Thursday, December 30, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #59-Being the Best PartnerYou Can Be-Part 7 - Listen with an open heart and open mind

How easy is it to listen to your partner with an open heart and mind? Depends on what is being discussed. Naturally, it is hardest to listen when it is something about you or something you have done or not done.

Listening with an open mind

1) Consider that although it is hard to face and you are near perfect, your partner's concern may be valid.
2) Do not jump to conclusions-keep an open mind until you have heard all the information and taken some time to consider it.
3) Your partner may know more about you than you realize
4) We all have blind spots
5) Just keeping an open mind to your partner may be enough to re-establish your connection

Listening with an open heart

1) Remember, this is the person you love not the enemy
2) Keeping your heart open will reassure your partner that you are not the enemy
3) It was probably just a few minutes before this conversation when you felt happy to be with your partner
4) An open heart makes even the most difficult situation easier
5) Love is what you both want and whatever is being said is only taking a moment in time

Friday, December 24, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #58-Being the Best Partner You Can Be-Part 6

Express your concerns about the relationship in non threatening ways-definitely easier said than done. Whether you speak softly or loudly, accusing or accetping responsibillity for part of what does not seem right to you, your partner knows that you are unhappy about something and it has to do in part with his/her behavior or attitude. Thus, no matter how you frame it, your concerns will most likely be interpreted in some way as an attack-especailly if your partner believes that she/he has been working really hard to meet your needs.

That said, there are some steps you can take that will enhance the chances of reaching your partner:

1) Wait until you have examined your own frustration or anger about the particular issue before approaching your partner and you have taken time to calm yourself down.
2) Be prepared for a defensive response no matter how you present your concerns.
3) Be prepared to listen to your partner's explanations without getting defensive yourself.
4) Start out by saying that you know it might be hard for your partner to hear what you are saying and you would like him/her to at least hear you out before responding
5) Try to be concise and to the point. The longer you talk the harder it is for your partner to listen.
6) Try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
7) If you are asking for some change, try to be specific about what it is that she/he could do that would make you feel more connected or loved
8) If your partner does become defensive, ask that she/he take a day to think about what you have presented and than talk about it the following day when you are both calm.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #57-Being The Best Partner You Can Be-Find fun Activities to share-Part 5

In today's world of both partners working, increasing financial pressures as well as the demands of being good parents, it is very easy for the couple's connection to be put on the back burner.

How often do you make time for just the two of you?
Are there activities that you both enjoy and can share together?
When was the last time that you were relaxed and felt close to one another?

In my opinion, spending alone time at least once a week is the minimum for maintaining a strong connection. I have often heard couples complain that they do not share the same interests. It has always been hard for me to believe with all the hobbies, activities and options for learning and playing that exist in our society that a couple who wants to develop a shared interest cannot find one.

Try this exercise if you are having trouble agreeing on something to do together:

Separately, each person write down twenty activities that he/she would like to do as a couple.
When finished sit down and compare your lists. Obviously, if there are any matches, you have a starting point. If there are no matches, ask if your partner would be willing to give at least one or two of your choices a try and you offer to do the same.
If you still have not agreed on an activity, then each take the next week to come up with twenty more experiences that you would like to try. Do research on the internet, ask friends and family what they like to do for fun. Allow yourself to be creative.
Most importantly do this with a positive spirit and willingness to have a good time with your partner.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #56-Being the Best partner You Can Be-Understand your own defensiveness-Part 4

Even the best communication regarding some issue with which your partner is unhappy, can cause you to become defensive. Why is that? If you are being the best partner you can be, wouldn't you want to know what distresses your partner so you can try to address it and alleviate any pain that she/he might be experiencinng.

Unfortunately, the human brain does not work that way. Any criticism or unhappiness is first experienced as an attack on our being. The reptilian part of our brain warns us that we have to protect ourselves and that instinctual message is sent before the neo-cortex part of our brain can remind us that this is not an attack on our life but simply our partner wanting some help for her/his distress.

What we can do about this automatic response that usually is the beginning of an unsatisfying arguement?

1) Use the age old suggestion of counting to 10 before responding. This allows you to get your neo-cortex in gear and remind yourself that this person with whom you are about to go to war, is our partner whom you were loving just moments ago and not your mortal enemy.
2) Ask yourself why i am getting so upset about my partner's opinion or wishes. I do not have to do anything about what she/he is saying at this moment. I can take sometime to think about it. If it is a criticism or request for change, this does not mean that he/she no longer love you or will never love you agian
3) Is there any truth to what your partner is saying. Take some time to take an honest look at what you might be doing to contribute to the issue that is being raised. This is very difficult but can be accomplished with practice.
4) Think about your own insecurity and your need for other's approval in order to feel okay. Is this what is fueling your defensiveness.
5) Does your sensitivity to criticism come in part from too many negative messages from your parents or early caregivers or teachers?
6) Consider that your partner is only one person in the world and her/his opinion or displeasure may be also caused by some stresses other than your behavior of which he/she may not be aware and your willingness to listen may be all that is needed.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #55-Being the Best Partner You Can Be-Giving the benefit of the doubt-Part 3

How many of us really give our partner the benefit of the doubt? Often as a result of many negataive experiences with our partner around certain issues we begin to assume the worst when similar situations arise. This is certainly normal as no one wants to be taken for a fool or be hurt for the umpteenth time. Why shouldn't we protect ourselves? We aren't the ones at fault.

