A Case for Counseling

Why Get Counseling?

Getting therapy isn't just good for you. It's good for the people in your life.

I'm a therapist, so maybe I'm biased. From my perspective, there are benefits of counseling that are important, not just for the one getting counseling, but for everyone in their lives. Therapy is the opposite of self-indulgent. It is actually a win-win; it is pro-social. This is because of the effect we have on each other. The more we are happy and self-accepting, the better we will treat others and the more accepting of others we will be.

The whole is the sum of its parts.

Our human family is made up of seven billion individuals. Each of us makes an impact on the world― primarily in how we affect other people. Most of us yearn for a more peaceful and happier world. We can each do our part to make that happen ― one more peaceful and happier person at a time.

But today, a lot of people are unhappy. They struggle with depression and anxiety and low self-esteem. This is noteworthy because we see the world through the lens of our own wounding. Parents who are abusive, neglectful, or just oblivious to their kids' struggles, mostly because they are dealing with their own struggles, leave us feeling like we are not enough. Schoolyard bullies, who try to assert their place in a Lord of the Flies type of environment, leave wounds that are just as indelible.

We can do better, and I believe we should make a collective decision to do so. As adults, when we choose to heal our old wounds, we are less likely to inflict those wounds on others. It seems that this is a high calling. Indeed, parents can learn to be more attentive and mindful of their kids. They can even heal the wounds that lead to their abuse and neglect. Schoolchildren can learn the value of compassion; this is a hallmark call from the Dalai Lama.

Hurt people hurt people

There's an old saying, "hurt people hurt people." This is often quite true! When I work with couples, for example, I find that people are often projecting their own hurts onto their partner. Recently, I asked a husband and wife (I'll call them Bill and Susie) to tell each other what they appreciate about each other. Bill told Susie that he appreciated that she's a great, devoted mother, and that she's very loving.

I asked Susie to repeat what she'd heard Bill say. "He said he appreciates that I'm a devoted and loving mother," she replied. This led to an interesting conversation about how lovable she believes she is; where in her life the breakdown started, or the origin of the wound; and most importantly, how to begin to shift her thinking so that she can believe that she, in fact, is lovable.

Healing the wounds

Many adults in modern Western society are living with the aftermath of parenting that was less than ideal, or the impact of other children's cruelty. Unless and until they work to uncover and heal those old wounds, they move through the world feeling that they are not enough: not lovable, not worthy, not safe, not deserving. Most people agree that all human beings have worth. Believing it's true for you is one of the benefits of counseling.

Can we heal those old wounds? Can we soothe the pain and learn that we are, in fact, all worthy and deserving of love, peace, freedom, and happiness? We can, and it's not even that hard to do! Therapies working in the subconscious level are very effective in helping us achieve rapid, positive, lasting change. These therapies include EMDR, NLP, hypnotherapy, and EFT and other forms of energy psychology, and modalities that are grounded in Eastern practices, such as "heart breathing."

The yoga sutras teach us that when a negative thought is present, we should cultivate its opposite. The Dalai Lama says that we overcome negativity by cultivating positivity. Indeed, we can learn and practice self-compassion. When we do, we have more compassion to give to others. This matters, because when we have compassion, we are able to create a more peaceful world.

In order for humanity to thrive, maybe even to survive, we need to do our healing work. It is not selfish or self-indulgent to do this work. It is essential. I don't just do the work for me. You don't just do the work for you. We do the work for all of us. When we do, we are doing our little part to create a more
peaceful world, one more peaceful person at a time.


Setting Personal Boundaries

Strategies for setting healthy boundaries

Having healthy boundaries is essential for our overall well-being. It also lays the groundwork for healthy relationships. Here are tips on how to create them.


Healthy boundaries create a virtuous cycle of positive self-esteem and personal responsibility. Unhealthy boundaries, on the other hand, leave us feeling resentful, angry, and at risk of burnout. Interested in setting healthy boundaries and need more information? Read on.


What are healthy boundaries?


Personal boundaries are rules we establish for how others treat us. Healthy boundaries tend to go hand-in-hand with good self-esteem and peaceful relationships. Unhealthy ones lead to chaos.


