couple in a storm can this marriage be saved?

Can this Marriage be Saved?

People often ask “can this marriage be saved?” They want to know if their situation is SO bad there’s NO hope. Did they marry the WRONG person? Have they totally screwed things up? Are they in all this pain now simply because they got married for all the WRONG reasons?

Yup. Yup, that’s it. There is no hope.

Do I say that?

Um, NOOOOOO, I don’t. But you probably already knew that, right?

Answering “It depends” is a cop out.

Do I say that? Sometimes. Because really, it does depend. But not on the things above. In order to know if this marriage can be saved, we must know what “it depends” means.

First, it doesn’t depend on marrying for the right reasons or the right person. It doesn’t matter how much crud has happened. Solution doesn’t even depend on whether “he’s a narcissist” or “she’s bipolar” or any of the other things people complain about regarding their high-conflict spouse.

Now, maybe you’re not high conflict. Maybe you’ve just “grown apart” or you feel so very blah. Perhaps you’ve found passion and spark with someone else at a time when the marriage seems “long over.” Or your spouse has cheated and one or both of you just wants out.

No matter what the situation, there’s often a big pause before one or the other pulls the plug entirely. You might both have the question, “Hey, wait. Can this marriage be saved?”

Thankfully, it does not depend on anything out of your control, except that you can’t actually FORCE someone else to hang in there and try harder and love you.

You can make it a helluva lot more inviting to hang in there, try harder, and yes, they might have a chance of loving you again. But not by doing the same things you’ve been doing.

Most often I say this TRUTH:

No matter how you each are made, what has happened, and what is the pattern of your relationship, you CAN get to a place of health where your marriage works for both of you.

Your marriage can be safe, connected, and nourishing for both of you.

That would be cool, right?

The relationship of your dreams CAN be yours… if you both want it… and you are willing to do the work to get there.

Now, look, that does not mean that both of you know you want it and know you’re willing to do the work to get there. I am realistic. I know that ambivalence is part of the reason you’re in pain right now. Blasting past the reasons without processing that ambivalence does neither of you any good.

So if one or both of you are ambivalent, we’ll explore that first.

There has to be a reason to put in the work.

Because the work itself, is, sorry to say, not the most fun you can have on a weekday between the hours of 9 am and 6 pm.

It’s true, in my office we engage humor on purpose, knowing that none of us benefit from MAJOR, SUSTAINED INTENSITY. Besides, you don’t want to spend time in the same pattern of communication, defensiveness, bad feelings, and utter yuck that brought us all together in the first place.

You won’t be doing any of that yuck in my office, by the way.

We will be doing some of the scary stuff you’ve been avoiding. But not before offering you some hope and underscoring the reasons you personally have for getting better at relationship, even at this very relationship.

If there’s a good reason, most every marriage can be saved.

Big talk, right?

But it’s true.

If there are children you want to raise together, that can be the motivator. If you want to look into the eyes of those same children and one day say, “Mom and Dad figured it out, weathered the storm, and took responsibility,” that’s a good motivator.

Maybe you’re tired of failing at relationship and you just want to get it right. That’s a good motivator.

Maybe you believe divorce is for wimps and the faint of heart looking for a loop-hole and that’s not you. Well, that’s a good motivator.

If, in the end, you just want to say you gave it your very best effort, that’s a good motivator.

You are gonna have to find your reason.

If you don’t already know, a good couples counselor will help you. She’ll listen well, identify your values and concerns accurately, and help you clarify just why you’re making the investment. She’ll explore the motives for each of you.

If one of you wants to stay and one of you wants to go

Keep this in mind: using convincing tactics to persuade a skeptical partner is, not just ineffective, but, ewww, gross, it’s so very unattractive.

Also, it NEVER works.

So, if you are the one who would like to preserve the relationship and your spouse is ready to move on double-quick, get yourselves to a proper, trained therapist who knows how to help you stop doing what’s not working and start doing what will actually help.

Of course, I can be that therapist for the two of you. You might want to give marriage counseling a fighting chance.

If your patience, time, and energy are limited, look into doing a Couple’s Intensive to answer in two days’ time whether it’s time to call it quits or if you have a reason to hang in there and make things work.

Contact me and let me know what’s going on and which option for help you’d like to explore.

