Recently I was interviewed for an article in the Journal News about how to have a harmonious visit with college students home for the holidays. See what I said by visiting http://www.lohud.com/story/news/health/2014/12/19/college-kids-home-holidays/20585649/.
Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, a day that may have some feeling sad and anxious. There is a lot of hype surrounding this day. The media tells us we should be madly in love and strive towards having the “perfect” relationship like we see on TV commercials and in movies. They show us that perfect mate, with a beautiful face and body, who says the most profound, loving things. And if that’s not enough, they want us to long for the perfect gift!
Relationships come in all shapes and sizes. For those who are single, remember that your friends and family are also important relationships. They can be the perfect company for a Friday that just happens to also be Valentine’s Day.
Here are some things you can do to make your Valentine’s Day special:
1- Call some friends of family members and make dinner plans. Celebrate the fact that it’s Friday.
2- Watch a movie you’ve been dying to see. If you’d rather not be alone, invite someone to watch it with you.
3- Buy yourself that “perfect” piece of jewelry, flowers, or chocolates. You’ll be sure to get exactly what you want if you buy it yourself.
4- Buy a single friend flowers or chocolates, you’ll make their day.
5- Set up a “secret cupid” gift sharing with friends so you all get something special and unexpected on Valentine’s Day.
6- Volunteer to work with those less fortunate or with animals.
7- Tell people what you need so they can be there for you.
8- Pamper yourself or make a plan to pamper yourself so you have something to look forward to.
I invite you to read a fuller version of this article which can be found at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/life-without-anxiety/201402/single-valentines-day
Believe it or not, this is perfectly normal in marriages. We may not like it, it may feel uncomfortable, but just about everyone goes through it. Why?
Unfortunately, we often ignore the familiar. We may spend a lot of energy and use much creativity at the job, pay attention to how we sound and what we say to friends and co-workers, act delighted to see a neighbor or the mail person, and then come home and virtually ignore our spouse. It’s certainly understandable. At the end of the day we’re tired, cranky, hungry. It feels like “work” to put a smile on your face and sit and listen intently to someone else’s day. The last thing in the world you want to do is have to be “on” at home. I bet if you were having dinner with a friend you’d do it.
I know you’ve heard it before, but, here it is again. Marriage takes work. But this work can be lots of fun. So here’s your homework to get that spark back and reignite the flame.
- Remember the things you did when you and your spouse were dating? Make dates with him/her and do some of those things again.
- Tell him/her that they look sexy, pretty, handsome.
- Do you remember how to flirt? Try it on your spouse.
- Write a love note or x-rated note and slip it into their pocket or purse.
- Buy them something small and cute.
- You know those movies that make you think, “why doesn’t he/she do those things?” You do them. You be the initiator.
- When out with your spouse, try asking questions about them and then really listen to the answer. Reserve talking about the kids for when you’re at home. A date should be a date.
- Tell them why you fell in love with them.
When I’m working with a couple in couples therapy, I look at both spouses and say, “you do these things first”. In other words, don’t wait for your spouse to initiate the above. If you both start there won’t be any resentment.
Have a great time!
“How was your day at work today?”
“Not too great. I’m exhausted.”
“Nothing compares to how tired I am.”
“Well at least when you come home you get to sit and relax. I have to get dinner ready, make sure the kids do their homework, take baths and get to sleep on time.”
“Look, I’m bring home more money, work longer hours, and need to unwind when I come home from work.”
“Fine, maybe I won’t go to work anymore. I’ll stay home and take care of the kids while you make all the money.”
Does that sound familiar? Not very productive, is it? Let’s backtrack and start this conversation again.
“How was your day at work today?”
“Not too great. I’m exhausted.”
“I’m sorry to hear that honey. I’m pretty tired also.”
“Sounds like we both could use some down time. I would really appreciate a little help tonight. Do you think you could start dinner while I help the kids with their homework? After we eat, I’ll get the kids ready for bed and you can relax. Your help will also give me some time to sit and put my feet up.”
“Sure, no problem. Thanks for understanding that I need time to unwind hon. If you need more help just holler.”
Why do you think the second conversation ended so differently? Let’s evaluate both conversations.
In the first scenario, the husband compared his day to his wife’s day without giving any indication that he had heard what she said. She got annoyed, probably because she didn’t feel supported, and let him know what had been bothering her. The conversation just began to unravel from there and what followed was not very helpful to either of them.
The second conversation was friendlier and mutually successful because the husband let his wife know that he had heard her and offered her support by saying “I’m sorry to hear that.” Just that short sentence likey helped his wife to relax. She had her husband on her side and probably felt understood. The wife, instead of hoping her husband would offer to help, was clear and directly told him what she needed of him and that she would be supportive of his needs after he helped. That made it easier for the husband to help, knowing he would get his time to unwind shortly afterward.
There are a few key ingredients in the second conversation that made it end on such a nicer, more loving, and more satisfying note.
1- The husband listened to, and responded to what his wife said before he told her about his day.
2- The wife listened to her husband and let him know that she heard what he said.
3- The wife asked her husband for help in a clear way.
4- The wife let her husband know that she understood what he needed and promised to give it to him once he was finished helping her.
In this second scenario, both the husband and wife felt heard, supported, and therefore were able to offer and receive help.
This is called “active listening”. In active listening, the listener focuses on what the speaker is saying and gives feedback to the speaker that they heard and understood the message. It is a powerful tool to use in a conversation.
It’s amazing how much more smoothly our conversations can go with loved ones when we let them know that we hear them and support them.
Did you ever get the feeling you’re “talking to the wall”? Do you feel that no matter how you say things no one understands you? Or, do you have a hard time understanding what your spouse, partner, and/or boss say to you? As Paul Newman so famously said in Cool Hand Luke, “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate”.
What do we mean by communication anyway?
According to Dictionary.com, communication is “the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs.”
Communication is the lifeline of personal and business relationships. If there is a single key to successful relationships, it is communication. It’s hard to have a relationship with someone if we can’t talk to them or if they don’t understand or listen to us, isn’t it. Continue reading