Childhood Emotional Neglect May Be Skewing Your Self-Perception: Here's How

  • Have you ever wondered why your self-perception seems to be amiss? Why you’re unsure about your interests, your talents, or your likes and dislikes?
  • Have you ever felt lost about your direction in life? Like a loser because the career path you chose didn’t work out? Or like a misfit, because you’re unable to hold a steady job, changing work again and again?
  • Have you ever lamented your apparent lack of resolve? Or your tendency to give up when a challenge presents itself?
  • Have you noticed you downplay or can’t identify your strengths, yet over-emphasize your weaknesses?

Stop for a moment and consider what the answers could reveal.

Self-Perception Becomes Skewed by Childhood Emotional Neglect

If you could see yourself reflected in the hypothetical questions above, you may be struggling with two specific effects of childhood emotional neglect – unrealistic self-appraisal and low self-esteem.

Self-appraisal is the ability to identify one’s own preferences, strengths and weaknesses, and personality traits. It lays the foundation for your self-esteem as well as confidence in your own worth and abilities.

In your case, both have become skewed. But how?

How Your Self-Perception Develops

The concept you hold of yourself determines your choices in life. It helps you to choose what to strive for, what skills to work on, what schooling to seek, what career to pick, and even what intimate relationships to pursue.

Your appraisal or perception of yourself develops from the feedback you receive from your environment – your social interactions. That feedback gives you information about your skills, talents, strengths, weaknesses, and shortcomings. While many people throughout your life will have input, your parents provide you the most important feedback with the strongest impact.

How Your Self-Perception Becomes Skewed

Emotional neglect often robs you of this valuable feedback. When your parents did not attend to your feelings – ignoring or invalidating your emotional needs – you missed out on pertinent information. With that lack of feedback, you were, in turn, unable to understand yourself and develop a sense of who you are. Your identity.

Not only did the effects of childhood emotional neglect begin to show back then, they continued to impact your life going forward. Your difficulties pinpointing your wants and needs and making decisions about your life are a manifestation of these effects. It’s like you’re expected to make important choices for a person you don’t know. You.

How Your Self-Perception Impacts Your Self-Esteem

Since your appraisal of yourself is at the base of your self-esteem, a negative or unrealistic self-perception negatively affects your self-esteem. Subsequently, it erodes your confidence, happiness, and well-being.

For example:

  • If your parents didn’t listen when you talked, you may appraise yourself as boring and uninteresting. Apparently, you had nothing of interest to say.
  • If your parents didn’t seem to spend a lot of time around you, you may conclude that you’re not as fun as other people. And perhaps, others may not like you once they get to know you.
  • If your parents belittled you or shamed you, you may perceive yourself as unlovable, worthless, or incapable of success.
  • If your parents didn’t treat you as attractive, you may have developed a distorted view of your body, thinking that no one will want to have an intimate relationship with you.

Over time, this skewed self-perception may have become a big part of your personality. It isn’t always negative, but it’s usually highly inaccurate. And, ultimately, it leads you to derail yourself, impacting your career, your relationships, your whole life.

The good news? All of these distorted thoughts and beliefs are not fact. They’re fiction. They’re relics from long ago. And they are changeable. They don’t have to shape your perception of yourself anymore!

9 Emotional Neglect Symptoms: When You're Not Sure Why You're Suffering

Are you suffering from anxiety and moodiness, but you don’t know why? Do you often compare yourself to others and believe you’re a failure? Have you been described as aloof or distant?

Are you feeling like you don’t belong at times? Do you usually just want to be left alone? Is it easier for you to love animals than people?

Are you often feeling empty inside?

Maybe you are one of the many adults who say they had a good childhood with happy memories, but you still struggle with a sense of loneliness and a fear of rejection. You’re sure you haven’t been mistreated by your parents, caregivers, or peers. So, why do you feel this way? What’s missing from the picture?

Your struggles may be founded in something invisible from your childhood. Something that’s often overlooked and overshadowed by more visible problems, such as child abuse or trauma. Something that does silent but substantial damage to a person’s life.

You could be suffering from emotional neglect symptoms.

Emotional Neglect and Its Symptoms

Emotional neglect is not a negative action – such as mistreatment or abuse – it’s a lack of action.

Typically, emotional neglect symptoms develop

1) when parents ignore, fail to notice and validate, or do not attend to their child’s feelings appropriately, have unrealistically high expectations, or constantly focus more on the needs of another child, or

2) when parents fail to set boundaries that provide structure and safety or fail to enforce rules, consequences, and discipline.

Many parents who emotionally neglect their children suffer from emotional neglect symptoms themselves. They are usually well-meaning and unaware of what effects they have on their children or how they can change their actions.

You may notice the following symptoms of neglect in yourself:

1. Poor Emotional Intelligence

You often have difficulties knowing, understanding, and trusting your own feelings, as well as those of others. You never learned how to identify, tolerate, or manage your feelings. Thus, rather than allowing your emotions, you feel guilty, ashamed, and even angry about having feelings at all and try to hide them.

2. Feelings of Emptiness

You’re feeling numb and hollow inside. Something seems to be missing, but you’re unsure of exactly what. You often wonder who you are or what your purpose is.

3. Low Assessment of Self

You have a poor concept of yourself and low self-esteem. It’s hard for you to accurately describe yourself, your feelings, and your goals.

4. Having the Fatal Flaw

Not only are you easily overwhelmed or discouraged, you usually end up blaming yourself for everything. You think you can never succeed and always get things wrong.

5. Fear of Dependency

You worry in excess that if you trust someone else, you will be let down. Or if you open up to another person, you will be rejected or be a burden to them.

6. Perfectionism

You tend to hold yourself to unrealistically high standards and unwittingly set yourself up for failure. Often, your lack of clarity about your own expectations for yourself or those of others for you stresses you out.

7. Difficulty Being Nurturing

Self-care is selfish in your eyes and self-indulgent. And your difficulty being nurturing to others often makes you look uncaring, unsociable, and aloof.

8. Lack of Self-Compassion

While you may have plenty of compassion for other people, you find it hard to show yourself the same kindness and sympathy. Hence, your inner critic keeps you from having a happier life.

9. Troubles with Self-Discipline

Your procrastination skills are unmatched. You always seem to leave everything to the last minute and have yet to see many projects all the way through.

If emotional neglect symptoms like these cause you trouble in your life, seek out a qualified professional to help you make more sense of your past, present, and future. You don’t have to keep suffering!

Putting Your Partner First: 5 Ways it Helps Foster a Happier Family

“The greatest gift you can give your child is a strong relationship between the two of you.”

This quote from Dr. John Gottman highlights the pivotal part a happy family is built on – a strong marriage. Interestingly, it goes contrary to the mistaken efforts of so many who put their children before everything else.

But isn’t your first priority supposed to be your children? Would it not be selfish to put your partner first?

Sadly, couples who put their own marriage before their children are often criticized. Yet, research has shown that the children from families where spouses put their relationship with each other first most often do better in life than children whose parents put them above all.

Consider, for a moment, how putting your partner first can benefit the whole family.

How the Entire Family Benefits from a Healthy Marriage

Putting your partner first fosters a strong relationship bond and creates a happy and healthy marriage – the foundation of a family. Every member of the family, including the children, benefit from the stability of this foundation. How?

1. It allows children to become independent, responsible, and emotionally balanced adults

When you starve your relationship with each other, it can become weak and unhappy. With a weak foundation, your children lose out on the support they need for developing into independent and responsible adults. In contrast, a strong marriage, where you show interest in each other, display respect and affection for one another, and work as a team makes your children feel safe and loved.

2. It promotes less anxious and exhausted parents and less demanding and entitled children

The more attention you shower your children with, the more exhausted and anxious you usually become. Not only that, but making your children the center of everything often makes them more dissatisfied and can easily turn them into adults who think everything has to revolve around them.

3. It makes it easier to set, respect, and enforce boundaries

When you drift apart and don’t act like a team, one of you may draw closer to your children. But that makes it much harder to see clearly what boundaries your child needs to develop their personality well. Plus, you may also put more pressure on your child to fulfill your emotional need for success. Both are unhealthy patterns. Conversely, if you’re not over-involved nor use your children as an extension of your own success, you’re much less likely to cripple your children’s development.

