Messy Marriage

Messy Marriage

I have a confession to make… when I was single, there were certain romantically themed movies that I really enjoyed watching (Clarification: not all of them!!).  That being said, please don’t inform my wife of this.  I put this secret on the internet in confidence.

The reason I enjoyed, and sometimes still do, some romantic movies is because I would watch that man love that woman so deeply and I would think to myself, “Whoa… I can’t wait to love a woman like!”  For me, my connection to those movies went far beyond just wanting companionship or not wanting to be alone.  I wanted to connect with a woman forever on every level imaginable.

In contrast to this was, and still is, my total dislike of romantic movies that leave the audience with the notion of a blissful, problem-free, everything will be awesome happily ever after.  I dislike them because even in my singleness my internal “unrealistic meter” would physically manifest its readings on my face with a huge eye-roll.  Anyone who has ever been in a relationship that was beyond surface-level or superficial knows that meaningful relationships are messy because people are messy.  To really get to know someone is to accept his/her good qualities as well as the bad.  This reality becomes even more evident in the context of marriage.  Happily ever after does not mean that the bad in people will just evaporate forever (as much as we would like it to).  In marriage, both parties have to expose themselves emotionally, mentally, and spiritually (physically too of course).  The scary part of this is that in doing so we bring to light some of the not so great aspects of ourselves.  The beautiful part about this is that you probably have a spouse who loves you and is committed to you, and because of that you have the best accountability partner who wants to see you flourish just as much as you do.  Trying to cover up unpleasant characteristics of ourselves does not remove them from existence.  The only way to deal with our problems is to actually deal with our problems!  Remember those “for better or for worse” parts of your marital vows?  The only way to fix “the worse” is to talk about it, make a plan to get where you want to go, and follow through until you have succeeded.  If this sounds hard that’s because it is!  However, just think of every worthwhile thing in your life… did it come easy?  How much more valuable are our marriages?

Stress!!!

Office-Stress_sMany of adults in the United States deal with stress on a daily basis. Stress has become so commonplace that many of us except being in fight or flight mode as a normal way of life. All stress isn’t bad. In small doses, it can help one perform under pressure and motivate one to do their best. But when you’re constantly running in emergency mode, your mind and body pay the price. According to help guide.org.: here are some signs and symptoms to look for when stress has become to much.

What is Stress?
Stress is a normal physical response to events that make you feel threatened or upset your balance in some way. When you sense danger—whether it’s real or imagined—the body’s defenses kick into high gear in a rapid, automatic process known as the “fight-or-flight-or-freeze” reaction, or the stress response.
The stress response is the body’s way of protecting you. When working properly, it helps you stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.
The stress response also helps you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you’d rather be watching TV.

Responding to Stress
It’s important to learn how to recognize when your stress levels are out of control. The most dangerous thing about stress is how easily it can creep up on you. You get used to it. It starts to feel familiar, even normal. You don’t notice how much it’s affecting you, even as it takes a heavy toll.
The signs and symptoms of stress overload can be almost anything. Stress affects the mind, body, and behavior in many ways, and everyone experiences stress differently. Not only can overwhelming stress lead to serious mental and physical health problems, it can also take a toll on your relationships at home, work, and school.

Psychologist Connie Lillas uses a driving analogy to describe the three most common ways people respond when they’re overwhelmed by stress:
Foot on the gas – An angry, agitated, or “fight” stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
Foot on the brake – A withdrawn, depressed, or “flight” stress response. You shut down, pull away, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
Foot on both – A tense or “freeze” stress response. You become frozen under pressure and can’t do anything. You look paralyzed, but under the surface you’re extremely agitated.

Stress Warning Signs and Symptoms Cognitive Symptoms Emotional Symptoms
Memory problems
Inability to concentrate
Poor judgment
Seeing only the negative
Anxious or racing thoughts
Constant worrying
Moodiness
Irritability or short temper
Agitation, inability to relax
Feeling overwhelmed
Sense of loneliness and isolation
Depression or general unhappiness
Physical Symptoms Behavioral Symptoms
Aches and pains
Diarrhea or constipation
Nausea, dizziness
Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
Loss of sex drive
Frequent colds
Eating more or less
Sleeping too much or too little
Isolating yourself from others
Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

Keep in mind that the signs and symptoms of stress can also be caused by other psychological or medical problems. If you’re experiencing any of the warning signs of stress, it’s important to see a doctor for a full evaluation. Your doctor can help you determine whether or not your symptoms are stress-related.

Body Image and Your Self-Image

self image

Many studies have been conducted relating the media’s portrayal of women to individual women’s self-esteem and self-image. Photoshopped pictures of perfect female bodies are everywhere: on billboards, on TV, all over the internet. Even Cindy Crawford has said, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford.” Because the real Cindy doesn’t even look like the media’s version of Cindy!