CONNECT

 

 

relationship patterns that need busting might mean learning to walk down a different sidewalk

Relationship Patterns Busted

We all establish relationship patterns, sometimes without realizing it. Even when you’re aware you’re doing the same dance (or experiencing the same frustrations) it can be hard to see things clearly from the inside.

Maybe one day you suddenly realize you’re doing all the reaching out. You text and call. You initiate contact. You come up with fun ideas for what to do together. It’s never the other person.

Or you realize you just can’t seem to get what you need no matter what you’ve done to make those needs known. It’s almost like you’re speaking a foreign language. If only you could feel heard. You try harder and get even less!

It could be you’ve loaned more money or paid for an outing or bent over backwards to help and had the same person fade or withdraw over and over. In your frustration, you realize they only surface when they need something. Next time they appear, you appreciate feeling needed, (and you’ve missed them) so once again you give, only to have them do the same thing when they get what they came for.

Your pattern might be something different entirely. Like the more you want connection and ask for it, the more she withdraws. Maybe the more you treat him like a child, the more irresponsible he becomes.

It can take time and insight to recognize relationship patterns.

It’s easy for other people to see what you’re doing. And not so easy to make sense of it or see it clearly when you are the one (or two) doing the dance.

Even if you recognize yourself in one of the above descriptions, (or any other recurrent pattern) it can be tough catching yourself in the middle of it. Besides that, from the inside of the dance you may think you look a whole lot different on the outside.

(Hint, hint, you probably DO look a whole lot crazier to other people, especially those who have witnessed the relationship pattern over and over and over. Remember, just because you look crazy doesn’t mean you ARE. You’re just stuck repeatedly doing something that’s not working.)

Avoiding your relationship patterns’ trap

Ever heard the sidewalk analogy? Your relationship pattern is like a hole in the sidewalk. At first, you just walk down the familiar sidewalk and fall right in.

You might wonder why it’s suddenly so dark and damp, pitiful, and well, kinda gross-smelling in there. But, it’s familiar. You’ve been here before. And the other person is down there in the muck with you. After slipping and sliding a bit, (or a lot) you each claw your way out of the hole, sometimes over the tops of each other.

Next time, you know the hole is there and MAYBE you find a way to go around it. But it’s like a magnetic vortex. You get scooped off your feet and fall down it again. Whoops!

Soon, however, you are recognizing the hole and you develop enough strength to resist its magnetic pull. You deliberately walk out and around it. (Cool!)

The real win comes when you recognize the sidewalk and find a different route entirely. Bonus: the alternate route not only avoids the slimy, slippery hole, it gets you where you really want to be a whole lot faster and without all the slime, stink, and muck of the hole, not to mention there’s zero clawing on the way out.

Shifting the pattern

Picking a different sidewalk requires some serious skill. Usually there are reasons that darn hole is magnetic. Most people need a map, a guide, or a coach watching from the outside who can help them see and understand the pattern, build the strength to resist its pull, and find a suitable alternate route.

Don’t do this alone. You already know falling into the hole is zero fun. There’s no need to spend extra time standing out there on the sidewalk arguing about which way to go.

I know it can be humbling to ask for directions. I know some of you even like your sidewalk. It’s familiar at least, maybe it’s comforting in some way, perhaps it pays off sometimes. (For example, when you beg for attention, sometimes you get it. When you chastise him, maybe he behaves for a bit.)

For some of you, admitting you need an outside perspective is the biggest hurdle. But you know the sidewalk you’re choosing does not lead where you want to be. You know you need directions.

Still, it can be a risk to trust someone else with your life and relationship patterns. You want your investment to pay off, not lead down another dead-end street. I get it.

You could ask any and every passer-by for directions, but a wiser approach is to get a good map. Better yet, hire a personal guide. Heck, you might even need a skilled coach to help you stay out of that hole.

I want to be that kind of effective help for you. Let’s talk and get you on a path that leads to the kind of life and relationship you really want.

CONNECT

Enough of what you want

What’s the stuff that gets you through these cold, spare-feeling months after the holidays?

Here in Cincinnati, as I write, it’s late January, cold, with a dust of snow on the ground and spurts of gusty wind, so the reflective, winter hibernation feeling pervades. Even if it’s sunny and warm where you are, I’m sure you can relate.

Are you getting enough love, connection, warmth, belonging, appreciation? Maybe it’s respect, a commanding rhythm to your day and comfort you crave. Maybe you really want a solid plan for the new year and to feel grounded, certain, and safe.