4. It helps children grow up with good guidance and the example of a loving marriage

By putting your partner first, you children often do better in school and social situations because you taught them, by example, how to treat others with respect and handle conflict. Your example also shows them what a healthy and happy marriage should look like. This makes it more likely that your children will learn how to create such a relationship themselves and marry someone who will put them first.

5. It helps parents to maintain a solid marriage beyond the child-rearing years

Your relationship existed since before your children were born and you certainly want it to remain long after they leave home. Putting your partner first throughout the child-rearing years will contribute to continually having a close bond once your nest is empty and it’s just the two of you again.

Certainly, prioritizing your marriage while raising children isn’t easy, but it’s worth it, as it benefits the entire family. So, don’t take your relationship for granted. Carve out the time, put each other first, and fight for staying close and connected. Your family’s happiness depends on it.

Counseling Questions? What You Need to Know About Professional Help

It’s important to get your basic counseling questions answered if you’ve never seen a mental health professional before. After all, the more you understand, the better the counseling experience will be for you.

Let’s shed some light on the topic and consider a few different counseling questions.

How Does Counseling Work?

Most counseling sessions take place once a week for approximately one hour. Sessions are completely confidential and may continue as long as you and your counselor feel they’re helpful.

Counseling requires hard work in the form of self-exploration, personal insight, and honesty with yourself and with your therapist. Counseling is a partnership between you and your therapist.

The therapist assimilates what you tell them and determines how the pieces come together. Your counselor will be objective and help you to identify areas of your life to focus on in therapy, and the right therapeutic approach to help you. During your appointments, your counselor may teach you coping and problem-solving skills to utilize outside your appointment times. While they’re often very candid, your therapist will never make any decisions for you.

You must be completely open and honest about your feelings, experiences, thoughts, and actions with your therapist. Commitment to the counseling process and trust in your therapist are important keys for progress and recovery. It’s imperative that you consider your counselor’s feedback carefully and practice what you’ve learned in your sessions in your daily life.

What Types of Therapies Are Common?

Individual Therapy – Sessions are held with one individual at a time. They normally focus on exploring negative thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and making positive changes.

Couples Therapy/Marriage Counseling – Sessions are held with two people who are in a committed relationship. It often focuses on teaching how to handle challenges, improve communication, overcome an incident of infidelity, parent cooperatively and effectively, and have a happier and more satisfying relationship.

Family Therapy – Sessions are held with more than one member of a family at the same time. It usually focuses on resolving conflict and improving interactions between individuals.

Group Therapy – Sessions are guided by a professional therapist and are held with a group of peers that work on the same problem, such as anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.

What Types of Mental Health Professionals Are There?

All mental health professionals are licensed, regulated, and governed by a professional licensing board, and they must abide by and adhere to a strict code of ethics for their profession. The terms “counselor,” “therapist,” and “psychotherapist,” may be used interchangeably in most mental health professions. Here is a brief description of the most common mental health professional designations:

Counselor/Therapist – An LMFT (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist), and an LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor), are individuals who have completed a minimum of a master’s degree in counseling, psychology, or a related field. They provide professional counseling, psychotherapy, and mental health services to individuals, couples, families, and groups.

Social worker – A person who has a minimum of a master’s degree in social work or a related field. An LCSW (Licensed Clinical Social Worker) is trained to help families dealing with various social issues, but they are also skilled and trained in providing mental health and counseling services to individuals and couples. 

Psychologist – A person with a graduate degree in psychology who is licensed to work with patients who need mental health therapy. Most psychologists hold a doctorate (PhD) in their professional discipline. A psychologist may hold a master’s degree, and work under the supervision of a psychologist holding a PhD. Like LPCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs, psychologists provide counseling and psychotherapy to individuals, couples, families, and groups. Many psychologists are trained to provide specific mental health testing that they deem necessary to help diagnose specific conditions. They often work cooperatively with other mental health professionals (LPCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs) to provide needed testing for their clients.

Psychiatrist – A medical doctor (MD) whose medical specialty and training focuses on mental and emotional disorders. They are licensed to prescribe medication, and they also may provide psychotherapy. Often, psychiatrists will provide medication management for a patient, and work in coordination with the LPC, LMFT, LCSW, or psychologist who is providing counseling for the patient. Psychologists, LPCs, LMFTs, and LCSWs often refer their clients to a psychiatrist if they determine the client needs medication for their condition.

How Do You Choose Which Mental Health Professional to See?

Choosing the right mental health professional for you is a lot like finding a primary care physician, or other professional. You may know someone who can refer you to a therapist they really like. If not, search online for therapists in your area who work with your particular concern or mental health diagnosis, or ask your insurance provider for a list of therapists they work with. Contact the therapist and ask questions about their areas of specialty and training, how much they charge per session, do they accept your insurance, and other questions you have. Many therapists will offer a free consultation over the phone or in their office. A consultation gives you the opportunity to see how comfortable you are talking to them. Once you see them in person, or have a phone conversation, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about choosing a therapist that is a good fit for you.

Keep in mind that not all therapists and patients match up. You may have to find someone else if the first therapist you talk to doesn’t fit your needs, for whatever the reason. But don’t give up. Your mental and emotional health is worth finding the right fit just for you.

Shedding Should and Must: Demand Less, Get Real, and Love Well

You should be further ahead than you are right now.

You should dress better and weigh less.

You should suck it up and smile more.

You must make some changes if you ever expect to be happy.

How did it feel to read those statements?

Did you feel your body tense? Did a frisson of tension, or agreement, or even helplessness run through you?

Don’t worry. You are not alone. Too many of us really don’t know how to think any other way.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

First of all, the should and must barrage we impose on ourselves is a form of cognitive distortion. Therefore, the way we see and think about ourselves seems true but is not really accurate or helpful at all. Thus, we make the mistake of thinking we must box ourselves into doing what we perceive is right and best, rather than focus on our needs and wants.

What happens when we indulge this distortion?

Life gets hard and inflexible. All the shoulds and musts we carry around have a way of making us forget we have valid choices. In fact, you might even tell yourself you shouldn’t even want to exercise them.

Think about it, how many times have you chastised yourself or criticized your own actions or desires, reminding yourself of the multiple things you should do, say, think or become?

More specifically, how many times have you believed that:

  • good people should be focused on predetermined activities, parameters, and goals for happiness and contentment?
  • successful people must rise through work and society. They should be smart, funny, sexy, loving, well-liked, and so on and so on?
  • moral people must be pure-minded or like-minded and increasingly perfect as the years go by?

How many times have you felt you failed to meet your own list of internal demands? 

Unfortunately, should and must can take over pretty easily if we aren’t aware. To break free, intentional exploration of our thoughts, wants, and relationships is important. Consider the following ideas for relief:

1. Shed your “Shoulds” and Learn to Demand Less:

Run your list of shoulds mentally. Right now.

What should you be? Thinner, healthier, younger, friendlier, smarter, funnier…? Basically, you “should” be a better version of yourself, right? Sadly, you tell yourself all the time that you’re just not getting life right. That you’re just not good enough. 

To combat such thoughts, empower yourself. Notice should and must when they come up. Practice mindful awareness. In addition, intentionally respond to the demands you place on yourself with self-compassion.

Refuse to be bossed around by musts. Get curious. Ask yourself:

  • “Is this something I really want?
  • “Why do I believe I should do this?”
  • “What am I afraid might happen if I go my own way?”

You may find that the answers to your questions uncover some unexplored thoughts and emotions. Thus, you may be inspired to change your response. Or you may simply feel more in tune with your wants and motivations.

2. Explore your “Musts” in an effort to get real with yourself and your world

The primary problem with should and must?

That the things we should do, must have, and ought to become just don’t have much to do with who we really are.

“Shoulding” your life and relationships limits and polices your experiences unfairly. And, consequently, leaves you with few assurances that you are fine the way you are.

However, with the help of a compassionate counselor, you can learn to identify and challenge unhelpful thoughts and behavior. Time with a good listener is extremely beneficial as you get know your authentic self and take action.

You can live your life without shoulds directing you. Learning to trust yourself will be key.

