Saturday, July 31, 2010

Blogger Update

I would like to apologize to my loyal blog readers and to all of my new daily visitors for the lack of posting lately.  I am in the process of moving and things have been a little hectic.

I am resuming my normal posting schedule, so keep coming back to the site for exciting relationship content.

Thanks and keep reading!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is It Time To Clean Your Relationship Closet?

Although it is not currently Spring, it is never too early or too late to do a bit of relationship "Spring Cleaning".  Are there people in your life who should not be there?  Should you try to repair toxic relationships or move on?  

Here is an article that will help to tidy your relationship closet. 

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Dating Your Spouse/Partner

People have a natural tendency to stop dating each other when they enter into a serious relationship.  They become comfortable with one another.  They decrease (or end) many of the behaviors which got them into the relationship in the first place.  With such common practice, it is no wonder why many are unfulfilled in long-term committed relationships.

Why do relationships change over time?  
Sage advice from my mother - "Do only those things in a relationship that you can/will continue in the long run." This statement resonates an important feature for most relationships.  If someone was worth the effort during the chase, why are they no longer worth the effort once they are caught?  

Research on conflict between couples highlights the loss of behavioral patterns that existed during courtship.  Couples who have been married for many years no longer act like newlyweds.  

They may rarely:

  • Express genuine affection (hugs, kisses, love play)
  • Show how much they appreciate each other (love notes, doing things for no reason)
  • Display joy when they see each other (especially after being apart for some time)
  • Work on their friendship (ask about goals, dreams, desires)
  • Date (go out without children, share new experiences)
  • Share positive feelings
  • Surrender to let the other person win
  • See sex as a fun activity instead of a chore
  • Make their relationship a priority

Relationships are NOT EASY and they require HARD work full of emotion, thought, and action. This is especially true for long-term relationships.  Effort must continue throughout and it must be reciprocal with both continuing to woo each other (even if at different times) and not take each other for granted.  These are the things that make the beginning of relationships exciting and gratifying. 

How to continue dating your spouse/partner:
  1. Practice the bulleted behaviors above 
  2. Work on the Marriage Plan (even if you are not married) as a couple
  3. Follow John Gottman's Magic Five Hours and the 5 to 1 Ratio of Couple Interactions
  4. Enjoy each other!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Making Your Connections Authentic

I am now a guest blogger over at Stop Stressing Now, a website providing life-changing information to decrease stress and increase overall well-being.  To introduce my new authentic blogging relationship, I would like to refer you to an enlightening article on measuring your life's connections.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tips For Improving Your Body Image

Body image refers to how we perceive our bodies, the control we feel over our body, and how we compare ourselves to others.  Our body image is not constant, it fluctuates on a spectrum between positive and negative.  Those with a positive body image have a realistic understanding of the size, shape and function of their bodies.  Others who have a distorted view and are anxious, shameful or guilty about their bodies struggle with a negative body image.

Approximately 80% of women and 50% of men report being dissatisfied with some part of their bodies.  Men and women differ as to to which body part causes the most concern:

Female complaints
  • Breasts
  • Thighs
  • Stomach
  • Nose
  • Arms                                                                                                                                                         
Male complaints
  • Hairline
  • Stomach
  • Nose
  • Breasts

Most of us face some kind of dissatisfaction with our bodies at least once in a lifetime.  It is normal to have occasional doubts or slight issues with our appearance.  Problems develop when people have more bad days than good and experience  consistent stress and worry about their bodies. 

For those who do struggle with a negative body image, here are some tips to encourage a more authentic view of self:

Concentrate on your genes, NOT your jeans 
Not all of us were meant to be a size 0 and weigh 115 lbs.  A small frame will forever remain an unattainable goal for some.  Take into account the structure of your body (i.e., bones, muscle mass, where you carry weight) and assess your family members to determine what is possible for your body.  

Focus on health 
Instead of striving to be thin or to look like someone else, make being healthy your goal.  Regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep will increase your metabolism and make you feel better about yourself.

Accentuate the positive
Instead of focusing on what is wrong, celebrate what is right.  What are the things that you do well? Highlighting positive qualities increases your mood which indirectly affects how you look and how you think you look.

