Friday, December 25, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #29-Living With An Open Heart

In the spirit of the holidays, i would like to encourage each of us to take a moment to consider what it means to live with an open heart, especially with your partner.
Try this simple visualilzation and physical exercise:
Find a space where you can be alone. Stand up, close your eyes, and open your arms wide as if you are about to give a great big hug. Take a few deep breaths and imagine your heart is also wide open and ready to share and receive love. Now imagine your partner is standing in front of you. If you feel comfortable, invite him/her into your embrace. Enjoy the moment. If you feel cautious or hesitant, take a few more deep breaths and let any reservations come forward. Examine them and ask yourself what is the worst that will happen if you continue to live with an open heart. Most likely, the worst scenario is that in some way your partner will behave in a way which causes you to feel pain. Take a few more deep breaths and imagine that your love will help you to deal with any pain that comes your way. Knowing that your love can support you, invite them in to your heart and embrace them with all of your love.
How do you feel?
If you are ready, find your partner and invite them into your heart.
Happy Holidays

Monday, December 21, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #28-6 hugs a day

One of the first things that starts to disappear in a relationship in which resentment has become common is affectionate touch. To remedy this loss of physical contact, authors of "How To Improve Your Relationship Without Talking About It", Pat Love and Stephen Stosny suggest 6 hugs a day for 6 seconds. They believe that "The 6 second minimum recognizes that in the beginning some of those hugs will be forced. They can start out forced but will become genuine at about the fourth or fifth second, provided that you are attached and not in the contempt stage of detachment. This kind of embrace increases serotonin levels to give a general calming effect that can even help to reduce appetite. Not a bad deal-you'll feel better in general and less edgy, irritable and sad in particular and maybe drop a pound 0r two in the process of feeling closer".

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #27-Five minutes a day to a deeper connection

I am continuing to blog about, How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Patricia Love and Stephen Stosny. This week i will begin with "The Power Love Formula". This formula includes four actions which each partner can make and carry out independently of their spouse.
1) Keep your partner in your heart four times times a day.
2) Hug your partner 6 times a day for at least 6 seconds each.
3) Maintain positive thoughts about your relationship in your mind.
4) Make a contract with yourself to give your love with compassion and generosity.

Over the next four weeks, i will take each of the above and describe them in more detail. I will also talk about the challenge of feeling as if you are the only one working on the relationship.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #26-"How to improve your relationship without talking about it"

I am excited to share the title of a book on marriage which i think is worth reading: "How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About it" by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny. This book takes a look at the difficulty that men and women have speaking with one another but gives it a fresh look with deeper insights into this problem that plagues most relationships today. Over the next month or two i will be blogging about some of the ideas and next week i will begin with the authors' suggestions for how to improve your marriage or relationship in just 4 and a half minutes a day without talking or having to tell your partner what you are doing.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #25-Making your partner a #1 priority

Feeling very low on your partner's priority list is not an unusual feeling in a relationship. Work, the children, parents, friends and even the dog get more attention than you do. A great exercise to remedy this problem is for each partner to take a turn asking and answering the following question each day:

"What can i do for you today that will let you know that you are important to me?"

While a simple hug, a kiss, taking out the garbage, picking up the kids, arranging for a babysitter, and listening to the events of the day may not seem much at the moment, multiply that by 365 days a year and each of you are making a special effort and taking time to give and receive from one another.

Please note, the requests should be limited to relatively simple behaviors and not changes in one's partner's behaviors or solutions to long standing unresolved issues.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #24-A little loving touch goes a long way

A great way to stay "in touch" with each other is to make it a part of your weekly routine to share some form of physical contact with each other that is not sexual. My suggestion is that at least once a week, each partner take a turn giving some shoulder, back, neck or foot massage, back scratching, scalp massage or light tickling. Massage oil and/or lighting a candle contribute to setting a relaxing mood. I also think it is a good idea to alternatae days so the individual receiving the "loving touch" can really enjoy it. Keeping the time to ten minutes also makes this experience one that does not require a great deal of energy or preparation.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #23-The Airplane Analogy

I like to pose this question to clients who are immersed in "caretaking" behaviors with their partner. If you are sitting next to a child on an airplane and the oxygen masks drop because of an emergency, whose mask should you put on first. Very often, "caretakers" will say "the child of course". On second thought, it usually becomes obvious that putting on one's own mask is the first order of business as one's own breathing is essential in case things don't go as expected.
In relationships this translates to-First love and nurture yourself so that you have energy to give to others. If you do not take care of yourself, you will have very little to offer those you love. Yes, this is selfish, but without self care, we all gradually lose our vitality and ability to relate.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #22-Resolving Power Struggles

You want to go to Caifornia. Your partner wants to take a cruise to Bermuda. Back and forth you debate, then argue, then stop talking to each other in frustration. No compromise seems to come forth. You don't want to give in because you always give in and your partner always wins these struggles but what's the point in staying angry.
What to do?