3. Minimize Should and Must to maximize your ability to live and love well

Self-compassion, self-discovery, and authenticity are gifts that accompany your willingness to shed your shoulds. In addition, you may find that you are more able to invite loved ones to a more honest, accepting and compassionate relationship with you.

Also, feeling less compelled to live up to outside demands, your tendency to control others with a list of your own shoulds and musts may lessen. Sensitivity and awareness will extend beyond yourself and open your mind to what others need and want, too. As a result, loving yourself and others can be a much more meaningful experience.

Are You Ready To Live Free?

All in all, it’s true that should and must are often sneaky, unforgiving taskmasters. But, hopefully, now you can start to believe your life is bigger than you thought… and entirely yours to reimagine.

So, go ahead, gather some solid support and get to work.

Shed your should and must habit. Change your mind. You’re ready.

Your Relationship is Heading Where? Ask Yourself These Questions

By Janie McMahan, MA, LMFT

Is he the one? Is she?

You may come to a point in your relationship where you wonder about your future together.

Are you ready to put more effort into your relationship? Or does it seem to be going nowhere?

It’s not always easy to know what’s next. And deciding if you can commit to someone for a long time is a deeply personal decision. How will you make it?

Analyze Your Relationship to See If You Have a Future Together

Taking a step back to look objectively at your relationship is an important step. It’s important to know what’s next for you both – a long-term commitment or going your separate ways.

Ask yourself:

  • Do we trust each other? Trust is essential for real love and a successful relationship. That means you can be apart comfortably. You may long for each other, but not too much. You don’t feel happier when you’re away from your partner, nor do you feel completely insecure.
  • Are we in the same boat? Of course, that doesn’t mean you agree on everything. It means you must have the same goals, the same view of your future. When one of you wants to live carefree without children and the other wants to settle down and have a big family, there’s no long-term potential.
  • Do we have respect for each other? It means liking the essence of who your partner is, without wanting to change them. You can look past their little quirks and accept them for who they are, including their flaws. As a matter of fact, you’ve contemplated introducing them to your parents.
  • Can we talk openly? You can’t have a good relationship without good communication. So, you should be able to speak openly about what is on your mind and tell them things you won’t tell anyone else.
  • Are we equals and share equally? This includes putting the same amount of work into the relationship, neither of you taking or giving a lot more. You should also both be comfortable accepting and sharing things willingly. Never should you feel obligated to do something for your partner just because they did something nice for you.
  • Can we agree to disagree? You have to be able to disagree and get over it without holding a grudge. That includes listening and taking your partner seriously, even when you think they’re totally wrong. Your goal is to work out your differences in a respectful and kind manner. Be supportive during hard times, stress, and bad moods.
  • Do we enjoy being together? You should appreciate sharing the simple pleasures of life – like laughing together. Your partner should attract you, and not just for their physical attributes. Chemistry is an important ingredient in a healthy relationship. Though, it has little to do with physical beauty.
  • Are we comfortable being ourselves? That means you don’t mind showing your weaknesses to your partner. It also means, when things don’t go right, they’re the ones you go to for comfort. And it means you feel like yourself around each other, without the need to edit thoughts or feel anxious and self-conscious. You pretty much understand each other, even without a word.
  • Do we bring out the best in each other? – Certainly, your partner can’t be everything for you. But they should be able to complement the best part of you. Being with them should make you feel like a better person.

The fact is, relationships are complicated. They may begin happily, then become negative or stale without your realizing it. Thus, there is no easy answer to figuring out future potential. But if you take a moment and reflect on these questions, you may be better equipped to prepare for whatever is next.

Couples Conflict: Can All Your Problems Be Solved?

Couples conflicts are to be expected. All of us have disputes with our partners at times. Some are simple disagreements, while others can end up full-fledged battles.

To keep a relationship flourishing, however, we must learn to address our differences in a collaborative way, without anger, criticism, or defensiveness. The first step in this process is to determine what the conflict is about, and if it is a solvable or an unsolvable problem.

The Difference Between Solvable and Unsolvable Problems

According to statistics, about 1/3 of couples conflicts are solvable problems. A solvable problem is simply linked to a situation or topic that has resulted in conflict. The situation can be fixed or a solution to the topic can be found, and the problem is off the table.

The majority of couples conflicts, some 2/3 of disputes, however, are unsolvable problems. These perpetual issues will turn up repeatedly and require a lot more patience to address. Why? Because they’re based on fundamental differences between partners – either in personality or lifestyle needs.

Unsolvable, or perpetual problems, have certain clear characteristics. They usually make one partner feel frustrated, hurt, or rejected by the other. They cause both partners to become entrenched in their positions about the topic, to the point of belittling and vilifying each other during arguments. Because the couple makes no headway in their conflict, they eventually disengage emotionally.

Consider an example:

Perhaps you have a difference with your partner about a household chore, like taking out the trash or doing the dishes. You get upset about their lack of taking care of the task, and they get annoyed with you becoming upset.

This problem could be solvable if it’s simply about the situation of not handling the chore. Taking care of the task would keep you from fighting.

However, if you end up arguing – you call your partner lazy and they call you nagging – you have turned each other into villains. The problem at this point has become perpetual, or unsolvable because you’re not arguing over the chore, you’re arguing over deeper issues – responsibilities in your relationship.

How to Address Unsolvable Problems

By now, it has probably become obvious that you can’t simply fix unsolvable problems and take them off the table. There is a whole lot of digging to do to clarify the underlying troubles, to find an explanation to why you keep rehashing certain things.

If you can accept that unsolvable problems simply won’t go away, because they are about your individual perspectives, you’ve taken the first step to addressing these conflicts. The second step is to find a way to establish a dialogue about the problem.

Having a dialogue means to converse with one another, not at one another like you would do during arguments. You must learn to listen and work together to reveal the deeper meaning of your recurring conflict. What hidden meaning are you both trying to express? Where does the issue stem from – your past relationships, family of origin, anxiety, or perhaps fear?

Once you understand and respect the deeper meaning, you can choose to appreciate your differences and prevent the loss of your connection and friendship. That, in turn, will allow you to eliminate fussing and arguing. It won’t change your fundamental personality differences, but acceptance and understanding will help you to compromise.

So, in the end, what is the resolution to couples conflict?

Focus on fixing the solvable problems and work together to find a compromise for the unsolvable, perpetual issues. Keep in mind, though, that just like these perpetual problems come up over and over, you must revisit acceptance, understanding, and compromise on these issues again and again. It’s an ongoing process.

4 Important Topics to Discuss Before You Say "I Do!"

Premarital Counseling Young Couple with attribution.jpg

The time before marriage is filled with planning and preparation for your big day. You may be planning a large wedding event, or something much smaller and intimate. Either way, it’s a time of anticipation and excitement for you and your beloved.

Whether you have been together for years, or your relationship is taking the fast-track to the altar, there are important things to discuss with your partner before you say “I Do.”

You may be thinking you and your partner will simply deal with issues as they arise and work through them then. You may also believe that because you have known each other for a long time, you already know everything you need to know about how you and your partner feel about these important issues. That is a mindset that many soon-to-be-married couples have, and unfortunately, it can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, frustrations, and heightened conflict down the road.

Before you head to the alter, and before you say “I Do,” take some time to get to know how you and your partner feel about the following subjects. Discuss the questions under each topic and if you find you have different points of view, ask questions to better understand your partners position.

This is far from an exhaustive list of things to discuss before marriage, but it’s a start. As you explore these questions, you will likely find that you think of other discussion topics.

  1. Romance & Intimacy

    Do you think dating or courting your partner ends after the wedding?

    In what ways do you plan to keep the romance alive throughout your married life?

    What do you need and want from your partner to keep the romance alive?

    Is physical intimacy or emotional intimacy equally important or is one more important than the other?

    How do you each define “emotional intimacy?”

  2. Money & Finances

    How will you manage your money after marriage?

    Will you have joint financial accounts and bank cards?

    Do you want to have a separate account of your own?

    How do each of you feel about having debt?

    If you want to have children, how do you want to plan financially for growing your family?

    What are you goals for saving?

    Is retirement planning important to you now?

    Are you a spender or a saver, and how will you handle any conflicts if you differ on what to spend your money on?