Get a support system
Surround yourself with positive people.  Increase the time spent with those who validate you and who have a positive image of themselves.  Limit your exposure to toxic people who put you down and make you feel bad.

Say NO to negative images
Limit your exposure to media that values and promotes an unhealthy ideal.  Magazines, movies, and commercials can subconsciously make you feel bad and critical of your body.  For example,  when I watch t.v. I do not watch commercials.  I take this time to check the weather, get something from another room, or send a quick text message.  

All of these can help to slowly turn your negative body image into a more positive one.  They are also good for those with a positive image, in helping them keep up the good work.


Friday, July 16, 2010

What's Good for the Goose Is Good for the...Cougar

Demi Moore & Ashton Kutcher - 15 year age difference

Men dating women that are considerable younger than them is a widely accepted phenomenon in our society.  Although some scoff at these relationships, most are accustomed to seeing these types of May/December romances.  Many relationships like this exist as women are more likely to practice the "marriage gradient", a tendency to date/marry up with regard to income, height, weight, education level and age.  

Now the tables are turning and we are seeing more and more women dating younger men.  In fact, many women are now reporting that they prefer to date younger men.  AARP The Magazine conducted an online survey of people 40-69 and found that for women: 

  • 35% complain about male baggage
  • 23% did not know where to meet men and were meeting too few men
  • 2% said sex on the first date is okay
  • 35% prefer to date younger men 
Nick Cannon & Mariah Carey - 11 year age difference  

Increasing numbers of women dating younger men has not alleviated the stigma associated with this type of relationship.  It appears that women have more of an issue than men when discussing a relationship between an older woman and a younger man.  Attributing to this are stereotypes explaining why younger men would enter into such a relationship.  Younger men must be/have a:

The Mommy Complex:
The younger man is in need of a caretaker and dates older women as they are more domestic, nurturing, and caring.

Gigolo Joe:
A man will woo an older woman in the hopes of getting her retirement, pension, or insurance money.
Secret Lover:
Secretly he is sexually attracted to older women and is addicted to dating them.

Second Time Around:
Most men lose their virginity to an older women.  Therefore, men who date older women are seeking to relive their first experience.

These stereotypes do not define most older woman/younger man relationships.  With increasing longevity, men and women see themselves as sexual beings for a longer period of time.  Divorce, not death of a spouse, is more older adults to enter into the dating scene.  Also, women, reaching their sexual peak later in life, are exploring different options and obviously having fun while doing it!  

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Using 7 C's to Be More Authentic

Lately, my mother has been reciting phrases (which include a series of C-words) when talking about situations that she has no control over.  These phrases help her focus, regain her personal rights and be able to say no when confronted with the thoughts or behavior of others.  I found these to be very enlightening and will include them below.

When you find yourself in a situation that you cannot control, tell yourself:
  1. I didn't CAUSE it.
  2. I can't CURE it.
  3. I can't CONTROL it.
  4. I can help CARE for myself by COMMUNICATING my feelings,
  5. Making healthy CHOICES,
  6. And by CELEBRATING myself.
These are coping mechanisms from the National Association for Children of Alcoholics to combat fault and guilt found in children of alcoholics.  In my opinion, we all can adapt these statements to increase our coping with difficult people, stressful situations, and everyday issues that we cannot control.

Recite these everyday until they are memorized, then refer to them in times of need.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Truth About Infidelity (part 4) - Risk During Marriage

Infidelity is more likely to occur during certain points in a marriage than others.  External pressures, stress, illness, even changes in society can affect a couples' risk for infidelity.

Risk of infidelity increases:

    After the 1st year of marriage
    Once the "honeymoon" period is technically over, marital couples settle   
    into everyday life with each other. Routines are established, partners become  
    comfortable, and the "lovely-dovey"  newlywed behavior is gone.  Many couples 
    do not continue to date and/or maintain pre-marital interactions that strengthen 
    their relationship.

    Once the first child is born
    Children bring joy and excitement to a marriage.  For first-time parents, the 
    worry and stress associated with parenting takes their focus off of the marital 
    relationship.  The child becomes the most important thing in the family.  Not able to 
    effectively deal with parental stress, couples' can increase their risk for divorce.