Comparing our real selves to the manufactured images we see in the media can create a sense of inferiority and poor body image. Anorexia and bulimia are often connected to comparing ourselves to impossible standards.

I encourage you to rethink what a “real” woman looks like. I encourage you to set a goal to look like YOU, rather than some unrealistic version of yourself. I encourage you to love yourself the way you ARE. If you want to lose weight, is it because it will make you healthier and stronger, or because Cosmo magazine makes you feel bad about yourself? Lose weight, if at all, for the the RIGHT reasons.

I love the many YouTube and commercials that have come out over the last few years about this issue. Here are some links to some of them:

http://youtu.be/iYhCn0jf46U

Mental Health Improvement Tip – May 1st and 2nd – Mental Health Month May 2014

MHM2014 Mind Your Health BUTTON

May is Mental Health Month!  This month, during the month of May, our focus will be “Mind Your Health.”  We’ll be featuring information about how to mind your mental health and why it’s important. Help us by posting your own tips, plans and goals for your mental health.  In the long run, lottery winners are no happier than anyone else.  Money does not buy happiness.  Remember who and what is important in your life, and make time to be grateful for it.  Strong ties to family and friends increases levels of happiness.  Keep connected to the people who matter to you through social media, phone calls and face to face time.  If you think you may need help improving your mental health and personal relationships visit our staff pages here to find a counselor and read their biography.  After you find a counselor that looks like a good fit, schedule an appointment online here.  If you are unsure which counselor to choose schedule a 15 minute consultation to get to know our counselors a little better.

May 1st Tip

Swap your normal cup of coffee for decaf – reducing caffeine intake supports sleep.  People who get more sleep are more likely to succeed at daily tasks.

May 2nd Tip

Laugh at some of life’s hassles.  Finding amusement in challenging situations can lower stress and fosters optimism.

What Can I Say? What Can I Do?

FFC image for What Do I Do

I few years ago I experienced the pain of having a friend that was diagnosed with cancer.  Although it was not me, I believe I took on some of the pain as if it was me.  I really did not know what to do.  I did not know what to say.  Because I did not know how to deal with it, I pretty much kept my distance.  What is the best thing for us to do if our loved ones or friends are diagnosed with cancer?  If you have found yourself in this situation, maybe this article will help you in realizing what you can do to help them along the journey.

Here are some tips for being as supportive as possible when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer:

Listen. This is often a challenge when a loved one faces a life-threatening illness. Try to listen without judging and without “cheerleading” It might be tempting to say “You will be fine” if your loved one expresses scary or sad thoughts. But your ability to sit with the person as he or she shares those feelings is probably one of the most significant contributions you can make to his or her well-being.

Give advice only when you are asked. Friends and loved ones often take on the task of researching the diagnosis, treatment options, or clinical trials. This can be very helpful, as the information is often overwhelming. What is not helpful is saying, “You ought to try this,” or “You should do that.”

Educate yourself about cancer. CancerCare and other reputable organizations have helpful literature and user-friendly websites that provide detailed information about cancer treatments, side effects, and other related concerns.

Support your loved one’s treatment decisions. While you may be in a position to share decision-making, ultimately it is your loved one’s body and spirit that bear the impact of the cancer.

Remember the caregiver. This is usually the spouse, partner, parent or adult child of the person with cancer. Caregivers take on necessary tasks such as driving to treatment, arranging medical appointments, and providing needed care and emotional support. In many cases, they also take on many of the roles formerly handled by the person who has been diagnosed.

Be specific about the help you can offer. Saying “Call me if you need something” may put your loved one in an uncomfortable position. It is better to offer to help with specific tasks, such as walking the dog every morning, shopping for groceries, or driving the person to treatment on a particular day.

Stay connected. Cancer treatment can be lengthy. People with cancer often note that friends and family “don’t call anymore” after the initial crisis of diagnosis. Checking in regularly over the long haul is tremendously helpful.

Keep things normal. Often, we try to make life easier for the person going through cancer by “doing things” for him or her. It is a way of feeling useful at a time when we would otherwise feel helpless. However, it’s just as important to respect your loved one’s wishes to do normal “pre-cancer” tasks. For some people, being able to do things like cook dinner or continue working can lessen the sense that cancer is taking over their lives.

Be receptive to your loved one’s needs when treatment is over. Often this is the time when people realize the enormity of what they have been through. Prior to this, they were deeply involved in, and distracted by, all the medical concerns such as getting to treatment and coping with side effects. While your loved one may no longer need help getting through treatment, he or she may still need your emotional support.

