Halloween many be almost over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still celebrate! This week everyone had a way to channel their inner control freak, their inner princess, their inner child – and that’s not a bad thing! Why not use a costume to express something that might otherwise be kept pent up. For example, for those who want to be in control, try dressing up as a policeman. For those who feel the need to stand up for yourself, consider donning a witch costume. Then pay attention to what the costume choice indicates – dress-up is a fun, safe way to act out fantasies and dreams in a way that’s playful and acceptable.
Use your costume to hone in on things that may be lacking in your life or relationship. If you want to be a princess or a Hollywood starlet, could you use a little more glamor in your life or relationship? Costumes can be a great way to start to act out feelings that may be lurking below the surface – figure out what they are and how you can let them play out in a healthy way. The more you play, the more you stay. In other words, couples that play together stay together. Couples can use Halloween to uncover a little bit about themselves and in the process, give their relationship a jump-start as well, and not just in the bedroom. Beyond being an addition to your sex life, use a costume to figure out what you want to say about yourself and your life then channel that discovery and new energy into your relationship. It could be something as simple as picking a nice restaurant for your next date so you can get more dolled up than usual, or it could mean re-evaluating the balance of power in your relationship so that both parties feel more in-control.
Use costume to help discover something new, and it can fuel discovery in a relationship as well!
I was just listening to Z100 radio and I heard them discussing the “Hibernationship.” I absolutely loved this term! A hibernationship is a relationship whose sole purpose to get you through the winter. It can go beyond winter or be short-lived once it’s served its purpose of getting you through the cold days and giving you someone to cozy up and cuddle with next to a roaring fire. Some couples will be open and say outright that the relationship’s days are numbered, while others say nothing and break up in the spring. I hear singles say all the time how a winter alone can be long and when snow falls it’s nice to get snowed in with a snow bunny — a hibernationship snow bunny at that!!! To learn more about dating in winter check out my book “Make Up, Don’t Break Up” http://ow.ly/6d8L305zE7o and my online class on Marriage and Relationships: http://ow.ly/1LRf305zENc
Research from Gretchen Reynold’s blog on “How You Fight With Your Spouse May Affect Different Body Parts” demonstrated that stonewalling spouses were more apt to have muscular issues like back pain or neck pain. I know from my own private practice that negative or intense emotions affect health. Angry, sad, frustrated or fearful people have more health issues. Anger puts a strain on the heart and people in bad marriages can have worse health problems. This is why it’s important to fight fair with an emotional bullet proof vest and make your partner feel safe to share and “air” differences. Doing this increases passion. Walking in your partner’s shoes goes a long way to prolonging the “honeymoon” stage. Fighting fair techniques are essential for fightphobic couples whose apprehension courts confrontation, rather than clearing the air. I recommend 10 min weekly to air differences before they escalate. After that raise endorphins with physical activity with each other like tickling, kissing, or even making love. For more simple techniques on fair fighting check out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jUM4TnQRWz0 and my chapter on fair fighting in Make Up Don’t Break Up.
This Father’s Day, more men are taking an active role in their kid’s lives than perhaps ever before. While this is a positive change, it can have negative effects. According to research published in the Wall Street Journal in 2012, 32% of fathers with working wives are helping to care for their kids under 15. That’s up from 26% just ten years ago. With dad as the new mom, it can affect a couple’s relationship if they don’t know how to best manage things.
This shift can be a positive thing for the whole family – kids get a father who’s present, moms get some time off from the 30 hours per week they work inside the home in addition to their careers. Having involved dads makes sense, since men would be better at parenting than at partnering. Men aren’t used to engaging in the level of communication that a relationship needs so they become great dads – which is wonderful, but it shouldn’t come at the detriment of their marriage.