The problem with this approach of guilty until proven innocent is that it is almost guaranteed to cause the opposite of what we want. What we really want is for our partner to be honest with us and stop the particular behavior that we are finding hurtful.

So what can you do?

1) Calm yourself down before confronting your partner. Remind yourself that this is the person who you love and who loves you even though his/her behavior may not support that feeling in the moment.
2) Consider that the particular behavior may be more complicated than you are aware. Your partner may have an addiction, or mental illness or an unconscious or subconscious behavior pattern of which she/he is not fully aware.
3) Take a position of being your partner's best friend rather than prosecutor, judge and jury.
4) Consider that your partner may also be in pain and not have a decent way of expressing it
5) If you want your partner to be honest, you have to be willing to hear his/her point of view even if it sounds like an excuse or an unwillingness to take responsibility for his/her behavior
6) Ask yourself what is my goal in confronting this situation. How will i accomplish it?

If you have a more caring attitude going into your conversation, you will be better able to use some of these phrases as starting points for giving "the benefit of the doubt".

1) "You may have not realized that what you did was hurtful to me."
2) "You may not have remembered that i spoke with you about this before."
3) "I know that what i may be asking may be hard for you to do."
4) "Perhaps i was not clear about this issue in the past,"
5) "I do not believe that you would want to do something hurtful on purpose."
6) "I know that this is a touchy subject which we do not seem to have fully resolved."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #54-Being The Best Partner You Can Be-Part 2

This week i am listing the behaviors and attitudes that i believe are a part of the essence of "Being the best partner you can be":

1) Give your partner the benefit of the doubt-don't assume the worst
2) When your partner expresses his/her concerns, listen with an open heart and mind
3) Explore and understand your own defensiveness
4) Whenever possible be inviting rather than demanding
5) Express your concerns about the relationship in non threatening ways
6) Take the time to understand how your partner thinks and feels
7) Put time, energy and love into your partnership on a daily basis
8) Find fun activities to share together
9) Be honest
10) Be willing to face your differences and find creative ways to either solve them or live with them in love and tolerance.

In the following ten weeks, i will describe each of the above in more detail.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Relationship of the Week #53-Being the Best Partner You Can Be-Part 1

All to often in our relationships, it is far easier to focus your attention on what is not being given to you or how one's partner is acting. In this four part series of posts, i will offer my view of the most effective way to change a relationship-Being The Best partner You Can Be

This can be very confusing at times since it is not always clear what this means and how to carry it out effectively. I will first list what it is not:

1) Doing whatever your partner wants
2) Giving into requests that go against the core of your value system
3) Basing it soley on your partner's view of how you should act
4) Trying to anticipate your partner's needs
5) Putting yourself second
6) Enabling your partner's addictive behaviors

Next week, i will talk about what i consider to be the essence of "Being The Best Partner You can Be"

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #52-Its the Little Things That Count-Part 3

You know that it would help to follow through on my suggestions for positive interaction in the previous two blogs but you are stuck. What can you do?

Overcoming Your Resistance

1) Start with a small committment-Do one of the actions for a week
2) Think of these behaviors as an experiment; not something you will have to do forever-if they work you can continue, if not you can try something else.
3) Imagine how you would feel if your partner was initiating these actions and whether it would stimulate loving feelings in you.
4) By following through when angry or hurt, you will be able to demonstrate to yourself that you do not have to be controlled by your emotions and model this behavior to your partner.
5) Consider that every positive action you make in your relationship is letting your partner know that you condider him/her a priority in your life

Next week-Being the Best Partner You Can Be

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #51-It's the little things that count-Part 2

Last week i listed three simple actions that are almost guaranteed to improve your relationship and yet i am guessing that most of you were not able to follow through on these suggestons consistently or even at all.

Why is this so difficult?