What matters most?

For me, especially this time of year, it ends up being a sense of purpose. And you might guess my central purpose is all about helping people.

I want to help people have great relationships…with themselves first, then with their mates, children, friends, colleagues, and families. People make up communities that reflect the quality of those inner circles. It’s all very important. And it’s best to start from the inside out.

I also want to have the good stuff in my own life. For me, good relationships are good life. I’m not the only one who says so either. Check out this Ted Talk on Harvard’s study. It’s good for us to have healthy intimate relationships and resolved relationships with our children, our siblings, and within families.

It’s good stuff

Sometimes people think relationship work is “fluff” because it’s not tasking, or doing kind of movement.

We might think it’s not measurable.

But it is.

So much good, measurable research has been done for decades. Gottman, Sternberg, Adams, Tatkin, and so many others have amassed real measurable results to the question “how do healthy relationships work?”

Let that be a comfort to you. If it’s measurable and DO-able, then it’s also measurable and DO-able for YOU.

Anyone can learn to enjoy healthy, good, loving relationships.

How you’re made matters

It’s also important to know that our normal way of coming at life influences everything. We’re built a certain way, we’ve been influenced by our environments and experiences, and we move through the world in a particularly dominant pattern.

Maybe you’ve heard me talk about Whole Human Theory Therapy (TM). It draws on decades of research, brain science and methods testing to meet each individual person -and pairing when couples come to me- with an understanding of your current and dominant movement through the world

That’s just where we start. It’s not enough to recognize the way you’re made, the ways you’re different from others, or get a revelation that not everyone thinks the way you think. Then we get to use who you are essentially to do things that matter for you in getting the kind of growth that will allow better relationship.

In short, truly knowing yourself and then knowing how to use that is what will get you to enough…enough of what matters most to you.

Want to know more

about the way you’re made and how it affects everything you do…including the struggle in relationships you might be facing right now? Shoot me a message and let’s get together.

CONNECT

In the meantime, everyone can benefit from this reminder:

Be Gentle

I hope you’ve learned this sweet trick. It makes everything in life so much better. Everything goes easier and more smoothly.

Breathe deeply. Let go. Allow yourself to relax. Loving kindness. Let it be your intention.

And I mean be gentle with yourself first and then with others. Most people who are harsh with others are even harder on themselves.

You might know this is you. Still, it’s no comfort to those who might be withering from the weight of your words… or your silence and withdrawal. Speak to yourself -and others- in the kindest way you can.

Be gentle. Go gently.

If that’s difficult for you, it’s not surprising. Most of us believe that we have to be hard on ourselves (and others) in order to…get enough, have enough, be enough. But it’s not actually true.

Today, give gentle a try. See how it goes.

And let me know how it’s going.

CONNECT

Coming up…In the next days and weeks, I’m writing a post each about what it means to be #heartfirst, #brainfirst and #bodyfirst. This distinction leads us to a whole host of other insight. Stay tuned.

 

make the most of your holidays this year

Holidays…Again

Here we go. The holidays again. If you’re in a relationship, it can feel like major testing time.

And for those of you alone for the holidays, I know that’s its own separate challenge.  Don’t skip this article because if you have tension with ANYONE in your life over the holidays, the process I describe below will help!

(If you’re bumming about being alone, here’s some comfort: You can read another article here  and there’s a podcast episode or two on the topic as well.)

How are your holidays shaping up?

Maybe you’ve been on this ride so many times you almost sleep-walk through them. Or about mid-October you start dreading them and adopt “survival mode.” You want to hibernate and wake up after January 2nd.

Perhaps you just love this time of year and you’re consumed with projects and plans and parties and people. It’s all so yummy for you, it’s one big winter fun fest.

Of course, those are two extremes and you might fall somewhere in the middle. Whatever your take on this time of year, it’s a deal. And it affects everyone. For some relationships, (honestly, this can apply to a love relationship, a child, a sibling relationship) this is a prime time when the same conflicts come up again and again. You could almost script them verbatim.

People make meaning of Holidays

even if the holiday itself means nothing to them. They’re a hot-button of expectation and personal, historical significance. When you and your mate have a sizeable gap in your Bah-humbug score, holidays can feel like a landmine of disappointments and endless, fruitless negotiation and “compromise.”