Consider this: We are constantly teaching others how to be in relationship with us. That means that if you don't like how others are treating you, it's time to set new rules! Sounds scary? It's actually pretty simple, once you understand the lay of the land.


What do healthy and unhealthy boundaries look like?


There are real differences between healthy and unhealthy boundaries. These differences can be learned, or unlearned. Here are some of the most noticeable traits:


Signs of healthy boundaries


  • High self-esteem
  • Assertive; can say "yes" or"no" truthfully, and accept another's "no"
  • Take personal responsibility for their own happiness
  • Recognize that they are not responsible for others' happiness
  • Empowered, high sense of self-efficacy
  • Able to speak their truth clearly and directly
  • States their needs or makes requests simply and clearly


Signs of unhealthy boundaries


  • Low self-esteem; self-esteem depends on how others treat them
  • Hard time saying no; say yes when wanting to say no; expects others to just say "yes"
  • Do not understand that they create their own happiness
  • Believe they are responsible for others' happiness
  • Disempowered; tend to blame others
  • Have a hard time speaking their truth; become shut down or explode, or both
  • Over-explain; apologize


Setting healthy boundaries


When you need to set a boundary, be clear and calm, and use respectful language. You do not need to explain yourself. There is no need to apologize. There is no reason to get angry or upset. You are simply setting a boundary, letting the other party understand what you will and won't accept. You may even be their role model!


If this is a new skill, remember that it takes practice, and you are not the only one learning ― so are the people you are trying to establish the boundaries with.


Expect some resistance and discomfort at first, and don't back down. You teach your boundary through your words and actions. Unlike a "no trespassing" sign, people don't necessarily know where your boundary is without bumping into it.


What to do when someone has violated a boundary


"When are you going to get married?" "Your husband is at it again!" "Can you believe so-and-so did such-and-such?" "You are too pretty to be working so hard." The questions and comments can come unexpectedly. When we are caught off guard, it is hard to know how to handle it. A giggle, a blush, a reluctant joining do not effectively give the signal that our boundary has been crossed.


So how do you react when someone has violated a boundary? Give a simple, clear response like:


  • That kind of question is uncomfortable for me
  • Those are things I am not going to discuss
  • I'm not comfortable with that kind of comment
  • Please don't make comments about my appearance


Establishing healthy boundaries in existing relationships


What if the person habitually makes comments, and they have for a long time? Again, simply and clearly state your case.


You might choose to begin by addressing the fact that you are making a change. Say something like "I know that in the past you/we have said/done XYZ. But I'm not comfortable with that. So―


  • I'd rather not discuss whether or when I'm going to get married.
  • Let's not discuss my husband/wife/partner.
  • I'd rather not talk about him/her/them/that.
  • Please don't make comments about my appearance.


Why can it be so hard to set healthy boundaries?


Sometimes people have a hard time setting healthy boundaries. They may feel guilty or undeserving, or the whole thing might feel unnatural. This is common when


  • You we were brought up being taught that it was selfish to take care of yourself
  • Your parents or caregivers did not model healthy boundaries
  • You fear abandonment or rejection
  • You don't feel good about yourself


When people don't like your new healthy boundaries


Your responsibility is to set your boundaries. How the listener responds is their responsibility.


If they become defensive or embarrassed, keep your cool. Remember to be respectful and compassionate. If they become angry and abusive, give them time to calm down.  Perhaps you have collected people who are toxic and seek to manipulate and control you. If they won't respect your healthy boundaries, then you have the right to let them go.


If things feel awkward, don't backslide. Remember, the listener is responsible for their reaction or response, not you. As long as you are sure that you've done your best to speak respectfully and clearly, you have done your part. It might feel awkward and it might have come out a little clumsily; that's part of the learning process and it is OK!


Having healthy boundaries is a two-way street


Make sure that you return the healthy boundaries in kind: avoid gossip and refrain from making inappropriate comments yourself. 


Setting healthy boundaries creates a virtuous cycle of positive self-esteem and feeling that you are running your own show. You have aright to self-care and to respectful treatment. The people in your life benefit by seeing a happy empowered you. Hopefully, they will learn through your example.


having the same argument time and time again?