1) Hurt and Anger-Once your partner disappoints you or does something which stimulates your anger, it is very difficult to remember to do the "little things" or if you do remember it is hard to give something to someone who has evoked emotional pain.
2) "Why am I the only one who is giving?" It is normal to feel angry if your partner is not giving anything back to you.
3) "I will teach him/her a lesson so she/he can see how it feels"-It makes sense when you are angry to hold back to see if your partner realizes what is missing or being taken for granted.
4) These behaviors feel articifical, awkward and corny.
5) If your relationship has been suffering for a long time and you have feelings of despair about ever feeling loved or cared for it is hard to believe that activities that are so simple could really have an impact when the problems you face and the differences that have emerged are so great.

How can you overcome these challenging feelings? Next week i will conclude with a post on overcoming your resistance to being the best partner you can be.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Relationship Tip of the Week #50-It's the little things that count

What have you done in the last week to improve or strengthen your relationship? It is so easy to take our relationship and our partner for granted. With just a minimum of effort we can help our loved one to feel special. Here are three simple skills that will enhance your connection:

1) Share one thing each day which you appreciate about your partner or what your partner brings to the relationship
2) Give three or four spontaneous hugs a day(minimum of six seconds)
3) Make contact once a day when separated and let him/her know that you love her/him

Next week, i will talk about what makes these simple activities so hard to do on a consistent basis

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #49-Couple's concerns during a fight

This week i am posting an article describing recent research on couple's fights. While the data may not be surprising, i think that reading it and reminding yourself what you are really fighting about may be helpful in ending or recovering from an arguement more quickly.

Science News

Study Identifies Couples Underlying Concerns During a Fight

ScienceDaily (June 26, 2010)

A new Baylor University study has found that there are two fundamental underlying concerns when partners in a committed relationship fight.

Dr. Keith Sanford, associate professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor, has not only identified the underlying concerns, he also has developed a specific method to measure them.
Sanford and his research have identified the first type of underlying concern as perceived threat, which involves a perception that one's partner is being hostile, critical, blaming or controlling.
The second type of concern is called perceived neglect, which involves a perception that one's partner is failing to make a desired contribution or failing to demonstrate an ideal level of commitment or investment in the relationship.
The results appear in the American Psychological Association's journal Psychological Assessment.
"When people have underlying concerns about a perceived threat or perceived neglect, they may be likely to engage in reflexive, emotionally charged behavior that can initially serve to escalate the conflict," Sanford said. "This means that perceived threat and neglect should correlate with how couples communicate during conflict. Each type of concern is associated with a specific and distinct set of emotions and perceptions."
Another result, Sanford believes, is that concerns regarding perceived neglect may be best resolved when a person receives an apology and then decides to forgive. In contrast, a person concerned about a perceived threat may be more interested in receiving demonstrations of deference, expressions of appreciation, and reductions in hostility.
Sanford and his research team also have created an assessment tool to measure these two underlying concerns. The Couples Underlying Concern Inventory is a questionnaire measuring the two basic types of underlying concern that couples experience during episodes of conflict. This study provides initial evidence supporting the validity of the assessment.
Sanford said the results suggest that an assessment of underlying concerns can provide important information about how a respondent is viewing a conflict interaction. He also said the results support the feasibility of encouraging people to express emotion when they perceive neglect but raise some doubts about the feasibility of this approach in situations where the underlying concern involves a perceived threat.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #48-Seeking to Pre-empt Marital Strife

This week I am posting an article that reviews some of the attempts around our country to help people with their relationship before probelms become overwhelming and beyond repair.