    How would you handle tough financial times as a couple?

  3. Family & Social Life

    How was conflict handled in your families of origin?

    How was money handled in your families of origin?

    Do you agree or disagree with the way your families of origin handled conflict and finances?

    Are you OK with your partner having separate friends and interests?

    Do you and your partner plan to share household duties? Do either of you expect your partner to assume defined roles in your marriage?

    Do you want to have children? How many? Do you think one parent should stay home after children are born?

    Do you prefer large social gatherings or smaller gatherings of a few close friends? How about your partner?

    If you are blending families, what roles will you have in the lives of your partner’s children?

  4. Work & Career

    What do you expect from each other regarding success in your respective careers?

    How would you feel if one career took off, and the other was slower to grow?

    Are you equally ambitious in your careers?

    What does a balanced work and family life look like to each of you? Do you think it’s important to your relationship? How do you and your partner plan to achieve this balance if it is important to you?

    What if your partner wanted to make a career change or return to school? Is that something you would support?

If you find that you and your partner disagree on any of these questions, you may want to have a professional counselor facilitate discussion for you in premarital counseling sessions. Think of premarital counseling as an investment in your marriage and your future together. You won’t regret it!

Couples in Happy Marriages Focus on the Small Things

“Many people think that the secret to reconnecting with their partner is a vacation by the sea. But a romantic outing only turns up the heat if the couple has kept the pilot light burning by staying in touch in the little ways.” – John Gottman

Relationship expert Dr. John Gottman has developed a research based, reality tested system for happy marriages. And one of the most important ways to keep your marriage healthy is this: “focus on the small things.”

As in the quote above, romance will only flourish in your marriage if you keep the fire burning throughout all the many days, weeks, months, and years of your relationship. Spectacular holidays and vacations, romantic dinners in candlelit settings, and expensive gifts fall flat and don’t mean much if the small things are not present in your relationship every day.

Every positive, small, daily interaction with your beloved is an opportunity for you to connect in loving and caring ways. The small positive things in marriage need to be done often. They need to become your communication style as couple.

Words and actions matter

“Thank you,” “I appreciate you,” a quick shoulder and neck massage at the end of a stressful day, a hug or a kiss given “just because,” are all deposits to the emotional bank accounts of happy marriages. Make deposits to your relationship’s emotional bank account each and every day…. several times a day. It may be small, but it’s an investment in your happy marriage.

Look at me and share my joy

“I broke my running record,” “I finished my presentation,” “I got that special bottle of wine we liked so much on vacation last year,” “I picked up your dry cleaning.”

These are bids your partner makes to connect with you. If you love, admire, and appreciate your partner, this is the time to show it – in small ways. Actually, small ways are bigger than you might think.  

“I’m so proud of you,” “You put in a lot of time and effort on that presentation. I know you will do a great job,” “I love that wine. Thank you,” “You’re so sweet to think of the dry cleaning pick up. That helped me have one less thing to do today.” A hug and a kiss added to your verbal expressions of gratitude, when possible, will also go a long way to keeping the flame burning in your relationship.

It may be a small moment, but it’s a building block for happy marriages. You and your partner should look for these moments to give to each other in small ways – start to look forward to these moments! 

Pay attention to my troubles

“I’m feeling a bit exhausted,” “My co-worker is really getting on my nerves,” “I didn’t sleep very well.”

Life is tough at times. Little stresses and emotional injuries mount up. Your partner needs your compassion and empathy.

Your partner is your first and foremost support system in a sometimes very exhausting and painful world. If your spouse turns away from you in these moments, when you are already feeling down, it will hurt a lot.

Look for opportunities to attune to your partner. Offer physical and emotional support. Be fully present and in-the-moment with your partner. Ask your partner to tell you about the exhaustion, the irritation, or the poor night’s sleep, and what you can do to help in that moment. An exhausted partner would probably welcome time to sit and relax with a beverage you serve, an irritated partner just wants someone to listen (not problem solve or fix the situation), and a sleepy partner may simply want the luxury of going to bed early one night while you take care of evening household duties.

Come play with me

Holding your hand, sneaking a kiss, snuggling on the sofa while watching a movie, dressing up for a special occasion or for no reason at all – these are all ways your partner shows affection and seeks affection in return. Again, in happy marriages, small ways of showing affection matter. When they are noticed, acknowledged, not taken for granted, and, when possible, returned, you are showing your partner how much he or she means to you. When you turn toward your partner in these small moments, you are making sure the flame doesn’t go out.

Can we talk?

Small things are the fabric of connection between couples.

Paying attention to the small things often also helps you notice as early as possible when a conflict may be brewing, and also when and where you disagree.

If you catch that conflict early, you can talk about it and sort it out while it is still manageable and without all the extra baggage that long neglected relationship conflicts tend to acquire.

Happy marriages thrive on small, precise discussions. Voicing a difference of opinion, a concern, or hurt feelings doesn’t mean rejecting your partner or your partner’s bid for attention, compassion, or affection. On the contrary, it means that you take each other seriously and that you try to understand even if you don’t agree.

Talking and paying attention also applies to the romantic side of marriage. Keep the romantic connection going by initiating and responding to small acts of affection and to your own and your partner’s desires as often as you can and want.

A Happy Marriages Mantra

So by all means, go on that special vacation. Take time for date nights and special evenings together.

Play! Have fun together!

But don’t forget that doing small things for your partner on a consistent, daily basis will contribute to a stable foundation for your happy marriage.

Make this your marriage mantra: “Small Things Often = Happy Marriages."

A Look at the Many Faces of Marital Infidelity

Statistics about marital infidelity are notoriously difficult to verify, with estimates ranging from five-percent to 50-percent of marriages. A reputable, long-term study by Blow & Hartnett (2005) puts the likelihood of infidelity in a marriage, in any given year, at around six-percent, rising to 25-percent over the lifetime of the relationship.

Reasons for marital infidelity are diverse and complex. There is no one reason why someone is unfaithful to their partner. The reason given for a marital infidelity may be isolated to a single, identifiable reason. However, more often than not, infidelity occurs for a number of reasons, and it’s important for couples to be honest with each other about the infidelity, and investigate together why their relationship took this turn.

What is marital infidelity?

When one thinks of someone being unfaithful to their partner, or “cheating,” the common assumption is that someone has had a secretive, sexual relationship with someone other than their partner. The secret relationship could be long-term or even a one-night-stand.

There is much more than sex to marital infidelity and sometimes the infidelity doesn’t even involve a sexual relationship, in the strictest sense. Even sexual infidelity can be defined differently than before with individuals having the ability to email and text message sexual photographs and have video conversations without even being in the same room together. In fact, these actions are probably better classified as sexual infidelity than emotional infidelity in today’s world of communication.

“Non-sexual,” emotional marital infidelities have also become much more common with email, cell phones, phone texting, and social media, and they can be every bit as damaging to a relationship as a sexual affair.

Let’s look at a broader definition of marital infidelity, a definition that includes crossing emotional as well as physical boundaries.

In her book, Not “Just Friends,” Dr. Shirley Glass asks the following questions to investigate if a friendship with someone other than your partner has crossed the boundary to an emotional affair:

  1. Do you confide more to your friend than to your partner about how your day went?

  2. Do you discuss negative feelings or intimate details about your marriage with your friend but not with your partner?

  3. Are you open with your partner about the extent of your involvement with your friend?

  4. Would you feel comfortable if your partner heard your conversations with your friend?

  5. Would you feel comfortable if your partner saw a videotape of your meeting with a friend?

  6. Are you aware of sexual tensions in this friendship?

  7. Do you and your friend touch differently when you’re alone than in front of others?

  8. Are you in love with your friend?

Give yourself one point each for yes to questions 1, 2, 6, 7, and 8 above, and one point each for no to 3, 4, 5.  If you scored near 0, this is just a friendship. If you scored 3 or more, you may not be “just friends.” If you scored 7-8, you are definitely involved in an emotional affair, according to Glass. Elevated scores on this brief quiz indicate that you may be on a slippery slope to further emotional involvement with someone outside your marriage, which puts you at risk for possible sexual involvement, too.