Same argument time and time again? Try this.

Often couples find themselves locked in a fruitless conversation, having the same argument time and time again, with no resolution in sight. The bad news is that this can lead both parties to feel hopeless, helpless, and misunderstood. It can create distance between you.

Stop having the same argument time and time again

The good news is that when we learn to communicate about what is truly important, going beneath the surface details to find our "pain point" and speak from there, these issues can actually help us grow closer.

It's not about the "facts of the case"

Often we think we know why we are upset. Sadly, we are wrong. "It's because he leaves his socks on the floor," "it's because she doesn't rinse the plates before filling the dishwasher." On and on it goes.

There are several problems with this approach, but the most important part is that we are having the wrong conversation. When we engage in the surface details of the argument, we are gravely missing the point. It's not the "facts of the case" that are really at issue.

It's the feelings.

Imagine it were your neighbor telling you about the socks on the floor or the dishes un-rinsed in the dishwasher. Would that make you so upset?

But, you say, these are my dishes and my floor; it creates a problem for me.

You have a point. But then again, think of all the sacrifices you have cheerfully made, the diapers you've changed, the cat boxes you've scooped, the dog poop you've bagged without question… socks and dishes aren't the very worst thing you've dealt with. So why is this issue a problem?

The art of going deeper

Beneath every uncomfortable argument, behind almost every angry feeling, is something more vulnerable. This is the feeling to identify, and the one to lead with. But often it can be difficult to figure out what is going on under the surface.

When you find yourself getting angry at your partner, take a moment to pause and reflect. Ask yourself a few questions.

  1. Why is this important to me?
  2. What feeling am I feeling?
  3. When have I felt this before? (Hint: it's almost always a life lesson, something we've been dealing with for a long time, that gets us riled up.)

Then lead with your feelings. It's much easier to be open to a request that is spoken with kindness rather than accusation, and that hinges on our vulnerability rather than a criticism of them. It goes something like

"Hey, I know you're tired at the end of the day and I appreciate how hard you work. But when I see your dirty socks on the floor, I just get caught up in this negative thinking about how I was always the one who had to help my mom with the chores… and it brings up those old feelings of being unappreciated. It would mean so much to me if you would please make an effort to put the socks in the hamper. Would you do that for me? Thank you."

Contrast that with the (eye roll, big sigh; angrily pick up socks and slam into hamper). "Why don't you ever put your socks in the hamper!?!"

There ya go. So ― go deeper. Once you know why you are upset, and you know that it is your own story grounded in your own history and vulnerability, you will be more likely to speak softly. And you will be more likely to get the response you want.


family political conversations

15 Tips for Peaceful political conversations at the holidays

It’s that time of year. Turkey, travel, ...and family political conversations between people who may love each other but sure don’t share a similar world view.

You want to have a nice time, but you just can't understand -- how can they possibly think that??!

What’s a family to do?

Here are 15 tips to keep calm during family political conversations.

1. Stop. You don’t have to respond. Often what we say in response will drive the other further into their corner.

2. Breathe. Relax. Remember that nothing has changed; they always think this; it’s just "in your face" because you are together.

3. Be thankful that we live in a country where we can debate politics without real fear of official retribution. Lots of countries have it much worse. And yes we can be scared by current trends, but still, we are free to speak.

4.Speak kindly. Find your compassion. Remember that the things which unite us humans are far greater than those which divide.

5.Avoid the trap of separativeness and divisiveness.

6. Remember brain science: conservatives have more volume in the amygdala - responsible for fear and anger; liberals have more activity in the anterior consulate cortex— helps modulate responses by distinguishing between instinctual response and intention. We can't really help how we're wired.

7. Exercise your anterior cingulate cortex. Practice discerning between instinct (fight flight freeze) and intention (stay calm, be rational, be kind).

8. Keep an open mind. Grandpa or Junior might have some valid points here and there. Be on the lookout!

9. Take the stance of an anthropologist, and try to understand why the others believe what they do.

10. Remember the key to negotiation: validation precedes problem-solving. **** ("I think I understand; you want ____ and believe ____, did I get that right?") More communication tips are here.