    Between year 5 and year 7
    Called the "seven year itch", this period occurs when daily routines and focus on children 
    can decrease the friendship, respect and love which once existed in the relationship.    
    Partners may look outside of the relationship for the excitement they felt during dating or 
    the first year of marriage.

    Middle age 
    There is some debate as to the validity of the "midlife crisis", in which individuals attempt 
    to recapture their youth.  What is true is that during this period, many evaluate their lives 
    and whether or not they reached long-term goals.  This process of change can cause stress 
    and conflict within the relationship increasing risk for divorce.  Also, as people are living 
    longer, more and more choose to live their final 30-40 years with someone new.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Finding Your Relationship Deal-Breakers

Deal-breakers are those things (character traits, lifestyle choices, behavior, etc.) in a relationship that can end the relationship.  Some people have very specific deal-breakers and others have general ways of evaluating whether or not they will continue a relationship.  

Common relationship deal-breakers:

  • Domestic violence 
  • Infidelity
  • Change in sexual orientation
  • Criminal activity
  • Substance abuse
  • Poor financial habits
  • Dishonesty
  • Undesirable personality traits
    • i.e., anger, jealousy, uncleanliness, conceit, etc.
It is a good idea to know your deal-breakers BEFORE entering into a relationship.  Upon meeting a potential mate, stick to your deal-breakers and DO NOT excuse them or assume your mate will eventually change. 

Steps to identifying your own relationship deal-breakers:

    Make a list 
    Write down all the things you can think of that you CANNOT tolerate in a     
    relationship.  This may take some time as it requires thinking of situations  
    that you have and have not experienced.  Get inspired by others using 
    situations from friends and family, and examples from the media.

    Revise your list 
    Most of us have just a few true deal-breakers.  The rest of our lists would 
    include dislikes, or traits we would rather not have to deal with.  But 
    remember that authentic relationships require work.  Our loved ones have 
    flaws, as do we, therefore many unwanted behaviors will not be deal-

    Follow your list
    Accepting or ignoring deal-breakers will inevitably lead to relationship 
    dissatisfaction.  No relationship is worth overlooking your deal-breakers 
    no matter how attractive, nice, or attentive a someone may be. 

If you have already established your deal-breakers, please comment and let us know what they are.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Things You Should NOT Do on a First Date

Dating rules are driven by societal norms, popular trends, and even advances in technology. Although the specifics may change with each generation, common standards exist and should be followed.

On a first date, DO NOT:

  1. Talk about your ex or other past relationships: This should be self-explanatory, but many make this mistake.  Spending time discussing a past love may send the message that you are not over them and/or not into your current date.  If you are asked by your date, simply say, "We were just not right for each other" and change the subject.  
  2. Play with your cell phone: Resist the urge to text/call others (except for emergencies), update Facebook or Twitter, check stock portfolios, or play a newly downloaded game.  Being nervous, disinterested or disrespectful does not send a good first impression.  If the date is so bad that you want to do these things, end it and enjoy the rest of your day/night.
  3. Go to the movies: Sitting in the dark for 2 hours is not a good way to get to know someone.  It is a common dating option, but there are betters ways to spend time with someone new.
  4. Refer to yourself in the 3rd person: A technique right out of a bad 80s "B" movie, there is no quicker way to turn someone off.  
  5. MEN - Refuse to pay: Just because it's 2010, doesn't mean that acting like Prince Charming is passé.  It is customary, and has been for centuries, that the man pays for the first date.  And ladies...expect this to happen and let it happen.  Most guys report they expect to pay and feel it is their duty.       
  6. WOMEN - Choose a salad if you usually order steak: A mistake many women make in an attempt to portray a dainty, health conscious image.  Men would rather date a woman who is not afraid to eat and does not obsess over every calorie.
  7. Arrive late (unless you let them know): Ever heard the saying, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression"?  Being late is a good way to show someone how much you care...about yourself!
  8. Take them to meet your friends or family: This one is easy and everyone knows it right? No. You would be amazed how often this happens.  A strong connection and feeling like you've known this person forever makes it okay to break this rule.  If you believe that, then you are just as crazy as they are.  Run Forrest Run!
  9. Drink too much: Unless you want to look like you have an addiction, embarrass yourself, or put yourself at risk for bad behavior (and the unwanted consequences), stick to a two drink maximum.
  10. Forget to tell someone of your plans: Dating is fun, but it can also be dangerous. Men and women should tell someone their whereabouts, so it is okay to break rule #2 if plans change.
I am sure there are many more first date no-nos, and would love to hear your suggestions.    