Single dads might face the parent vs partner problem in even worse ways than their attached counterparts. They’re trying to play catch up because they spend time away from their kids, so they parent with extra fervor! While kids may benefit from this, it could also be the underlying reason why single dads stay single – they don’t know how to be a partner because they’re parents – it’s a different set of skills. And they’re already pressed for time and money, making it difficult to connect on a practical level as well: according to the Department of Health and Human Services, 24.5% of single custodial dads work more than 44 hours weekly; and 90.2% of fathers with joint custody pay all their child support each month.
Whether single or married, men also often find it biologically difficult to connect with their significant others – or to find a potential partner after a divorce. It stems from a time period early in a boy’s life that I call the abrupt schism: when a boy leaves mother abruptly while he’s still dependent, in order to identify with his father and become more like him.
Boys don’t make this transition gracefully and the wounds they incur affect their relationships with women for their entire lives. Some mothers have a hard time letting boys go – which means that later in life a man will disappear from a relationship if a woman makes him feel guilty about not meeting her needs; or he will feel that he is never good enough. This provides another glimpse into the reason why men are more reticent to open up – if they do so, they worry they will then need the woman with whom they open up.
Because of their roles in the culture, men often don’t have to know how to be attentive, how to need someone; they are typically more independent. I believe the skills needed for successful parenting and successful partnering can be taught through my Smart Heart Skills and Dialogue, which I developed because I believe most men are connectable by instruction (I discuss this further in my book, Make Up Don’t Break Up and the attached DVD Falling in Love and Staying in Love).
Although women are often the guardians of connection their husbands can learn to connect in their marriage and communicate successfully. They need the confidence from their wives to be better partners, which can spring from their parenting abilities. Men already don’t feel comfortable identifying their feelings and talking about them, so women have to make a safe place – don’t shame or blame! Set aside ten minutes per day for this type of safe connection, where women create a place that their husbands can express themselves.
But it shouldn’t be either/or – people become better parents when they learn to be better partners, so learning to communicate safely and frequently in a relationship is healthiest for the whole family!
To see me talk more about single parenting and getting your relationship back on track click here: http://youtu.be/vNTq_wwXeKA and here: http://youtu.be/MtdykGxY708
I recently came across an article on Reviews.com that was evaluating and reviewing dating sites (http://www.reviews.com/online-dating-sites/). I was so happy to see this much needed asset in this busy world of singles. My single patients struggle with finding the “right” dating site and one that is easy to use. I’ve had patients marry from meeting on eharmony and OKCupid , so that is a testimonial in and of itself. Many patients prefer the two sites Reviews.com found to be the best, as they felt they had less narcissistic members than the others, and were more truthful. Another couple met and are serious now, and another is engaged. I met my husband through NY Magazine (no computer dating in those days) and we taught a course together on how to write an ad to meet and greet. It’s a wonderful way to meet after college, when it’s trickier or after divorce when you might be shellshocked!
Just today, I was lucky enough to be driven in a car service by a wonderful man who is married 29 years happily and whose sentiments echoed the one’s I spoke of yesterday. He spoke to me about how a good marriage is about doing those “big” little things daily, like helping his wife in the kitchen, telling her he loves her everyday, picking her up from work so she does not take the bus, sharing finances, not keeping “score”, never going to bed mad, walking in her shoes even if they do not fit, and not arguing if she feels different but understanding instead. He told me “I can’t wait to come home to her and hug her hello, and eat dinner with her.”
This is a man after my own heart. All of those same mini connections are also how my husband behaves. That behavior propelled us to write our “SmartHeart” skills and tools for all of you to emulate in “Make Up Don’t Break Up” and my Education 2 Go course “Marriage and Relationships: Keys to Success.” The driver and I spoke some more about how sometimes people give up too easily and divorce, and how important it is to work at it. It’s not hard to be nice and loving instead of vengeful and angry. It’s also better for your health!
In light of this past weekend’s tragedy in Orlando, I want to take some time to talk about how not to take our partners or family members for granted.
