Category Archives: Relationship

My daughter thinks another girl is pretty: Part 2

As mentioned in Part 1 of this series, my five-year-old daughter thinks another girl is pretty. She decided she wanted to give her a pretty plastic ring, so she made her a card and put the ring on it. 

During the process, my daughter said she was embarrassed and “scared.” She said a few of her female friends were making comments like “eww, that girl isn’t that pretty anyway” and “I am weird.” It doesn’t surprise me that female competition is beginning to start at her age. Child and adolescent psychologist Katie Hurley describes in her book No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident and Compassionate Girls the trend of toxic female competitiveness that is creeping down from high school, and starting as young as grade school. She offers many reasons for this, citing busy schedules, rise in stress and anxiety levels, and increased pressure for children to do well in sports and extracurriculars.

Girls uplifting other girls

I responded to my daughter’s concerns over giving this card to her friend, by telling her “we can show people we like them in many ways.” I told her, “girls can think another girl is pretty. And girls can uplift another girl.” Her twin sister also supported her, the best any five-year-old can. She also made the girl a card that said: “my sister thinks you are pretty and wants to give you a ring.” Afterwards, the twin quietly told me she doesn’t care if girls are not “suppose” to like girls, she loves her sister anyway. I told her, “we can like people in many ways. We are just going to send nice words to uplift another girl! Cool, right?!”

We, adults, have a lot to learn from young children about loving and not judging each other. We are conditioned to compete with our peers. We draw on our insecurities and instead of turning them into positives, we put other women down. We are not being uplifting because we are afraid of other women being more successful, prettier, “bigger” than us. We need to dig deep inside and find that inner strength to uplift each other. Us, women, we need each other. We need the support from others, the kindness, the acceptance. We should be helping each other to feel good about ourselves, instead of doing the exact opposite. 

How do you uplift the women around you?

More on Hurley: https://www.thestar.com/life/relationships/opinion/2018/02/08/why-girls-are-getting-meaner-younger.html

It is ok to say “no” :set boundaries from the beginning

Your friend calls and asks you if you are able to help work the table at the school fair next week. You think about it and despite the fact that you will have to rearrange your schedule, and squeeze this event between two others, thus leaving no time for you to make it to your weekly yoga class, you still say “yes.” A few days go by and you are dreading it. On the day of, you start to get really disappointed that you have to miss that yoga class, so you cancel on your friend. You tell your friend something came up, or you aren’t feeling too great, and you back out. 

Reevaluate your boundaries

If situations like this are a common occurrence in your life, you may want to take a step back and reevaluate your boundaries. 

You don’t always have to be a people-pleaser. It is ok to say “no.” It is ok to disappoint a friend or a family member by turning down a request. It is ok to set boundaries. Rather than always saying “yes” just to say “yes” and make everyone happy—while really hurting yourself— set boundaries from the beginning. You don’t need an excuse or a reason to say “no.” If you just don’t feel like it, then don’t do it. Saying “no” from the beginning will save time and stress for everyone later when you inevitably back out or are unhappy for participating. 

While in your head you are disappointing those around you for not doing everything they ask, you are actually displaying strength and confidence. Your ability to understand your needs and to take the steps to set a boundary will most likely be respected by your friends or family. And, so what if it is not. You have to do what is best for you, and the people in your life will eventually understand. Plus, no one wants to be seen as a flake. Rather than always having that appearance, take the right steps from the beginning—and save yourself the stress. No one is perfect, and no one can do it all ALL the time. 

Do you say sorry too much?

When disagreements occur, are you quick to jump in and say “I am sorry”? Even when you might not really be sorry. Maybe you don’t even think you did anything wrong, or maybe you were upset by something the other person said or did but rather than addressing it, you say “sorry.”

It is possible to say “sorry” too much. It can be a quick way to get out of conflict, to avoid the disagreement from extending into another. It is avoidant and it is not healthy. 

Conflict isn’t bad.

Every relationship has some kind of conflict. It is healthy and helps your relationship to grow and strengthen when handled in a constructive way. By constantly apologizing, even when you don’t really mean it, you are creating unhealthy boundaries. You are not addressing things that might be a problem for you. You are not airing your grievances and in turn are likely building resentment. And, you are showing the person you are in conflict with that you can be walked on because you won’t stand up for yourself.

