There is a reason comedians are popular. It is because they keep things interesting. They make people think about life in different ways. Humor can be a powerful tool when it comes to communication. It helps people to feel comfortable and to breakdown barriers. It helps to make the uncomfortable more easily received.
For people who suffer from social anxiety or have difficulty connecting with others, humor can be a vital tool in getting them to open up. There are plenty of situations in life that are not pleasant, everything from routine physicals at a doctors office to parenting troubles. There is also a lot about this world that is boring but that we have to accept as “facts of life”— car repairs, paying bills, work meetings, the list goes on and on. Humor helps to make all of these things a little easier to take.
Research (Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication) shows that people find it difficult to receive information from someone who has little or no sense of humor. Laughing with another makes people more receptive to new ideas. Humor allows us to approach things that might be otherwise threatening in a non-threatening way.
Recalling a funny memory in times of distress can help provide comfort. Making light of a serious situation to bring a smile to a person’s face can help to bring them back to earth. Lighthearted humor ignites thoughts, opens us up, and grabs our attention. Not to mention, it eases our stress. You could be having the worst day but when you change your thought process to think about the humorous side, things get a little easier.
In therapy, humor helps counselors and clients establish a rapport. It can help to put things into perspective and accept the information we are receiving. Humor encourages further communication.
So, next time you are faced with establishing a boundary or addressing a problem with a coworker, child, spouse, etc. consider using humor to get your point across.
Concerned Client: My husband and I have a blended family. I have three kids and he has two. My children are with us most of the time, while his share time between our home and their mom’s. Lately, my husband has been trying to manage the amount of screen time my kids get when they get home from school. He doesn’t believe they should have any. Instead, he would rather see them do their homework or play outside. He thinks any tablet time is setting them up for bad habits as adults. His kids usually go to their mom’s house after school and they have as much screen time as they like, and he can’t do anything about it.
I am frustrated because I have always let my kids have an hour when they get home to relax and unwind with their tablets. They play games, watch shows, whatever their heart desires. I think it is important that they are allowed this freedom. I feel like my husband is micromanaging my kids because he doesn’t have a say in how his kids spend their time after school. I don’t like it. I don’t think he has a right to step in on this issue. I have always been on board with co-parenting to a point but I feel like my husband is lecturing me on something that I don’t think is a big deal because he can’t say these things to his ex-wife.
What do you think? Am I overreacting?
Mabel: It is hard for kids in these situations. Kids are kids. It doesn’t matter what the adult issues are, his kids might feel like second-class citizens because they see your kids getting screen time and they are not allowed. It is important that you and your spouse try to find a middle ground. Put aside your adult issues and find a way to unify the situation so that all the children have the same rules.
If there is inequality in the household, his kids may not respond to your parenting. They will have the conscious or unconscious impression that you always side with your kids, and your kids are treated better than they are. Screen time might not seem like a big deal, but I am sure to the kids it is a huge issue.
Vulnerability is a tough thing. It means letting down barriers, opening your heart, and showing people who you really are. It is so easy nowadays to hide behind an electronic device. When we don’t show our vulnerability our friendships don’t go as deep. They are more surface-based friendships.
When you allow people to see you when you are up and when you are down and you open up to them honestly about what is going on in your life, what you think about, your concerns, your fears then you begin to create a bond. Being vulnerable strengthens relationships. It is not fake or superficial. It is open, honest, and raw.
Breaking Down Walls
When you start to let down barriers, then those around you also feel comfortable to knock down their walls. Deep down inside we all want someone to share our ups and downs with. We all want someone that we can “tell anything” too. This means being vulnerable. And, it can be scary.
When you are vulnerable it is easier for you to get hurt. When you show your true self it is much easier to feel the pain or the hurt if someone doesn’t agree with your life choices. But allowing yourself to form real bonds with those around you will also allow you to feel supported, loved, respected in your life. It will allow you to form trusting, deep relationships with those around you. You can create your tribe but you first have to stop hiding.
It is easy to hold back and keep others at a distance because of fear of being judged but that makes it hard to form real relationships with others. You need to get intimate with those around you, share those deep dark fears, regrets, and insecurities with the people in your life who can lift you up. These bonds will contribute to your overall happiness. They can last a lifetime if you let them.
It is common for a person who is already being cheated on by their partner to feel like they have a free pass to cheat also. They think it is not really cheating since their partner is already cheating on them. While it might feel like the fair choice, it is still cheating.
Infidelity in any form is a violation of a couple’s relationship agreement. So, yes your partner may have violated that agreement but do you also want to violate this contract? It is about being a bigger person. That (written or unwritten) contract was created because you and your partner had a connection and while that might be on the rocks currently you have to ask yourself which path you want to take. Would you rather contribute to the dysfunction by committing infidelity yourself, or would you rather take the high road and end the relationship with your partner (or take steps to try to fix things) before pursuing other relations?
Infidelity hurts. It creates wounds in relationships that are difficult to heal. But just because someone hurts you does not give you the right to hurt them in return. It might feel good for a minute, like payback or revenge, but in the end, it will only lead to more pain and suffering long term.