The commonality in emotional affairs and sexual affairs is that they are secretive and withheld from your partner, and your attention, emotional attunement and connection are being directed to someone other than your marital partner. If you are not attending to your connection with your partner, your marital relationship suffers. When you ‘cheat,’ you deceive your partner and violate your mutual trust.

What are some of the faces of marital infidelity?

Social media has created the ability to reconnect with family and friends in a way not previously possible.  An online friendship (think Facebook and other social media sites) that your spouse is unaware of can be a warning sign. Maybe your online friendship is with someone you’ve never met before, or maybe it’s a high school or college sweetheart that you haven’t heard from in years. Your new or renewed connection may be harmless and truly nothing more than friendship. But, if you are sending private messages to this person without your partner’s knowledge, or you withhold from your partner all or selective parts of conversations you have with your friend, or if you justify not sharing details of the friendship with your spouse because you think he or she “won’t understand,” you might want to evaluate what is happening in your relationship with your friend, and in your relationship with your spouse.

A relationship with a co-worker or business associate that falls outside the realm of work is also a red flag. Glass calls the workplace “a fertile breeding ground for affairs.” Think about it. Men and women often work side-by-side to complete projects, work cooperatively to meet company benchmarks, and may even travel together for their work responsibilities. This kind of “togetherness,” and working to meet common goals, can easily cross the line to having more intimate conversations, having contact with each other by phone, text, and social media, and spending more time together than is required of the work relationship. 

Marital infidelities can be present in relationships in other ways, too. Infidelity is not limited to sexual and emotional affairs. Financial infidelities can be another problem in marriages. If you and your partner have an understanding that your finances are joint, is there some part of your financial world that you are keeping a secret from your partner? Do you have a credit card or credit card debt your partner doesn’t know about? A separate checking account your spouse is unaware of? Are you spending money and trying to hide the expenditures? Financial infidelity can also be devastating to couples. Again, the secretive and hidden nature of activities are what classify an infidelity, and lead to a fractured trust between you and your partner.

How to protect yourself and your relationship from marital infidelity.

First, understand that attraction to another person is normal. Just because you are married and committed to your partner doesn’t mean that you’re dead! But feeling attraction to someone else, doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to act on it. Being attracted to another person also doesn’t mean that you are married to the wrong person. Commitment to your spouse means that you do not allow yourself to be distracted from your marital relationship.

Dr. Glass also suggests that if you find yourself attracted to someone other than your partner, don’t allow yourself to fantasize about someone else. She states that “affairs begin in the mind.” Don’t flirt either, because you are signaling that you are available and interested in someone else. Avoid risky situations. Late nights at the office with a co-worker you’re attracted to, coffee alone with “a friend” who feels like more than “just a friend” are situations that heighten risk for infidelity if you are attracted to the person.

Healing Your Relationship After Marital Infidelity

Marital infidelity does not mean your relationship has to end. Couples who work with a qualified marriage counselor after the discovery of marital infidelity can come through the challenge and sometimes have an even stronger relationship than before. There is no doubt about the anguish that is felt when a marital infidelity comes to light. Contacting a qualified marriage counselor and working together as a couple is the first step toward healing your relationship.  Exploring the reasons the marital infidelity happened and how to prevent it in the future can help get your relationship back on track and headed in the right direction.

Why It's Important to Have a Strong Friendship in Marriage

Marriage is all about romantic love – or that’s what the Hollywood movies would like us to believe.

Of course, love is at the core of marriage, including intimacy and romantic attraction, and love is what makes marriage different from all our other relationships.

But the marriages that overcome the many stress tests and the many conflicts, big and small, that inevitably crop up over a lifetime, the marriages that last, also have something else at their core: a strong friendship.

Seeing your partner as a friend and not as the fulfillment of a personal or cultural fantasy (in which case he or she can never be enough) is the most realistic foundation of a long-term relationship.

Characteristics of friendship

Friendships, it has been said, are the freest of all relationships. Friends are freely chosen, without pressure or obligation, and friendships express who we are. Friendship is also the most equal of all relationships. Friends have mutual respect, mutual curiosity about each other’s lives, and support each other unconditionally because they have each other’s best interests at heart – more so than their own selfish agenda.

A strong friendship is the best foundation for being a lifelong team.

How to maintain a strong friendship

The big stuff

Support your spouse in living a full life. If your partner wants to branch out professionally, travel more (or less), if he or she is faced with a major life decision, or wants something that you don’t want, stay curious, ask questions, and try to support your spouse in making the best choices for his or her own life. Not yours. A strong friendship rests on the fact that each of you is an individual. Undue pressure, coercion, emotional blackmail, and a sense of entitlement have no place in a strong friendship.

Of course, marriage is also a partnership in practical matters. But friends who respect and trust each other will also treat that partnership with trust and respect.

The small stuff

Life, however, consists largely of the small stuff. Most days don’t bring the big decisions, but every day is an opportunity to rediscover and reinforce your strong friendship with each other.

Show your spouse that you are paying attention – through small gifts, thoughtful remarks, and encouraging questions.

Suggest little things that lighten up your partner’s life – a short trip, a favorite food, participation in a favorite activity.

Be reliable when you execute the little tasks and helpful acts that your partner asks for, be honest when you make promises, and keep those that you make.

Stay engaged in conversation.

Create projects together and follow up regularly. Building things as a team strengthens the dynamics of your friendship by using them.

How to stay friends in tough times

Best friends can disagree without losing each other’s positive regard and support. Friends can even dare to be more honest with each other than everyone else, and during tough times in your marriage that might be necessary.

If you can trust and respect each other, even the biggest conflicts and challenges benefit from that honesty. If you are best friends, you can also approach your mutual mistakes more openly and with compassion.

The “friendship” frame of mind can help you to try to see the other person’s point of view. It can also help you stay realistic and remind you that your partner is an individual, a person who has chosen to be with you, and not the fairy tale prince or princess created in your own psyche. (That fairy tale prince or princess is actually a part of you that you project into someone else, expecting that someone else to rescue you and solve all your unresolved internal issues.)

The most important aspect of a strong friendship is, after all, mutuality – respect, trust, and freedom work both ways.

No matter how your relationship started out, it is never too late to focus on and expand a strong friendship in your marriage. A friendship that will last a lifetime, whatever happens.

Yours and Mine Equals Ours: How Couples Can Blend Holiday Traditions

Holidays can bring out hidden dynamics within a couple.

It’s one of those times when your individual pasts meet and you get the chance to blend them into a new tradition together.

If you are celebrating a holiday that is part of  both of your family traditions, such as Christmas or Hanukkah, you each may have particular traditions you want to bring into your relationship as a couple. Twenty-two percent of American couples come from divergent religious backgrounds with very different holidays and many more regional variations of them.

Even an all-American holiday like Thanksgiving can be unfamiliar if your spouse comes from a country or culture where this kind of holiday doesn’t exist!

Be curious and respectful

Holiday traditions go very deep for most people. They accompany us from our early childhood and are part of our sense of identity. Be curious and respectful of each other’s traditions. You never know what complex associations an inexpensive-looking Santa hat (for example) may have for your partner.

Don’t make assumptions

If you are part of an interfaith or mixed cultural relationship, you may try to find out a lot of things about your partner’s traditions on your own. Your partner, however, may have had a different, or non-typical, holiday experience from the one you have been reading about. Don’t make assumptions, ask!

Create your own individual blend

Like coffees or teas, your traditions may have many countries of origin, but it is up to you to create your own specific ‘house blend.’ As a couple, creating completely new holiday traditions is a great way to bond and make your partnership real. Find a special way to exchange gifts, and create a special time just for you to share a newly created holiday activity. Try to bring one element that you really enjoy into this new blend. It will have a unique flavor that will grow on you every year.

Be real about the holidays — together

Holiday traditions can also be a trap. If there are things you really didn’t enjoy about your original holiday traditions, now is the time to stop or transform them. Not all traditions deserve to be continued.

For many people, the holidays can also be a very stressful time when they feel that all they do is try to satisfy other people’s expectations at the expense of their own. If that is the case, your relationship with your partner can allow you to set new boundaries. When you start celebrating together, you are no longer just children at your respective parents’ holiday events. And while it is important to honor heritage traditions, it is equally important that the holidays are a time for restoring your energy and inner peace, and a time to bond for the future.

