Can one person save a marriage?
- Category: Blog
- Created: Saturday, 11 July 2015 18:49
- Written by Tammy Laber
Bouncing back when you are down
We’ve all heard the expression, “When life throws you lemons, make lemonade.” Which is good advice, in terms of looking for the opportunity in every setback. But in order to have that attitude of resilience, it helps to be practicing good self-care. It’s a fact – self-care is an important part of your ability to cope with stress, adversity and change.
What is self-care? Your self-care is the sum total of all the things you consciously do to care for your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Here are some ideas for improving your self-care.
Get into nature
Not many of us have a few as lovely as this tree out our window.
But even taking a few minutes to stand beside a large old tree and really notice the branches, the leaves (if it’s not winter), the bark, the majestic beauty and endurance, can be inspiring. Many problems have come and gone while this tree stood, and it endures. So can you.
Take tough times moment by moment
Don’t think about enduring pain forever. Think about getting through this day. If necessary, concentrate on getting through this hour.
At least a little exercise every day
It may be just a walk around the block. But do something. Exercise clears the head wonderfully. Try to do at least a little exercise every day – frequency matters even more than duration. If you can find it in you to work out hard and get the blood going, that’s even better – it will help release endorphins, feel-good chemicals you really need right now.
Call a friend or family member – and ask about THEM.
It’s easy to get caught up in your own problems and forget to keep things in perspective. A good talk with someone you care about can help you remember what you like about your life, and give you the benefit of remembering others are also coping with problems. They say that most of us, if we had to choose from our problems or those of someone else, would take our own problems back.
There is a statue called Empathy on display in the Toledo Botanical Garden. It symbolizes the beauty of engaging with others and the positive feelings it can create.
CBT may help
WHAT HELPS YOU BE HAPPY?
It’s a myth that you are hardwired to be happy or not. Research now indicates that just isn’t the case – there’s evidence that you can learn to be happier by forming certain habits.
You can start taking steps to being happier today. There is no need to wait until all the perfect conditions are met. For example, having more money will not necessarily make you happier, and you do not need a high income or an amazing IQ to be happy. Nor do you have to be married or to have children. It’s an “inside job” that has more to do with how you react to things than to exactly what happens to you.
One of the best things you can do is to learn to notice things you are grateful for, and to express your gratitude. Some people find it useful to keep a gratitude journal. Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” instead of a habit of complaint can make a really positive difference to your mental health!
Learning to forgive and let go instead of holding grudges is not only good for your relationships, it’s good for your overall happiness.
Practice random acts of kindness, and you’ll not only spread happiness, you’ll feel happier yourself.
Make a point of savoring joyful events. Give your full attention when your grandchild smiles. Feel the warmth when someone holds your hand. Really taste the delicious meal, and take joy in the company. Be here now for the good times, and cherish the memories later.
Another finding from research into the science of happiness is that exercise makes a big difference. Exercising regularly helps set your body up to receive happiness, so to speak, by releasing anxiety and tension.
Good sleep matters at lot to your mental health. People who get good sleep have stronger immune systems and are generally happier.
Sex is generally good for your mental health too. We are meant to enjoy touch, and release “feel-good” hormones when we get it. Even hugs can help.
Also, listening to music can make us feel happier, by promoting the release of a neurotransmitter (dopamine) associated with feeling good.
If you’re not feeling happy now, remember to hold out the possibility of happiness for yourself. Moods can change for the better, especially when you encourage yourself by using some of the ideas I’ve outlined here. Working with a counsellor can make a big difference too, to help you explore and reshape your attitudes and to help you stay on track. Let happiness into your life today!
Vacations: The make or break for your relationship
For some couples, going on a vacation together and finally having some “we” time away from the kids is just what the relationship needs. Finally, adult conversation uninterrupted by the toddlers. At last, a chance to get frisky without having to squeeze everything into a 20-minute window. But there’s another side to paradise. If you haven’t practiced your conversation skills sans kids or cellphone in a year, how will you do on a 9-hour flight? And if you can’t sustain conversation for more than a few minutes, can you bow out gracefully to your book or laptop without causing offense? Also, if it’s been a long time since you two spent much time being intimate, how does once a week translate into once a day? And if it doesn’t, does somebody get offended?