It’s important to feel gratitude, write down those little things that melt our hearts, and see your partner or family member with new light. Focus on what they are doing, not on what they are not doing. Cherish those mindless moments that make up a relationship, like a walk in the park, eating an ice cream cone together, binge watching your favorite show, a cuddle in am and pm, an unexpected kiss or hand holding, touching his or her arm, or opening the door. The little things mean a lot! Count your blessings and make up don’t break up.
New research on marriage in this week’s issue of Time Magazine, discussed how to stay married and why no matter the challenge, it’s worth it! Belinda Luscombe’s article speaks to the expectations that are are so much higher than they once were, which is why more effort needs to be put in than ever before. I always tell patients your partner needs to enhance who you are and let you be your true self! In other words: you’re better together as it brings out the best in each of you separately and together. In line with my writings on adultery, the research shows that adultery can be seen as a forgivable sin, but remorse, an end to the affair, and reconciliation are paramount. Marrieds have greater health, finances, sex lives, and overall happiness than singles, and I see this in my practice. I have seen couples reach real life love when they are more gentle and kind with each other. When the power struggle is gone and good will takes over, it reminds couples of how it was in the beginning when they first met each other. Sarcastic remarks or tones in a contemptuous way corrode marriages and without respect, love erodes. I speak about this in “Make Up, Don’t Break Up” and my Education 2 Go course on Marriage and Relationships: keys to success http://www.ed2go.com/online-courses/marriage-and-relationships. The first and most important thing to decide is that divorce is not an option. This is what I did with my husband of 27 years. Because of that, we work through things differently, with that commitment and love leading the way. Men need to be educated to do the emotional heavy lifting in order to make a relationship last the test of time–it’s what I call “connectable by instruction.” Fair fighting is important! Polite marriages are higher in adultery. Conflict and passion often go hand-in-hand. Sex is important too! Many married couples make the mistake of turning into only a friendship. We need to reawaken those endorphins you experienced when you first fell in love. You can have both, but you need to set aside time for this. It’s key to compartmentalize this from problems, and do not mix the two!
Since”eating healthy ” is the new craze and we want what we can’t have, it’s no wonder that food is being called the new “porn.” Have you seen those Facebook food videos popping up everywhere? They come complete with music to get you in the mood and an “oh yeah” finish! Luckily, many of my female patients can empathize with their partner looking at food porn. Breaking bread together is part of a relationship and these rituals give us memories together. We can connect by cooking together from these recipes. Best of all, there’s no guilt watching food videos like some may experience watching porn and forbidden fruit also gives us a dopamine high.
So, why should women make the first move? Because as my husband of 27 years says, “woman is the guardian of connection. This is how I developed my SmartHeart skills for women and men–with the help of my husband ‘s male advice. Men are connectable by instruction, but need guidelines of GENTLE reliance. This is similar to what Grandma taught me, “let Grandpa think it’s HIS idea.” This is especially helpful for men who are commitment phobic, these skills work and they are tried and true from my courtship with my husband Dr. Jeff. “I did it so can you” is the last chapter in my book, “Make Up, Don’t Break Up.”
The new dating app Bumble was created on the premise of women making the first move and it exemplifies what I’ve been saying for years. Dating skills work best when women make the first move. Testimonials from both my male and female patients using Bumble prove it! Men are more sensitive to rejection than women and have more sensitive egos so they are flattered to be picked by a woman. As women, we do not have to wait for the man to call, see us ,or pursue, since they are likely to procrastinate and feel more comfortable with disconnecting than connecting. My single patients, both female and male, are meeting quality dates through this app without wasting time on incompatible dates. Many singles stop relationships before they start as they are not desensitizing themselves to rejection, the m.o. and yet, kiss of death of dating . Remember when you get frustrated my mother’s advice,”it only takes one.” It may take 76 coffee dates, but take dating seriously, have a sense of humor and remember “it only takes one.” Don’t give up! It’s right around the corner!