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Licensed Psychologist

Dealing with Difficult Feelings to Help Yourself & Your Relationships

Re-posted from an article by Deborah Fox, M.S.W. How to manage difficult emotions may seem counterintuitive to many people. We humans don't like to be uncomfortable or in emotional pain. How many times have you been told or tell yourself the following:
  • "buck up."
  • "don't wallow."
  • "move on." 
  • "don't feel sorry for yourself."
  • "think of how many others have it worse than you."
Plenty, I'm sure. The conventional wisdom of our culture is full of "think positive thoughts." The problem is that this wisdom doesn't chart the path we need to follow to that end. The answer to managing difficult feelings, we have to feel them before moving on and regaining our optimism and good cheer. This isn't easy. What may become common parlance, "oh, it's a total 2020," meaning a downer, things couldn't get much worse, is indicative of what many of you are experiencing. We are still in the middle of an uncontrolled pandemic, climate change, and political conflict. How can you not feel sad, or worry, or despair some days? Maybe your distress isn't about current times. Perhaps you struggle with a host of other uncomfortable feelings such as feeling unimportant, insecure, or anxious on an ongoing basis. For many people, the stress of what's going on in the world now exacerbates those feelings.

Managing Positive and Negative Feelings.

Our emotional system is not designed to feel positive feelings only and remove negative ones. That would be nice, but it just isn't so. To find our joy in simple pleasures and with those we're most connected to, we also have to feel our way through the tough ones. The key is to build your tolerance for feeling these difficult feelings and turn towards each other for connection and support. We are social creatures, and we need each other to go through the middle of turmoil to come out the other side.  Tuning into these difficult feelings will inevitably make you feel more vulnerable simply because you will not push the discomfort away. This is a challenge because feeling more vulnerable is uncomfortable, too. However, it's in that state of vulnerability that you can truly connect with another human being. You'll feel less alone, and you can walk through these uncertain times together, rather than just coping in separate silos.  There are moments--- milliseconds that you can grab before they slip away. These are the moments when you can identify that you're feeling down, worried, or despairing. When you're trying to "move on" or distract yourself, you'll find yourself feeling more and more blah or irritable---the perfect hiding places for vulnerable feelings. If you succeed in identifying that you're feeling sad or anxious at the moment, sit there with it. "Sitting with it" means naming it, feeling it, and not allowing yourself to prematurely make it go away by distracting yourself or starting an argument with a loved one. You will feel uncomfortable and vulnerable--- take a deep breath and stay there in that feeling. This sitting with the uncomfortable feeling allows you to know what affects you that you lose touch with when you shut down on the feelings.

Uncomfortable Feelings Have a Lifespan. 

It might be five minutes or five hours, and it may come and go. It's sitting with the feelings that allow you to build your tolerance for feeling vulnerable. You build it slowly, bit by bit. The more tolerance you have, then you can allow its life span to run its course. If you distract yourself by grabbing your phone or turning on the TV, it'll just go underground and lie in wait to ruin your mood for days on end.  Sitting with the feeling allows you to express, usually in a way your partner, or a close friend, can hear and empathize. Their ears open when they listen to you speak from that place of vulnerability. Feeling this connection is what can most alleviate the intensity of the discomfort. It won't make the pandemic uncertainties or anything else go away, but it can allow you to feel less alone. Feeling less alone goes a long way to walking through any crisis feeling stronger. Shutting down or arguing happens so easily because it's a momentary relief from the discomfort. The energy of arguing or the numbness of withdrawing doesn't feel great either, but it can be preferable to feeling vulnerable.  If you're already angry or withdrawn, ask yourself, "what else am I feeling, or what was I feeling earlier?" Maybe not immediately, but this question will allow you to pinpoint what feelings are hiding just below the surface. You know you're irritated, but you might be able to identify that you were anxious before you got annoyed. Then you can choose to sit with the anxiety.

Difficult Feelings are a Normal Part of Life. 

This is always true, but these uncertain times are causing tremendous turmoil and challenging our usual coping ways. What's critical is not to allow these feelings to overwhelm us. We're outside of our comfort zone, and we need to grow that zone to go forward and be able to grapple with what comes our way. We can't do it alone. Turning towards one another will serve us well and allow us to come out the other side to experience joyful moments amidst uncertainty.

