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Improving Relationships

Welcome to our "Improving Relationships" Blog. We will offer thoughts, ponderings, advice and ideas for improving your relationships, including your relationship with your self. Yet another way to help you bridge the gap from where you are in your relatio

Updated: 2018-04-02T22:38:44.933-07:00


10 Ways To Reduce Stress


10 Ways To Reduce StressStress affects people differently and some people seem to be more naturally resilient. A certain amount of stress is beneficial and can help you feel alive and alert. But once stress reaches a level greater than your ability to tolerate you will feel overwhelmed and your productivity, your relationships, your health and your quality of life may be impaired. It may at times seem that things are out of control and that you are helpless to reduce your stress. But, you are more in control than you may realize. Stress management helps you to change stressful situations when you can change them; to change your reaction to situations that you cannot change and to make time for self-care.10 ways to reduce stress: Eat a healthy dietKeeping your body nourished will help you be more resilient. Eat a healthy breakfast and eat several healthy meals throughout the day. Try to be mindful of what you are putting in your body.Get enough sleepEveryone feels much more frazzled when they are sleep deprived. Establish a healthy bedtime routine to help you prepare to sleep. Try guided meditation to help you sleep more soundly or to get back to sleep if you wake up during the night.Change what you can changeSpeak up, rather than bottling up. Use assertive communication and send complete messages including how you are feeling, a description of your concern and what you would prefer instead. Plan ahead to avoid unnecessary stress from running late or being unprepared.Reframe the problemTry changing perspective or finding your sense of humor. For example look at having to wait as a gift of time with which you can people watch, think, read or check your email on your phone.Accept what cannot be changedGive up trying to control things that are out of your control—like other people. Try to not label things as good or bad. Appreciate that it just is what it is. Learn to say noAsk yourself, “Is this something that I want to do?” “Is this something I am willing to do?” “Is this something I will resent doing?” If your answers are no, no and yes, then say no.Manage your environmentCreate a safe space for healing your frazzled nerves. Find ways to introduce peace and calm into your home. Get out in nature when you can. Look up and be mindful in your environment.Spend time with family and friendsBuild a support network and choose to share your feelings with those you trust. Communicating with someone who helps you feel safe and understood can help you feel more grounded and calm.Exercise regularlyPhysical activity helps to reduce the negative effects of stress. Exercise releases endorphins that help you feel good. Even just 10 minutes of activity that makes you sweat can increase your energy level and boost your mood.Create time for funLaughing is a great stress reliever. Nurturing yourself will increase your resilience. Do something each day, just for fun, just for you. Managing your stress is a great way for you to take responsibility for yourself in your relationship. The more resilient you are and the better able you are to cope with the stress in your life the less negative impact stress will have on your relationship and your quality of life. Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life CoachCo-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]

Growing To Understand Your Partner


Growing To Understand Your Partner

We all long to feel really understood—to have someone “get” us. Amazing relationship gains can result from putting in the time and energy to understand and appreciate each other.

How can we come to understand our partner? What might happen if we were actually just present with them? What if we continued to be curious about their thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and attitudes long after the dating was done?

Most of the time at the beginning of a relationship, people are good at sharing, talking and trying to get to know each other. They are good at offering acceptance and approval. Hopefully the faces they choose to share with each other accurately represent who they are.

We will not create the kind of relationship that will feed our soul by pretending to be someone other than who we are. Real relationships are formed when we willingly share who we really are, not who we think we should be or who we think our partner wants us to be. Openness and authenticity will help us better understand each other.

To continue the ongoing quest to understand your partner it helps to acknowledge that your partner is different and that those differences are okay. To start with there are differences that exist because of your gender. Can you appreciate that men and women think and behave differently and they have different expectation for the relationship?

Chances are you and your partner also come from two totally different family cultures; even if you grew up in the same community. Your family might have been loud and their family might have been quiet. Your family may have dealt with issue openly and their family might have swept problems under the rug. Choose to learn about the culture of your partner’s family-of-origin and share your own in a respectful and caring way. Choose to work together to develop a shared culture for your relationship.

The two of you have different personalities and different personal histories. You may have different values and different approaches to life. These differences can make your relationship richer and more interesting as long as you choose to respect those differences. If you value the differences, rather than seeing them as problems you can grow closer and increase your understanding of each other.

Differences and lack of understanding can lead to conflict, especially when one or both partners insist that their way of doing or thinking is the right way. Problems can also arise when partner compete and score keep. Thinking that we are better or worse than our partner does not help us understand and connect with them.

Take the challenge to celebrate your difference and work together as a team. Give each other the priceless gift of understanding. Help your partner feel completely respected and that you really “get” them.

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.
Professional Counselor & Life Coach
Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine

Am I In An Abusive Relationship?


Am I In An Abusive Relationship? If you find yourself asking this question or if others have expressed concerns it is possible that you are in an abusive relationship. There are some patterns and warning signs that could be indicators of an abusive relationship. Be cautious if your partner: 1. Is excessively controlling to supposedly protect you2. Separates you from family and friends3. Flips from sweet and charming to mean or cruel4. Lacks empathy5. Controls all of the finances6. Is extremely jealous and possessive7. Blames you for their temper outbursts8. Controls your choices9. Controls your access to phones and devices10. Attacks you verbally or physically11. Threatens to harm you, others or themselves to control you12. Insists on always being with you or monitoring you13. Is hypersensitive or constantly playing the victim14. Hides their insecurity behind a superiority act15. Is cruel to animals or people16. Is extremely arrogant and demandingIn general, men tend to be more violent that women. But not all men are more violent than all women. It is important to recognize that men can be victims of abuse as well as women and that women can also abuse men. It can be extremely difficult for men to admit that they have been abused. They may feel even more shame over this than women. It is critical to understand and accept that no one is ever to blame for the abusive choices of another.People often feel intense shame after being abused. They may be worn down until they accept the abusers message that they are to blame for the abuse. They may have come to believe the abuser’s message that they are unlovable, stupid, ugly, defective and that no one else would want them.Pay attention to what your intuition is telling you about your relationship. You may be tempted to make excuses for your partner and to hope that things will improve. But if your instincts are telling you something is not right, it might be time to listen and come up with a safe way out. Ask yourself, “If I stopped protecting my partner, how would I feel.” Often I hear clients’ excuses for the behavior of their partners, “but he is really a good person;” “she has had a rough life;” or “I want the person I dated back, he was so generous and sweet.”If you are unable to set healthy boundaries with your partner, you may have to remove yourself from the relationship in order to protect yourself. Know that you are worth protecting and that in time, through self-compassion you can and will heal.Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life Coach Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]