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Color Red and Attractiveness

Recent research suggests the color red can influence male perception of a female attractiveness.  Not only did male college students rate women in red as more attractive, they would also spend more money if on a date with her.

Read the article here: Red Means...Go

Dating An Ex

Are you thinking of getting back with your ex?  

When is it okay to give an ex another shot?  

Many have entertained this idea at least once in life.  Do I give them another chance or not? 
This decision is confusing as some chose to rekindle lost love while others decide a new partner is best.  Relationship experts are also split on this topic with some encouraging second chances and others forbidding them.  As the circumstances and players vary, it is difficult to say which choice will be best in all situations.  But, I am going out on a limb here and give concrete examples of when you should and should not date an ex.  
The relationship ended due to bad timing
Over our objections, life can move us in many different directions.  Job and educational opportunities, military service, and family emergencies can force us to leave a loved one behind.   If your relationship was interrupted due to circumstances beyond your control, consider giving it another shot.  Most likely in these situations, there were not any negative emotional consequences and your relationship with the ex is at least civil.  Reconnecting with this type of ex can also be fun and exciting!  It is like eating dessert can skip the meal and head straight to good stuff.  

All other reasons for a break-up should bear a warning sign.  If your relationship ended because of commitment issues, infidelity, lack of communication, immaturity, outside interference, or other factors which should have been dealt with during the relationship...keep on moving!

Remember, an ex is an ex for a reason.     

Monday, July 5, 2010

Women and The Toilet Seat

It amazes me how many married couples argue about the position of the toilet seat. During my years as a marriage and family therapist, I worked with couples on a wide variety of relationship issues.  Regardless of what brought them into therapy, I would consistently hear complaints that began with a late night in a dark bathroom, ending with an angry wife who had a cold, wet bottom.  

Wives would become irate and wanted to understand how their intelligent, well-read husbands could not grasp a concept so simple as putting the toilet seat down.  Arguments would go on and on about this trivial (yes, I said trivial) issue often resulting in someone calling names and insulting someone else's intelligence.  

I have always thought that conversations like these are a huge waste of time because they:
     1. Do not get at the real issue causing the conflict (lack of communication,        
         feelings disrespected, etc.)
     2. Only encourage the behavior.  Constantly complaining to your spouse  
         gets similar results as doing the same to children - disregard and 

Any of you who know me, know that I am a big fan of the work of Dr. John Gottman.  In his 35+ years of studying the interactions of couples, he has found that marital problems fall into one of two categories: solvable and perpetual.

Solvable problems
As the name implies, these problems have a solution, they can be fixed.  Although these problems are quite simple in nature, they tend to cause a good bit of conflict in the relationship.  
Examples: household chores, toilet seat positioning, childcare duties, finances, etc.

Perpetual problems
The overwhelming majority of marital problems (70%) do not have a quick fix.  They are based on personality characteristics, personal beliefs, and those things about us that are not easily changed.  Couples will remain in conflict about these issues for years.
Examples: sex, childrearing tactics, religion, politics, in-laws 

Perpetual problems require more work, understanding, and compromise than solvable problems.  Yet, couples choose to argue about the solvable problems instead of trying to fix them.  It was my job as a therapist to encourage them to fix the solvable ones which allowed more time and energy for us to focus on the perpetual ones in therapy. 

So, back to the toilet seat.  Ladies, let it go!  I mean, how hard it is to look before you sit? Not to let the guys off the hook here, but you must pick your battles.  I would much rather have a husband who consistently leaves the toilet seat up than a Tiger Woods, Jesse James, Ike Turner, or Bernie Madoff wannabe.  

The bottom line (pun intended) here - Isn't a cold, wet bottom worth the valuable time spent working on perpetual issues in your relationship?  If your answer is no, you may need to seek the help of a divorce attorney...once you dry off.

Cohabitation: Marital Test-Drive or Highway to Divorce?

In today's society cohabitation is seen by many as a just another step in the dating process.  You meet someone, date for a while, move in together, get married, have kids...
While others hold to religious, moral, or personal views of cohabitation as sinful or an alternative to traditional marriage.  