11. Turn the conversation to neutral ground: is there a sports team everyone can root for?

12. Take a trip down memory lane— think of some stories from your childhood to share.

13. Remember that the things that unite us are always greater than those that divide.

14. Keep in mind that the “liberal” ideas almost always win out in the end. And "conservatives" keep things from moving too quickly. Both sides have a role to play.

15. Have some food and give thanks. Remember, love trumps hate. Be love.


understanding attachment in marriage

Relationship help: Understanding attachment in marriage

Much of our current understanding of what goes wrong in adult relationships is grounded in the research on attachment. For several decades now, psychologists, therapists and educators have understood the bond between children and their primary attachment figures ― usually their mothers. You can read more about this here. Recently, therapists and researchers have realized that attachment does not end in childhood. In fact, being secure in our relationships is, or at least feels like, a matter of survival. There is a growing understanding of the role of attachment in marriage and romantic relationships.

After decades of research, we understand that there are basically three attachment styles: secure, anxious, and avoidant. Each of these will drive our emotional life and the way we show up in our relationships. We are usually unaware of these patterns, but learning about them can help us to better understand ourselves and our partners.

Secure attachment

People who have attentive parents tend to have developed a secure attachment system. By and large, they grow up expecting to love and be loved, to have their needs met, and to be comfortable asking for those needs to be met.

Anxious attachment

People who had unpredictable moms tend to develop an anxious attachment system. They often grow up to carry this attachment anxiety into their adult relationships. They feel insecure in love. These people are never quite certain that they can trust that their partner really loves them, and that he or she is really going to be there for them.

Avoidant attachment

People who had aloof and unresponsive parents tend to be aloof themselves. They seem to shut down their drive for closeness and connection; tend to grow up to be avoidant in love; feel suffocated by a partner who seeks emotional connection; and continually engage in distancing behaviors, keeping themselves familiarly aloof.

Attachment in adulthood

We humans have a strong drive to form close emotional bonds. Forget the myth of the cowboy, happily living alone on a grand adventure. Without human connection, we do not thrive. For modern Americans, in our frenetic-paced, time-strapped, isolated culture, the best place to have those needs met is in our romantic relationships.

Research shows that people who have happy marriages are far better off than those in difficult marriages are. Single people are better off than people in difficult marriages are, but not as well off as those in happy marriages. Happily married people enjoy many benefits beyond the economic advantage that often accompany a two-earner family. They are happier, and they even have physiological advantages. They get sick less often, recover faster, and may even experience less pain.

Attachment in marriage and romantic relationships

When we have been hurt, it is easy to rest in our anger instead of our vulnerability. We tend to see our partner as a jerk. Then we unconsciously build up walls to “protect” ourselves from him or her in an attempt to prevent further hurt. It is important to understand that the “hurt” that causes the breach does not even have to be a big, dramatic hurt. Little unanswered attempts to connect can lead to the same problem as big breaches of trust. Luckily, when we understand the role of attachment in marriage and romantic relationships, we are able to take a step toward cultivating a connected, loving partnership. When we have that, we are also able to reap all the many rewards that come with it.

Are attachment issues at play in your relationship issues? Contact me.


Help for my marriage!

Relationship help: Principles and Practices for Better Communication

In my work with couples, I apply a set of principles and offer practices to support them, healing wounds, and fostering closeness and connection. If you are asking for some "help for my marriage", read on to learn about some principles and practices I use in couples therapy.

Principle:

Couples who are engaged in active conflict often get caught up in arguing the "facts of the case", but really, we are upset because of our history, stories, and interpretations. It's not about the "facts of the case" and if we stay there, fighting over the "facts", we are in a win-lose frame and ultimately, neither of us can win.

Practice:
  • Shift to a win-win frame by realizing that if you are upset, your partner has simply created the context for you to experience that upset.
  • Notice that your triggers have long legs, reaching back into your past and coming up over and over again in various contexts.
  • Remember that your conflict gives you the opportunity to heal your wounds from the past.
Principle:

We learn to be impeccable with our word. We learn to say exactly what we mean to say, speaking our truth for the purpose of mutual understanding, rather than blaming, shaming, or otherwise harming.