 

CancerCare Publications  http://www.cancercare.org/publications/104-what_can_i_say_to_a_newly_diagnosed_loved_one

 

 

 

 

 

Makings of a Happy Couple Revisited!!!

A few weeks back I began various self-improvement rituals as a part of my new year’s resolutions. One was ways to improve my relationship with my spouse. For weeks I have been incorporating key habits for the makings of a happy couple according to Dr. Mark Goulston. I can honestly say that I can see a noticeable difference in how we respond to one another. They are as follows:

1. Go to bed at the same time

2. Cultivate common interests

3. Walk hand in hand or side by side

4. Make trust and forgiveness your default mode
5. Focus more on what your partner does right than what he or she does wrong

6. Hug each other as soon as you see each other after work

7. Say “I love you” and “Have a good day” every morning

8. Say “Good night” every night, regardless of how you feel

9. Do a “weather” check during the day

10. Be proud to be seen with your partner

I have currently started to incorporate another list to explore other avenues to the makings of a happy marriage.  The new list is titled The 10 Secrets of Happy Couples by Maud Purcell LCSW:

1. Develop a realistic view of committed relationships.

Recognize that the crazy infatuation you experienced when your romance was new won’t last. A deeper, richer relationship, and one that should still include romance, will replace it. A long-term relationship has ups and downs, and expecting it will be all sunny and roses all the time is unrealistic.

2. Work on the relationship.

An untended garden develops weeds that can ultimately kill even the heartiest plants. And so it is with relationships. It is important to address problems and misunderstandings immediately. Some people believe good relationships just happen naturally. The truth is that a good relationship, like anything you want to succeed in life, must be worked on and tended to on a regular basis. Neglect the relationship, and it will often go downhill.

3. Spend time together.

There is no substitute for shared quality time. When you make a point of being together, without kids, pets and other interruptions, you will form a bond that will get you through life’s rough spots. Time spent together should be doing a shared activity, not just watching television.

4. Make room for “separateness.”

Perhaps going against conventional wisdom, spending time apart is also an important component of a happy relationship. It is healthy to have some separate interests and activities and to come back to the relationship refreshed and ready to share your experiences. Missing your partner helps remind you how important he or she is to you.

5. Make the most of your differences.

Stop and think: What most attracted you to your partner at the beginning? I’ll almost guarantee that it was exactly the thing that drives you most insane today. Take a fresh look at these differences. Try to focus on their positive aspects and find an appreciation for those exact things that make the two of you different from one another. It’s likely that your differences balance one another out and make you a great team.

6. Don’t expect your partner to change; but at the same time give them more of what they want.

If both you and your partner stop trying to change each other, you will eliminate the source of most of your arguments. At the same time, each of you should focus on giving one another more of what you know the other person wants, even if it doesn’t come naturally. For instance, instead of complaining how your partner never cleans out the dishwasher, try just doing it yourself once in awhile without complaint. Your partner will likely notice your effort and make more of an effort themselves around the house. If you do both of these things at once you’ve got a winning plan!

7. Accept that some problems can’t be solved.

There may be issues upon which you cannot agree. Rather than expending wasted energy, agree to disagree, and attempt to compromise or to work around the issue. Two people cannot spend years together without having legitimate areas of disagreement. The test of a happy relationship is how they choose to work through such issues — through compromise, change, or finding it’s just not that important to stew over.

8. Communicate!

Lack of communication is the number one reason even good relationships fail. And here is a useful format for doing so, especially when dealing with incendiary topics: Listen to your partner’s position, without interrupting him or her. Just listen. When he or she is finished, summarize what you heard him or her say. If you can, empathize with your significant other even though you don’t agree. This will take your partner off of the defensive, and make it easier for them to hear your thoughts and feelings. It’s hard to argue when you use this format, and best of all, you may come up with an understanding or a solution.

9. Honesty is essential.

You may share with your partner the things he or she doesn’t want to hear. Better this than to have him or her doubt your honesty. Mistrust is one of the key deal breakers in relationships. And once trust is lost or broken, it can take a very long time to re-establish it in the relationship. The happiest couples are the ones where honesty is as natural and every day as breathing.

10. Respect your partner, and don’t take him or her for granted.

Treating your sweetheart with respect is likely to get you the same in return. And regularly reminding them how much they mean to you will enrich your relationship in indescribable ways. When you say, “I love you,” pause for a moment to really mean it. And don’t be afraid to express your feelings of appreciation with your partner — he or she will be thankful that you did.

I think both lists are wonderful ways to share your true self with your partner as well as ways to connect with one another while being open and honest. Wishing you all love and happiness!!!