Clean Slate Strategy For Couples


Clean Slate Strategy For CouplesThe clean slate strategy for couples involves choosing to start anew—to let go of negative relationship habits or built-up resentments and start fresh. The opportunity for a clean slate can be created arbitrarily. An example of an arbitrary clean slate is New Years Eve. Many strive to start fresh for the coming year by setting New Years resolutions. The opportunity for a clean slate may at times be thrust upon us through a change, positive or negative. You may get a new job or be downsized or fired. You may form a new relationship or you may end a relationship. A child may be born or you may lose a loved one.Whether you create or are given the opportunity for a clean slate, you can use these times to rethink and recreate our patterns and habits. You can repeat the clean slate strategy at any time to build a more loving relationship. Holding on to resentments and negative judgments about your partner, their family, or their habits will make it extremely difficult to create positive memories together. Letting go of the build-up of resentment makes room for more loving habits and patterns. You can choose at any time to wipe the slate clean. Sit down together and talk through the old hurts and resentments. Refuse to follow your old patterns of defensiveness or withdrawal. Try instead to actively listen to each other. This means one of you, at a time, talks about a hurt or resentment and the other simply validates and repeats in their own words what they have heard. Validation and active listening can make it easier to let go of old hurts. Forgiveness is a huge part of the clean slate strategy. Forgiving your partner for past hurts and forgiving yourself for insecurities or contributions to the problems. Wiping the slate clean is a choice that can be made as needed. Most important is how you continue once the slate is wiped clean. Starting with a clean slate implies that something different will follow. If you simply continue with the same behavior that created the problems in the first place, you will find the old hurts will tend to reappear with a vengeance. The following will help you to move forward with a clean slate: Focus on what you value about each other and your relationship. Pay attention to what has worked and do more of that. Make a point of noticing and expressing gratitude for the positive.Identify what behaviors need to change and work to break negative patterns of relating. Practice positive behavior habits.Set healthy boundaries. Give yourself permission to say no to things that are hurtful. Respect each other’s boundaries.Replace blaming, punishing and defensiveness with acceptance, forgiveness and willingness to hear each other. Choose to act, think and speak lovingly, especially when you least feel like it. Consider using the clean slate strategy for couples to start fresh and move toward creating a stronger more loving relationship. You can use the strategy together. You can also begin on your own. Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life Coach Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]

Mindfully Shape Your Relationship Habits


Mindfully Shape Your Relationship HabitsYour relationship habits set the tone for your daily interactions. Do you smile or growl at your partner in the morning? If you find that your relationship is not feeling the way you hoped it would, you may want to rethink your relationship habits. All relationships become somewhat routine. The question is: Will the rut that you have fallen into keep you connected or will it gradually pull you apart? Consciously choosing healthy relationship habits means that those habit will help carry you though times of stress. Habits can offer you comfort and a sense of control when you are feeling frazzled. When you mindfully shape your relationship habits you are consciously choosing your destiny. Almost half of what we do each day we do by habit. How we shower, dress, groom ourselves, what and when we eat, the route we take to work and how we interact with each other are all typically done on autopilot. Make the habits you choose serve you rather than work against you. Think about the relationship habits you have developed; the patterns of relating that you repeat day after day. Are these habits bringing you closer together or are they chipping away at your relationship?To mindfully shape your relationship habits decide to practice the following until they stick:Think loving thoughts about each other. I cannot emphasize this one enough. The thoughts you think about each other will have a huge impact on the course of your relationship.Express gratitude daily. Feeling gratitude warms you heart; expressing gratitude will help warm your partner’s heart.Touch daily: cuddle, snuggle, and touch non-sexually. Touch is an important part of the bonding process. Work together as a team. Seeing yourselves as team will mean less finger pointing and more cooperation as you meet life’s challenges.Spend quality and quantity time. Both are important and allow you to consistently reconnect with each other. Create the mindful habit of spending time together actually noticing each other. Make sure that for at least a few minutes each day you see each other and are fully present with each other.Give gifts of love; know each other. Gifts of love may be gifts or treasures, loving words, generous actions, quality time or kind deeds. Choose to love your partner in a way that feels loving to your partner.Say nice things about your partner. How you talk about your partner to others will impact your relationship. Choose to focus on the positive.Protect screen free time each day. Create an uninterrupted space of time for the two of you to connect each day.Be active together. Go for a walk, play a sport, putter in the garden or go for a bike ride. Increasing your physical health together may help you feel closer, increase your energy and possibly improve your intimacy.Always be respectful. No matter how you may be feeling in a moment, it is helpful to remember, that you love each other and treat each other accordingly.Be generous and find opportunities to help each other. It is the little things that are actually the big things in relationships. Consistent little choices to be generous will protect your relationship from the inside out.Practice acceptance. So much stress in your relationships may simply melt away if you were willing to accept each other as you are.You will live most of your life by habit. When you mindfully shape your relationship habits, you can make your habits work for you rather than against you. Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life Coach Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]

Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations


Letting Go of Unrealistic ExpectationsIf you are harboring unrealistic expectations, it is only a matter of time before they damage your relationship. Unrealistic expectations set you up for huge disappointment and lead to discouragement and an unnecessary sense of failure. It is not what happens in your relationship, but how you spin it for yourself that causes great pain.Say for example you hold the expectation that you should always feel madly in love. It is inevitable that life will get in the way and there may be some days where you do not even particularly like each other. If you draw the false conclusion that this means you are not good enough or that maybe you were never in love, then your relationship will begin to falter. You will likely start to think negatively about yourself, your partner and your relationship. You may begin to act negatively toward your partner. These choices of thoughts and behaviors start to reinforce your false conclusion. The tendency then is often to avoid working on your issues and avoid seeking help. It is helpful to recognize that great relationships require consistent effort, respect, kindness and forgiveness, even when things are going well.How do you know if your expectations are unrealistic? This may not be easy since your expectations probably seem perfectly reasonable to you.Signs that you may be harboring an unrealistic expectation:You are continually disappointed that your expectation has not been met. When you notice a pattern of repeated disappointment, it may be time to carefully consider your expectation and whether it is completely realistic. You are trying to control something that is not within your control You are assuming or mind reading. Your expectations make it not okay to be who you are. Your expectations make it not okay for your partner to be who they are. It can be difficult to let go of unrealistic expectations. You may believe that you have to keep your standards high in order to motivate yourself or to protect yourself. It is helpful to distinguish between high standards, which are worth striving for and unrealistic expectations, which lead to discouragement. High standards are based on principles like honesty, virtue and integrity. Unrealistic expectations are frequently based on fears that you are not enough or not lovable or not smart enough or other variations.To let go of unrealistic expectations try using the following: Be compassionate toward yourself. Acknowledge and accept your feelings. Be willing to communicate honestly, without blaming. (I felt hurt because I thought . . .)Get curious about the origin of your expectations. Become a bit of a detective and do some soul searching.Be flexible, notice when you are using ‘my way or the highway’ tactics. Perhaps your partner is not wrong, just different. Watch your self-talk. Reflect on how you would talk to a friend in this situation. Consider the consequence of hanging on to a particular expectation. What is the cost to you and to your relationship? Consciously decide to let go of expectations that are harming rather than helping you. Use your sense of humor. Visualize your expectations as if you were in a sitcom or cartoon. Learn to laugh at how unrealistic they are. Replacing your unrealistic expectations with more realistic expectations may help you think more positively about your relationship. You may start to behave more positively toward your partner and your relationship will be strengthened. Improving Relationships Blog[...]

Forgiveness Heals Relationships


Forgiveness Heals Relationships

It is inevitable that you will be hurt in a love relationship, in fact, the closer your relationship the greater your chances of hurting each other.  Little hurts will happen often. She doesn’t listen when you want to share something important. He is home late from work. You judge each other and say things that you regret. Resentment builds and the relationship becomes strained.

The building resentment starts to poison your relationship. You begin to avoid spending time with each other. You start criticizing your partner to others. You may reject your partner’s efforts to reconnect. If this resentment is left unchecked separation and divorce too often are the result.