By immediately saying “sorry” you are closing the door to the discussion. You are eliminating the space to make changes that could help you feel happier and help your relationship. 

It is common for people who are not confident in conflict-resolution skills to apologize too much. It becomes a knee-jerk reaction. But, the best way to improve those skills is to try them out and gain confidence. Not only will discussion help to strengthen and grow your relationships, but it will also help you to feel better about yourself.

The first step to ending the cycle of the chronic apologizer is to first recognize and acknowledge it is a problem. Then next time you are faced with conflict don’t jump to the apology, instead take the time to share your side, express your needs and your feelings. You won’t regret it, and even if it doesn’t go as well as you would have hoped at least you are making strides in the right direction. 

Keeping private things private

John (a fictional client) speaks up during a couples therapy session, saying Maria (a fictional client) is not respecting him. He says he feels exposed, embarrassed. I ask him why he has such feelings. He explains to me that he found out Maria was talking to her girlfriends about his sexual issues. 

Unfortunately, John is not the first client that has expressed concern over his, or her, significant other talking about sexual issues to friends or family. The bottom line when it comes to maintaining integrity, respect, trust in a relationship is you have to keep the private stuff private. There is an intimacy in relationships—that is what makes them so special—and as the partner in that relationship it is important to keep whatever happens in the bedroom to yourself.

Sexual issues go to the core of our being. They have the ability to unravel us. They are sensitive, and so very personal. Respect that. If something is happening in the bedroom that you feel is a problem, speak to a counselor about it. They will keep it a secret. They will maintain that integrity and keep that information safe. They will help you process it without the backlash. When you talk to friends of family about sexual issues it completely exposes that person in a way they may never come back. It is almost like walking into a room completely naked. How would you feel?

We expect our friends and family to keep a secret, but the truth is we are all human. Things come up. We talk about things that we find “juicy” or revealing. Maybe we do it in a way where we think no one is harmed but usually, eventually, that information goes full circle. And the result can be a lot of pain. It is hurtful to feel like someone you don’t want to know, knows some of your most private information. It makes the person feel judged. It makes them feel just plain awful. 

When John told me his story, I asked Maria how she felt. She told me she didn’t think he would find out, that she was just gabbing with the girls. There is information that is ok to gab about —like that argument over how his clothes were folded or him staying out with his friends late — but the stuff that happens sexually needs to stay personal, private, and hold the upmost respect. While it can be hard to do in a social situation, I encourage clients to always think about how the other person might feel if they found out before they share the information. 

Men need couples counseling too

Susan (a fictional client) tells me she is not feeling in love with her husband anymore. She tells me she feels like he does not want to be around her, they don’t spend time together, he doesn’t show her affection anymore, she is worried the spark is gone. She wants to work though things in counseling, and she feels she is reaching a “tipping point.” She asks her husband to attend counseling with her, and he refuses. He won’t give it a second thought. I hear it all the time as a counselor. 

Why do guys do this?

Men may believe the therapist and spouse are going to gang up on them, especially in the case where a therapist is a woman. While an understandable concern, this is the opposite of what counseling is about. In couples counseling, we work to honor both partners and to foster a bridge in communication. We work on communicating in a healthy way—both couples have a chance to share and be heard. 

Couples counseling benefits both parties, and it can only work if the guy is present too. It takes both sides to repair the relationship. Despite what some might be concerned about, couples counseling is about leveling the playing field. It is about giving the relationship a safe space to air concerns and help the couple to come up with effective solutions. Couples counseling is separate from individual counseling, so if the wife is already seeing a counselor at the office she will see a different one with her spouse. This way there is for sure a level field. 

Counseling can be a great resource for couples. It helps them to gain insight into why they might be acting in a certain way. It helps to open the doors of communication—which in many cases has been bolted shut. It helps to guide couples to solutions they can both accept, and to decide what their future together looks like. Ultimately in situations where both couples are invested in improving the atmosphere of their home, counseling helps to grow their bond. 

It is ok to need help, the first step is admitting that you could use a little guidance and the rest will come in time. 

We are here to help. 

You can read more about our couples counseling services at  http://womenstherapyinstitute.com/couples-counseling/

How to fight well

It might sound funny—fighting well. I mean, isn’t fighting something you just shouldn’t do, something that should be avoided, how do you do it “well?” 