Seeking to Pre-empt Marital Strife

Stuart Bradford

Does your marriage need therapy? If you’re like most people, the correct answer may well be yes, but your answer is probably no.
In most marriages, one or both partners resist the idea of counseling. Some can’t afford it, or find it inconvenient. And many view therapy as a last resort — something only desperate couples need. Only 19 percent of currently married couples have taken part in marriage counseling; a recent study of divorcing couples found that nearly two-thirds never sought counseling before deciding to end the relationship.
“It seems like we’re even more resistant to thinking about getting help for our relationship than we are for depression or anxiety,” said Brian D. Doss, an assistant psychology professor at the University of Miami. “There’s a strong disincentive to think about your relationship as being in trouble — that’s almost admitting failure by admitting that something isn’t right.”
Marriage counseling does not always work, of course — perhaps because it is so often delayed past the point of no return. One recent study of two types of therapy found that only about half the couples reported long-lasting improvements in their marriages.
So researchers have begun looking for ways (some of them online) to reach couples before a marriage goes off the rails.
One federally financed study is tracking 217 couples taking part in an annual “marriage checkup” that essentially offers preventive care, like an annual physical or a dental exam.
“You don’t wait to see the dentist until something hurts — you go for checkups on a regular basis,” said James V. Córdova, an associate professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass., who wrote “The Marriage Checkup” (Jason Aronson, 2009). “That’s the model we’re testing. If people were to bring their marriages in for a checkup on an annual basis, would that provide the same sort of benefit that a physical health checkup would provide?”
Although Dr. Córdova and colleagues are still tallying the data, preliminary findings show that couples who take part in the program do experience improvements in marital quality. By working with couples before they are unhappy, the checkup identifies potentially “corrosive” behaviors and helps couples make small changes in communication style before their problems spiral out of control. (Typical problems include lack of time for sex and blaming a partner for the stresses of child rearing.)
“Couples won’t go to marital therapy with just the one thing that they are struggling with,” Dr. Córdova said. “So they end up struggling in places where the fix might be simple, it’s just that they themselves are blind to it.”
Not surprisingly, some therapists are creating online self-help programs to reach couples before serious problems set in. Dr. Doss and Andrew Christensen, a psychology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, are recruiting couples at to study such a program.
The online study, financed by a five-year $1.2 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, will deliver online therapy to 500 couples. It is based on “acceptance therapy,” which focuses on better understanding of a partner’s flaws — a technique described in “Reconcilable Differences” (Guilford Press, 2002), by Dr. Christensen and Neil S. Jacobson.
The method, formally called integrative behavioral therapy, was the subject of one of the largest and longest clinical trials of couples therapy. Over a year, 134 highly distressed married couples in Los Angeles and Seattle received 26 therapy sessions, with follow-up sessions every six months for the next five years.
Half the couples received traditional therapy that focused on better communication and problem solving, while the others took part in a similar program that included acceptance therapy. Five years after treatment, about half the marriages in both groups were significantly improved, according to the study, which appeared in the April issue of The Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Christensen says about a third of the subjects could be described as “normal, happy couples,” a significant improvement considering how distressed they were at the start. (The couples who received acceptance therapy had better results after two years, but both types of therapy were about equal by the end of the study.)
The hope is that an online version of the program could reach couples sooner, and also offer booster sessions to improve results. Even so, Dr. Christensen notes that the disadvantage of online therapy is that it won’t give couples a third party to referee their discussion.
“Nobody thinks it’s going to replace individual therapy or couples therapy,” he said. “There’s generally a sense that the intervention might be less powerful, but if it’s less powerful but is easily administered to many more people, then it’s still a very helpful treatment.”
Researchers at Brigham Young University offer an extensive online marital assessment, called Relate, for couples and individuals. The detailed questionnaire, at, takes about 35 minutes to complete and generates a lengthy report with color-coded graphs depicting a couple’s communication and conflict style, how much effort each partner puts into the relationship, and other things. The fee is $20 to $40.
Australian researchers are using the same assessment, along with a DVD and telephone education program called Couple Care, found at, to reach families in remote areas who don’t have access to traditional therapy. The Utah and Australia researchers have begun a randomized, controlled trial of about 300 couples to determine the effectiveness of the approach.
Preliminary data show that couples reported improvement, but Kim Halford, a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Queensland, St. Lucia, in Australia, said more study of long-term effects was needed.
Dr. Halford notes that as more couples meet through Web dating services, the appeal of online couples counseling may increase. “If information technology is integral to how you began your relationship,” he said, “then if therapy is required it’s not surprising that they would look to online technology.”

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #47-"The Ideal Relationship"

I was asked the other day what is my definition of "the ideal relationship". So here it is:

Two partners who are committed to help each other to have the best possible lives while respecting each other's differences.

This is obviously not so easy to do as what might help one person to have a good life may create pain for the other and thus raises many questions and challenges. Who should make the sacrifice and when do you take care of yourself versus helping your partner? What does the best possible life mean anyway? How can you respect each other's differences if your partner has an addiction?

If you have any thoughts or feedback about the challenges of a committed relationship, please e-mail me at and i will write more about this topic in the next few weeks.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #46-5 steps to help deal wih solvable problems-Part 2

John Gottman in his book, "7 principles to make marriage work" lists 5 steps that he believes significantly help couples to deal with their solvable problems.
It is important to note that these behaviors and techniques are not complicated but ways of relating that we already utilize-with friends but have stopped using with our partners.

1) Soften your start up
2) Learn to make and receive repair attempts
3) Soothe yourself and each other
4) Compromise
5) Be tolerant of each other's faults

Over the next 5 weeks, i will write in more detail about each of these appraoches to solvable problems.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #45-Solvable or Unsolvable Problems?-Part I

According to John Gottman's research there are two types of problems that all couples face-Solvable or Unsolvable. His statistics from numerous studies indicate that unfortunately 69% fall into the latter category. Today's post will focus on how to tell the difference between the two types.