Holiday conflicts

Do you and your mate have a long-standing seasonal conflict? What are your normal conflict conversations? Is there a recurrent fight? What bugs you about your partner that you just know is going to happen again this year?

And hey, if you’re in a new-ish relationship is there a conflict you’re hoping to AVOID as you head into the season?

Maybe someone else in the family is on your naughty list or you rarely see them and now you’re dreading having to deal with them. Grrrrrrr.

It might seem redundant or superfluous or just painful to actually think about the looming conflicts. But what if preparing for them could help you avoid them all together? Skeptical? Read on.

A new Holiday list

This year, instead of making a wish list or a gift list, indulge me and create a sh*t list. (I can’t think of a better thing to call it! Call it cr*p if you don’t like the word sh*t. Or if you think of something else, leave a comment and let me know!)

Yes, I mean, sit down and actually write the major areas of contention. What do you already know is likely to come up or happen?

Is it that you want him to go help pick out the tree and every year it’s like pulling teeth? Is it that she gets moody before going to spend time with your family? Is it that she zones out and whirls into DO mode while she harps on the kids to get everything in shipshape before guests arrive? Does he always shop at the last minute…like on Christmas Eve day and it just makes you frantic?

Does she expect you to be happy when you show up for yet another boring office party? Does he really expect you to talk to the ridiculous office mates you have nothing in common with? Do you set a budget for spending and then at the last minute, she goes over it or he pastes a hundred dollar bill in cards on the tree for EACH one of the kids?!

Write it all down

It might surprise you that you feel a little resistant to actually doing this. After all, if you write it down does that mean it’s more likely to happen?

Um, no. Writing it down gets it out of your head and out of worry zone where you can actually take a look at it and DO something constructive with it.

You write it down so you can acknowledge that you’re carrying worry and tension around inside you because of the impending doom associated with any areas of contention.

(And I know some of you have things to write down like “hibernate until January 2 while (s)he pressures me to do everything, eat too much, watch Uncle Harry drink like a fish, drop into my winter coma, put on ten pounds, get a cold I can’t shake, try desperately to avoid the same conversation with my mom about my life going nowhere and when am I ever going to…)

It’s not funny.

But when you write it all down and LOOK at it, you might think it’s a little funny, or pathetic, or absurd, or terrible. I don’t know what you’ll think of your own list. This much I do know: you will see patterns emerge.

I’m interested in those patterns. You can get interested in them too. Note them. Is there an underlying drive for control? Do you sincerely think everyone else should just stop their complaining and enjoy it. (“We’re having a family photo taken and you are going to like it!”)

What else do you notice? Are you trying to correct your holiday experience from childhood? Are you trying to recreate it? What else can you learn by seeing your pattern?

Then you can decide what to DO with each reality on the list. And those things are reality if they’ve happened…even once! But if they’ve happened several times, they are a pattern, not just for you but for the other people involved as well.

We’re secretly hoping something will be different this time around. We hope and hope and hope and then DO the same things in our approach and it never changes. Try something new this year.

Allow, Enjoy, Plan for the holidays

For each item on the list, make a decision about it. Your choices are to Allow, Enjoy, or Plan it.

Notice that your options are NOT Avoid, Fix, or Plot your new approach. (Allowing, Enjoying, and Planning for “that thing” to happen are your new approach, by the way.) Read through the examples below:

Allow the holidays

So let’s say your mate goes over budget every single year. Is it really the end of the world that he pastes hundreds into a card for each kid at the last minute? I mean it. Literally, has the world ended because of that? No. Allow it.

You know it’s going to happen again. You know the kids love it. You know it has nothing to do with you; it has to do with your mate. And the kids might also love that there is no tension and no daggers thrown because of something that’s pretty cool for them. This is a thing you can’t control anyway, and all your efforts to do so help you feel powerless, right? But allowing this thing to happen takes the power out of the thing (the area of contention) and it actually gives you power.

You are NOT at the mercy of someone else’s behavior even when it’s patterned behavior. It’s not your job to control it anyway, so you can just allow it or, maybe, sit back and…

Enjoy the holidays

Crazy as it may sound, enjoying Uncle Harry’s over-drinking is possible. I know for some of you that feels like a dangerous stretch for all kinds of reasons associated with substance abuse and expectations in those relationships. But expectations in relationship with Uncle Harry when you know he’s going to drink himself into a near-coma are, well, a waste of energy.