The best of the past holiday traditions

Ask your partner, and yourself, which of the holiday traditions you grew up with were the ones that mattered to you most, and why. Then think of a way to re-create some or all of these traditions just for the two of you. You may end up with very similar activities, perhaps lighting the candles on the Christmas tree and on the Menorah all together (or the lights for Diwali), or you could just do one celebration on one day and then next one on the other if they fall together in a year. Many holidays offer more than one date for celebration.

A new relationship with your families

When you feel ready, perhaps when you have established your new, blended holidays for a few years, it may be time to invite your families of origin to join you and join in your new holiday traditions. This is also an opportunity to introduce the entire family to a different cultural background or to learn more about another religion.

Blended families with children

A particular challenge can come up if one or both of you already have children from a previous relationship. Try to respect the children’s attachments to their own holiday traditions, even if they were created before you joined their family.

Just like you, these traditions are a part of a child’s identity, even if the child is still quite young. Don’t take away, build on what you find.

And add your own way of telling them, through a present or a special moment together, that you love them and want to celebrate with them.

Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate

Whether it is a series of festivals from different religions — either a month or two apart or sometimes right after one another — or a big round of non-religious holiday parties and visits, you’re connecting two families and circles of friends that used to be separate before. If you blend your holiday traditions, you will have many occasions to celebrate.

Of course not all holiday traditions are of the ‘cozy snow’ kind. Not all of them involve conventional rituals or ceremonies.

Some couples opt to create a completely new tradition by heading off to another country, perhaps to a sunny climate, where they celebrate the holidays — by going on holiday.

Couples Conflict Management: Why Defensiveness Doesn't Work

A relationship conflict can start anywhere, any time — and there’s no telling where it will stop. One of the most common couples conflict accelerators” (communication mistakes that make the situation worse very fast) is defensiveness.

Imagine you say to your partner: “You’ve been home late every night this week.”

What would a defensive response to this look like?

“I have not been late every night!” (Denial) “I don’t know what you expect. I have a stressful job and you know that.” (Rebuttal)

“What about me? What about my job and career? I don’t have a choice about staying late. I have to come home and take care of things around here. Someone has to be responsible.” (Counterattack)

Hence, the main strategies of defensiveness:

1. Denial: “I didn’t do it/say it.”

2. Rebuttal: “You are in the wrong.”

3. Counterattack: “You do this to me, too.”

4. Escalation: Fight or flight, then shutdown

If a couple conducts its conflicts in this way, one defensive statement will lead to another, and soon accusations and hurtful attacks turn the conflict into an all-out fight.

Depending on your personalities, and your position in the power dynamics of the relationship, you will tend to prefer fighting or running away, but quite probably you will end up doing both at different times.

The final stage is communication shutdown. Bad feelings, resentment and sometimes hopelessness as to how to resolve the issue, are the result.

If you want to learn how not to act/react defensively, you need to first explore and understand why this is happening.

Goals of defensiveness

The main goal of a defensive response is not to have to engage with the issue. The larger goal is not to have to engage with the person who is trying to talk to you. It’s a verbal “keep out” sign.

And while defensiveness can be part of an abusive power play (a way of never letting the less dominant partner voice their side and be heard) most of the time, defensiveness is caused by fear.

What are defensive communicators afraid of?

  • Not being safe

“If I open myself up to this, I will get hurt.”

  • Not being heard

“No matter what I say, my partner won’t listen so it’s better to cut it off a.s.a.p.”

  • Not being understood

“If I try to explain myself, my partner will not get it and accuse me even more.”

  • Not being forgiven for mistakes (even small ones)

“If I admit to this small mistake, my partner will feel entitled to punish me.”

In fact, defensive partners feel the exact emotions that their behavior induces in others.

How to respond constructively to defensiveness

Responding to defensiveness with rebuttals, counterattacks and withdrawal will turn your living room into an episode from a courtroom drama. There is a reason why the American court system is called “adversarial”: The opposite party is your enemy whom you must vanquish at all cost.

It can happen very easily. It takes patience, courage and love not to fall into the same pattern.

The most important thing to remember: Conflict between couples is not about winning or losing, but about exploring, understanding and if possible, resolving the issues.

Even more, it is about understanding each other:

  • Why is my partner so upset right now?

  • What prevents me from hearing his words as a question, instead of as a criticism?

  • What is she afraid of that prevents her from openly engaging with me?

  • How can I help to make our relationship a safe space where we can voice our concerns, stay curious about each other’s feelings, and start to see conflict as an opportunity to get to know each other even better?

This is the way to start managing your couples conflict constructively.

Couples Counseling for One

Couples counseling for one?

It sounds a bit paradoxical, doesn’t it? How can one person participate in couples counseling?

Let me explain.

All relationships will experience ups and downs. Sometimes life with your beloved will move along without a bump. On the opposite end of the spectrum there may be times when you feel helpless to find a resolution to conflict or a traumatic relationship event. 

You may want to pursue couples counseling to learn better communication skills, reduce conflict, work to heal the hurts and emotional pain in your relationship, and move forward in a positive way with your marriage or partnership. You’re ready to seek couples counseling, but your spouse or partner is reluctant to see a professional to address the issues and concerns in your relationship. Attending couples counseling with your spouse or partner is preferred, but if you can’t get your partner on-board, this is when couples counseling for one can be a good alternative.

First, let’s try to understand what may be going on with a reluctant spouse or partner who refuses to go to couples counseling with you:

  • He or she may feel that they will be blamed for the difficulties in the relationship.
  • Conflict of any kind may be something your spouse or partner wants to avoid in any setting.
  • It’s difficult for many individuals to face problems head-on and make tough decisions. 
  • It may be very uncomfortable for your spouse or partner to talk with someone they don’t know, even a trained professional, about the details of their personal life.
  • Your spouse or partner may mistakenly believe that seeing a couples counselor means the relationship is near an end. (And they don’t want it to end!)
  • The belief that he or she has no responsibility in the relationship problems and blames you for the difficulties.

Now that we have some idea of what might going on when your partner rejects going to couples counseling with you, let’s look at some ways to make the most of your counseling without your spouse or partner, and the potential benefits to you and your relationship if you pursue couples counseling for one:

  • Leave the door open for your spouse or partner to join you in counseling. Do not nag, coerce, or make threats if he or she will not go with you.
  • With the help of your counselor, you will learn about your responses and reactions in your relationship with your partner and how you might change those behaviors.
  • Being a role model for how counseling is working for you, and how it is helping you in your relationship, can have a positive impact on your partner.
  • Identifying things that you can change, and learning healthy ways to cope with things that can’t be changed, will also be beneficial to you and your relationship.
  • You can share insights, reading material, and “homework” from your counseling sessions with your partner, which might help remove some of the uncertainty and discomfort of what couples therapy involves.

If your spouse or partner won’t go to counseling with you, couples counseling without your spouse or partner can be helpful. Go to couples counseling alone to understand yourself in the context of the relationship. Positive change in your relationship is possible with couples counseling for one.

Caring For Your Sick or Disabled Spouse? 7 Ways to Take Care of Yourself and Your Partner

It’s unfortunate that anyone has to live with and suffer from an illness or disability. Being that person's sole caregiver, however, is no walk in the park either. Caring for your spouse is a big responsibility. It’s highly demanding on many different levels. It often carries its own heavy burdens: physical exhaustion, overwhelming emotions, sentiments of guilt, depression, fear, injustice, sadness, and even anger.

Here are some ways for you to take care of yourself and your partner during this important life transition.

1. Lose the Guilt

Guilt can arise easily in this situation. You may feel guilty for being healthy or for having a good time while your spouse can't join you. You can also feel guilty for experiencing anger and resentment toward your spouse because of the life, activities, relationship, and intimacy you may have lost. If your spouse is aware enough to realize what is happening, he or she may also have built up some heavy guilt for making your life so difficult.

Guilt will not help either of you. You have to accept those feelings and let them go. If possible, talk honestly about the feelings you’re both experiencing. If talking isn’t possible or comfortable, you can write it down. Find a peaceful way to acknowledge all the feelings without assigning blame or cultivating guilt.