Fighting in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is an effort to make yourself heard, to voice your unhappiness at a situation, and it can be a time to grow and learn. But there are good ways to approach fighting, and ways that are hurtful and harmful to your relationship. You have the ability to build a bridge through communication, or you could build a wall. 

THE WALL OR THE BRIDGE

A bridge is built when both parties have a level playing field. They each have a chance to contribute to the situation, and the argument is not all about one person putting the other person down. When you build a bridge, you uplift each other, you work as a team in the midst of your argument. For example, a husband and wife are fighting over all the housework and not being able to get it done. The wife wants more help from the husband and the husband doesn’t think the wife notices what he is doing to help. In most arguments, both parties have contributed, in some way, to the problem. Maybe the husband needs some thanks and appreciation from the wife to feel like his efforts are being noticed, and the wife needs the husband to acknowledge that he should be stepping in to help. The key to building a bridge is being able to disagree and come back together as a team. No one gets along all the time, and people are not supposed to. By working together to correct the problem, you will strengthen your bond.

On the other side of the spectrum, a bridge cannot be built when one side is higher than the other. This creates a wall. If arguments, or fights, frequently turn into one person putting the other person down or having a “I did not nothing wrong” approach, a wall is being established. When a wall is built communication is cut off. The person who feels “lower” than the other will likely stop trying to communicate, they won’t want to come to an agreement because they feel they are in a hostile environment. Chances are that person will want to get away from the situation altogether because who wants to feel like they are on an uneven playing field. If you find yourself in the process of building a wall, take a step back. That might mean it is a good time to take a walk and continue the argument later. Think things through and come back to the table when you are ready to open your ears to both sides of the story. 

Fighting is part of human nature. It can be good and healthy for a relationship if done fairly. It is not easy but if you focus your energy on building a bridge—instead of a wall—you will strengthen your relationship.

Cyber Cheating: What to do

With the rise of the digital age “cheating” has taken on a new form. Now more than ever husbands and wives are catching their spouses having romantic interactions online. Cyber cheating has many forms including chatting with an ex through social media, watching porn, sexual or romantic online chatting with a stranger, using dating apps to chat with others but not hooking up outside of the app, and sexting. 

To the guilty party it might not seem like they are actually cheating because they aren’t meeting up with the people they are interacting with online, but to the one being affected, it still hurts. Cyber cheating is still a form of betrayal, dishonesty, and still has the ability to ruin a marriage. It is common for the cheating person to deny what they are doing as cheating, and to come up with excuses such as “if life wasn’t so stressful,” “if I got enough sex,” “I am only flirting,” or “it means nothing.”

What do you do if you catch your spouse cyber cheating?

No matter how you discovered your spouse cheating, the first thing you need to do is talk to he/she about it. If there are kids in the house, choose a time when they are asleep or get a sitter and go somewhere where you can be uninterrupted. Talk to your spouse. Tell them what you saw and ask them to explain. Tell them how it makes you feel. You need to lay out the details, and then  take some time to think. You need to decide if there is a way to go on. What do you want? What would make you feel better? 

There is no easy fix. Recovering from an affair is a major hurdle for any couple. The intense feelings of betrayal, hurt, and distrust can linger long after the affair has ended. This is a great time to seek the help of a licensed counselor to help talk things out and determine what works emotionally for each of you. A counselor can help you to evaluate your relationship with a clearer lense. 

How to be in a happy relationship

Frequently I have clients ask me how to be in a happy relationship. Usually, after much discussion, we come up with the solution to a happy relationship as not being “obliviously comfortable.” The idea is you need to be your authentic self, comfortable in your skin, having the freedom to truly and deeply be you, but you also need to tune-in to your partner. 

A relationship is typically composed of two people, not just one. So you can’t be happy if you are not thinking about the other person. It is just not possible. That means being mindful, not oblivious, to their thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, and who they are as an authentic self. You can’t expect them to change to conform to you, although some of being in-tuned to your partner is making sacrifices. There is a difference between sacrificing and making adjustments for your significant other, and changing who you are. 

Being in-tune with your partner

You need to be comfortable to be happy, but that does not mean you will never be uncomfortable…if you get my drift. You need to be able to be you, to feel safe to be you, to not have to hide your inner being, but that does not mean never adjusting to please your significant other. It takes work from both sides to be happy. For example, a wife dislikes sports and a husband dislikes going to concerts but the two of them would like to start doing things together more often. They aren’t getting the quality time they need. So, they make a deal. The wife will go to a sports game or watch a game on TV with her spouse so they can have time together, and the husband will agree to attend a concert with the wife. It is a small sacrifice for the good of the relationship. 