Honestly, I learned this one from my youngest son. He has an uncanny ability to enjoy whatever is happening. And if Uncle Harry is overdrinking, my son is able to sit back and find amusement in the sad, pathetic fact that this happens every year, Uncle Harry says stupid stuff to offend people every year, and Grandma predictably gets her feathers in a dither.

It may be an annual event fit for a sit com or movie, and if it is, I say, why not make plans to enjoy the show? Which brings me to the next option:

Plan the holidays

I don’t mean plan a way to avoid it or fix it or make something else happen. I mean plan for the thing that’s going to happen. Is it that you and your mate are going to bicker over whose fault it is that the gifts are not wrapped and it’s time to open them? Okay. Plan for it.

Is it that Christmas morning he is going to want to sleep in and the kids come to your side of the bed eager to wake you up and it spurs a battle that turns snippy all through your first cup of coffee and until the kids have opened their gifts and have the play Dough and remote control helicopter flying through the family room and then escalate into an argument over what time the car needs to get packed for Grandma’s in order to be there on time? Okay. Plan for it.

Planning for the unpleasant things takes the sting out of them. Then when they happen, you won’t be surprised. In fact, you’ll shift your expectation away from the thing that’s NOT happening. And it will put you in a lovely position to “allow” and ENJOY what does happen.

You might even be able to observe, with a sense of humor… “see, right on time. I knew that was coming.”

How will you Allow, Enjoy, and Plan for your Holidays this year?

Take a minute to comment here and let me know what you are doing to enter into the season? Anything about what I’ve said seem hard or particularly challenging? Leave a comment here or on Facebook and let me know.

I always want to hear how it’s going for you.

And if this was helpful in anyway to you, please share it with a friend…or all your friends. It feels really good to help! Let’s do it together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication

Communication Matters

Communication. It’s key. People coming to me for help in their relationships (alone or together) tell me all the time that they

“just need to improve their communication skills.”

Most people strive really hard to do just that.

They work on being kinder and having a softer approach. They work really hard on analyzing correctly so they can get their point across clearly and “be heard.” They gather evidence and examples. They keep an historical record, sometimes verbatim. They submit the hypothetical to their partner “how would you like it if…?” They make appointments to have big talks and get to the bottom of things. Sometimes they even use “date nights” as a time for those big talks. They work really hard to hold it together even when things get tense.

Sound familiar?

Yikes.

Even people who specialize in relationship and couples work often don’t help effectively. They teach people to “attend to listening” or “pay attention” when it’s their partner’s turn to talk. Eye contact. Body language. Turning toward, not away. Leaning in. (No eye-rolling, sighs, or other displays of impatience.) They teach “reflective listening” and hope each person can “issue an empathy statement.”

Huh?

It’s good stuff… if you can do it successfully.

But sometimes it’s so much work.

Especially when, as a listener, you are seething and you already know the next thing your partner is going to say because she’s said it a hundred times and you are being forced to override every cell screaming to get away from this confrontation.You are, after all, in the counselor’s office and you are paying to do this conversation in front of a professional!

Or maybe the words coming out of your man’s mouth feel scathing and you just want to break down and cry but you’re being forced to “hold it together” long enough to be seen as “rational and logical.”

That kind of communication doesn’t truly work.

And by “work” I mean it does not get you what you want: connection, feeling understood, feeling like a team, solution and resolution. That’s why I regularly tell people to stop talking.

Now I don’t mean literally to stop talking entirely. I mean STOP TALKING so much. Stop talking like that. Do something entirely different.

I teach people to use my Clean, Non-blaming Communication (CNBC)™ framework.

It’s nifty. It diffuses huge issues. It’s simple. But not necessarily easy. And it’s usable and useful in so many situations and with all kinds of relationships. I mean that. With kids, bosses, underlings, acquaintances, potential dates, friends, siblings… you name it! Of course, it’s productive and helpful inside relationship!

I love it and I talk about it all the time. That’s because it has changed my life and the lives of so many clients. It grew out of years and years of my own experience, pain, hard work, broken heart, study, research, investigation, trial and error, and finally, complete transformation!

If you’ve signed up for my FREE Coaching Club, you already have a PDF copy of the framework.