How to Change Your Codependent Behaviors

Originally posted by Sharon Martin, LCSW Any long-standing pattern of behavior can be hard to change. We’re creatures of habit and tend to repeat the same behaviors over and over, often without even thinking about them — and sometimes we continue even when these behaviors create problems for us. This is the case with codependent behaviors.

What are codependent behaviors?

When I talk about codependent behaviors, I’m referring to things like enabling, perfectionism, self-sacrificing or martyrdom, obsessing about other people’s problems, trying to fix, change, or rescue others – even if they don’t seem very interested in changing. As codependents, we struggle to ask for help, we don’t prioritize our needs (so we get tired, irritable, resentful, and stressed out).

How do you change codependent behaviors?

Even though these behaviors are second-nature to us, we can change! The challenge, of course, is figuring out how to change. What do we do instead of these codependent behaviors? And how do we stick with the new behaviors long enough to see a difference? The answer is lots of practice and lots of self-compassion. Like any new behavior, we need to do the new behavior many times before we master it and feel comfortable doing it. At first, it will feel awkward, scary, guilt-ridden, and uncomfortable. In short, you’re not going to do it well! That’s where the self-compassion comes in. Give yourself credit for trying. Praise yourself for taking baby steps even if they don’t seem to accomplish much at first. Encourage yourself by saying things like, “You can do this!” Don’t expect perfection and try not to criticize yourself if you slide back into old behavior. This is all part of the process – I promise. So, let’s get started with some ideas for changing codependent behaviors.

People-pleasing

Instead of saying yes to every request, doing things you don’t want to do, or doing things out of obligation, consider what you need and want. Ask yourself:
  • Am I interested in doing this?
  • Why am I saying yes?
  • Do I have time for this?
  • Can I afford to do this?
  • Does this align with my values and priorities?
Remind yourself that you’re allowed to say no. Some people may be disappointed or upset with you, but that is their problem, not yours. You are not responsible for making everyone happy. ActionThis week, practice saying no to one thing that you don’t want to do, that doesn’t fit in your schedule or budget or doesn’t interest you, etc.

Identity and self-worth issues

Do you feel like you’ve lost your identity or you’re not sure who you are? Often, codependents don’t fully differentiate themselves from others. We don’t have a strong sense of who we are, what we like or want, or we’re quick to give up our goals, ideas, and what matters to us to please others. We also get our identity and sense of worth from what we do rather than who we are. In part, this is why we get our sense of worth from pleasing others, self-sacrificing – and why we feel so terrible when others are upset or disappointed with us. We don’t have a strong sense of who we are or that we matter without external validation. Action: The remedy for identity issues can start with some of these activities.
  1. Get to know yourself better. Practice with these questions.
  2. Share your opinions, ideas, and feeling. Try sharing a differing opinion or idea with someone who will be receptive, such as suggest a different activity for Girls Night Out or politely let someone know that you disagree with their point of view.
  3. Do one thing this week because it interests you. It could be something new that you’re curious to try or something you’ve enjoyed in the past but haven’t prioritized recently.
  4. Validate your feelings at least once per day. When you notice that you’re seeking validation from someone else or disappointed that someone didn’t validate you, try to give yourself the validation that you need. To get started, you can use some of these self-validating phrases.

Acting like a martyr

A martyr is someone who insists on doing everything themself. You refuse help if it’s offered. But you’re not doing or giving joyfully. You’re resentful that you have to do so much and that people don’t help you or think about what you need. Action: The next time someone offers to help, say yes. Or if no one offers to help in the next week, ask. Simply say, “Can you please help me with _______?” They may refuse, but learning how to ask is still a success.

Perfectionism

Perfectionists have impossibly high standards. Their expectations are unrealistic so they inevitably fail to achieve them, which leads to criticizing themselves (or others) for even the smallest mistake or imperfection. They never feel satisfied. Instead, don’t expect yourself or others to do things perfectly. Expect that you’ll make mistakes and so will other people. Mistakes aren’t failings or a sign of being inadequate. They’re a sign of being human! ActionWhen you make a mistake, say something kind to yourself like, “It’s okay. Everyone makes mistakes.” Self-compassion is more motivating than self-criticism (see the research here). Action: Set more realistic expectations. If you continue to make the same mistake, it’s not because there is something wrong with you, it’s because there’s something wrong with your goal or expectation. For example, if I constantly cheat on my low-carb diet, it’s not because I’m a failure. It’s because the goal of eating so few carbs isn’t realistic for me right now and I need to change my expectations. You can learn more about overcoming perfectionism in my book The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism (available from all major booksellers).

