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9 posts from December 2009

December 31, 2009

A NEW YEAR REMEMBRANCE: LOOKING BACK ON 2009 WITH ACCEPTANCE AND GRATITUDE

The New Year is typically a time for people to make plans, set goals and assess where they’ve been and where they want to be.  This process most often entails looking at all the places where we have fallen short.  We look at the weight we’ve gained (or failed to lose), the money we didn’t bring in, the projects we never completed, the exercise we didn’t do or the countless business goals we didn’t reach.  And if we were successful in some of these areas, January 1st becomes the time to set new goals to surpass those from the year before.  We’re constantly trying for better, more, faster, thinner. 

This year, however, I’ve decided to pause. 

This year I’m committed to slowing down and appreciating how far I’ve come, the people I’ve met along the way and, yes, even the places where I got stuck.  The start of 2010 will be a tribute to 2009.  I want to take the time to enjoy my accomplishments, examine my mistakes and be thankful for my struggles -- which have taught me as much, if not more, than my successes.  The start of 2010 will be about total acceptance of where I am and how I got here—the good, the bad and the ugly--as they say.

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December 28, 2009

LIGHTEN UP: THE GIFT OF SPONTANEITY IN HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS

A common problem I hear with many of the couples I work with is distance.  One or both partners report having grown apart, no longer having anything in common and losing that proverbial “spark”. 

As we get more into the story, it’s evident that most of their interactions have become mundane.  They wake up, get the kids ready, go to work, come home tired, eat dinner, put the kids to bed, settle down to TV. books or chores and then go to bed only to wake up and do the same thing all over again. 

In between these little events is often criticism, critiques, whining, sighs and other more negative interactions.  As couples, we tend to grow comfortable complaining about our days with one another.  As the years pass, we forget that often, sparks don’t happen without a match.  We hope, wish and even beg for the spark to happen, magically thinking that if it were meant to happen it would.  Unfortunately, the more we wait, the more we complain, the greater the distance and the less frequent that spark becomes.

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December 21, 2009

FAMOUS PEOPLE AND AFFAIRS: THE LESSONS THEY’VE TAUGHT US

When it comes to extra-marital affairs, famous people are an endless source of learning.  Their mistakes have much to teach us.  If we pay attention, their affairs can save us from the same pain, humiliation and hurtful relationship moves they’ve had to endure.  For what we can learn from their mistakes, I thank them.  I’m sorry, however, that their families have had to bear the brunt of these painful events.

Let’s start the learning process. 

Lesson 1:  Affairs can happen to anyone; no one is immune.  John Edwards is a classic example of this lesson.  Many people—including his wife—never thought he was capable of an affair.  He appeared to be the nice, boy-next-door type of guy; a rare breed in politics.  His wholesome appearance led many to think he was above affairs.  This is dangerous thinking.  Everyone is capable – and potentially culpable.

Where did John go wrong?  He didn’t protect his marriage (as so many of us don’t).  Although we could say this about all politicians who have affairs, John is a particularly good example of this.  While he didn’t go out looking for an affair, he certainly didn’t do anything to stop it when his mistress came at him.  John’s first meeting with his mistress was one BIG red flag.  As soon as she greeted him with, “Man you’re good-looking!” he should’ve run.  When he realized that he felt good when she said that—he should’ve sprinted.

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December 18, 2009

TIPS FOR HAVING A POSITIVE HOLIDAY EXPERIENCE

1.    Take time out.  During the stress of the holiday rush, many people forget to take time to just relax.  Slow down for a moment or two, connect with your loved ones and chill.  Sit down together and decompress about your days.  Stop the rat race and give yourself a break—trust me, the world is not going to fall apart because you took some time to have a peaceful moment.
2.    Relationships before tasks.  Remember to be relational during the holidays.  With all the stress, many of us are so busy getting things done that we make that our number one priority.  The priority should always be relationships first, tasks second.  Having a messy table will not end your relationship with your in-laws—not speaking to them because you’re too busy cleaning up the table might .
3.    Offer a helping hand or ask for a helping hand.  Do not try to be wonder woman or superman.  Share the gift buying, party planning, dinner cooking/cleaning, etc.  Ask your partner for help if you need it and/or offer to help if you see they need it.  Getting through the holidays is a much more enjoyable experience when we partner with one another.  If one partner is buying the gifts, the other partner could wrap them.  Minimally, both partners should be brainstorming about gifts for the kids or parents.  Don’t assume the other person is responsible—that’s a cop out. 

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December 15, 2009

RELATIONSHIPS AND TRAVEL: WHAT IF YOUR PARTNER TRAVELS FOR WORK?

Many couples have to deal with the reality of one or both partners traveling for work.  Frequent travel can be stressful on the couple as well as the entire family unit if there are children involved.  Below are a few tips to help couples minimize the stress of this typically stressful dynamic:

Tips for the traveling partner:

  • When you are home—be present: it’s one thing to have to travel a lot, it’s an entirely different thing to travel a lot and then come home and be constantly working.  When you are home, be sure to incorporate a technology-free zone into your nighttime rituals with your spouse and children.  I struggled with this for a long time until I realized my children were beginning to pull away from me.  It took me quite a while to get them to warm up to me again—by being present emotionally and physically. 
  • Before you go on your trip, give extra attention to your family.  The weekend before, spend a day having fun, playing a game or going out on a date.  Don’t allow the trip to just sneak up on you—plan ahead. 
  • If you travel weekly, incorporate a ritual into the travel so your children and partner have something to look forward to.  I typically leave each person a tender sprinkle on their pillow before I go (a personal note with a loving message) and pick up a little something for when I return. 