Use it. Keep the framework handy because, of course it will feel strange and unnatural at first. It’s very different from what you’ve been doing! You will slip back into the pattern of the The Usual Subtext ™. That’s what’s natural. We’ve been conditioned to use that way of communication and try harder and harder, believing that our efforts have to yield results!

Or, worse, that there is just something wrong with the other person. They’re a bad mate, (we chose the wrong one!) or a bad employee, or bad sales clerk, or aggravating, troubled, difficult son (or daughter.)

We try and try and try and yet, all our efforts fail to get us what we want: cooperation, compliance, respect, connection, empathy, RESULTS!

If you want to learn more about the specifics of how Clean, Non-blaming Communication works, do one of three things:

  1. Sign up for my FREE Coaching Club if you haven’t already. (Under the arrow on the side if you’re on a computer, below here if you’re on a phone or tablet.) You’ll get the PDF plus more info reserved for the Coaching Club and receive Love Letters from me about once a week.
  2. Listen to this episode of my podcast.
  3. Watch the TEDx talk from spring, 2017 in Minneapolis. (I tell a lot of my own story and how CNBC developed.)

Either of the last two will give you a good overview of the framework and insight into WHY it’s time to make a change. Plus, you’ll get some examples of what that might sound like.

Then, jump in and start using it. Try it out and let me know how it’s going. I LOVE, love, love to hear from you! Comment here and let me know how it’s going.

And if this is helpful, share it! We’re interested in helping more people, right?

Calling BS! on the directive: “you need to be alone!”

In therapeutic circles and with well-meaning friends, you’ll hear the advice: you just need to be alone  or you need to just take some time for yourself after heartache. You might hear the opposite as well -from your friends and your mom- you just need to get back out there and meet someone!

You’re not surprised that I’m going to say BS to both of those approaches, right?

First of all, you’re HURTING.

Getting back in the saddle is almost always the wrong approach. Remember the beginning of Romeo and Juliet? Romeo was gaga on Roseline and his buddy suggested, “you just need to meet another chica.” He did. That night. And he winds up dead by the end of that adventure.

Go there if you have a death wish, I guess. I’m not sure why anyone would pattern their love experience after Romeo and Juliet. But it’s tragic, all right. And it has some lovely, artful declarations of passion and devotion. I’ll give Shakespeare that. Good one.

For those of you looking for a saner love adventure, please keep reading in Modern American English:

When you’re HURTING, you don’t need to punish yourself.

So many people, systems, and sometimes even practitioners will suggest a time frame or course of imposed quarantine for the heartbroken or lovelorn. You’ve probably even heard experts advocate an imposed period of mourning: one year for each 4 years of the relationship. At minimum: no dating for at least a year.

Does this make you tired even listening to such advice?

So much is going on for you that rule setting, framework impositions, giving yourself a deadline or rigid structure is probably the last thing you need right now.

You might need comfort, some tenderness, and fun.

If that sounds simplistic, that’s because it is. And simple is good. You can work with simple. You can move through simple. You can let simple guide your choices.

Find comfort. Give yourself some comfort.

Is it comforting to go to the movies or eat a gourmet meal or spend time outside.? Do those things. Is it painful too? I know it can be painful to do everything when your heart is hurting. Choose the activities that ARE the most comforting. That can mean sleeping in. It can mean working out like a maniac. It can mean paying for a massage. It can mean going to the sauna or getting some heat and light therapy at a tanning booth.

And yes, I know, in moderation. I’m not advocating skin cancer activities, etc. Notice I’m NOT saying drink alcohol. That usually makes people feel much worse when they’re hurting already. It’s a depressant! I’m also not saying smoke cigarettes. THAT is not comfort; it’s a great way to AVOID feeling anything and therefore it won’t get you THROUGH your pain. This is also probably not the time to try to FORCE yourself to give up those habits (if they are regular habits) either.

You do not need to do this by yourself either. It’s okay to find someone to enjoy comforting activities with you.

Find tenderness. Spend time with people you know love you. If your other relationships have been neglected, rekindle them. Get in touch with supportive family and friends.

If your family and friends do not know how to be tender and supportive, don’t spend time with them. Avoid them. Minimize exposure while you are vulnerable.

And pay attention. Surely there are kind people in your realm. Notice small tendernesses: when clerks are friendly and sweet instead of all-business, when that infant in a stroller smiles at you, when someone at work asks how you’re doing. Notice. And count it as tenderness.