The fact that you feel hurt in your relationship does not mean that your relationship is doomed. Even a healthy relationship has its hic-ups. What helps to keep the relationship healthy is the willingness to forgive and let go of the hurt.

It is also critical to be aware that some of the pain you feel may be the result of emotional wounds inflicted in childhood or in previous relationships. Forgiving those who have harmed you in the past can free you to be more fully present in your current relationship.

For those who struggle with forgiving, it is helpful to remember that forgiving does not equal letting those who have hurt you get away with it. It also does not mean becoming a doormat or continuing to put up with abusive treatment. Forgiveness does not mean that you want to reconcile. Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries goes hand-in-hand with forgiveness.

Steps to forgiveness:
  1. Allow yourself time. You may not feel ready to forgive just yet. Forgiveness is often more a process than an event.
  2. Talk it out. Talk to the person who has hurt you, if possible. If not, talk to a trusted friend or therapist. Accept and share your feelings; be compassionate toward yourself. You have a right to feel however you feel.
  3. Request change. Set or strengthen your boundaries to reduce the possibility of repeating the hurt.
  4. Stop torturing yourself. Stop rehashing and replaying what happened over and over in your mind. Find ways to change your focus to how you want your life to be. Find healthy ways to distract yourself from focusing on the hurt.
  5. Choose to forgive. You do not have to completely understand how it works. But you do have to be willing to let go.
Forgiveness is a choice that you make, not because the other person deserves to be forgiven, but because you deserve to be free of resentment and bitterness.

Celebrate Your Partner's Success


Celebrate Your Partner's SuccessIt is natural to feel disappointed if friends or loved ones fail to show interest or excitement about our successes. Many clients have expressed feeling crushed when they excitedly shared good news and their partners have simply grunted or immediately switched the focus to something else. When something good happens for your partner do you feel happy for them or do you envy or resent their success? Is your relationship about competition or teamwork? The more you can behave as if the two of you are a team the better. Little things like acknowledging and celebrating each other’s wins or successes are crucial to strengthening your relationship. Whether it is a new job, promotion, or sports victory, your reactions and actions will either bring you closer or put a wedge between you. If you find yourself feeling envious or resentful at your partner’s successes, it may be time to take a step back. Be compassionate toward yourself. It is okay to feel however you feel and is especially important to be honest with yourself. It can be tempting to deny those negative feelings. The problem with denying how you are feeling is that the negative emotions have a way of oozing out toward your partner either openly or sneakily. A better choice might be to be honest with your partner, “I am feeling a little envious of your success right now;” and then choose to enjoy their success anyway, “but I am super happy for you!”Do you find yourself competing with your partner? Ask yourself, are you comparing yourself to your partner; are you allowing their success to make you feel worse about your accomplishments or lack thereof? Consider the possibility that their success simply belongs to them and does not reflect badly on you. Consider letting go of the need to compete and allow yourself to accept and appreciate your partner’s success. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself. How are you spinning their success? Is it negative, “Of course, things always work out for her; they never work out for me”? If you are feeling angry at the success of others, some personal insecurities may be surfacing. Perhaps it would be helpful to dig a little deeper. Ask yourself, “What is it about my partner’s success that feels threatening to me?” And, “What can I do to let go of any feelings of inferiority and be more accepting and compassionate toward myself?”Moving from a scarcity mentality, where the success of others means there is less for you; to an abundance mentality, where there is more than enough for all, will make enjoying your partner’s success much easier. Remember that your partner’s success in no way diminishes you. Choose to not go to the place of envy. The next time your partner shares good news choose to:Smile and show some excitementShow interest and ask questionsOffer congratulationsAnd help them relive the experience by being present, listening and sharing.If this does not come naturally to you, remember it is a skill that can be learned and with practice will become easier. Choose to become your partner’s biggest supporter.Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life CoachCo-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]

The Cost Of Anger


At times it may seem as though your anger is justified and those around you are just too sensitive. It may even feel good to release your anger and vent. It might seem that you get the respect you deserve when you let your anger out. The problem is raging is more likely to produce fear and resentment rather than respect. Anger tends to short circuit the thinking part of our brains and hinder reason and logic. Uncontrolled anger can ruin your relationship, hurt your chances of success and leave a negative impression of you on those you encounter. Anger is a healthy emotion and can help us push through our fear to defend others or ourselves. Anger is not the problem; the problem come when the words and behaviors we use in anger are out of control.Consider the cost of explosive anger: It hurts your opinion of yourself. Uncontrolled anger can lead to feelings of guilt and shame. It can lead to feeling a loss of control. The less you feel in control of yourself the more your self-esteem suffers.It damages your mental health. Constant or frequently recurring anger will sap your energy and drain the joy from your life. Anger turned inward can result in depression; anger turned outward can increase your tendency to be verbally or otherwise abusive to those around you and greatly increase the stress in your life. You may also find it difficult to concentrate or make good decision when your anger is twisting and consuming your thoughts.It damages your relationships. Anger and hostility destroys intimacy in personal relationships. Whether it is your partner, your children or your friends, they will be more guarded and afraid to express their true feelings. It makes it difficult for others to trust and respect you. It damages your career. Verbally attacking customers, co-workers or managers may cost you your job. It will affect your reputation in the workplace and reduce the respect that others have for you. It damages your health. Living on high alert, ready to attack, puts a great deal of stress on your body. There may be a tendency to smoke, drink or eat more when you are chronically angry. You may find that you have difficulty sleeping or relaxing and your immune system may suffer. You may become more susceptible to health problems such as high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes or cancer. It destroys your peace of mind. Choosing to hold on to resentment and anger takes away your peace of mind. It definitely interferes with your ability to enjoy life; to feel happiness or joy. The cost of letting your anger control you is a steep price to pay. If you hear from others, that your anger is causing harm, it may be time to work toward taking back control of your life. The best way to take control of your life is to learn to control youself. Learn the skills and attitudes that allow you to control your anger before it controls you. Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life CoachCo-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]