Is choosing to live together before or instead of getting married better?  With most other major life decisions there is a trial run.  We get to test drive a car, inspect a house, visit a college all before making major decisions.  Can it be possible to do the same with a partner without living together?  First, let's look at some interesting facts about cohabitation.   

Researchers have conducted numerous studies and many statistics abound on the prevalence, success and length of cohabitating relationships:  

  • First marriages last longer than cohabiting relationships 
  • 65% of cohabiting couples transition to marriage within 5 years
  • 52% of non-marital births occur in cohabiting unions
  • Cohabiting couples report lower levels of relationship quality and lower income
  • Cohabitation increases risk for divorce
  • Age is also factor
    • People 18-19 are more likely to live together
    • People 25-44 are more likely to marry

Cohabitation appears to have negative outcomes in comparison to marriage.  But, there are other ways to "test drive" living with a partner without actually living with them.
Taking an extended vacation (especially a cruise) can reveal a partner's living habits.  Rotating "sleep-overs" throughout the week gives an opportunity to see one another in their natural habitat.  Also, premarital counseling can identify possible areas of future concern that could surface when two people reside in the same household.      

In light of the statistics, is it a good idea to take your partner for a "test drive" before making a lifelong commitment?  

Source: (CDC) Marriage and Cohabitation in the U.S.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Male-Female Friendships

Friends of the opposite sex can bring a lot to our lives.  They give us a glimpse into how the "other half lives."  They can give us advice into how men or women are thinking and how we should respond in certain situations.

Common men in a woman's life:
The Guy We'd Never...
This guy is funny, intelligent and you feel totally comfortable around him.  He is like a brother and you do not see him in a romantic light whatsoever.  But could you...

Secret Love
There is something about this guy that is irresistible.  Although you value his friendship, you would say yes before he could even ask you for a date.

The "Will" to our "Grace"
Every contemporary diva needs a "Will" to balance her life.  This guy may fit the stereotypical image of a gay man or he may not.  Either way he brings a certain "je ne sais quoi" to the relationship that is refreshing!

Midnight Cowboy
An ex or someone you've never had a real relationship with for many reasons.  He does little more than fulfill, let's say, basic needs.  He's not exactly boyfriend material and you may deny talking to him, but...well, you know.

Common women in a man's life:

Any Day Now...
No matter how long you've known this girl, your main objective is to add her to your "list".  She is attractive, a bit of a challenge, and possibly unaware of your desires.  But if you get the green is on!

Midnight (or anytime) Cowgirl
When the bar is closing and you've had no luck, you call her.  Because no matter how late (or early) it is, she will pick up.  Or she is a girl who you hang out with from time to time, but doesn't know what type of "friend" she is.  

Childhood friend 
(the guy we'd never's friend)
This girl is absolutely amazing.  You have many things in common, you can tell her anything, and you actually enjoy spending time with her.  No wonder everyone thinks you guys should date...

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Why Women Should NOT Tell Their Friends EVERYTHING

Female friendships are nourished by conversations about life experiences, both personal and impersonal.  Frustrations with work and family, questions about intimate relationships, even what to wear to an important event hinge upon discussions with our dear friends.  

But, it is possible to share too much information with a friend?

Boundaries must exist in all relationships, even those with our BFFs, for many reasons.  

Things you SHOULD NOT share with your girlfriends:

Private details about dating/marital relationships
Talking about intimate relationship issues (sex, partners finances, etc.) may lead to sticky situations. Some low self-esteem friends may try to hone in on your territory.  Others may offer ill-advised solutions. The bottom line is you should be talking to your partner and not your girlfriends.     

Decisions you may regret later
If unsure about breaking it off with a partner who your friends despise, keep it to yourself until you make a clear decision.  Girlfriends only want what is best for you and may find it hard not to say "I told you so"!  

Rumors about other friends
Besides creating drama, this sends the message that you are not to be trusted.  Your girlfriends will wonder if you are also gossiping about them to others.  

Trivial things that could harm the friendship
Some things are better left unsaid.  Although valued, your opinion should be given when requested.  Step in when your friend is doing something that will harm her or someone else.  Otherwise, wait to give honest feedback when asked.