Even though your partner did not respect your relationship agreement, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Confront your partner. Have a conversation. Seek counseling to determine next steps. But, don’t stoop to the level that got you into this mess, to begin with. Don’t add insult to injury. Just because you may have been the second one to commit the act, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count.
At some point in our lives, we have all played “the blame game” and we have likely all been victims of that very same game. Placing blame on someone for something that has gone wrong in our lives may might us feel good momentarily but its effects can be detrimental to the relationships in our lives.
It is like the ongoing struggle on the popular television series Friends when Ross and Rachel have the argument over and over again that they were “on a break” when Ross had relations with another woman. It terrorized their relationship up until the very end when they just had to get over it and move on.
Shifting the load
Shifting responsibility takes the load off us. It is easier to say “it is your fault” than it is to accept any personal wrongdoing. Nobody wants to feel bad for something they have done but, the truth is, we all do things at some point that end up being wrong.
Playing the blame game takes control off us. It puts control onto the other person. That person is now responsible for “making it up” to you, for “fixing” what went wrong. We end up feeling victimized and internalizing these feelings and standing firm that the situation will not change. When we blame others we completely let go of ourselves and put it all on other people. It is harmful to our personal relationships and not very good for our personal psyche to always feel like the “victim.”
Instead of blaming others for what has gone wrong in your life, look at the things you have control over. You have the ability to change the outcome. You personally can make adjustments to “repair” things. You just have to focus on what YOU can do. Not others. Stop putting all the weight on other people and instead take a deeper look at yourself. You have the ability to make better choices in the future. You can learn from mistakes. You can accept some responsibility. And, even if it wasn’t your fault at all you can learn to accept that things went wrong and learn from them. Blaming others only causes more harm. It doesn’t lead to any reconciliation.
If you are a person who is fearful of commitment, someone who enjoys being close to others but grows distant when the relationship becomes more emotionally involved, then you might struggle with attachment issues.
Many commitment issues stem from past relationship experiences and/or our attachment to our parents or primary caregivers as children. It all comes down to having our needs met and being confident that if for some reason a relationship doesn’t work out, it’s ok. The good news is even if you are a person who has a hard time moving forward in relationships, there is hope in overcoming these struggles. It just takes some effort on your part.
Moving Forward is Possible
Talk to a therapist. A licensed mental health professional has the proper training to help you move from unhealthy attachment styles to secure attachment. Proper counseling can help to heal the deep wounds that are causing you troubles now. Forming a secure relationship with a therapist can help to increase feelings of security and help make sense of the past.
The first part of overcoming attachment struggles is to identify the problem. You must first understand where these emotions are coming from so you can work to heal them. A therapist who asks the right questions can help you to identify aspects of your childhood that may have led to your current emotional state.
Second, it is important that whoever your partner is has a healthier attachment style. Being with someone who understands what a healthy relationship looks like can further help you to heal by developing more trust in others and how they will respond to your needs. That being said, you don’t need another person to heal, but if you are in a relationship try to choose a healthy one—one that makes you feel good, one that is not full of jealousy and insecurity.
Third, believe in yourself. You do have the ability to move forward and have a happy, committed relationship.
The other day someone asked me how long it should take to get over their divorce?
While I would have loved to give them a simple answer, it is not that cut and dry. The truth is it will take—as long as it takes. Every situation is different. Divorce itself, even if you and your partner agree that the marriage is not working and divorce is the best option, is not easy.
Your marriage ended for any number of reasons that can be hard to accept. Your divorce challenged your innermost voices, it put strain on your self-esteem and turned your entire world upside down. It is not supposed to be an easy thing to recover from. Even if you know in your heart that it was the right choice, it doesn’t mean that you will instantly feel wonderful.
Your Internal Core
When you got married you expected to be with your partner forever. You made a commitment to each other to care in sickness and in health, to stand by each other in times of stress, and to grow old together. Just the mere factor of that not working out is a huge disappointment. It is a major blow to your internal core as a human being.
That is not even taking into account things like children, pets, shared possessions—like homes, cars, etc. You are now faced with figuring out a new normal. If you have children you are likely feeling the strain of their own emotional distress. You are trying to make things as easy as possible on them, while it is hurting you to see them hurt. You may have been forced to move out of your home, split up possessions that may have been of high importance to you, and you may be feeling more financial strain than ever before—divorce is not cheap.
All of these things make getting over such a thing extremely difficult. Don’t try to rush your heart. Instead, take comfort in knowing that you will find that new normal. You will. You will be able to move on. Your kids will be ok. You will find that happiness, that relief, whatever it is that you need. You will. In time. These things take time.
Counseling services are always there for you if you need an extra set of ears to bounce things off of, or if you need guidance in how to move through this major life change.
Boundaries in any relationship — whether between family or a romantic partnership— are extremely important to maintaining a healthy, happy relationship. That being said, there are logical and illogical ways to set a boundary.