New Year Resolutions for the Relationship


New Year Resolutions for the Relationship“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,Love like you'll never be hurt,Sing like there's nobody listening,And live like it's heaven on earth.”   William W Purkey At this time of year we all look forward with, hopefully, renewed hope and enthusiasm, for what is coming. We wonder what will happen in the New Year and for most of us we are content to let what will be, be. I would suggest that for the sake of our happiness and wellbeing we don’t let that be our attitude when it comes to our relationship with our spouse. Why take a chance on maybe being happy?Research indicates that when we make plans and set goals we more often than not exceed our expectations and we are more at ease with our life. We all have hopes and dreams for our selves and our lives together, but do we write them down, plan how to achieve them? I wonder do you know the difference between a hope or dream and a goal? The answer: a pencil. The theme of this discussion is resolutions for the New Year. I would like to suggest that you set these a little different than you may have in the past. If you would spent some time in your head and in your heart answering the question, 'what makes this relationship so good and how can I and we contribute to making it great.' When each of you has done this individually come together and begin to make those things a plan, which you both agree on.So how will this come to be? Hopefully with laughter, love, perhaps a little wine, and a large dose of adventure and an even larger portion of compromise. I think that compromise in relationships is the most under utilized tool we have. Think about looking at it differently; think about the freedom of compromise. Why freedom? Just recall how stuck we can get when we each hold onto our own choice, our own agenda, that ties up a lot of energy and a good portion of the goodwill within the relationship. When you come together and promise, did you notice the play on the word compromise, come together and promise, you free up energy, time, love to be used in enjoying each other and your togetherness.Some New Year’s resolutions that we can adopt are:Recommit to the relationship – commitment in a relationship is twofold, committing to each other and to the relationship and committing to making the relationship worth committing to, if you do that the first part is easy.Kiss – express your love in physical and non physical ways, 4 6 second hugs a day minimum, when you kiss or hug make sure you are there in that moment because if you’re not your partner will know.Make passion and romance a priority – too often we put other things, not necessarily bad things, before our love, passion is like the glue of the relationship, romance makes us feel special, loved, wanted and needed, do what is needed to fit it into the top 5 things of your to-do list.Date Night – make connections with the relationship, usually we love each other but we not always in love that is a lack of connection, regular weekly date nights take care of part of that.Laugh and play together – having fun together makes memories we can cherish in life, but also that we can use when we feel disconnected, out of sorts with each other.30 minutes a day of undivided attention, or as my daughter-in-law says “No screens” – we need to put in the effort of daily connecting, talking, giggling, planning, without electronic interference, without kids, friends, in-laws etc.Express gratitude – tell each other a minimum of 3 things a day that you appreciate or are grateful about your spouse, to make it more intense, don’t repeat anything in a week.Work together – this is where we can really build up the bonds of the relationship and trust as well, working at projects, raising kids, chores and physical fitness as [...]

Make Time For Your Relationship


Make Time For Your Relationship“No man is an island.” John DonneAs human beings we long for social relationships, even if we don’t consciously believe that. There is a reason single people, young and old, are happier when they have a pet, dog or cat. We are born and we will die seeking for and striving to maintain relationships.Sonja Luybomirsky, a psychologist, states in her book the How Of Happiness; “there is something special and unique about relationships and we would do well to strengthen, nourish and enjoy them.” We seek out those strong, stable, positive relationships and often we will stay in harmful, toxic or unfulfilling relationships as opposed to no relationship at all. We resist breaking off relationships, even those we find harmful. I see evidence of this when clients stop coming because they have decided to break up and then a year or so later I get a call from them, “Can we come see you again, we want to try to make it work.” People hang on to a sense of belonging.Without a sense of belonging we can experience various negative consequences. We feel lost and alone, which often triggers sadness, anxiety and depression. We feel incomplete, unhappy in life, we often question why do we try so hard in life if there is no one to share it with. Some will engage in promiscuous behaviors, looking for that feeling of connectedness. A study done in orphanages after the war in the Balkans found that otherwise healthy babies died because they were not touched enough. A sense of belonging is crucial to our wellbeing.So how to maintain a relationship? Research indicates that successful couples spend 5 hours a week in conversation with each other. How much time do we talk with our partner? There are a few things you might consider doing to boost that amount of time spent with each other.Start with just scheduling into your calendar time for each other (in this generation, we all live by the calendar). Make sure you honour that schedule and your partner will feel that he or she is important and central to you. Also schedule time to do “stuff” together. Farmer’s market, go for a walk, date nights and similar kind of activities create and maintain a feeling of connectedness or belonging. Work together, dishes, yard work, building a shed, paying bills or whatever, it seems less threatening, takes less time and is, at least, comforting if not fun. A spontaneous kiss while doing household chores can be fun and can do wonders to connect.Take 5 minutes a day, each, expressing gratitude and appreciation for our partner and what they do. Expressed gratitude is very powerful and positive. Every day you can spend 20 minutes connecting, I have discussed this before in Daily Connections. Pick a time you can do this everyday, the same time every time, builds a routine. Start the conversation with gratitude, then scheduling or reporting to each other what is happening, discuss some issue you have noticed and end with your hopes and dreams. Connection 101.A morning routine should include a real hug, one in which we are really present and feeling it. It should also include each of you finding out at least one thing the other is doing that day and perhaps something they will be doing to have fun and one thing that is on their mind, concerns. In the evening there should a reunion routine; a kiss and hug, “ I missed you, it is nice to be together again,” 15 minutes to discuss the day and its events in a non-stressful manner.It might be interesting to develop a media-free zone in your home where you are free from distractions to just interact with each other, to enjoy each other’s company and person. Some things that could be included; dancing, reading a book or poetry, playing cards or board games, taking classes, starting or doing hobbies, planni[...]

Stop Judging Your Partner


Stop Judging Your Partner

“Really get to know a person by watching them closely without judgment.” T.R. Horne

Wonderful things will happen when you offer your partner acceptance and attention, rather than criticism and judgment. What might happen if we simply respected our partner’s right to think what they think and feel how they feel?

It is an interesting challenge to let go of the need to weigh and measure everything to decide if we approve. What if our approval is not required? Simply our acceptance.

Unfortunately, for too many couples, the frequency of acceptance and approval starts to diminish as disappointments, hurts and resentments build up. Criticism, right-fighting and judgment enters the relationship. Blame and judgment go hand-in-hand in creating division and discontent in relationships.

Judgment gives the messages, you are not enough; you are defective somehow. Judgment gets in the way of loving unconditionally. It sets a tone for the attitude of – I love you when you do what I want or what I expect. It leads to the withholding of love.

It is a challenge to give up the tendency to judge what our partner says or does. Hopefully we never use words such as stupid, idiot or worse when we are talking to or refering to our partner. These attitudes and words are extremely poisonous to relationships.

Interesting things will start to happen when we give up the need to decide if what our partner does or says is good or bad, right or wrong. Sitting in judgment of our partner leads to conflict.

Try replacing “It is good that you . . .” with “I enjoyed when you . . .” and “You were right” with “I appreciated when you . . .”
Try replacing “You are wrong” with “We seem to disagree, here is how I see it” and “That was a stupid thing to do” with “That was is an interesting choice, what made you decide . . .” Your tone of voice is probably as or more important than the words you choose.

It is not our place to judge our partner. If we find ourselves judging our partner, there is a very good chance that we also judge ourselves harshly. Make a habit of focusing on the positives. Pay attention to your strengths and your partner’s strengths. When you catch yourself thinking judgmental thoughts about yourself or your partner, try putting a more positive spin on those thoughts.

Passing judgment hurts our partner and the relationship. It fills the relationship with negativity and although it may momentarily feel satisfying, it usually leads to feeling worse in the long run.

Control what you can control – and that is not your partner.