Practice:
  • Search inside yourself to find the right way to speak your truth.
  • SLOW down
  • Avoid sentences like "you always_______", or "you never_______", or blanket character-assassination statements like "you are so _______(something bad)".
  • State your perception simply.
  • Talk about your feelings directly.
  • Have an "ask" - and understand that "no" is a reasonable answer.
Principle:

When we are upset and triggered, we regress to an earlier developmental stage. (Your grown-up self does not act that way!)

Practice:
  • Bring a mindful quality to upsetting situations and avoid "catastrophizing".
  • Avoid black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking and statements.
  • Take a 20-minute "distraction break" as soon as you realize you are getting upset. It will be worth the wait if you wait till you are calm to finish the conversation.
Principle:

Because of  our evolution, we remember the "bad stuff" more easily than the "good stuff". This helped our forbearers survive. In order to thrive, we need to put forth more effort into remembering the good stuff.

Practice:
  • Savor our positive experiences, being mindful and aware of them while they unfold.
  • Make it a priority to invest time and energy into creating more good stuff in the relationship.
  • Prioritize spending time together, being present with each other.
  • Treat each other with kindness and think of the relationship with gratitude.

How to stop fighting

Relationship help: how to stop fighting

Sometimes we get upset ― really, really, upset ― with our partner. The person who knows us best can push our buttons, after all. This can be destructive and leave us wondering how to stop fighting.

When we are upset, we are in no shape to problem-solve or communicate anything remotely worth communicating. But often communicating seems urgent. It is much, much better to learn to recognize what is happening and take some time away from our partner to calm down. Once we are calm and rational, we can have a more effective and rational - and loving - conversation. Stopping the cycle of fighting will benefit our partners, our relationships, and us. Recognizing the signs of being flooded is a great step in learning how to stop fighting.

Amygdala hijacking

Researchers have taken to referring to the state of emotional overwhelm as "amygdala hijacking." This is because the amygdala, a tiny structure in the middle of our brains responsible for big feelings like anger and fear, takes control. When the amygdala is in control, we do not have full access to our frontal lobes, the part of our brain responsible for impulse control and higher-order thinking. No wonder communicating in this state is such a mess!

Recognizing the signs

Maybe our legs are shaking (with fear) or our arms are trembling (with anger). Or we are insistent that our partner hear us out right now. Perhaps we have withdrawn into a shell, seemingly impervious to our partner's upset.

No matter how differently it shows up on the outside, we are having a similar experience on the inside; even that seemingly unflappable partner is in distress. When we are flooded, our heart rate is probably about 100 beats per minute. Our blood pressure is elevated. We are sweating. Our breath is shallow and fast. The stress hormones adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol are flowing through our bloodstream. We are experiencing a classic case of fight-flight-freeze.

Of course, our outward behavior is a reflection of our inner experience: fight  (I'm going to tell you everything right now, don't walk away from me!); flight (I've got to get out of here!); or freeze (our partner wonders if we have cotton in our ears; maybe we cry.)

Make a pact

No good comes of continuing to dialogue, or trying to dialogue, when we are so upset. We will only hurt ourselves, and each other, by trying to see it through. The best practice is to

  1. First, go to our separate corners and focus on doing something else.
  2. And then, when we are calm, resume the conversation.

In order for this to work, we have to focus on something else. Tetris. Solitaire. Candy Crush. Yoga. A walk. Some breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation. EFT tapping. Gardening. Anything, so long as we are focused on the activity and not the fight, or our partner's role in it.

The 20 minute pause

If we were thinking about how they "done me wrong," we haven’t accomplished the assignment. It takes a good 20 minutes to allow all those stress hormones to leave our bodies and our entire brain to get back on line.

You will know when you are ready. Make sure by taking a few breaths, and then thinking of a few things you like about your partner.