Flip a coin.

Let chance decide. One person may seem to win but in actuality it is the couple's realtionship that benefits as both parties agree that it is more important to stay connected than to argue or try to win one's way.
While this may not work for really big decisions, it can help the couple that always seem to be in oppostion to each other and can even be fun.
It also helps each partner to take a look at how important it is to "get his/her way" and how that can lead to deep divisons in the realationship.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #21-"Hugging Till Relaxed"-part 2

Last week i described the practice of "Hugging Til Relaxed". Today, i want to talk about the theory of differentiation as it applies to what seems to be a simple activity. David Schnarch writes in his book, "Passionate Marriage":

"Differentiation is your ability to stand on your own two feet, physicaly and emotionally... It allows you to stay close while your partner "bounces off the wall". If you can quiet yourself while your partner is flooding with anxiety, you don't have to move away or make him or her feel differentlly in order to control your own emotions. You can stay near- all you have to do is calm yourself down...
If your spouse is your support system, when he or she gets nervous you have to grab onto him, physically or emotionally, or let go of him all together. If you depend on your spouse to "be there for you", you have to be wary all the time. When your spouse is upset, you can't relax when he's holding you, and you can't relax when he isn't.
Hugging til relaxed provides a way to learn to self soothe, or quiet yourself in close proximity to your partner... You can also feel how "holding onto yourself" eventually brings connection with your partner"

This is not easy to accomplish but certainly worth the efforts of practicing this exercise over time which will strengthen the couple's connection.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #20-"Hugging Till Relaxed"

In the hectic, high paced, stressed out world we live in, it is very easy to get disconnected from your partner. A very simple antidote to this problem is the practice of "Hugging Till Relaxed"(developed by David Schnarch-one of the foremost sex therapists in the United States- and described in his book, "Passionate Marriage") which can take as little as three or four minutes.
Agree to do this simple way of connecting once a day by:
1) "Stand on your own two feet"
2) "Put your arms around your partner"
3) "Focus on yourself"
4) "Quiet yourself down -way down"

Stay in the hug until you are both relaxed, and then look into each other's eyes and breathe.

Next week, i will talk about some of the benefits of this practice.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #19-Breaking out of your rut

Many couples who are together for a number of years report that they feel stuck in their routines and their relationship has become boring. It is easy to get caught up in the family's needs and demands and forget to take the time to be creative in your realtionship. This can be as simple as going to a new restaurant, taking a different route home from a visit to your parents, bringing home a new board game unexpectedly, watching a tv channel that you have never looked at, or switching seats at the dinner table. But what if it makes your partner anxious? Calmy reassure him or her that it is just an experiment in practicing change and it will be fun to see how each of you react.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #18-Being the best partner you can be

So what does it take to be the best partner you can be?

Here are my top ten:

1) Willingness to listen to your partner's concerns about what you do that upsets her/him even though you do not agree with his/her view
2) Willingness to stretch yourself to make changes that are not comfortable or at least try on new behaviors
3) Give your partner the benefit of the doubt before you rush to judgement
4) Willingness to share your concerns in the most positive way possible
5) Be willing to forgive
6) Willingness to accept disappointment
7) Show interest in your partner's life
8) Accept that relationships provide challenges for growth that are not always easy
9) Take responsibility for nourishing yourself
10) Live with an open heart

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #17-What we all want

If you think about it for a moment, what almost all of us want in a relationship is: a partner who really cares about us, our concerns, wants to understand us, if there is something that is stressing us about the relationship and wants to do whatever possible to make it better and give us the benefit of the doubt before assuming the worst. Of course, most of us forget that if we want to receive this, we have to be ready to offer it to our partner.
What does it take to do that? Why is it so difficult to achieve?
Next week, we will explore the challenge of striving to be the best partner we can be.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #16 The Relationship Talk

One of the most challenging conversations for couples is the one about the relationship or some concern about what is happening or not happening between the partners. Here are my guidelines to help improve the outcome of any such conversations:

Guidelines for the Relationship Talk

1) Give your partner the benefit of the doubt before you start the discussion. Try to find a place in your heart that allows for the possibility that whatever is causing you concern is not being done by your partner because he/she does not care about you.
2) During the conversation, try to be civil no matter how you feel, Act respectfully (the way you would like to be treated) and do not raise your voice even though you may start to feel agitated by what is said.
3) Attempt to be very positive and solution oriented rather than assigning blame
4) Limit time to ten minutes unless both agree to extend the conversation.
5) Utilize whatever self soothing techniques work best for you if you start to feel stressed (breathing, self talk, etc)
6) Keep in mind that the most important goal is to be able to maintain a process of ongoing communication whereby you can continue to talk to each other about issues even if you do not reach a satisfactory conclusion in any given conversation
7) Also work towards creating a feeling of friendship and caring about each other rather than acting as adversaries.
8) Try to not communicate displeasure or disagreement with body movements (crossing arms. Looking away or down) or facial gestures (rolling of the eyes, frowning, etc.)
9) Try to end each conversation with a hug and a kiss