Let’s talk about Joan (a fictional client). Joan is very close with her father who lives in another state. They have always talked frequently, sharing news of their days. Joan recently got married and is beginning her life with her significant other, but Joan’s dad’s (we will call him Joe) calls are getting more frequent and are beginning to cause issues in Joan’s marriage. Joe is calling Joan every morning before she goes to work, waking up others in the home, and every evening. He is hurt when she doesn’t answer and begins to worry if she is ok—sending her multiple texts and calling repeatedly. Joe just loves his daughter and misses her, but Joan is feeling smothered and overwhelmed. She is trying to build a new life with her husband and her dad is making it difficult for her to do that. How should she approach this sticky situation?
Joan could call her dad upset and ask him to stop calling her and stop texting her nonstop. She could ignore her feelings and struggles and keep letting the calls come in, while building resentment against her father. These are opposite sides of the spectrum. One is establishing a boundary but in a major, and hurtful, way. The other is failing to set a boundary at all further harming the relationship.
A more logical way to establish a boundary would be to come up with a happy middle ground. She can explain to her dad that the frequent calls are playing a toll on her marriage and instead offer to call her dad on her way home from work a few times a week. She can explain to him that while she still loves him dearly, and he will always be her dad, she also needs to work on her marriage. By setting a boundary like this she is maintaining the integrity of the relationship. Her dad might be disappointed at this news, but he will likely be able to get over it and understand.
Boundaries are all about protecting yourself, your relationships, and living your happiest, healthiest life. If you need help with establishing a boundary, seek help from a licensed mental health professional who can help to guide you.
Just because you are in love does not mean you have to let everything go. Love can—and should—involve boundaries. You and your significant other are still two separate people with different needs, wants, expectations. Boundaries are healthy.
Boundaries often have a bad rap. They can be perceived as pushing away the other or creating distance. That is not the case at all, the healthiest of relationships have boundaries. A relationship isn’t a free ride in another person’s life. It does not entitle one person to treat another a certain way. Establishing boundaries can very much be an act of love. It is a way to get deeper in the intimate details of your significant other’s personality and needs. It is opening the doors of communication and being honest with each other.
Boundaries are a way to love yourself
Boundaries are a way to love yourself, to make strides in your life to take care of you and what you need, and they are also a way of loving another. There is the saying “I love you too much to let you act like that.” Think about your children and when you have had to punish them for hitting a sibling, or stealing from a friend— you are establishing a boundary by telling them you are not ok with that. Similar things can happen in a relationship—maybe you have a partner who frequently takes part in unhealthy behaviors or is short-tempered. By communicating with your partner that these behaviors are things you are not comfortable with and you will not stand by and be part of them then you are doing some good for yourself and for your partner. You want to see them live their best life.
We all have limits
We need each other but we all also have limits. A boundary can be as simple as establishing a time to be by yourself. Maybe after work you are stressed and just need to unwind in quiet, so you lock yourself away to watch a few minutes of TV or read a book and you ask your partner to leave you be during that time. Maybe you have a longstanding tradition with a family member that is special and your significant other suddenly wants to be part of it, and you explain that this is something that is important to you and this family member—a tradition of sorts. Maybe its a food that you don’t like and you ask your partner not to prepare that item for you personally any more. Or maybe it is down to how your clothes are folded or a chore around the house is performed. If you are not ok with it, it is ok to tell the other person to leave it be and you will take care of it.
When setting boundaries with your partner be calm, open your heart and mind to what they have to say, and establish greater respect for both yourself and him/her/they. When we keep our mouths shut and just “go with it,” or try to be “above” by not saying anything we are quietly building up resentment that will eventually explode into an argument or even the end of the relationship. Before things get to that point, speak your concerns, let your partner know what you need and acknowledge that they also have needs.
What are some boundaries you have set with a partner?
If you find yourself in a situation where you are deciding between two guys, then you are not into either of them. A decision like this should be an easy one if you have true feelings.
It is like what Marie Kondo is teaching about the tidying up your home, does this spark joy? If neither guy stands out as one that sparks joy in your life then you shouldn’t be choosing between either. You should be moving on, looking elsewhere.
Look for Joy
The concept is a simple one, if it is not a “hell yes” then it is a “no.” When we are talking about relationships, sharing your time and your life with another, you should feel good about it. It should enhance your life. It shouldn’t be a “well maybe I like this person.” Life is short, too short to not be with the people who light up your world. You should be spending time with people that leave you craving to spend more time with them.
Just because you have someone pining over you, doesn’t mean you have to go for it with them. Think about yourself and what your subconscious is telling you. Listen. Chances are there is a part of you that already knows the right decision and if it has to be a decision at all, then drop it.
Find happiness, the rest will fall into place
There are lots of people out there in the world and you will find the one who makes you feel great in your own skin. I understand the frustration that women get as they struggle to be single and the rush they feel to jump into relationships. But, why waste your time on something that doesn’t make you happy? You shouldn’t be settling because you feel a rush to get married or have children or create that nuclear family, you should be happy. You deserve to be happy. The rest will fall into place.