Unsolvable, gridlocked or perpetual prolems are characterized by:
1) The conflict makes you feel rejected by your partner
2) You keep talking about it but make no headway
3) You become entrenched in your positons and are unwilling to budge
4) When you discuss the subject, you end up feeling more frustated and hurt
5) Your conversations about the problem are devoid of humor, amusement or affection
6) As you become more rooted in your position, you become more polarized and exteme in your view and unwilling to compromise
7) Eventaully you disengage from each other emotionally

Solvable Problems:
1) These are less painful, gut wrenching or intense than perpetual probelms
2) These usually focus on a particular dilemma or situation
3) There is no underlying conflict that is fueling the dispute

(The above material is taken from John Gottman's book, "The Seven Principles for Making Marriages Work" which has an excellent and in depth discussion of these problems

Next week we will look at Solvable Probelms and how to best work with them.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #44-What is a True Compromise

What is a true compromise? Many of my clients will often say that they are the one doing all the compromising in the relationship. I tell them that there is a difference between compromising and giving in. If you are the only one doing all of the compromising than you are giving in.
A real compromise is when both parties agree to move their position towards their partner's and both partners get some of what they want and give up or do something that they did not want to. A true compromise leave both partners somewhat satisfied and somewhat dissatisfied as it is done in the service of the couple and not the individual. Of course, when the couple benefits and becomes strenthened, the individuals also gain from being a member of a unit that works together and attempts to avoid power struggles.
I will be blogging more about compromise in the next few weeks as i turn my attention to the difference between solvable and unsolvable problems and how to work with them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #43-Romantic songs set the mood

Just as a romantic movie can help a couple to set the mood for romance, so can romantic songs.

Here is a list of songs suggested by some of my colleagues and a couple of my own;

1) Fly me to the Moon by Frank Sinatra
2) Moondance by Van Morrison
3) Just Breathe by Pearl Jam
4) At Last by Etta James
5) You are the best thing by Ray Lamontagne
6) Have I told you Lately that I love you by Van Morrison
7) You are so beautiful-Joe Cocker
8) Just the Two of Us by Grover Washngton Jr and Bill Withers
9) Since I Fell For Yoy by Lenny Welch
10) Close to You by The Carpenters

Do you have a favorite romantic song, please e-mail me at and i
will be back next week with more songs to put you "In The Mood"

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #42-28 "Is Marriage Good For Your Health"

A recent article in the New York Times posed the question. "Is Marriage Good for your health". While most of the research has always indicated that those who are married are healthier than those who are not, the latest research seems to indicate that the quality of the marriage is a key factor for those who reap the benefits of marriage and those who do not. I have posted the first page of the article and if it catches your interest click on the the link to the remaining pages as it is quite long but well worth reading. Hopefully, it will encourage you to take your marriage seriously and give it the attention necessary to strenthen your immune system rather than to damage it with arguements and negative tension.

Is Marriage Good for Your Health?

Published: April 12, 2010

In 1858, a British epidemiologist named William Farr set out to study what he called the “conjugal condition” of the people of France. He divided the adult population into three distinct categories: the “married,” consisting of husbands and wives; the “celibate,” defined as the bachelors and spinsters who had never married; and finally the “widowed,” those who had experienced the death of a spouse. Using birth, death and marriage records, Farr analyzed the relative mortality rates of the three groups at various ages. The work, a groundbreaking study that helped establish the field of medical statistics, showed that the unmarried died from disease “in undue proportion” to their married counterparts. And the widowed, Farr found, fared worst of all.
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Farr’s was among the first scholarly works to suggest that there is a health advantage to marriage and to identify marital loss as a significant risk factor for poor health. Married people, the data seemed to show, lived longer, healthier lives. “Marriage is a healthy estate,” Farr concluded. “The single individual is more likely to be wrecked on his voyage than the lives joined together in matrimony.”
While Farr’s own study is no longer relevant to the social realities of today’s world — his three categories exclude couples living together, gay couples and the divorced, for instance — his overarching finding about the health benefits of marriage seems to have stood the test of time. Critics, of course, have rightly cautioned about the risk of conflating correlation with causation. (Better health among the married sometimes simply reflects the fact that healthy people are more likely to get married in the first place.) But in the 150 years since Farr’s work, scientists have continued to document the “marriage advantage”: the fact that married people, on average, appear to be healthier and live longer than unmarried people.
Contemporary studies, for instance, have shown that married people are less likely to get pneumonia, have surgery, develop cancer or have heart attacks. A group of Swedish researchers has found that being married or cohabiting at midlife is associated with a lower risk for dementia. A study of two dozen causes of death in the Netherlands found that in virtually every category, ranging from violent deaths like homicide and car accidents to certain forms of cancer, the unmarried were at far higher risk than the married. For many years, studies like these have influenced both politics and policy, fueling national marriage-promotion efforts, like the Healthy Marriage Initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. From 2006 to 2010, the program received $150 million annually to spend on projects like “divorce reduction” efforts and often cited the health benefits of marrying and staying married.
But while it’s clear that marriage is profoundly connected to health and well-being, new research is increasingly presenting a more nuanced view of the so-called marriage advantage. Several new studies, for instance, show that the marriage advantage doesn’t extend to those in troubled relationships, which can leave a person far less healthy than if he or she had never married at all. One recent study suggests that a stressful marriage can be as bad for the heart as a regular smoking habit. And despite years of research suggesting that single people have poorer health than those who marry, a major study released last year concluded that single people who have never married have better health than those who married and then divorced.
All of which suggests that while Farr’s exploration into the conjugal condition pointed us in the right direction, it exaggerated the importance of the institution of marriage and underestimated the quality and character of the marriage itself. The mere fact of being married, it seems, isn’t enough to protect your health. Even the Healthy Marriage Initiative makes the distinction between “healthy” and “unhealthy” relationships when discussing the benefits of marriage. “When we divide good marriages from bad ones,” says the marriage historian Stephanie Coontz, who is also the director of research and public education for the Council on Contemporary Families, “we learn that it is the relationship, not the institution, that is key.”
Some of today’s most interesting research on the relationship between marriage and health is being led by a pair of researchers at Ohio State University College of Medicine. The duo, Ronald Glaser and Jan Kiecolt-Glaser, are also, fittingly, married to each other.
Glaser and Kiecolt-Glaser’s scholarly collaboration has its roots in a chance encounter during a faculty picnic in October 1978 on the Ohio State campus. Glaser, who is a viral immunologist, spotted an attractive woman standing with members of the psychiatry faculty. Although their eyes met only briefly, he caught a glimpse of her name tag. Intrigued, he tried to track her down, calling the psychiatry department chairman to ask if he knew a petite blonde on staff with a name like “Pam Kiscoli.” The department chairman figured out that Glaser was talking about a new assistant professor named Jan Kiecolt. Glaser and Kiecolt eventually met for lunch at the university’s hospital cafeteria. They married a year later, in January 1980.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #41-28 days to a healthier relationship