Another example might be the wife gets up early every day to run while the husband chooses to hit the snooze button a 1000 times before rolling out of bed. Instead of making a lot of racket when getting out of bed, the wife gets out quietly and is respectful of the husband. It is about being in-tune with her husband’s need to get more sleep. There are many many examples, but the bottom line is you can’t be happy in a relationship without effort from both sides. You need to open your eyes, your ears, and your senses. No one is the exact same, we all do things a little differently.

 

Connecting with loved ones at bedtime: It is good for your health

A healthy bedtime routine with the people we love can be a smart way to close off the day. To let go of stress, and rest peacefully.

Whether it is cuddles with a child, a bedtime kiss, laughing and talking with a spouse, feeling physically or emotionally connected to those we love can decrease cortisone levels and stress-related health risks. It is a routine that everyone in the home can look forward to, and it is a nice way to put some finality into the day…to know you are not alone in this busy life, and tomorrow is a new day. 

A psychological scientist at Wayne State University explored the link between cortisol levels—also known as the stress hormone—and physical health. Cortisol is present in nearly every cell of the body, impacting learning, memory, and emotion. It also helps to regulate the immune system. The scientist Richard Slatcher found the more connected to their relationships people felt, the healthier cortisol levels they had. 

A Healthy Bedtime Routine

Some ideas for a healthy bedtime routine may include:

1.) Exchanging “I love you’s.” This is a good habit to get into because as much as we feel we don’t need to always say it, it helps to hear it and know your children or spouse mean it. It is healthy for everyone. 

2.) Go to bed at the same time as your spouse. This provides time to reconnect, even if only for a few minutes. It is time where it is just the two of you. Even if it is a few exchanges about your day or some more intimate cuddle time, maybe a laugh or two, it is a good healthy habit and keeps you both on the same page. 

3.)Unplug. Bed is not the place for your phone or laptop. Leave that stuff at the door. This is time for your marriage, for your children. 

4.) Prioritize getting a good nights rest. Try to go to bed at an early enough time to get ample sleep. Better sleep means better mental and physical health, and better handling of stressful situations. 

5.) Don’t try to settle arguments. The old saying “don’t go to bed angry” is not always true. Not everything has to be fixed before getting some shut-eye. In some cases, it can be better to get some good rest and then reassess in the morning when you are refreshed and focused. 

6.) Take a few minutes to practice gratitude. Think about one good thing that happened in your day and share it with your spouse or your kids. It will leave the day on a happy note and improve overall mental health. 

Judgment Vs. Feedback: How to tell the difference

We often get upset when people tell us things about ourselves. We get defensive, we hold it in, we let it fester, and internalize our feelings. But, is it always bad? There is a difference between being judged by others and getting constructive feedback.

Feedback is usually given by people who have a positive relationship with you, they care about you—maybe it is your mom telling you to stop letting your child sleep in bed with you. It might feel like a judgment but really it is because she cares for you and your child and wants you to get rest and have a healthy relationship with your spouse. Or maybe a friend doesn’t think your hair looks good a certain way. Maybe he/she is trying to be helpful because they know how beautiful you were with a different style.

Judgment is often unkind

Judgment, on the other hand, is not about caring for one another and is often unkind. It is often people that don’t really know you and are just making statements they have no right making. It is the random person sitting next to at McDonald’s telling you to keep your kid quiet, not because you aren’t trying to care for your kid but because the person is annoyed. It is the man at the grocery store eye-balling you for reprimanding your child because he doesn’t agree with how you handled things, but it is not his business.

Feedback is the stuff we should take a few minutes to think about and if we don’t agree that is fine, but don’t let it eat you up inside. Judgment is the stuff you should let go of because it is not in your best interest and has nothing to do with genuine care for your health or that of your family’s. It is the stuff that is out of place and unnecessary.

Regardless, it is never a healthy habit to hold our emotions in and let them stew over time. That just makes you unhappy, increases stress levels, and doesn’t solve the problem. If you need help distinguishing between feedback and judgment, talk it out. Talk to a friend, a counselor, a family member. Express your feelings, don’t let them eat you up inside.