One way to cope with all the potential problems is to have a little talk beforehand. Can you agree to take a walk for a few minutes when you are feeling angry , instead of saying things you may regret? Can you discuss expectations ahead of time and try to keep them reasonable? Honestly, this is probably the best thing you can do – expect problems and agree to try to see the humour and cooperate as a team in solving them or living with them. Be especially sure you agree on finances before you leave. Who is paying for what? And go beyond the cost of the car rental, for example, to the cost of the insurance, and what happens if there IS an accident (for example, who pays the deductible, if there is one).
On the other hand, there is something to be said for going on vacation with your sweetie before you move in together. A vacation together will put your relationship on fast forward. If, for example, you guys are doomed to fight about money, sleep habits or sexual frequency, you’ll probably know by the end of the week.
If you can survive a week together, especially one with stressful experiences like a delayed flight or food poisoning, you can start looking for apartments together. But only if you BOTH agree that it was a good trip, once you are safely home.
Imagine taking a selfie in front of a car accident. Or a selfie in front of a building on fire. What about a selfie at a funeral – or at Auschwitz?
As I recently told Global News, we are witnessing a decline in empathy and an increase in narcissism. Some people raised on video games and violent “humour” are forgetting that when life hands them this type of situation, the right thing to do is to try to help if they possibly can. In an emergency situation, maybe you can do something, even if that is just by dialing 911 and making sure the police are on the way to the accident or fire, if you don't see emergency response people there already. Or at least show respect for the feelings of others. Gawking and taking selfies – not so much.
Global was motivated to interview me by a story where seven women took selfies at the site of a New York building explosion, while rescuers were still searching for missing people in the ruins.
Selfies not taken at the site of a tragedy can be harmless, the equivalent of travel pictures showing you were there. But when we take selfies every moment of the day, we are being self-absorbed. We are playing for “our public”, our Facebook friends, the people who we want to admire us. And we are not living in the moment and fully experiencing life as it happens.
I’ve seen the same phenomenon on a trip with a newbie traveller. He took hundreds of pictures a day, so many that it was annoying to be with him. So he wasn’t really present, enjoying the sunset. He was just taking picture 451 for the day.
I am disturbed when I see two or more people spend an entire dinner in a restaurant on their cell phones, instead of attempting to make conversation with each other. I don’t mean quickly checking for messages. I mean texting and taking photos all through the meal, so that they aren’t really present with each other.
I worry about what happens to people who exist in an electronic bubble all day long. Will anyone take first aid courses in the future? What kind of world is this if the person bleeding over there is just entertainment, not a suffering human? To be less dramatic, how much harder is it to make contact with other humans if no one stops to talk or smile on the street or in an elevator, because they are staring at their electronic devices?
Human connection, including smiles and touch, is so important to our emotional wellbeing. When you're staring at the phone all the time, real face-to-face connection doesn't have a chance to happen.
My suggestion? Put down the phone and the cameras, and really connect with each other. Practice empathy and compassion -- they are good for the soul. When you’re really present and enjoying the moment with everything you’ve got, you’re creating a vivid memory, the kind you don’t need a selfie to remember.
In case you're interested, here's a link to the main interview I did on Global:
Global News just interviewed me about dating co-workers. Here's a link to the video: http://globalnews.ca/news/1825385/a-third-of-canadians-have-dated-a-co-worker-says-survey/
Dating a Coworker: Is it a good idea?
An office romance can be exciting. It can also be career suicide. Nevertheless, attractions can be strong, and sometimes things do work out. Here are some things to keep in mind if you are considering dating a coworker.
How big is your company?
The larger your company, the easier it is to avoid actually working together. That’s good, because you don’t want to be in a reporting relationship. Relationships where one reports to the other are generally against company guidelines. Also, the bigger the company, the easier it is to be discreet.
In very small companies, everyone tends to know everything. That means everyone will know about your relationship ups and downs, almost before you do. And if you are caught touching or being even more intimate... well, that will get around pretty quickly, and maybe to the HR department.
Also, the smaller the office, the harder it is to avoid each other right after a breakup, which is when one or both of you will be in pain and won't want to see the other.