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December 11, 2009

WOMEN CREATING HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS: ARE YOU TEACHING OTHERS HOW TO TREAT YOU?

I was recently on a call, coaching a group of therapists across the country.  The conversation turned to women accepting the unacceptable, which happens to be one of my biggest pet peeves with women.  One of the male therapists on the call was relieved to hear this perspective from a woman.  He then stated with absolute confidence that his wife trained him to be the man he was.  He was clear that she would never allow him to treat her poorly...and so he doesn't.

It was an interesting comment to hear coming from a man.  The content wasn’t as surprising to me as the fact that he was so certain that his wife had trained him how to behave (his words).  He knew to the core of his being that his wife would not accept unacceptable behavior from him--period. He said that he meant to treat his wife well, but as a young man (48 years ago) he didn't know when his behavior was out of line and learned from her clarity of direction. He knew that in his younger years he would say something or do something that he thought was fine only to find out from her that it wasn’t.  He stopped as soon as he realized she wouldn’t accept it.

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December 09, 2009

SUCCESSFUL PARENTING 101: THE MUST HAVE INGREDIENTS (PART II)

Below are the remaining five tips for being a good parent as a follow up from my last post. 
1.    A BACKBONE AND GOOD BOUNDARIES: Doing the right thing as a parent is incredibly hard.  Seldom are our children going to run up to us and give us a hug after we take their phone or computer away.  Often our rules are met with back talk and a thousand variations of “I hate you!”  We need good boundaries (read my post on boundaries for a refresher).  We need to know that they’re struggling to handle their anger and don’t always mean what they say.  Now, of course, if our child is seventeen and still saying that…we may need to be a bit more worried. 
2.    WARMTH AND ABILITY TO SHOW LOVE WITH ACTIONS AND WORDS NOT JUST BY PROVIDING FOR:  I’ve worked with many adults who were impacted by the lack of affection of their parents.  They had mothers who were great at dinners, housework and limits, but had no idea how to be affectionate or warm.  This isn’t okay.  As parents, we need to do our own work and make sure we can be good parents to our children.  Children want to be -- and feel -- loved.  It’s our job to make sure we show them they are.  Give hugs, say you love them, pat them on the back, be playful, ruffle their hair, etc.  WARM UP.  If this is hard for you then get help—your children need it.

Continue reading "SUCCESSFUL PARENTING 101: THE MUST HAVE INGREDIENTS (PART II)" »

December 07, 2009

SUCCESSFUL PARENTING 101: THE MUST HAVE INGREDIENTS (PART I)

Parenting is the most difficult job in the world to do well.  It requires love, guidance, limits, patience, acceptance, amazing boundaries and healthy self esteem.  Yikes!  How many people in the world have all of the above?  Below is a cheat sheet of what I have found to be the most important aspects of good parenting:
1.    CONFIDENCE IN YOURSELF:  It is vital that you see yourself as a competent, able individual.  If you don’t, your children will see right through your insecurities and be forever testing you.  You need to remember that your children are much younger and less experienced in life than you are.  Have faith in yourself and your ability to guide them.  Know that some of your decisions are not going to be liked and that is okay.  Also know that sometimes you will not know what the right decision is.  Not knowing the right move just makes you human, so don’t fret.  Get help -- ask other parents for advice, read parenting books or talk to professionals.  No one knows everything.
2.    WILLINGNESS TO SET LIMITS:  Know that kids need limits.  When they don’t have them, they feel out of control…and begin to act out of control.  Be clear about what is and is not okay in your home and explicitly state those rules to your children.  Also, clearly state in advance what the consequences will be should they choose to disobey the rules.

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December 03, 2009

AFFAIRS AND THE OTHER WOMAN: LIES OTHER WOMEN TELL THEMSELVES

IStock_000007030859XSmall With all the hype about Tiger Woods and the alleged other women, I thought I'd address affairs from a different angle.  Below are myths that many of the other women in the world believe.  While I understand how and why they believe these stories, let me be clear that they are all MYTHS.

1.    I’m his true love.  You may feel like his true love, however chances are his wife was also his true love at first.  Most relationships are intimate and great in the beginning—your affair is no different.  Affairs are easy to be intimate in -- you don’t have the demands of kids, jobs, finances, keeping things interesting after being together for ten years, etc.   
2.    His wife is cold and doesn’t know how to keep him happy.  His wife is not the cold, frigid witch that you may think she is or that he may paint her to be.  I know many married couples who were having sex throughout the man’s affair and reported being happy with one another.  Not everything the man tells you is true.  More often than not, he’s lying to you the same way he’s lying to his wife; you’re no different.  I can’t tell you how many other women were hurt to find out that their lover and his wife were still having sex.  The other women were shocked to find out that the men were lying to them too.  Don’t think you’re above his lies—you’re not.  Be careful about thinking his wife is a cold witch because some day he’s likely to say the same about you.

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