2. Home Care Services

If you can afford it, get professional nursing help, either full-time or for just a few days a week, to get some well-deserved rest. If your spouse is lucid enough, having a third party in charge of the more ‘personally invasive’ tasks might save you both a great deal of emotional discomfort.

If nursing care is not an option, consider having help around the house. Family and friends can be a big help with cleaning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation. Accept all the help you can get!

3. Address Your Emotions

You might love your partner dearly but still catch yourself silently wishing you didn’t have to care for him or her. Those emotions are normal and they can vary greatly from time to time, depending on your life situation, your health, and your busy schedule.

Counseling and support groups are great ways to get the emotional understanding and support you need in your situation. Your counselor and support group members may even share helpful tips for coping with your situation.

4. Laughter

Make room for laughter. If possible, watch comedies together or spend time with a friend to bring joy and simplicity back into your life. Laughter has medical and psychological properties. A good laugh will keep you going longer and restore positive energy, which will benefit the entire family.

5. You First

You can’t help anyone if you are falling apart yourself. Keep a close eye on your own health and stay active, eat well, and get plenty of rest. Talk to your doctor or counselor if you start experiencing chronic health problems or signs of depression. To care for your spouse, you need to take care of yourself first.

6. Make a schedule

Reduce your mental worries by establishing a schedule. Make sure to block out time for yourself and your favorite activities or to get some fresh air with your partner . Routines can alleviate stress and help you remember to take care of yourself as well. Balance is important for both of you.

7. Find Love Again

Longing for how your life used to be will not help anyone. Though you can’t go back in time or change the circumstances, you can try to create new tender moments with each other. Try to have some quality time together that does not involve daily caregiving responsibilities. Go for walks, watch the sunset, put on music and candles, allow love to co-exist with your life’s new responsibilities.

8 Ways Retirement Can Be the Best Time of Your Life

Retirement can be an exciting and energizing transition, and possibly a little scary as well. Maybe you were able to ease into it by working part time for a while, or perhaps your company’s resource actions forced you into early retirement. In any case, retirement doesn’t have to feel like your life is ending. On the contrary, it can be the beginning of something even better!

Here are eight ways retirement will positively change your life:

1. Goodbye Stress!

Similar to taking a vacation, stress can stay in tow for several days before you begin to reap the benefits of stepping away from your busy life. The absence of stressful and hectic schedules may even feel uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and destabilizing at first. Not to worry: The peace of mind and clarity, that soon follows your newly-found, stress-free routine, will surprise and please the most reluctant retiree!

2. Freedom

No need to get up early in the morning, or rush to fight traffic and meet deadlines. You are now free to do as you please, when you please. When was the last time you asked yourself “What shall I do this week?” Welcome to your new freedom-filled life!

3. Get Things Done

Once you’ve settled into your new groove, and are looking for something to occupy your time, you may decide to finally tackle those tasks you have been putting aside for ages because you were too busy. It could be creating family photo albums, getting rid of clothes or furniture that is no longer needed, repainting a room in the house, or anything else to clear out your to-do list and your space.

4. Travel

You no longer have to report back to your job every day, or feel guilty to just pack up and leave. This is a magnificent time to travel abroad, or even visit places around town you have never been to. Open new horizons, see places you’ve always wanted to see, but couldn’t because of work restrictions.

5. Reconnect

With more free time on your hands, retirement is a golden opportunity to reconnect with long lost friends, or family members you have not seen in a while. When we rush through our lives, and everyone is busy, our most beloved relationships are often the ones that suffer. Make the most of your free time, and reconnect with the people around you.

6. Take Care of Yourself

It’s not only our relationships that pay the price of a busy life; we tend to also neglect our personal health. We eat on the run, and exercise on the run (if at all). We rarely stop to appreciate the small moments in each day, or relax. Retirement allows you to rebalance your daily routine to include good nutrition, exercise, rest, and plenty of fresh air.

7. Give Your Time

Retirement is a perfect time to seek volunteering opportunities for causes you believe in and cherish. Not only is it a rewarding experience and a worthy contribution, it also keeps you sharp, learning, and engaged in life outside of your home, while meeting new people. You now have the time and freedom to do work that truly matters to you, or perhaps work in an area that you’ve always wanted to try.

8. Re-Invent Yourself

As we work our way through life, we sometimes wander away from our original passions or beliefs, but we also discover new talents or interests along the way. There is no better time than retirement to re-invent yourself. Learn something new, invest in an intriguing hobby, and be who you want to be.

Whether retirement takes you flying through adventurous travels, or comforts you with a well-deserved, calm and relaxing time at home, make the most of it by cherishing the people you care about, and enjoying the simple joys of life. Make every moment count.

7 Ways to Bring Affection Back Into Your Relationship

We’re all guilty of it. We shove things and people to the side, trying to keep up with life’s constant demands and obligations, and we end up neglecting the ones we love the most. Other times, it’s a cold breeze of conflicts that settles in, putting our head battles ahead of our hearts, and the gap grows, leaving affection out of the equation.

In an ideal world we would never lose focus on our partner or ourselves, but when we do, the sooner we realize it the better. Here are some simple ways you and your partner can bring affection back into your relationship.

1. Think soft

Our reality is harsh. We never stop. We build a strong self in order to make it through the day, almost in constant survival mode.

Affection on the other hand, requires us to be calm, soft, gentle, caring, and compassionate. Before you can turn this affection into a more tangible change in your relationship, you need to tune your mind first.

Take a moment to look at your partner and find that sweet side you’ve always loved about him or her, or a special moment you’ve had with one another. Cherish the memory and let yourself smile. You just found your soft side again.

2. Touch

A simple loving touch as you walk by or a gentle kiss on the cheek as you cook, can happily surprise your loved one and recreate the magic you once had. Hold hands on occasion when walking. Keep the physical connection alive.

3. Get closer

In addition to the occasional touch, make time in the morning, in front of the TV, or in bed at night, to snuggle with your partner. It doesn’t have to lead to anything more than just soaking up the great feeling of being together, comfortable.

Another important aspect of closeness we often take for granted is eye contact. We talk while looking at our phones, checking the weather on the computer, while cooking, or walking into another room. The truth is, we forget to dive deep into our partner’s eyes and truly acknowledge his or her presence.

4. Have a good laugh

Laughter is therapeutic. It releases stress and makes us forget about our concerns and worries. It brings back the joy in the relationship. Find the type of humor that makes you both laugh, and rent a movie or watch a stand-up comedy show, anything that will make you both laugh out loud together.

5. Be best friends

Forget that your loved one is your spouse for a minute, and see him or her as your friend. Bring back the unconditional level of caring, kindness, and compassion you once felt for each other. Take time to truly listen, be patient and loving.

6. Break the routine

Routine has a way of sinking its teeth into every pleasure we once enjoyed. Break the cycle and do something out of the ordinary.

It can be something you used to do together, or something completely different that you’ve always wanted to try. It doesn’t have to be grandiose, or require travels around the world; it just needs some sparks, rejuvenation, and novelty.

7. Go on a date

Plan an official date with each other. Dress up, be on time, no excuses. Avoid any conversations about how tired you are or how stressed you feel; treat it as your first date, when first impressions were everything. Why not flirt even! Get the heat and mystery back on the plate!

Overall, simplify your life and your relationship and go back to basics. Don’t look up to your partner to make you feel good; start by taking care of yourself and your own happiness so you are desirable and pleasant to be around. Then bring all that good energy and self-confidence into reconnecting with your loved one.

The most wonderful moments are always the simplest. Cherish one another.

Same Argument, Different Day? Break the Cycle!

Let’s face it, bickering is exhausting and rarely leads to a peaceful resolution. When the same subjects spark up a fire every single time, as unlikely as it sounds, it might have become an unconscious habit in your relationship and it’s a habit that needs to be broken.

Arguments happen for a reason, ignoring them and sweeping them under the rug won’t help anyone. Before anything can be solved, you and your spouse need to break the cycle of repeated arguments.


The first, most simple trick may be the hardest. In the heat of an argument, or before it escalates, take a pause, take a deep breath, and hold your comebacks for a few seconds. Just listen. Avoid using this pause to prepare your next attack or to send verbal cues of your disapproval, just pause and try to relax.