It is spring. It is time for growth and awakening and what could be better than making your relationship a priority for the next month . Click on the link below and you will be viewing a simple but excellent slide show from on how to make the next 28 days a way to stimulate the positive energy in your partnership.,,20340365,00.html?xid=united-online

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #40-Hold Me Tight-The Very Best Investment

This week i am featuring a blog by Sue Johnson that i think you will find informative and interesting from both emotional and financial points of view.

Hold Me Tight
How to feel truly loved by your partner via principles of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy.
by Sue Johnson

Sue Johnson is Director of the Ottawa (Canada) Couple and Family Institute and the International Center for Excellence in Emotionally Focused Therapy. Her latest book is Hold Me Tight.
The Very Best Investment
Investing in your primary relationship builds value & pays big dividends
Published on February 11, 2010

What does the fact that the stock market has fallen mean for families, for couple relationships?
"Love conquers everything except poverty and toothache", Mae West said. We know that financial stress drags marriages down. Money and how to manage it is a sure source of conflict in many couple relationships - and this was clear even before the last market melt down. A 2006 study in Money magazine found that 15% of couples fought about money several times a month. Even in strong marriages, stressors such as job losses, salary cuts or working longer hours can trigger angry outbursts of frustration or numbed out silences that quickly take a marriage into the danger zone.Do we even have time for building a resilient marriage anymore? As financial and career pressures increase, giving time and attention to your marriage also gets harder and harder. Just as we all need a little more loving consolation and support from our partner, it seems to be harder to find.
But some relationships seem to be able to weather storms like this just fine! What is the secret to being able to stand together and ride the waves life throws at us all, whether it's a sick kid, a medical diagnosis, or a lay-off ? The new science of love gives us a very clear message that resilience, both personal and in a relationship, is all about the strength of our bond - the quality of our emotional connection with the people we love.
Let's look at a couple of dramatic examples. First, a study of Israeli prisoners of war who had been isolated and tortured, found that the men who could call on their sense of being loved by their partner could actively use this felt sense of being loved in their prison cell to give themselves hope and the courage to fight on. Maybe this is a little like what I do when I am in a plane taking off in rough weather. I sit back and listen to my husband's soothing voice telling me that he would not let me do anything dangerous and I am coming home to him. I believe him. Evidence shows that just thinking of our loved ones triggers a cuddle hormone called oxytocin in our brains and this hormone gives us a sense of calm contentment and turns off the stress hormones that are keeping our brain on high alert. But the securely attached Israeli prisoners not only engaged in imaginary conversations with their wives in their prison cells, they were also able to recover faster and more completely once they were released!
This kind of research is just part of the growing evidence that we are not built to face stress and anxiety alone. Our most basic instinct, which is to reach for someone we love when things get rough, is our most powerful survival skill. The touch of someone we love literally calms the jittery neurons in our brain. In another study, women lying in an MRI machine who were told they were about to receive an electric shock, were able to use the touch of their husbands hand to calm the stress centers in their brains and lessen the pain of the shock. After all these years we are literally finding proof for the power of love !!!!!
In our work with those who constantly find themselves in harm's way, such as policemen, firemen and military couples, we have learned that the most effective antidote to stress, ongoing fear and catastrophe is a safe haven bond with a partner. What do these couples learn to do that we can apply to our relationships when monetary crises hit?
1. Partners can learn to offer, the most precious gift of all - themselves and their caring when their partner needs comfort. Often we try to "fix" our partners anxiety or pain with advice or ideas about what he or she should do. This usually backfires. What our partner needs from us, especially when he or she is filled with uncertainty, is emotional closeness and support. So saying, "This is so hard. I know you are scared, but I am here and we can do this together," isn't just kindness, it has the ability to turn off the alarm centers in your partner's brain. Your very emotional presence is reassuring.
2. Holding up a loving mirror to our partner is key. We so often blame ourselves when bad things happen: "If only I had worked harder or taken that other job, or invested in different things." Our partner's compassion is an antidote to this kind of self- criticism. If he or she can tell us that we did the best we could and what had happened is not our fault, we can sometimes accept that ourselves!