And then, repair

Use the formula:

  • I feel _____ about _____ and I need (or ask) _____.
    • Go beneath your anger to find your emotional vulnerability, and speak from there. It is much more compelling!
  • Validation precedes problem-solving.
    • Say something along the lines of: "I think I get it, you felt ___ and thought _____, is that right?"

The bottom line: how to stop fighting

Engaging while angry is destructive, and the decisions you make will necessarily be irrational because your rational brain is not available to you when you are upset. So, do your love a favor and take time to calm down. You and your partner will reap the rewards!


Relationship SOS: image by Priscilla du Preez / Unsplash

Relationship help: The value of slowing down

Your significant other holds your heart, and you hold theirs. But often couples' interactions are anything but gentle. It is exactly because of our closeness that we can be so triggered by our loved one. (Read about the role of attachment in relationships here.) Sadly, fights can get brutal, love can get bruised, and relationships can become distressed. Here are some tips for relationship SOS.

There are strategies that every couple can learn to use to keep things cool. Psychologists and therapists, like the Gottmans and Sue Johnson, have set themselves to the task of finding out what works in healthy relationships, and how to apply strategies to couples in distress in order to help them function better. We are beginning to understand what works.

One of those strategies is to s l o w down.

Many of us will have to learn entire new ways of communicating, because we probably heard a lot of "you did this!" and "you never do that" and "you make me so angry" when we were growing up. Those words put the listener on the defensive and do not help us solve our problems!

The formula: I feel _____ about ______ and I need (ask) _____.

A better strategy is to slow down before we speak in anger. It is far more effective for the long-term success of our relationships to take a moment to look underneath our anger and find our more relevant vulnerability, and speak from there.

For example, instead of saying, "you don't work hard and don't make enough money," say "I am feeling vulnerable about our family's financial position, and I need for us to come up with a plan for spending and saving."

The formula: validation precedes problem-solving

Now it is the listener's turn to take it slow. Instead of being defensive, make sure your partner knows that they've been heard. Say something like "you think ____ and feel ____; is that right? I'd like to share my perspective."

This offers a springboard for collaborative problem-solving. When we remember that our relationship is important, that our partner is important, and that we are important, we are able to speak with kindness and compassion.

But we are only human after all, and when we get upset part of our brain goes off line

Sometimes when we are very vulnerable, our best attempts at careful speech and "I-statements" will fail us (or our partners). When things get heated, we become flooded with stress hormones and we lose contact with our frontal lobes, which are responsible for impulse control and reason.

The best practice when things are too hot is to stop the conversation and give ourselves a time-out. We have to shift our concentration to something else ― a walk, a game, the laundry, a song ― as long as we don't keep thinking about the problem. This gives all those stress hormones the chance to exit our bloodstream and give us back access to our whole brain.

Relationship SOS

Then we can begin again, with the formula: I feel _____ about _____ and need _____. Validation precedes problem solving: "You feel ____, did I get that right?"

Arguments happen. Every relationship has conflict, and most of it can't be resolved, just managed. We are just human, after all. We know that there are tremendous benefits of healing and maintaining our relationships ― better health, less pain, more resilience, etc. All of this makes the effort worthwhile. Slowing down will go a long way toward keeping our relationships strong!


Aging and Air Heads and personal growth.

Aging and Air Heads: A Tale of Personal Growth

Kids and Candy

My sons are mostly grown now; this year I'll have three in college. (Gulp).

When they were little, they were adorable. You can ask anyone who knew them. I was the luckiest mom ever. I tried to be a good and honorable one. I strove to feed them well and limit their TV time, read bedtime stories, and give them opportunities to help around the house.

We were happy.

One day, on the way home from karate lessons, they asked if we could stop at a store and buy Air Heads candy. Please! I didn't believe in feeding my kids candy, at least not often. I had my standards.

I refused.

Time passed

As the weeks went by, the asking turned to begging. I began to consider that maybe I was being rigid. They sensed my hesitation."Please please please please pleeeaaaase!" they cried. They bounced a little bit in their earnestness. They had been good, and they were so darn cute.

I relented.

We went to Five Below and bought this Holy Grail of candy for the young-elementary set. As we left the store, they tore eagerly into the wrapper and took a bite. My five-year-old waited expectantly. Then his face fell.