Lack of boundaries or being passive

Instead of letting others mistreat you (say mean things, borrow money without repaying, leaving a mess and expecting you to clean it up, violating your boundaries), set limits by telling people what’s not okay and what will happen if they continue. Action: When you feel mistreated, communicate how you feel and what you want or need using an I Statement. For example, “I feel hurt and offended when you make sarcastic comments about my weight. I’d like you to stop commenting on my appearance.” And if you think it’s helpful, you can also state what the consequence will be if they continue. It might sound like this: “And if you continue, I’m going to go in the other room and watch TV by myself.” When setting boundaries, remember that you can’t force other people to do what you want, but you can change your own behavior to keep yourself safe.

Denying, avoiding, or minimizing your feelings

Instead of “stuffing” your feelings, pretending your fine when you aren’t, or numbing them with alcohol or food, try to notice your feelings and express them in healthy ways (respectful dialogue, journaling, creative projects, crying, etc.). Action: Ask yourself “How do I feel?” three times per day (mealtimes are good reminders to do this). Write down your feelings. Don’t try to change them; just let your feelings be real and valid. You can do this by saying or writing, “I feel ____________. This feeling is valid and helpful. It exists to tell me something important.” If your feelings are uncomfortable or painful, ask yourself to tolerate them for just one minute before you engage in your usual form of avoidance. And then try to work up to two minutes, three minutes, and so forth over several days or weeks.

Enabling and fixating on other people’s problems

Enabling is something you do that allows another person to continue in a dysfunctional pattern. It could be pouring out their alcohol, calling in sick for them, cleaning up after them, giving them money. It can seem loving, but it really just allows them to avoid taking responsibility for themselves and from experiencing the natural consequences of their choices. Instead of enabling and focusing on what others are doing, take care of yourself and find healthier ways to manage your worry and anxiety. Often, we focus on other people not just to be helpful, but also because it gives us a sense of control (which helps us feel safe and quiets our anxiety), a feeling of being needed, or a distraction from looking at what we’re contributing to the problem and changing ourselves. Action: Identify your enabling behaviors. When you feel compelled to act on them, step away from the situation. Notice your feelings (see above) and think of an activity that you can do to comfort yourself, calm your fears, and tolerate the anxiety of letting your loved one experience the consequences of his or her actions. This could be calling a friend or sponsor, writing in a journal, taking a bath, exercising, meditating, praying, going to an Al-Anon or Codependents Anonymous meeting, playing with your dog, etc. Make a list of activities that you might try, so you have it ready when you need it! I hope you’ll try some of these action items this week!

Managing Loneliness During the Holidays and beyond

Originally posted at Beacon Lens The holidays are upon us, and the irony they bring is the potential for isolation and loneliness. Holidays’ essential identity is getting together with loved ones, but some people do not feel as connected as they would like or expect. In 2020, add COVID-19 and its quarantining dictates, and the potential for such feelings can strengthen. The holidays, therefore, present an excellent time to discuss how we can reinforce connections during a time that requires us to be apart to protect our physical health, a requirement that paradoxically can have a damaging effect on our mental health. We can, however, take charge of improving our mental health.

Loneliness and isolation and our health

What is the difference between loneliness and isolation? “Loneliness is the feeling of being alone, regardless of the amount of social contact,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Social isolation, on the other hand, is a lack of social connections. Put differently, one can have many social connections but still feel lonely. The physical and mental health risks of loneliness and isolation are significant. They include but are not limited to:
  • Social isolation increases the risk of premature death by 29 percent, rivalling smoking, obesity and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation is associated with increasing the risk for dementia by approximately 50 percent.
  • Loneliness is connected to higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.
A 2020 report by the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) states that more than one-third of adults 45 and older feel lonely, and approximately one-fourth 65 and older are socially isolated. Add the holidays and COVID-19 to an already preexisting condition, and the time is ripe for all of us to take action to protect our mental health.