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.
Professional Counselor; Life Coach
Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine

Creating A Family Sanctuary


Creating A Family SanctuaryPerhaps you have had moments where there is peace, quiet and contentment in your home. Perhaps there have been other times where there has been chaos and conflict. Your goal is probably to create more of the first and less of the second.  Creating a haven for your family, means creating both physical and emotional safety. Having a family sanctuary gives you all a place to recharge in order to better face day-to-day challenges.Ideas that my help you flourish as a family: Smile. Smiles help both the giver and the receiver to feel better. Cultivate an attitude of being happy to greet your family. Smile at each other, laugh and find the joy in the moment. Connect. Take time to make eye contact and talk with each other. Connecting with family members each day takes time, but growing close and trusting relationships may save you many hours of worry in later years. Create happy memories of family time.Limit Technology. Establish some technology free times and zones. Be present with each other as you eat your meal or visit. Take the challenge to have a technology free day at least once a month. Make Your Marriage. A Priority. The best thing that you can do for your children is to have a healthy, strong relationship. By taking care of your marriage you set the example for them, you provide them with a great deal of security and greatly increase the chances of your home being a haven. Slow Down. Parents and children today are often so over-scheduled that they constantly feel frazzled. Limit the number of commitments. Try making some of your after school activities family activities. Remember that everyone needs some down time. Develop Family Traditions. Having family rituals will help you feel closer to each other. Rituals are predictable and repeated over time. You can have rituals around coming and going, holidays, or even simple things like a once a month clean the house and then eat pizza and watch a movie ritual. Teach your children the stories of your ancestors, especially how they overcame challenges. This will help them feel a sense of family dignity, which will help them as they face challenges. Be Respectful. There is no substitute for respect if you want to create a safe environment for your family. Be careful what you say after ‘you are _____’. Harsh judgments, whether aimed at your children, your partner or yourself, damage self-esteem and relationships. Name calling, yelling and cursing do not make your home a haven.Discipline, Rather Than Punish. Help your children practice doing it right. You goal should be helping your children become responsible adults, rather than insisting on unthinking obedience. Making expectations clear and consistently allowing consequences to follow choices, helps children learn responsibility.  Check In And Validate. Listen carefully when a family member is talking. Try offering validation, by restating what they have said in your own words. Do the best you can to have only one person at a time doing the talking—use a talking stick if necessary. Many miscommunications can be avoided when we check in, to see if we have heard each other correctly, rather than assuming we know. Be Flexible. Things seldom go exactly as planned and one of the best things that we can teach our children is to accept and deal with what is. Families are often required to adapt to new situations. Be open to influence from each other. Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life CoachCo-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]

Gratitude A Relationship Builder


“Gratitude means thinking about all of your partner’s best traits and remembering why you got into a relationship with them in the first place.” Amie M GordonIn an article, written long ago, in a different time and place, entitled Gratitude: the Marriage Miracle, I stated that a sense of gratitude is one of the most powerful tools in enhancing your relationship. That is still true.Why is gratitude so powerful? One reason is when you express gratitude you have to be positive, you cannot be grateful and negative at the same time. So when we express are gratitude to or about our partner we are thinking positively about them. That by itself is a powerful thing. Also there is the positive effect on the relationship brought about through expressing gratitude. In research conducted by Sara Algoe, she found that grateful couples were more satisfied in their relationships and felt closer to each other.  Isn’t that the whole purpose of relationships; to feel closer to one another? We cultivate love through gratitude with an honest self-examination of our own conduct towards our spouse. As the Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck says, relationships are a gift, not because they make us happy - they often don’t - “but because any intimate relationship, if we view it as practice, is the clearest mirror we can find.” Relationships allow us a closer look at ourselves and when we find ourselves acting and behaving with gratitude and respect toward others we gain a bit more self-worth or esteem.Amie Gordon found that participants’ reported feelings of gratitude towards a romantic partner predicted who would stay in their relationships and who would break up nine months later. The more grateful participants were, the more likely they were to still be in their relationship. So we find that through expressing our appreciation and gratitude we are solidifying our relationship.Expressing our gratitude is one of the most important things we can do in our relationship. As we do so we empower and strengthen our relationship. To thank each other for just being in our lives makes a difference. When an aura of gratitude pervades a relationship, both individuals are continually renewed in spirit. It is in the little things that great things are made possible. We can have a great relationship if we take care of the little things in our lives. Taking care of each other’s heart, love and name shows we respect them and are grateful for them in our life. Gratitude is expressed simply and quietly, with no thought of a return or any conditions. We do it because we love each other and because it feels great.“When I invite gratitude into my life, there is an immediate and delicious softening around the edges of my ego. My heart opens. I breathe more fully. The muscles, tissues and cells of my body relax. My mind lets go of its incessant occupation with what isn't, and quietly eases into the reality of what is.”  Diana DaffnerDallas Munkholm, B.A., B.Com., M.Psy., R.T.C., M.T.C. Professional Counselor & Life CoachCo-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine Improving Relationships Blog[...]

Lessons From Happy Couples


Lessons from Happy CouplesGreat lessons can be learned from observing happy, long-term couples. They have found ways to protect and nurture their relationship. If you would like to improve the prospects of your relationship lasting a lifetime and more, continue or adopt the following behaviors and attitudes. Happy, long-term couples tend to: Express gratitude and appreciation. Long-term couples have come to accept each other’s idiosyncrasies and avoid nit-picking each other. They recognize that preferences are neither right nor wrong, just preferences. They have cultivated respect for their differences.Are willing to listen to each other, even when they do not agree. And they are willing to let go of the things that they cannot agree on. They have learned to pick their battles and choose not to squabble over the small stuff.Talk respectfully to and about each other. They avoid swearing, name-calling and insults. They solve problems together, rather than making each other the problem.Continue connecting. They continue to share who they are and how they are changing with each other. They do not assume that they are the same people they were when they first met. They have a truly intimate relationship because they continue to know each other.Fight fair. They recognize that there will always be disagreements, but they choose not to be rude or obnoxious with each other. They approach their differences maturely and recognize that if one of them loses, they both lose. They are able to be open and honest with each other, work to understand each other’s perspective and appreciate their differences.Continue to play. Rather than getting stuck in a rut, they continue to explore together. They are willing to try out new things together. They approach an adventure with a smile on their face and the intention of enjoying the time together. Adventures do not have to be risky to count; they just have to be something out of the usual.Continue to demonstrate affection. They enjoy touching, kissing, cuddling and more. Medical or other problems may get in the way, but they find ways to continue their physical closeness.Accept that they are aging. They know that they will be there for each other long term. They accept that their relationship is much more than skin deep. They support each other as they deal with the challenges of aging.It is a pleasure to observe happy couples who after many years together, still enjoy each other’s company. Now is the best time to start cultivating the habits that contribute to long-lasting happiness.Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life CoachCo-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]