3. We can learn to pinpoint the emotional triggers that can move us into agitation and irritability or into numbing out and distancing. These moves always impact your partner and make it harder for him or her to support you. They create distance in your relationship. Jim is able to tell his wife, "I just got caught in the Gloom thing again and so I got irritable with you acting happy just now. I don't want us to get into our ‘I complain while you get exasperated and move away' routine. I don't want this stress to come between us. Maybe I just need to talk to you."
4. The last comment Jim makes here is the real key to dealing with stress in our relationships; to be able to turn to your partner and ask for what you need. This is an act of strength and courage. You ask for the emotional support and reassurance you need. Each time you can do this and your partner can respond you are building a safe haven relationship that no stressor can destroy. We know that when partners can do this they are stronger and more confident as individuals and they create stronger more loving bonds.
When we are in trouble and face an unpredictable future, this is when we need our love relationships the most. Our 25 years of research with couples tells us that when we can stand together, we can face any crisis that shows up - if we just hold each other tight.
And by the way, secure lasting marriages are good for the economy. Married folks are healthier and are able to pool resources, so have more wealth and economic assets. On the other side of the coin, a recent research report estimates the cost of a divorce for American society as a whole at about $25,000, including factors such as the need for subsidized housing or lower tax revenue. A small improvement in the health of our marriages would, the experts agree, not only help us cope better with the economic crisis, but result in enormous savings for tax-payers. But, for most of us, the most pressing point is that attending to and turning to your relationship is the best investment you can ever make - the best way to save your sanity in any economic downturn. If we have each other, we can survive any storm

Monday, March 15, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #39-Feed the positive dog

This week's blog will feature my son, Jon Gordon's newsletter on being positive. Before we can truly be positive to our partners we have to be able to establish a positive realtionship with our self. Below are a number of ways to choose to be a positive individual.

Jon Gordon's Weekly Newsletter-Positive Strategies to Fuel Your Life and Career

March 15, 2010

Feed the Positive Dog

Are you dealing with stress at work? Is fear knocking you off balance? Are financial worries causing you to lose sleep?
The answer is to feed the positive dog.
If you read The Energy Bus you know I share a simple story about a man who travels to the village to speak to the wise man. He says to the wise man, "I feel like there are two dogs inside me. One dog is positive, loving, kind and optimistic and then I have this fearful, pessimistic, angry and negative dog and they fight all the time. I don't know who is going to win." The wise man thinks for a moment and responds, "I know who is going to win. The one you feed the most. So feed the positive dog."
The fact is we all have a positive and negative dog inside of us. It's part of our human nature. The key is to feed the positive dog and starve the negative dog. The more we feed the positive dog the bigger it gets and the stronger it becomes. The actions are simple. We just need to make them a habit and do them every day. Here are a few ways to feed the positive dog.
Practice Gratitude - You can't be stressed and thankful at the same time. Gratitude is like muscle the more you do it the stronger it gets. Take 10 minutes each day and make a list of what you are thankful for. You will fill your body and brain with costless and priceless anti-depressants.
Take a Walk of Gratitude - I do this each morning and it feeds me all day long.
Turn off the News - Starve the negative dog.
Smile More - It enhances your serotonin levels and uplifts you.
Focus on Get to vs Have to - Read the article here.
Read Uplifting Books - I happen to know of a few good ones :)
Get together with a positive, uplifting person.
Call or visit someone who has made a difference in your life and thank them. (research shows this is a huge happiness booster)
Write a Few Thank You Notes Today - When you thank others you feed them and yourself.
Watch a funny movie that makes you belly laugh.
Mentor someone and be mentored by someone.
Focus on God instead of Gold - For more read, Matthew 6:33
Start a Success Journal - Write down the one great thing about your day. The more you look for success, the more you will find it.
Decide to Make a Difference - When you help other people with their problems you forget about your own.
I Challenge You:
I challenge you to pick 1, 2 or 3 strategies identified above and make them a daily habit. Do them for 10 minutes a day, every day for 30 days. Don’t wait. Start them today. Don’t just read this newsletter, say “that’s nice” and put it away. Identify what you will do, when you will do it and commit to it. Your positive energy and natural anti-depressants are more powerful than the negativity you face.
Accept this challenge and declare the actions you will take on our blog here.
Stay Positive!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #38-The Thank You Walk

