
  • You WILL trip over that rug later.

Tip #6 - Consider getting help from an impartial 3rd party.

Are You Having Sleep Problems During the Pandemic? 5 Likely Reasons

As a psychologist and as a human being, I am receiving this message from every direction and all sides. It’s rampant these days. People are having a hard time sleeping during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people lie awake unable to fall asleep. Some wake up in the middle of the night and their brain starts racing. Other folks say they wake up in the early morning hours and lie awake for a long time before the alarm goes off. Then there are the ones whose sleep pattern has been thrown totally off. They’re awake when they should be sleeping and sleeping when they should be awake. What is it about this pandemic that is making a good night’s sleep so hard for so many people? In talking with many people about their sleep problems during the pandemic, particular struggles have emerged as common patterns. So, I think I have some answers that I’m going to share with you today. First, let’s review the primary causes of the problems. They will probably not all apply to you but, in reality, all it takes is one. Read the full article at PsychCentral.com...

Want to Be More Productive? Try Doing Less.

We’ve been taught that if we want more — money, achievement, vitality, joy, peace of mind — we need to do more, to add more to our ever-growing to-do list. But what if we’ve been taught wrong? What if the answer to getting more of what we want isn’t addition at all, but subtraction? As it turns out, evidence supports that if we want to ramp up our productivity and happiness, we should actually be doing less. David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, found that we’re truly focused on our work a mere six hours per week, which starkly contrasts our collective buy-in to the 40-hour workweek. When you stop doing the things that make you feel busy but aren’t getting you results (and are draining you of energy), then you end up with more than enough time for what matters and a sense of peace and spaciousness that constant activity has kept outside your reach. As people with full lives — kids, careers, friends, passions, logistics, and more — how can we apply the wisdom of doing less to give ourselves more time and alleviate stress without jeopardizing our results? Read the full article at the Harvard Business Review

Tips to Fall Asleep Naturally/Common Heart Tests

Tips to Fall Asleep Naturally

Get the nightly rest you need with these smart strategies.

Sleep has many important health benefits: It cleanses the brain, allows memories to consolidate, helps the immune system to function optimally, and restores and rejuvenates tissues. Not enough sleep impairs judgment and physical function. And let's face it, when tired, most of us can be rather irritable and grouchy. Serious health problems can result from poor sleep, including feeling more depressed and increasing the risk of falls. Read the full article...

Common Heart Tests

What these tests reveal and when you might need one.

In broad terms, the heart mainly consists of a plumbing system and an electrical system. There are two pumps: one uses arteries to push oxygenated blood from the heart to the rest of the body; the other pump uses veins to usher blood back to the heart and into the lungs to get re-oxygenated. Your pulse, or heartbeat, is controlled by the heart's electrical system. These systems can be measured with various tests to check for abnormalities. Given that heart diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined, it might seem logical to get all the common heart tests possible as a preventative measure. But that's not what experts recommend. Read the full article...

"Shelter In" for COVID-19 Does Not Mean Sit Around

Link to an article written by Ashley Anderson, PsyD, CEDS In the wake of COVID-19, we have come to find our actions restricted slightly. It is possible that you live in one of the many states that have implemented some form of a “shelter in” plan, where public activities are limited to necessities and other essentials. While it may be easy to focus on what we cannot do, I encourage you to focus on things within your control and what you can do. Our routines have changed, temporarily. So it is important to create a new structure or routine, filled with various activities. Create a schedule, where each day has at least one different activity for the day. Work, school work, meals, social time, family time, individual time, creative/artistic time, relaxation time, and movement can all be worked into your weekly schedule. Blocking time for each of these helps reduce the likelihood that you will tire or get bored of an activity. Read the full article here...

The Power of Girlfriends

In an evening class at Stanford University the last lecture was on the mind-body connection - the relationship between stress and disease. The speaker (head of psychiatry at Stanford) said, among other things, that one of the best things that a man could do for his health is to be married to a woman; whereas for a woman, one of the best things she could do for her health was to nurture her relationships with her girlfriends. At first, everyone laughed, but he was serious. Women connect with each other differently and provide support systems that help each other to deal with stress and difficult life experiences. Physically this quality "girlfriend time" helps us to create more serotonin - a neurotransmitter that helps combat depression and can create a general feeling of well being. Women share feelings whereas men often form relationships around activities. We share from our souls with our sisters, friends, and evidently that is VERY GOOD for our health. He said that spending time with a friend is just as important to our general health as jogging or working out at a gym. There's a tendency to think that when we are "exercising" we are doing something good for our bodies; but when we are hanging out with friends, we are wasting our time and should be more productively engaged. Not true. In fact, he said that failure to create and maintain quality personal relationships with other humans is as dangerous to our physical health as smoking! So every time you hang out to schmooze with a gal pal, just pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself for doing something good for your health! We are indeed very, very blessed! So let's toast to our friendship with our girlfriends (inc. grandmas, sisters, mothers, nieces, cousins, aunties...). Evidently it's very good for our health. Forward this to your girlfriends to stay in touch, just like I just did! Thanks to all the women in my life who have helped me stay healthy, and feeling very loved.

Couples Covid Resilience

These are trying times. Our lives have been upended. We’ve been mandated to stay at home and work from home; our social outings have been drastically reduced, as have our social interactions with others. We’re faced with 24/7 interaction with our partners. The result is a unique form of cabin fever, which when combined with the stressors of an invisible enemy), (covid 19) creates profound uncertainty (When will this end? How? Will it return? Will I or my loved ones get sick?), major changes to our routines, and economic concerns, and becomes a stressful burden on even the happiest couples. These are times that call for our best—but how can we be our best when the natural human response is an uptick in anxiety and/or depression levels? Most of us have “COVID-brain”: It’s hard to think clearly when we are so worried and scared or feeling like molasses from our blueness. There’s just too much going on! We’re living in unprecedented times, locked out from the outside world and somewhat locked out of ourselves; we are unable to digest and reflect. This lessening of our cognitive function can impact our ability to ride the choppy waves in our couple relationship. Cindy Baum Baicker PhD,a clinical psychologist, interviewed senior psychoanalysts and described 5 factors which can be guide posts for couples during this stressful period. Pragmatism: Now is not the time for minor irritations. Let things go.  If you have had some alcohol and are annoyed or angry at your partner, let it go and if you’re still angry the next day, bring it up for discussion. We’re myopic when we drink, and nothing good can come from conflict resolution when we’re in an altered state. Think existentially: Who do we want to be when all of this is over? What will it have meant for us? Balanced Paradox: We’re separate, and we’re attached. Allow for each of these realities in your relationship. Make space to spend time together and apart, even though you’re living in the same space. Cognitive-Affective Differentiation: Allow for difference! A couple’s resilience during this time will depend on the state of the two people who are in the relationship. Stress affects each one of us differently and we each cope differently. Affect Optimization: The act of naming your emotions has been found to benefit wellbeing. Let yourself experience the range of all that you’re feeling and share it with your partner. That said, wise relators allow for “emotional blend,” but have also learned to lean towards or focus on their positive emotions. These are difficult times and also times to deeply feel one’s gratitude for what one has, and perhaps even for who one is. Emotional Generosity: Kindness, patience, humility, and deep regard for the other are all aspects of emotional generosity that you can bring to your relationship. Find that olive branch if there’s a disagreement, and extend it. When asked what they thought was required for a good long-term relationship, these wise elder clinicians said one word more than any other: tolerance. During the COVID-19 crisis, when we can all get underneath each other’s skins a bit too often, remember that word. Tolerance. And while you’re at it, remember why you fell in love with that person in the next room or in the room with you, and reconnect with those feelings.