Love And Be In Love


Love And Be In Love“You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love; the running across fields into your lover's arms can only come later when you're sure they won't laugh if you trip.” Jonathan Carroll In relationships the pattern is usually, respect, trust, intimacy and then deep mature love. I find in counseling that we can loose one or even the first three and love will stand alone for awhile. This is to give us a chance to mend what needs mending.Scott Peck has said that every couple falls in love and every couple falls out of love. Not meant to scare anyone, just the opposite. When we fall in love we are usually talking about the emotional feelings attached to a relationship, feelings of excitement, fun, liking each other, the lustier things, mature love means the commitment, the deep connection, the feeling of belonging to something greater than ourselves. So we love each other but are not necessarily in love every moment of our relationship.Respect is crucial because the feeling of being respected gives us an opportunity to feel important and of significance to out partner. Once we feel that, learning to trust comes somewhat naturally to the relationship. We have been open and vulnerable with our partners and received no harm. We are safe in the relationship. Intimacy requires trust because being intimate, not sexually necessarily, means that we give ourselves, that part of us that is really us, to our partner and can receive it from our partners. We are vulnerable.Once having experienced vulnerability and safety with our partners we develop that deep, soul satisfying connection that is mature love. Which helps us realize that our partners wants, needs and desires are as, if not more, important than our own. We rejoice in our partner’s successes and joys, we cry for their grief and losses, we celebrate, we commiserate, we laugh and we cry with them, just because we love them.When we lose respect we will lose trust or vice versa. Once there is no trust we are not going to share those intimate things with our partner either. Respect is personal, we feel or don’t feel respected by others and that is usually about our selves. There can be obvious disrespect but for the most part we determine whether or not we were respected, not the other. In other words, when we say that is not respecting me our partner may indicate no disrespect was intended. We are responsible for our own feelings.We choose to trust or not, our partner can not make that decision for us. The issue with trust is that once broken it becomes a decision, “yes, I will trust you” or “no I won’t.” One issue here is that if we are waiting for the other to prove themselves trustworthy, what is the measurement, what yardstick do we use? The only thing we can do is wait to see if they are trustworthy and I can guarantee that if you are looking for things within the relationship to say I shouldn’t trust you, I will find them because my brain will twist the situations the way I think and believe. So, really what you are doing is looking for reasons not to trust. You will have to say, eventually, “Ok, I trust you, now prove me wrong.”Intimacy is all about togetherness. Doing things together, talking, laughing, working, crying, sharing moments, time and life with each other. It means forgiving because we will be hurt and we will hurt our partner, not carrying grudges and holding onto things. It means that there are no secrets in the relationship, but they don’t have to know everything. If I’m going out with a friend, does my spouse need to know why, where and what, no, but if she asks I will tell her. Not checking in but being co[...]

Secret of Change


Like it or not, we live the majority of our lives on auto-pilot. Most of what we do is simply by habit. This is why considering whether our habits are relationship enhancing or eroding is vital.

To help determine whether your relationship habits are toxic or wholesome consider the following questions:
  • Do we use open and honest communication or do we play games?
  • Do we love unconditionally or do we keep score?
  • Are we in it for the long haul or do we threaten to leave when we are upset?
  • Do we try to make each other jealous or do we assure each other with our behavior as well as our words of our fidelity?
  • Do we try to solve problems with money or gifts or do we listen and talk to resolve differences?
  • Do we bring blame and bitterness or acceptance and love to our relationship?
If you find that you have some relationship eroding habits, it is not too late to change. Dan Millman, in the Way of the Peaceful Warrior wrote, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” The best way to change undesirable habits is not to stop the old habit. The best way to change an old habit is to rewrite it or replace it with a desirable habit.

Change begins with conscious choice. It begins when we consider where we are and how we have been behaving and make a decision that we want to create something different.

The desire to change is not enough. We must get clear about what it is that we want to create. It is helpful to spend some quiet time thinking and rehearsing how we want to behave instead. For example, if you are a competitive score keeper and you want to practice acceptance instead, try vividly picturing yourself responding to your partner in an accepting way. Mentally see yourself actively and respectfully listening to your partner, validating their feelings and doing your best to understand their point of view. Say to yourself, I choose happiness over having to be right. Repeat this visual practice many times, until you start to respond differently.

Changing habits requires, that for a time, we bring awareness to our thoughts and behaviors. But, the great thing about changing habits is that after we have repeated the desired actions long enough to beat a new pathway in our brain, that desirable habit will start to become our new default position. We will have developed a relationship enhancing habit. And relationship enhancing habits lead to stronger, healthier relationships.

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.
Professional Counselor & Life Coach
Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine

Connections - The Glue For Relationships


Connections - The Glue For RelationshipsIt has been said that the man or woman who is wrapped up in themselves makes a small package. AnonymousOne of the common complaints I hear is he or she is not present, they aren’t with me. I’m sure we all know what this is about; we probably have experienced it from both sides. Being present is about making sure we are in the room with our friends or children, in the conversation with our partner, in that kiss or hug. That we are engaged with them and not thinking about something or someone else.Our spouses can tell if we are with them or not. They say things like, “your eyes glazed over,” “I had to repeat myself 3 times,” “you’re just going through the motions” and “I might as well be someplace else.” What we must know and understand from both the one doing it and the one seeing it is that we will always have these kinds of experiences. That does not make it right; just understand that it happens. Where the problem really lies is when that is the norm in the relationship.We all deal with other things and people than our relationship and our spouse. It may be that we are stuck in a work team that just bites, or that the new director is a “penny-pinching beep beep” or whatever else is going on. This is a normal part of a busy modern lifestyle. Our lives are full of deadlines, work, family and friends. These things all require a part of our time and attention and as spouses and partners we have to accept that.The issue is when this, the other stuff and people, take center stage in our lives. Our loved ones begins to get whatever is left. Not cool. We need to make sure that the significant one in our lives knows it, all of the time. A wise man once told me “I told my wife when we were married that I loved her and if it changed I would tell her.” I hope you realize the wise man’s statement was tongue in cheek; this is not a wise thing to do.When we are continually making our spouse feel that he or she is the most important thing in our life, we are putting out a lot of small fires that will never take spark. When we believe that we are important and our partner knows our love language and uses it, we will let some stuff just go or ride, we don’t need to sweat that small stuff. If, on the other hand, we are neglectful, we will be sweating that small stuff. Then everything comes under scrutiny, with a big magnifying glass.Here are a few tips. Let your partner know what is going on in your life. Are you struggling with a co-worker, are there some new policies you need to learn, are you under some short deadlines, is your mother having a crisis again? When you share these things two things happen; your partner knows what is going on and can cut you some slack and two, they feel more loved because you have included them in this part of your life.Next, if you are coming home and you are preoccupied tell your partner. “Hey, it’s been a shxt day and I need some time and it is not you.” Does a couple of things; gives you your needed space and your partner is relaxed because they know they aren’t the cause. When we know and see that our partner is stressed but they have informed us that we are not the cause we feel loved and cared for because they obviously love us enough to explain this to us.Next, a leaving and returning routine that includes real presence. This should be a daily routine, not just when you are going or coming from a space of time. So it should include a 4-6 second hug, followed by a real kiss (doesn’t have to knock your socks off, just be real) and the a heartfelt ‘I love you[...]

Reduce Stress To Improve Relationships


Reduce Stress To Improve Relationships

It is natural to feel stressed when we have to handle more than we are used to. When we experience a stress response, our body responds as though we are in danger. Our heart races and we breathe faster. We experience the urge to fight or flee.

A certain amount of stress is healthy and helps us feel alive. But if there is too much stress or it lasts too long it can take a toll on our health and on our relationships. Stress can narrow our focus down to ‘how do I make it through the next day, hour or minute’. Too much stress can make it difficult for partners to give each other much needed caring attention. It can make it difficult to be fully present with each other, since our minds are preoccupied with worries.

To reduce the negative effects of stress, it is helpful to first be aware of the source of your stress. Paying attention to when you are feeling stressed and noting what has been or is happening may help you find the source of your stress. At times we already know what is causing us stress and at other times it is not so clear. Next ask yourself: In what ways could I reduce the amount of stress in my life? What might I need to put on hold, delegate or let go?