Create tenderness in your life as well: hug your dog. Force your cat to snuggle. (Yah, good luck with that.) Get outside yourself and BE TENDER to others. Smile at strangers. Ask your friends how THEY are doing.

Be tender with yourself. Be gentle. Be kind to yourself. Part of this is learning to ask helpful questions and abandon stupid ones, I explain it in context here in this podcast on midlife dating basics.

Find FUN. I love William Glasser’s outline in Reality Theory of the five basic human needs. He says and I agree we need: survival basics, love & belonging, power, freedom, and FUN!

You do not have to have fun all by yourself. In fact, though it’s possible, having fun with others is even better. Plan fun. Give yourself permission for fun. Take time for fun!

Notice when you’re enjoying something, anything. Laugh at a comedy. Watch some silly animals.  Join a mutual-interest Meetup group. (Google this if you don’t know what I’m talking about; they are everywhere!) Play. No matter if that looks like online gaming with strangers, planning a stupid board-game night with your nieces, or going on a rock-climbing date with that girl you’ve talked to ten times at the gym, do it!

The next relationship is not going to save you. Nor do you have to quarantine yourself from engaging with objects of interest and attraction for a specified period of time. But DO find and create comfort, tenderness, and fun! These are never a waste of time and before you know it, you will be in good shape to LOVE again.

 

 

 

 

 

Old Love, Love Matters

Love Matters

At least part of you knows already that the quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life. A seventy five year study at Harvard proves it. Watch the TEDtalk on this. It’s beautiful (and less than 13 minutes.) See. Love Matters.

Most of you suspect that having a loving partnership is central to the whole equation of a good life.

And yet, if you are a heterosexual female, it can be so hard to admit life would be better with a loving man in it.

Ladies! It’s time to get over the message that says “you don’t need a man, baby. After all, you’ve come a long way!”

That is really old propaganda. It served its purpose. We smoked. We felt tough. We took care of everything. We practically became men. Trouble is, that message is a long time dying. And it gets in the way of being open to the right men.

Let it go.

And if you’re male, even the swankest among you know life would be better with a loving partner by your side. Read this account of New York bachelors and the lonely life.  Dudes, you are not alone.

Love matters.

Having healthy love in your life increases health in all areas of your life.

Women have traditionally been given more credit for prizing relationships more. And yet, mid-life women (the entire Erik Erickson span of mid-life up to late middle life including ages 35-75) are actually the ones who may be getting in their own way the most!

Now, of course, to be fair and honest, there are plenty of men messing this whole thing up too. AND, men are less complicated than women. (It’s a fact.) And sometimes, from the perspective of the work I do, straightening men out is easier because of it. Often, one or two tweaks does the trick!

Here’s why:

  1. Good men respond well to honesty and emotional maturity. Men who do not respond well to this are, simply, not quite grown up yet. Call them Boys; it fits.  They might get there, but age is just a number, not a maturity rating. And this goes for both men and women. Not all women are automatically emotionally mature.
  2.  If she’s not, most grown-up men will pass. They’re tired of drama and working hard to please a woman who can’t be and they are not so interested in the chase like they once were. And let’s face it; they don’t have to. Men have plenty to choose from; the ratio increases in their favor as we all age. Men still die earlier than women.

SO, BONUS, MEN! If you survive just a little longer, you will have more age-appropriate mates to choose from!

This is great news for you and maybe a bit of a wake-up call for the other gender!

On the flip side, yes, there are men who are jerks, for whom mere talk of improving relationship is a pariah. They’d never attend a relationship seminar or go to a coach or counselor because they know it’s not them, it’s always everyone else.

Ok.

So, get smart, ladies and join me in NOT dating them. Don’t have sex with them. Don’t stay in relationship with them.

There ARE scads of men out there who ARE interested in having an emotionally connected and mutually supportive, lasting secure and thrilling partnership. I guarantee it. I meet them all the time!

Love matters.

All of us can get a little stuck. We can struggle for good reason. We can come up against something that just doesn’t work and doesn’t make sense.

By now, you probably realize I am all about helping people understand one another and themselves and then helping them have healthy relationships. It’s what I do!

Call me if consultation or an appointment makes sense for you.

Not ready for that? Stay tuned here; I’ll keep writing about this stuff. Read the archives.

Next time, I am going to answer the directive that says “you need to be alone” and “a relationship will not save you.”