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #15 Nurturing the Couple

With all of today's pressures and demands it is very easy to put our relationship to the bottom of our list of priorities. However, like all of life, our connection to our partner needs attention on a regular basis. It really does not take as much time as we imagine, but rather a moment or two of quality talk or sharing of space together. If you have not been focused on your relationship recently, i encourage you to review a few of my initial posts(#1, #3 and #4) and put them into practice over the next few days and watch the couple's energy grow.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #14-Happiness Contest

In today's world of stress and daily bad news from our economy, it might be hard to imagine having a happiness contest with your partner; however, i cannot think of a better time to try this fun exercise.
Agree with your partner that you will each keep a list of all the things that you appreciate as you go through your day. These can be very simple such as "smellling the coffee", the first signs of spring, a phone call with someone you care about, an unusual event, a chance encounter or the unique taste of some food you have eaten. When you return home in the evening take five minutes to share your list with one another. Who was the happiest? Obviously, you are both winners. Enjoy!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #13-Self Soothing

Self soothing is one of the most important skills to help improve your relationship. When your partner says something that you do not agree with or feels threatening in some way, you will probably notice that your mind may start to race with thoughts to combat his/her point of view or evidence to prove her/him wrong. Your muscles may tense up as if you are in a fight and you have to run or attack back. Your heart may start to pound as you anticipate a struggle of some sort. In this physical and psychological state it is highly unlikely that you are going to be thinking clearly or making comments that are helpful to the couple.
This is where you need to do the following to calm yourself down:
1) self talk: Remind yourself that this is just your partner's opinion and you are entitled to have your opinion. You do not have to do anything with which you do not feel comfortable even if your parter gets angry. Both of you have been angry at each other in the past and you are still together. The best time to talk is when you are calm and not in the heat of the moment.
2) breathe deeply: this will slow down your heart beat and help you to relax even though you are feeling stressed by the interaction. It is not helpful to exaggerate your deep breathing to your partner although you do not have to hide it and if asked about why you are doing it, a good response is "i want to be calm so i can best hear what you are telling me and be able to give it the consideration it deserves."
3) remove yourself from the situation if you know that you are not going to help the situation with what you have to say. Try to do this gracefully and not by slamming the door-You might say: "I think i need to take a walk and calm down so i do not say anyting that will not be helpful or i will regret later.

By self soothing, you will have a better chance of having a positive interaction than if you start to tell your partner to calm down as you will be serving as a model for how to deal with difficult feelings.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #12-To agree to disagree-Part 2

In my last blog, i described some of the reasons it is so hard for us to be rational and simply "agree to disagree". Today, i will offer some ways of creating a space for the couple to achieve this state of mind.

1) When you are not in a state of conflict or tension, have a conversation about whether you can agree to create a space that either member can activate by stating that he/she experiences that whatever is being dicussed clearly has two sides and rather than argue about it, she/he is calling for a moratorium on the conversation and acknowledging that this is an area that the couple "agrees to disagree". That ends the conversation for now with an understanding that it can be revisited in the near future to see if either has changed his/her mind about the topic.
2) It is important for at least one person in the couple to keep in mind that almost any issue being discussed is not as urgent as it seems and the willingness to not force a decision upon one's partner creates a more fluid situation for change to take place in the future.
3) Keep in mind that your willingness to respect your partner's point of view even though it may make no sense to you will create a sense of trust in you and will most likely return that respect though not necessarilly in the immediate moment.
4) Every time you are able to "agree to disagree", you are strengthening your own boundaries as an individual since you are recognizing that there are two people in the relationship.
5) If your partner is not able to "agree to disagree", try to soothe yourself and not allow your anger to stop you from understanding that she/he may feel so strongly about the particular area of discussion that he/she cannot be at ease with two points of view at that particular moment.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #11-To agree to disagree-Part 1

Why is it so hard "to agree to disagree" with your partner even though it seems as if it is the rational thing to do?

1) It feels so much better when we agree with each other.
2) If i just point out the error of his/her way, surely she/he will agree with my point of view.
3) She/he surely can't believe what he/she is saying.
4) If we don't agree i won't be able to get my way.
5) It would hard for me to be close to someone who believes that.
6) How can we solve this problem if we don't come up with something we both agree upon?