It is also important to practice healthy ways of relieving stress or managing stress. Try some of the following:
  • Make taking good care of yourself a priority. Get enough sleep, eat well, live a healthy lifestyle.
  • Improve your time management. A schedule may help you get more done with less stress. Prioritize and do the most important things first.
  • Be honest with yourself about how you currently cope with stress. Be willing to find healthier ways of coping. For example: consider exercise rather than eating; meditation rather than alcohol or drugs.
  • Practice new ways of thinking. Choose to stop the worry mill. Work on changing what you can and accepting what you cannot.
  • Be willing to say no and set healthy boundaries.
  • Be willing to ask for what you need. Do not stuff or swallow your feelings. Stand up for yourself assertively.
  • Delegate or ask for help. Strengthen your network of friends and family.
At times stress becomes more than you can handle on your own. It may help to talk to a friend or family member. Someitmes a counsellor may help you to see things more clearly.

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.
Professional Counselor & Life Coach
Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine

Happily Ever After


“You can’t just hope for happy endings. You have to believe in them. Then do all the work, take the risks.” Nora RobertsOne of the saddest things I know is when two people desperately love each other and yet, can’t make it work, for whatever reason. Sometimes it’s beliefs that get in the way, others, it’s past experiences and at times it is not knowing what to do and how to do it. We often believe that relationships should be easy, that we should just be able to have a decent one because we are in love. Not always the case, in fact usually not.Most of the things that make relationships work are, as I’ve stated before in this forum, learned behaviors. Some of it is that we need to learn about each other and how we tick. What makes us happy, sad, and angry and how do we do each of those? How does our partner feel loved, express love and the same for ourselves?Another thing we need to learn is to deal with ourselves in the relationship. We need to ask ourselves what are we bringing to the party. In what ways are our actions, words and silences contributing to the success or failure of the relationship? As couples, are we dealing with the issues when they are just little? Do we deal with the hurts, pains and injuries immediately before they start to get infected and fester into anger, frustration and resentment? This all starts with me, the individual. I need to learn how to control and manage my anger, my frustration, my hurt and my resentment. This is what is meant by what we bring to the party.I have seen couples where it is very evident that there is a tremendous amount of love for each other, yet they are talking about divorce, separation, about walking away and never seeing each other again. Why? In looking at most scenarios, it is the past, the history of the relationship. The hurts, betrayals, the anger, the inappropriate behaviors, the lies and mistruths and the not talking to each other or about certain things that are causing the issues. Every couple gets into times when things aren’t good, where the relationship takes second seat to other things and for some nothing is done to repair the damage.Let’s review the order of things in a relationship. First, respect for each other leads to trusting each other. Trust leads to creating a deep and lasting intimacy, which is the keystone of love. So, respect, trust, intimacy and love; all need to exist in the relationship in order for it to remain fresh and vibrant and strong. It is the unresolved issues that begin to wear on these things.It has been my experience that these types of issues left unchecked can destroy the relationship because they push at our own insecurities. So what happens over time is we begin to treat each other differently. We lose respect because we treat each other badly, unfairly or unlovingly. We begin to not talk to each other, not tell the truth, keep secrets and this is a recipe for breaking trust. Then, because we don’t trust each other the little intimacies become impossible and we lose that as well.So there is love, very much so, but we have ripped the respect, trust, and intimacy out of the relationship. Love is strong and powerful but it can’t sustain a relationship by itself for very long. It is like trying to plug a leaky dam with your fingers, in time you run out of fingers and toes and the dam bursts.Do you believe in happily ever after? Do you have a fairy tale love and all that it creates? Do you want to love each other forever and ever in that dream relationship? It is not impossible to have that type [...]

How To Stop Self-Sabotaging


How To Stop Self-Sabotaging

How many times have you promised yourself that you would never do that again, only to find yourself doing it a short while later? Why is change so illusive and what can we do about it?

It may be helpful to recognize that the intent behind this type of behavior is actually to protect rather than to sabotage. There is a positive intent behind self-sabotaging behavior. Rarely is there a conscious intention to ruin things. People are often left wondering, “Why did I do (or say) that?”

Our stress response takes over, whether the expected threat is physical or emotional harm. False beliefs like, “I can’t handle stress,” “I’m not good enough,” or “nothing lasts” may be triggered and before we know it we are engaging in self-sabotaging behavior.

Overcoming this negative reaction, starts with an awareness of the self-talk and beliefs that are contributing to the self-sabotage. Step back and become the observer in your own life. What are the things that you are saying to yourself? Tease out the beliefs that are keeping you stuck.

Below are some strategies for reducing self-sabotage:
  • Swap out your inner critic for an inner coach. Change your inner dialogue to one of recognition and gratitude for your strengths, offer yourself encouragement rather than judgment.
  • Get a clear picture of what you do want. Create a vision board or a mind movie or simply visualize yourself behaving the way you want to behave.
  • Give yourself the gift of self-acceptance and appreciation. Focus on gratitude.
  • Recognize that you chose the false beliefs and you have the power to change them to self-empowering beliefs.
  • Decide to bring your sense of self inside of you. Recognize that your worth is infinite and can be neither destroyed nor created by your failures or accomplishments.
  • Accept that mistakes are opportunities to learn, remember there is no failure, only feedback.
  • Be true to yourself. Refuse to give up who you are, in order to please someone else.
Step back, take a deep breath and focus on the bigger picture. Make decisions from the best in you. Be extremely cautious of fear-based decisions or impulses. These usually mean that your defenses have been triggered and self-sabotaging will often follow close behind.

Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., M.T.C., C.P.C.
Registered Therapeutic Counsellor; Life Coach
Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course
Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples
Offers a free Nurturing Marriage Ezine

Healing Power In Acceptance


Healing Power In AcceptanceOn the list of simple strategies to overcome conflict and heal a troubled relationship, acceptance is near the top. Acceptance has almost magical properties to help both the giver and the receiver feel peaceful. It means a stop to fighting and resisting. Acceptance is an active, positive step. It is not about giving up or giving in; it is about appreciation, respect and love. There is a healing power in acceptance.It is important to be open and honest about your feelings and experience in your relationship. We can agree that suppressing negative feelings can lead to a build up of resentment that eventually explodes all over your partner and damages your relationship. At the same time giving voice to every negative thought and feeling can be equally damaging, slowly eroding the foundation of your relationship. How do you know when to speak up and when to keep it to yourself? Ask yourself: Is this complaint based on principle or preference? We all have “rules” for our partners. Many of these rules are based in preference rather than principle. Principles include things like always speaking respectfully, being loyal and faithful and being open and honest. Preferences are more about the way you like or want things to be. If your preferences are different from your partner, then acceptance and respect is the best approach. If your complaint is based on principle, then it is important to stand your ground. Ask yourself: Is this something I am willing and able to let go, or will I be hanging onto resentment because of this? Having a sense of humor, good will and empathy can help you to accept your partner as they are. This allows you to keep refocusing on what you like and appreciate about your partner and what is great about your relationship. If you cannot let it go, then it is time to respectfully speak up. Ask yourself: Is this worth fighting about? The concept of picking your battles is a valuable one. When we can learn to release complaints that really are not worth fighting about, we can enjoy greater peace in our relationship. Each person longs to feel accepted and appreciated. You may have fallen into the unfortunate habit of rejecting your partner or too frequently giving them the message that they do not measure up. Try, as an experiment to begin to offer them acceptance instead. Watch what begins to happen. When you offer acceptance to each other, you can start to heal and invigorate your relationship.Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., M.T.C., C.P.C.Registered Therapeutic Counsellor & Life Coach Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]

Is Sleep Deprivation Hurting Your Relationship?