How good are you at relationships with exes?
If you break up with this person, you will have an ex you see every day at the office. How is that going to feel? Have you been able to adjust to being just friends or acquaintances with an ex in the past? What about the other person?
Try to find out how friendly this person is with other exes. If they talk about everyone they ever dated in the past in derogatory terms and boast about “kicking them to the curb”, be careful. That could be you they are talking about soon – and you they are badmouthing around the office.
Maturity and position matter.
How old is the person you are interested in? How mature are they? If there is a big age difference or one where one person is on a much higher level than the other, your relationship could look like one is taking advantage of the other. Not the best message to send in an office environment. Also, emotional maturity is a factor, for reasons we just covered (how discreet people will be and how civil people are to exes, for example).
Want to discuss your specific situation? Call me now at 416 406-5147 and we can set up a time to chat about your workplace relationship.
Some people feel really close to their partner in the days before Valentine’s Day, and enjoy finding ways to show that they care. But for many people, Valentine’s Day brings a lot of unwanted pressure.
If your relationship is not going well, February 14 may be an unwelcome reminder of the gap between what is – and what you wish could be. I seem to get several new couples every year right about this time, because the big push to celebrate their love reminds them of all the things they wish were different.
In fact, some people feel so strongly about not wanting to “fake it” that they break up right before Valentine’s Day, in order to avoid having to pretend.
Rather than going that route, think about how this could be the beginning of something different. If you and your partner have been sniping at each other lately, try writing a note about the things you LIKE about them, and encouraging them to do the same. That could be a better gift than the most expensive box of candy!
Another idea is to give each other some relationship IOUs good for the next three months, instead of doing everything in one day. For example, you might create an IOU for a back rub your partner can cash in when they need it, or an IOU for one breakfast in bed that you provide and clean up from. Maybe they would really like a couple of hours of your time watching the kids while they go see a friend. Perhaps the best gift would be a few minutes of your time really listening to what they have to say without interrupting.
Cards are great, but don’t just sign your name, write something meaningful. If things haven’t been going well, can you mention a time when they were great and say that you would like to be as close as you were then? Can you offer to go away together overnight? Can you commit to a few counselling sessions together with the goal of getting closer again?
Counselling isn’t a sign of failure, any more than going to the dentist for a cleaning is a sign you have been doing something wrong. Some of my couples are actually doing really well now, but still come every three months or so to keep things from ever deteriorating again.
What if Valentine’s Day were a reminder of all things that are good about your relationship, and an opportunity to start getting more of them?
Many couples who come to see me wonder if they made a big mistake getting married. They’re frustrated and hurt, and they don’t know how to deal with all the conflicts that keep flaring up. They wonder if they will ever trust each other and be emotionally or physically intimate again.
There are lots of steps we can take to help repair this situation, but three conditions will help the repair efforts to succeed. Here they are:
Condition 1: Repair attempts have a greater chance when each member of the couple knows how to be emotionally intimate. That means neither person has a deep-seated fear of closeness. Instead, they enjoy intimate emotional connection and miss it when it is not available. If each person has the capacity to be emotionally close with another, we have a much greater chance of rebuilding the closeness in the marriage.
Condition 2: Repair attempts also require commitment. When both people think the partnership is important, they are motivated to put in the necessary work to rebuild it.
Condition 3: Finally, the couple needs to be able to negotiate. They must be willing to learn how to put aside anger and the struggle for power so that they can resolve their differences and plan for the future together.
When these three conditions are met, we have fertile ground on which to plant. The new ways of doing things the couple will learn in counselling have a good chance to grow, and the marriage will likely flourish again.
Does that mean if all three conditions are not met right away, there is no hope? No, as long as people are willing to try, things can get better. If fact sometimes I am amazed at the difference I see in just a few sessions. At times, it does make sense for one or both of the partners to be in individual counselling for a while (to explore anger and fear, for example), so they can be ready to make breakthroughs as a couple.
Each case is different. What couples coming to me can be assured of is that I care, and that I will use all the experience and knowledge I have acquired on your behalf. I want you to feel your marriage was not a mistake, because now you know what to do to get the best out of your marriage.