These are some of the many reasons why couples continue to argue with each other over an issue when there are clearly two different points of view about an issue or challenge they are facing.
Next week, i will present a different way of looking at "agreeing to disagree" and how couples can integrate this important concept into their relationship.
Stay tuned.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #10-$20 dates

We often make excuses that it costs too much to go out on a "date" these days; however, for some inexpensive and fun ideas which you might have done in the past or not, please click on this link below and spend some quality time with the one you love.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #9-Valentine's Day fun

If you would like to try something a little diffrent for Valentine's Day, i would like to offer this fun experience. Contact your local pizza place and ask if they would make you a special heart shaped pizza and spell out "i luv u" in some form of topping(pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, olives etc).Work out the time in advance with the store owner and bring your partner to the pizzaria and watch her/him smile as the pizza is served.
Happy Valentine's Day

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #8 Watch a romantic movie

Plan an evening of cuddling up together and watching a romantic movie. I recently asked a number of people to e-mail me the most romantic movies they have seen. Below are the movies I received in no particular order. Some are old and some are new but you can get them all from Netflix or Blockbuster Online or try your local library. Enjoy:

The Mirror Has Two Faces
French Kiss
Dirty Dancing
Run, Fat Boy, Run
Sleepless in Seattle
Harry Met Sally
A Little Romance
Somewhere in Time
The Notebook
Pretty Woman
Sound of Music
Moulin Rouge
The Story of Us
You've Got Mail
An Officer & A Gentleman
West Side Story
Love Story

If you have a favorite romantic movie, please e-mail it to me at:

and i will post it in the future with my next list.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #7-The Soft Start Up

The Soft Start Up-Part 1. Most of us know that it is not easy to start a conversation about something that is concerning us in our relationship. Over the next several weeks i will be addressing this issue and how to heighten the success of conversations about challenges between partners.
This week-Give the benefit of the doubt. Yes, you have told your partner both nicely and angrily what is bothering you many times before but he/she just doesn't get it, doesn't care, is hostile to you, is self centered etc. Even if this is true, approaching your partner by giving the benefit of the doubt can create an easier entrance into difficult issues. "I know this is an area we have talked about before and is obviously more important to me than you but i would like you to hear me out and consider my request even though it may be challenging for you." This is indeed hard to do if you have many angry feelings about not being heard but in fact whatever you are asking may be very difficult for your partner to do for some reason(conscious or unconscious) that is not clear to either of you. Try to keep in mind that the most important part of this contact is staying in process with your partner about your concern and not shaming her/him, or laying on the guilt, or character assassination("you are just so selfish"). Even if you don't get what you want immediately, you may find change coming shortly afterwards when your partner has had some time to think about your needs and is not busily defending his/her own position because you have not attacked her/him.
Part 2-Self Soothing-next week

Monday, January 26, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #6-How to end almost any argument

How many times do you find yourself in an argument saying things to your partner that you know you will regret later. The key to stopping any of these verbal battles is to slow down the process. This can be accomplished with one little phrase: "I will take that under consideration". Since all arguments are about trying to convince each other of who is right, this stops the downward spiral, by indicating that you are willing to consider your partner's point of view. Of course this will not work, if you are not really open to looking at how your partner is seeing the present situation. State that you will take a day to think about it and then in fact, try to imagine how he/she is feeling about what you were discussing(this is very difficult to do as we are often afraid that we might have to give in to her/his view) and come back the next day with your thoughts about which you were originally arguing. If the argument starts up again, repeat the process or indicate that it is clear that you each have some very strong differences around this issue and may need some ongoing discussion before a compromise or solution can be reached.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #5-The best book on communication for couples

In my opinion the best book on communiaction for couples that has ever been written is "After the Honeymoon" by Dan Wile. This book had been out of print but is now available at as the author has published a revised edition himself. You cannot get this in the bookstores. I will have a supply of them in my office after January 26th for anyone who is interested in purchasing one(cost is $15). Dan Wile has an uncanny knack for capturing real life interactions, where they go wrong, what can be done to recover and get back on track. He also talks about the ten rules of communiation that most therapists teach and why they do not work when there is a disagreement. He believes that true intimacy is a couple's ability to talk about their issues with one another and that the inability to do so inevitably leads to symptoms such as lonliness, depression, infidelity, divorce, etc. This is the one book to read if you want to improve your ability to communicate with your partner.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Relationship tip of the week #4-Taking the couple's temperature

This simple act is one of the most important ways to improve your relationship. Take the time each day to check in with your partner about how he/she perceives the health of the relationship. Ask your partner each day if she/he feels loved by you. If the answer is yes, the couple is most likely doing well. If your partner says no, ask why and what you could do right now to help create that feeling. This is usually harder for men to do since they are hoping that everything is okay and will tend to avoid talks that are focused on the relationship; however, a man that takes the time to do this will improve the relationship simply by asking and thus demonstrating that he cares about his partner's feelings.