Is Sleep Deprivation Hurting Your Relationship?We are all aware that lack of sleep can increase grumpiness and frazzle nerves. Too many of us are chronically sleep deprived and may not even realize how tired we are. Only two weeks of sleeping less than 6 hours per night affects performance to the same degree as staying up for 24 hours. Either way your cognitive ability would be impaired, similar to that of being legally drunk.Research confirms that most adults require 8 hours of sleep per night. People mistakenly think that they have adapted to less sleep, because they are feeling less sleepy. But research indicates that cognitive performance is lacking when sleep is lacking. Sleep deprivation impairs decision-making abilities. It reduces the ability to communicate clearly, to be flexible, to think creatively and to cope with the unexpected. Is it any wonder that you are cranky and less able to cope with day-to-day stresses?Whether you are new parents, have teenagers, stress at work or insomnia. Whatever the reason for your lack of sleep, it is important to recognize that sleep deprivation can negatively impact the quality of your relationship. Awareness and recognition that fatigue may be playing a role in the quality of your relationship may help you to be more understanding with each other.Avoid taking out your crankiness on each other. Side step the urge to confront your partner when you have not had enough sleep. Sometime going to bed angry is better than saying those things that you are going to regret. For this to be helpful, you have to be willing to shelve those angry feelings and go back to them in the morning. Stewing in your angry thoughts will destroy your sleep for yet another night and make things seem worse.After a good nights sleep, problems typically seem smaller and more manageable. The following are 10 tips for getting a better sleep:Take time to wind down before bed. This can be a great time to peacefully connect with your partner.Exercise early in the day. This helps invigorate your body during the day and improves sleep.Avoid caffeine later in the day. It can make it more difficult for you to fall asleep.Alcohol in moderation. Drinking heavily interferes with REM sleep, making sleep more restless.Avoid eating just before bed. Eating too much before bed can make you uncomfortable and restless.Have a bedtime routine. A calming routine before bed can help prepare you to fall asleep.Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature. Being too hot or too cold can make it difficult to sleep.Make your bedroom dark and quiet. White noise machines can be helpful if you are unable to control the noise around you.Go to sleep when you are tired. Pushing yourself to keep going until you are past tired may make it more difficult to go to sleep.Stop trying to go to sleep. Try deciding to just lay there and relax, you may find that you fall asleep easier when you are not worrying about how you cannot fall asleep.Improving the quality of your sleep and getting enough sleep, may have the added benefit of improving the quality of your relationship. Some of these tips will be easier for you to implement than others. Consistently following these tips will give you a better chance of having a restful sleep. If you do not notice any improvements, checking with your doctor about sleep problems would be recommended.Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life Coach Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a do[...]

Saying I Love You


“We do not define love or measure love but are defined and measured by it.” Sam Keen

We toss around the word love like tossing a salad. We say it daily to our spouses, kids, parents, brothers and sisters, family, friends and we use to describe how much we like a song, dinner, book, view, house and on and on.

Does this mean it isn’t what we feel? Not necessarily, we really do have those feelings for our family and friends. Is it the same feeling for an inanimate object or social abstract like country, home and hearth? Again it can be that but to say, “I love this pasta,” diminishes the word. How can we compare our lovers to our dinner?

It is my experience that in long term relationships the words “I love you,” mean less and less the longer the relationship lasts. This does not mean it is not true, that we shouldn’t be saying them to our loved ones, what it does mean we need to make sure the words are sincere and in the moment. We say them so much that they become a habit, a routine, something we say without thinking about them.

One thing I have learned from my counseling experience is that most people notice when their partners are not wholly with them, or engaged, or not present in the moment. I do not doubt the sincerity of the feelings of love we have, what I do question is when we just give a quick peck on the cheek, say “I love you, good-bye,” and head off to wherever we are going. Is our attention and focus on our partner or on where we are going and what we have to do? If so the words just are not sincere and in the moment.

One way of making the words mean something is to do something that proves the words. We need to doing things that show our love and caring about our loved ones. Actions are always more effective when they are backed up with the words and so the opposite is true. So make your good-bye routine honest and sincere. For that moment give yourself and your attention to your partner, hug them for at least 6 seconds (6 seconds is long enough to become fully present), give them a real kiss, soft and sweet and with all the love you truly feel, hold it until you both relax and partake of each other.

It is what we do with the feelings we have for our loved ones that really define the love we have and defines our relationship not only with our partners but also, with ourselves. Sam Keen also said, “seeing only the good we blind ourselves to the better and the best.”  The very best gift we can give our partners and ourselves is to accept the good in our relationships but to continue looking for and making the better and the best come true.

Use the words, say them often, mean them, prove that feeling and your love will never become routine or habit but remain fresh and alive.

“The heart has reasons the mind knows naught of.” Pascal

Texting With Love


Texting With LoveWe are far into the digital age, where we have the technology to be connected almost constantly. Yet many people are feeling more disconnected that ever. We all need to feel loved, we long to feel connected to others, especially loved by and connected to our partner. It is important to reach out and touch your partner frequently, not only physically in non-sexual ways, but also digitally. It feels good to know that your partner is thinking about you and takes a few moments to let you know. It can also feel especially bad to feel ignored or perhaps even worse to face a bombardment of hostile words.Before you send that next text, ask yourself, if your message is a gentle touch or is instead a punch in the gut or slap to the face. Words texted in anger can be even more devastating than words spoken in anger, since the message is saved on your partner’s phone and can be reread over and over. I frequently have clients wanting to share what their partner has texted to them. Each time they reread the message the hurt is inflicted anew. I would like to suggest some Basic Texting Etiquette:  Be respectful, use respectful language and avoid shouting at your partner via text.Have reasonable expectations, your partner may not be able to answer immediately, that does not necessarily mean that they do not care.Be courteous, if you will be unavailable to answer messages for a period of time, or if your job is not conducive to texting, let your partner know.Be courteous, if you read your partner text, but don’t have time to respond, agree upon a response that will let your partner know that you will answer when you can, like sending “k talk soon.”Be reliable; follow through with what you say you will doSet healthy boundaries; if you are starting to get angry, let your partner know. Something like, “Feeling angry. Need some time. We will talk tonight.”Respect your partner’s boundaries, if your partner asks for a texting time out, respect that request, rather than pushing for a response.Be proactive, rather than get into a texting war, pick up the phone and talk to each other or wait until you can talk in person.Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Understand that it is easy to misunderstand text messages.Be patient, expecting an instant response will lead to disappointment and frustration.Be courteous, do not ignore your partner’s texts to punish them or avoid them.Be respectful, do not stalk your partner via text messages.Be clear; sit down, face to face and be honest with each other about your expectations around texting. Decide on reasonable response times, how to ask for time outs, and what feels supportive rather than destructive.  Miscommunications happen frequently when couples are talking. They happen exponentially more often when couples are texting. But talking about and making some conscious choices around texting etiquette for you, should help avoid some of the common pitfalls and make texting a connecting rather than disconnecting experience for you.   Susan Derry, B.Ed., M.S.Psy., R.T.C., C.P.C.Professional Counselor & Life Coach Co-author of Marriage Prep: Beginnings a downloadable marriage preparation course Co-author of Intimate Sex: Manual for Lovemaking, a sex manual for couples Offers a free Nurturing Marriage EzineImproving Relationships Blog[...]