"Darn!" he exclaimed, "it didn't work!"

Work??? What was he expecting? Since I hadn't seen the commercials, I was stumped. So I asked.

"Well, on TV," he began to explain, "when you bite into the candy your head gets big and you start to swirl around and go upside down…."

Disappointment

I felt a little bad for him in his disappointment, but mostly was busy trying to look serious, because it was also very funny. I was a little aggravated at the advertising company for making commercials like this for children who believe in the Tooth Fairy.

The kid was disappointed. Weeks of buildup to a magical, mystical event had let him down. Instead of a virtual carnival ride, he was just eating candy. Things could be worse, but they could be better. And he learned a valuable lesson.

A Momma Looked at 40

A decade ago, I was the only woman ever (I imagined) who was eagerly anticipating turning 40. I had an idea of what 40 would mean. I would be really grown. A true adult. Problems solved. Peace and tranquility would abound. I would have everything figured out, be unflappable, serene.

Forty did not turn out as I had expected. My forties brought me two moves, a divorce, and a couple more heartbreaks; a child-centered crisis; the death of my sons' father; financial worries; peri-menopause. After one of these crises I actually thought to myself, "I've seen it all, hurt as much as I could; I really believe nothing can get to me now." ―I was back to the "magical thinking" of my late 30's! And, turns out I was wrong.

Pressure to peace

The events of my forties have pushed me and squeezed me. I tried resisting, but resistance, as it happens, is futile. As I look back, it seems that a smile has counterbalanced every tear; for each heartbreak I have experienced something transcendent and beautiful. If I had not suffered, I would not know that grief is the other side of love; that hearts really do mend; that crises pass; that I am never alone; and that things do have a way of working out, if we stay the course.

All the crises, all the pressures I have experienced over the past decade have brought me to a more peaceful place. I will not make the mistake of thinking I am invincible or even unflappable. Who knows what life will bring me next? But I am more resilient and stronger than I was before.

In my forties I have experienced some of the happiest days of my life, and some of the most excruciating.  I giggle when I look back on the past decade. I wasn't too different from how my son had been all those years ago. I, too, had believed in some magical thinking. For him it was Air Heads; for me it was forty. We were both disappointed. We both learned.


keep love alive

Relationship help: Four things happy couples do to keep love alive

Have you ever wondered what makes some couples happy and successful, while others struggle and often fail? Here are four things that happy couples do to keep love alive!

They focus on the positives

 

In order to have a great relationship, we need to feel safe with our partner. Bringing a "glass is half-full" mindset to our relationship sets up a positive feedback loop: Because we see in our partner more of the good than the bad, we respond to them more positively. This allows our partners to feel happier because they feel safer and more supported. That, in turn, leads to more interactions that are positive.

They make their relationship a priority

In our hectic modern life, many couples struggle to find time to be together. Those who rise to the challenge, however, reap the rewards that come from this closeness. Even when balancing work, kids, household chores, and other responsibilities, happy couples make time for each other. From going to bed at the same time, to putting love-notes in each other's lunch boxes, to sending messages during the day to let their partners know they are on their minds, to greeting each other with a hug at the end of the workday, happy couples find ways to connect every day.

They act (and speak) with kindness

They know that in order to have a happy relationship, they must be kind to their partner. They do little things with great kindness, even if it's emptying the dishwasher. They acknowledge the things their partner does for them, and don't take these things for granted. If they have something important to say, they find ways to say it that considers their partners' feelings. When the relationship is a priority, being kind to their partner is a priority.

They speak their truth

When they have something important to say, they find a way to say it. This truth-speaking, however, hinges on the glass-is-half-full, relationship-as-priority, speaking-with-kindness principles outlined above. Because when we see our partner as, well, our partner, then we can say what's on our mind and know that we are in this together, and we will find solutions to our problems together. Of course, every couple will have disagreements. That's part of life. But while troubled couples become adversaries, happy couples form an alliance. Disagreements are things to work out, not fight about.

Try adding these simple ingredients to your relationship and keep love alive!