This Blog Is About

This blog is about---You! Each and every post is about you. Use it to challenge your usual patterns, as a tool for self-discovery, to stimulate your thinking, to learn about yourself and to answer your questions about others.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Magic Formula

Keeping your marriage happy

 The formula is:  Date night, once a week.  A weekend away, once a month.  A real vacation, just the two of you, once a year.

This formula can be adapted to your circumstances.  Maybe you can only find time for one date a month, for example.  But whatever pattern you decide upon, it should be sacrosanct; date night is date night, the whole family knows it, and it will be honored.   The date can be simple or elaborate, as your means dictate:   It can be a simple picnic or an elegant evening out to dinner or the symphony.  The point is that you reserve time for a pleasurable activity, that you enjoy together.  The same goes for the short trip away together; it can be a Friday night camping trip to the beach or a weekend in the wine country at an elegant hotel, whatever works for you.         The idea is  to                                                                                                        Artist Charlotte Kruk
 get away from all your cares, obligations, and worries and have some relaxed time together.  By the way, these times are not for  discussing problems You can set aside another time for that.  
I have one couple who like to trade planning the date and the one who plans it invites the other.  If you are a couple who each like very different activities, it's an opportunity to try to please the other. 

You are invited to join in the conversation here.  Please comment below.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

More on Forgiveness

“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds 
on the heel that has crushed it.” 

(The first post on forgiveness:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Love On The Shelf

Don't leave your most important relationship to languish

 A new couple came to see me to consider beginning marriage counseling.
They've been married a long time, have grown children and some little grandchildren.
They've known each other since they were kids.
They are middle-aged now, still working at their careers and actively engaged with their family life.  So, what's the problem?
Their marriage is withering on the vine.  Why?  It's been left unattended for most of their married life.

They say they did try counseling once before some years back but it sounded as if their participation was half-hearted.  Apparently the counselor made some suggestions, they tried them for awhile, then just drifted back to their old ways.

Since her mothering role is no longer needed, she has developed a hobby; she goes walking w/"the girls".  As the group got into better condition, they started to  go on hiking trips several times a year.  She is very fit, has close friendships with some of the women in the group, and is devoted to this activity.  Meanwhile, he is the kind of guy who likes to putter.  He spends time in his garage, tinkering.  He's handy, so he likes to tune up the garden and house on the weekends.  He also keeps up a bit of an exercise program but it is more for health purposes rather than as a hobby.  Neither one of them is much interested in what the other is doing and she wishes he would get out more like she does.  He wants her to be more like him, a homebody.
In their presentation to me, both acknowledge there's a problem in the marriage and that they've "grown apart". 
But, their solutions are the same:  They each want the other to change.  They each like their own activities and the way they conduct their own individual life and don't volunteer to make any changes themselves.                                                              Artist:  Elizabeth Frank

These people have part of it right; you do need to be an independent person with a developed identity of your own before you can be emotionally intimate with another.  But, what is missing is the attention to the relationship itself.  There is nothing shared, no mutual interest other than the extended family events; they never make plans to do fun things together.  They share no pleasures.  They each obtain their primary gratification in life from independent interests.  When they talk to each other, there is no listening going on and there is anger in evidence as well as defeat.
In addition, they each see the other as wrong and in need of correction but are doing no self-evaluation.  (This is the key)

Remember the post, You Can Catch More Flies With Honey Than Vinegar?
It almost seems as if they could save some money and just follow the suggestions in that post, doesn't it.  Well, that would improve their happiness but, of course, their problem is more complicated than that so they do need a therapist---to see beneath the surface and to decipher the interpersonal dynamics.  So, hopefully, they will make the commitment to work on their relationship in therapy.

~However, their case as I've outlined it above, does illustrate the point, that relationships need nurturing.  Too many of us think that we can busy ourselves with all of the many responsibilities and interesting activities of life while our relationship will take care of itself.  No, not really.  Marriage is not the solution, marriage is the beginning.  Marriage means you have something in your life that is central and that you need to attend to, on-going.  It needs to be given your energy, your time, and your thought.~

What kind of relationship do you want would be a good question to begin with:  Do you want comfort?  Is a romantic relationship what you wish for?  Friendship---maybe you want a life-partner-buddy.  Do you want to plan adventures together or do you want to develop a beautiful home life?  Do you want a close confidante or more of a business-of-life partner?  Whatever you want, communicate about it with your mate.  See if you can come up with a shared vision.  And then, put some effort into manifesting that vision.  Wishing you good fortune in that endeavor!