It might sound very easy to do, but we are programmed to retort quickly at a false accusation — or anything aimed at us — which often times it only makes matters worse.

If the pause seems to aggravate your partner, make sure to reassure him or her, that you are simply listening to their point of view.

Stay Neutral

During an argument, try to detach yourself as if listening to a friend. The argument will be personal and it might be very uncomfortable to stand there and not defend yourself, however, by staying unbiased you will be able to truly hear your partner and what he or she is trying to communicate.

If you do not fight back with your partner, it might feel as if you are letting him or her win, but you’re not, you are simply diffusing the heat so both of you can eventually be heard. Remember that staying neutral doesn’t mean you disregard your partner’s or your own feelings, it just means stepping out of ‘personal’ and stepping into ‘togetherness’.

Catch The Pattern

If at all possible, try to see the pattern of the argument before it ignites. If this is a repeated argument, you should be able to become aware of what triggers the conflict and heated discussion and catch it before it starts.

You may want to tell your partner that you feel the conversation may lead to an argument and would prefer to talk about it calmly so you can both listen to one another, or wait until both of you are calm. Hopefully, your effort will be shared and both of you can hold off on the conversation, or continue more peacefully.

Discover The Underlying Reason

The difficulty in repeated and heated arguments is to clearly identify the real cause for the arguments. Chances are, the true problem is not about the late hours at work, but more about a feeling of neglect or not being important enough; it is also rarely about the wet towels left on the bathroom floor, but more about feeling that you are the only one taking care of the house.

See your conflicts as symptoms instead of seeing them as the cause of all your troubles. Just like catching a cold, you may have to treat the symptoms in order to feel better and get through the day, but if you don’t start working towards a healthier you, the next cold might be right around the corner waiting for you, just like the same old conflicts will rise in any given occasion until you break the cycle.

No matter what the arguments are about, take some time alone, or together, to reflect on the real emotions that bring up the conflicts. Assess how you feel about the relationship, the routines, and your life in general; you may discover a whole new perspective as to why you tend to fight about the same things repeatedly. Look within and stop pointing fingers, stop looking for who’s right and who’s wrong because when it comes to emotions and feelings, they exist for a reason and need caring attention.

My Spouse is Addicted - How Can I Help?

You might have heard these well intentioned words from your spouse more than once: “I am sorry, I promise I will stop.” Unfortunately, no matter how sincere your partner is about fixing the problem, addiction is a serious disease that cannot be cured overnight. Though no one can solve the issue other than your spouse, there are still some ways you can help.

Loving Support

As long as the relationship is not abusive or threatening, being there to support your spouse is one of the most important things you can do to help. Your loving presence can help your spouse find the strength and courage to face the difficult ups and downs of the recovery process.

Stay Informed

Research the type of addiction your spouse is struggling with; understanding what he or she is going through can help you keep a cool mind during the tough times.

For example, you might get frustrated and angry when promises for a better tomorrow are broken when the addiction flares up again and messes everything up. However, once you understand that addiction is a disease that alters your spouse’s reasoning capabilities, it allows more room for compassion and less for judgment.

Stay Healthy

Watching helplessly as your loved-one paves the path to self-destructive behaviors can be absolutely heart breaking, even depressing at times. You will not be able to change your spouse or fix the problem. You can, however, make sure to take care of yourself, staying emotionally strong, healthy, and happy, in order to pull through the tougher moments. Your life cannot revolve around your spouse’s addiction. Your role is one of support; you need to feel grounded and stable in order to help.

Eliminate Denial

Most addicts are in denial about their problem. If you tend to cover for your spouse and make excuses for missed appointments, missed workdays, or neglected responsibilities, you are only aggravating his or her denial.

By facing the facts and not covering for your spouse, you are saying that you see the problem and no one can pretend it doesn’t exist. This may also help your partner do the same. Admitting to the problem is the first big step in recovery.


Addiction is a disease that gets worse if left untreated. If your spouse refuses to get help, an intervention may be needed. You could gather friends and close family members to gently express your concerns to your spouse as a group. However, if the situation becomes critical, or if anyone’s safety is compromised, more serious measures may be required, such as a crisis therapist, or law enforcement agencies.

Meetings & Counseling

Overcoming addictions is extremely difficult, and so is living with someone who is addicted. No matter what the addiction is, reaching out to support groups, 12-step groups, and a counselor is an important step to help you both cope with the difficult challenges presented by addiction. Groups and counselors can help you process your feelings and emotions and lessen the feelings of isolation and loneliness in your relationship. 

Aside from the addiction recovery process, your relationship is likely to withstand a great amount of stress and discomfort, tearing at the seams of what you once loved and cherished about each other. Couples counseling is highly recommended in order to rebuild and maintain the trust and confidence in your partnership, and in each other.


If your spouse is not ready to admit to the addiction, or is unwilling to take action to put an end to it, no matter how hard you invest yourself in the solution, it will not work. The prime motivation for a better life has to come from your spouse, then you become the helping hand keeping your partner loved and on the right path. Addiction recovery is not an easy journey, but with professional help, determination, love, and support, it is possible to overcome it, and bring stability back to your relationship.

Mutual Fondness and Admiration Keeps Relationships Healthy

In the early days of a romantic relationship, the telltale signs of love are hard to miss—excitement, laughter, and a hunger to get to know each other and to spend time together. As your relationship grows and matures, you fall into quieter, more sustainable rhythms. Years into your marriage, you and your spouse might care more deeply for each other than ever before, yet find the signs of that admiration harder to read.

Arguments are inevitable. Conflicts can appear like fissures in your partnership, drawing you apart. Wounds caused by heated words, or things left unsaid, can grow inside the distances between you.

You might find yourself surprised by thoughts like, “marriage is hard.”

Dr. John Gottman, renowned psychotherapist and researcher, believes that a healthy relationship is one in which mutual fondness and admiration are the safety net that opens up when conflict introduces a wedge in your marriage. Fondness keeps your heart open when you’re angry. Admiration nudges you to listen when you’re feeling wronged.

Fondness and admiration ensure that even when the going gets tough, love is still an undercurrent that runs strong and steady in your marriage.

Why are Fondness and Admiration so Important?

Seeing an elderly couple walk down the street holding hands brings a smile to almost every face. Why is that? After years and years of living together, they’re still facing life side-by-side. They still admire one another. They’re still fond of each other.

Marriage can be difficult because you come to see the full picture of your spouse, and your spouse sees the full picture of you. You become deeply accustomed to one another. You’re fully aware of each other’s flaws, or your failures under pressure.

Fondness and admiration are so important because they signal an essentially positive attitude toward your partner and your life together—even after all this time. When the rush of young love fades into something deeper, fondness and admiration act as the adhesive that binds you together. When you genuinely like your partner and feel cared for yourself, it’s easier to navigate tricky emotional terrain as a team. In fact, in navigating that terrain, you’ve likely grown closer together.

Contempt Corrodes

Disagreement doesn’t have to be a distress signal in your marriage. There will be times when miscommunication about chores, holiday plans, or expectations crop up unavoidably. Differences in opinion can even enrich your relationship, expanding your outlook and keeping you flexible.

Conflict alerts you to trouble in your marriage when it exposes patterns of contempt. Sarcasm, name-calling, and eye-rolling are all ways of responding to conflict that convey condescension. If contemptuous communication begins to dominate your marital exchanges, your bond can start to suffer.

If your partner rolls his eyes at you, you might feel more tempted to throw something back at him than open yourself up and listen. When he hears your retort, his instinct will likely also be combative.

Communicating with contempt says, “I’m better than you,” or “you’re not good enough.” Contempt demonstrates that your essential view of your relationship is negative. The core of your bond might not feel like love anymore—it might just feel like hurt.

The Antidote

If you don’t have a positive view of your partner, a disagreement as small as who was supposed to unload the dishwasher can come to seem catastrophic. In the flickering half-light of contempt, little missteps morph into dark shadows that obscure how you once felt about your spouse.

Contempt encourages you to face conflict as individuals; fondness and admiration ensure that you face conflict as a team. Regularly tapping into the fondness and admiration you have for your partner will help you look at conflict in terms of how you can get past it together.