Simple steps for better mental health during the holidays

Specific to the season and the times, there are common-sense tips that we all can practice to help manage loneliness. For example:
  • Talk to someone about your sense of loneliness and isolation. There’s stigma around loneliness so it can be hard to do. However, you may well find that you’re not alone in those feelings, and sharing them can help lessen their effect.
  • Manage your holiday/COVID-19 expectations. The holidays can fall short of expectations, but this year it may be worse. Understand that the pandemic won’t last forever, and that we’re all in this together. Indeed, many people’s holiday gatherings will likely be different this year.
  • Remember to take care of yourself, now more than ever. Sleep, exercise and good nutrition — with the proper amount of holiday indulgence — go a long way in addressing mental health.
  • Avoid social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, especially during the holidays. It’s easy to negatively compare one’s life to the “perfect” lives posted on social media, forgetting that people mostly post only the positive.

Loneliness and isolation as its own pandemic

The holidays don’t last forever, and we will get through the COVID-19 pandemic. However, loneliness and social isolation may persist, which presents a challenge for behavioral health providers. The recent NASEM report explores interventions that the healthcare system can take to address loneliness as a societal condition, such as engagement in support groups, cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness, social determinants of health, social prescribing and more. Social prescribing is arguably one of the more interesting interventions in that it puts a clinical lens on non-clinical solutions. While there is no hard-fast definition of social prescribing, it is generally accepted as a way to connect people to non-clinical sources of support, according to the NASEM. Specifically, it is a “non-medical referral, or linking service, to help people identify their social needs and develop wellbeing action plans to promote, establish or reestablish integration and support in their communities, with the aim of improving personal wellbeing.” Examples of secondary services that improve social concerns affecting health include housing and food insecurity services. While known to varying community-based organizations, social prescribing is not common among practitioners, but it’s a common-sense solution. An analysis of one pilot program from the NASEM report — albeit a small one — found that social prescribing reduced inpatient admissions by as much as 21 percent and emergency room visits by 20 percent. A modern world — without COVID-19 — is more connected than ever due to social media and other technology. However, studies have shown we are more lonely now than in any other time in recent history. It’s time to think out of the box as we realize more and more how non-physiological conditions — such as issues ranging from a public health emergency to social media — can affect our health.

Healthy Love vs Unhealthy Love

Originally posted at ImagoRelationshipsWork.com Falling in love and staying in love both require giving a part of yourself away, but healthy love is not demanding or uncompromising.
  • Healthy love allows you to be your best self and socialize with colleagues, friends, and family.
  • Healthy love is not controlling or dependent.
  • Healthy love is ever-changing and growing in subtle ways.
  • Positive love encourages and is kind and thoughtful of the other. It is honest and supportive.
  • If you are in love with someone who requires you to alter your personality, goals or wants you all to themself, this is not healthy.
  • If you are staying in a relationship purely because you are afraid of being alone, this is not real love.
  • When either of the partners in a relationship is always controlling or untruthful, this is unhealthy.

In a healthy relationship, communication and honesty are vital players.

There is lots of trust and little room for jealousy. Jealousy is a tricky emotion. It can fool people into thinking - "He must love me because he is jealous." Unless your partner has given you a reason to feel jealous, for example, he/she is a chronic liar, has been caught cheating, you should be able to manage your jealous feelings. It's normal to feel a twinge of jealousy on occasion. If you are experiencing jealousy 24/7, you need to look into the reasons. Often jealousy is a sign of insecurity or lack of knowing and accepting yourself. Healthy love includes loving yourself, as well.

If you are obsessed with the person you love and have no interest in spending time with anyone else, that is not healthy.

Most of us want to spend a good portion of our time with the person we love, yet there needs to be a balance. Each of us needs to cultivate friendships that are healthy, genuine, and interesting. Obsessive love is all-consuming and is based on negative emotions such as fear, jealousy, anxiety. In healthy relationships, you can disagree without fear of the person leaving or retaliating. It is not normal or healthy to feel you have to be agreeable all of the time, or else. Loving another is about the give and take. Lopsided love is unbalanced.

When two healthy people are in love, their relationship does not wholly define them.

You want to be developing yourself, both interior and exterior. If all of your self worth is wrapped up in your relationship, this is not healthy. Partners each bring something to share at the table. If you have neglected yourself, it is time to rediscover who you are as an individual. Develop your likes and passions, give yourself credit, take risks, and make changes that are important to you. “A healthy relationship will never make you give up your friends, your dreams, or your dignity…” Dinkar Kalotra.

Be honest with yourself when it comes to your love relationship.

  • Is it healthy, or does it need modifying?
  • Is there mutual respect?
Remember, too, that no relationship is perfect. It is often about loving through imperfections and knowing the difference between healthy and unhealthy love.

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