If you are interested in reading more about relationships, click on that label which is on the landing page.  There is also a label that lists all posts that talk about communication.
Your comments are welcome.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A New Friend

Dear Kim.  What a nice surprise for me to find you here this morning!  You are my 21st Follower.  Does that make me a grown-up blogger now?  (just a little friendly humor).

For those of you who like to explore what the other Followers are doing, Kim is producing a very attractive and useful blog herself; she has an idea about how to deal with worry that I think you may find comforting.  Check it out.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Lessons of Nature

This short post tells about a simple but dramatic experience I had with nature, in the Springtime.  It is Spring here now, so I thought you might like to re-visit it:;postID=7506253080604042545

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Opportunity For Growth

The unexamined life is not worth living.  

"Living only on the surface of things is barely living at all.   Life has depth as well as breadth.  We are meant to feel all our emotions---fear and regret as well as joy.  We are capable of questioning ourselves for a reason:  so we can grow emotionally and spiritually larger."

Sally Coleman and Maria Porter
Artist:  Kamilla White

Monday, April 9, 2012

Even More, On Empathy

Empathy is the one gift we all have to give

 For sometime now, I have been noticing an absence of empathy in the couples I see for counseling, in my practice.  I also see it in  some individual sessions, when the patient is reporting on some other person in their life or, on an interaction.  It is a relatively new phenomenon to notice.  I attribute this to three things:
  • It's a sign of the times
  • I reached a level of experience as a therapist where I was able to discern this
  • It's not being taught to people as they grow up
 I realize that the large swath of Americans who would identify as belonging to the middle-class are really struggling right now.  I think that this could be a big part of the reason for the withholding of empathy ; people are saving their energy for catastrophe. 
I have been through a foreclosure on his home with one of my patients---after a successful family life and a career, his kids fortunately were grown when this happened,young adults---he lost his job.  Next was the painful process of losing his house.  Now, in his early 50's, he is living with his elderly parents, in their house.  
I have another person in my practice who is trying to find a job as her husband's health is failing and tells me that she cannot even get her resume looked at by potential employers because they are so flooded with applicants.  
So as people see this all around them, they are on alert, trying to protect what they have, feeling like the rug may be pulled out from under them at any time.
When their partner expresses distress of any kind, they don't want to hear it.  They want their partner to just be okay ("Please, don't add another burden to my shoulders."). 
 Sometimes, if the worry is a shared one, they don't want their own, barely-under-wraps anxiety to emerge, so they don't want their spouse to talk to them about those anxieties.  If the partner's trouble is individual, they just can't tolerate listening to much about it as they begin to feel overwhelmed very quickly.
Also, parents are feeling pressed and sometimes alarmed by the changes in the world economy and can barely do the minimum for their children, much less even think to teach them about empathy.  (this is something that was taught to children when I was growing up)
Of course, this is one of those things that can be reversed into a positive feedback loop.
I f you think how disappointed you feel when you go to your mate for comfort and get the cold shoulder,                                                                                   
 you will not want to do that yourself.  We all need sanctuaries and sometimes our mate can provide that, emotionally.
I think that when I see couples  complaining about their partners feelings, moods, worries, that they are telling us that they, themselves, are very stressed.  However, we can't all, always mend our own wounds.  Sometime we need help and sometimes we need to assist others.  Human beings are 'social animals'.  We do not thrive in isolation.
Empathy is different from sympathy.  It means, as the saying goes, walking a mile in someone else's shoes.  ("You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, 'till you climb into his skin and walk around in him awhile."  from To Kill A Mockingbird)  Think how relieving it is when somebody 'gets' you.  Or, even, if they don't exactly get it right, they at least, try.  Think how lonely it is to believe that you always have to solve all of your own problems by yourself.  Maybe spending a few minutes thinking about this will inspire you to offer some empathy when the opportunity next presents itself.
You can make the world a better place.
Last post on this topic:

Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Taking it as it comes and reveling in the experience of living

 "When we learn the sweetness of yielding and non-resistance, we steady and enrich our travels.

It has been said that pain is not the change but instead in the resistance to the change.  Our life continues to be a series of ups and downs, questions, answers, and more questions.  It is made up of change.  When we resist change, we resist life itself.  Learning to relax and enjoy the experience is the key to joy."

S. Coleman and M. Porter

This topic, in my own words:;postID=6973040445924804673