This simple exercise takes as little as ten minutes and not only helps you to connect with your partner in a deeper way but provides some physical movement for both of you. At least once a week, invite your partner to go for a ten minute walk around your neighborhood and take turns thanking one another for the various ways in which you help each other during the week. This helps to prevent the normal problem of taking each other's efforts for granted: whether it be earning money to support the household, making dinner, shopping, taking care of the children, or taking out the garbage.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Relationship tip #37-Romantic Movies Revisited

Relationship tip of the week #37 Watch a romantic movie

Plan an evening of cuddling up together and watching a romantic movie. I had asked a number of people to e-mail me the most romantic movies they have seen. These were listed in blog #8 and are listed below the new suggestions.

Afrer going through my original list, i added a few additional ones that i think you will enjoy:

1)Don Juan De Marco-1995-with Johny Depp and Marlon Brando
2)Groundhog Day-1993-Bill Murray and Andie McDowall
3)As Good As It Gets-1997-Jack Nicholson and Holly Hunter
4)Mozart and the Whale-2005
5)Lars and the Real Girl-2007
6)50 First Dates-2004-Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore
7)500 Days of Summer-2009

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.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #36-Healing The Angry Heart

This week i will conclude with the third and final article in a series my wife, Carolyn Schwartz and i wrote for "Dancing USA" in 1998-9 on ballroom dancing and relationships.

Recovering From Dance Fights


Healing the Angry Heart

by Carolyn Schwartz, Ph.D. & Victor J. Goldman, C.S.W.

The car ride home from the dance studio seems interminable. Your stomach is in knots and negative thoughts are racing through your mind at the speed of a Viennese Waltz. The silence is deafening between you and your partner who sits next to you. You’ve read all the articles by Cooperative Partners on how to avoid dance fights, how to end them, and when to apply first aid. You clarified your expectations and presented your needs to your partner. You breathed deeply, paid attention to your body, tried to focus on your own part and respected your partner’s space and pace. Despite all of your efforts, you’re having thoughts of never dancing again and wondering how you even put up with this person at all.

In fact, conflict between partners is inevitable; no matter how many self-help books you have read, how much therapy you’ve had or how many marital enrichment courses you’ve taken. Thus, it is important to understand the course most fights follow, and have a plan for healing your wounds.

As we mentioned in our previous articles, (“First Aid for Dance Fights”) the reptilian-instinctive part of our brain is responsible for the “fight-flight” mechanism we experience when we perceive our partner attacking us. Such a response often leads to a stormy separation and exit from the dance floor or sulking and refusing to dance. In the early stages of a fight, apologies usually go nowhere and are made by the person who hates fighting and tension the most. Such apologies are usually rejected by the person who holds onto his/her anger the longest. As most people know, fights of all types eventually end (sometimes in hours - sometimes in days) and couples resume their normal relationship patterns. However, there is often a bitter residue left in one’s heart after these clashes which gradually builds up and can alienate partners from one another.

Our view is that healing takes place in four phases.

In the first phase, a couple finds themselves in an impasse similar to dancing on a crowded dance floor. All moves are blocked. A skilled dance couple will utilize patterns that keep their feet moving in place while they wait for an opening. Premature movements most often lead to contact with another couple and throw everybody off beat. Similarly, premature apologies and false acceptances are rarely effective. Instead, during this initial period when anger is strongest, each individual needs to take time to explore the wound they have suffered. Is there some truth to what your partner said to you? Do you need to look more deeply at the way you treat your partner and make some changes? If you do not find any validity to your partner’s claim, ask yourself why you are reacting so strongly to his/her statements. Are you insecure, dependent on her/his approval or love, unable to handle an opinion of yourself which doesn’t conform to your view? If new truths emerge, it is important to take the time to uncover the roots of your insecurities and fears and begin to confront them in order to enhance your own development as an individual.

In the second phase, as the intense anger and hurt subside, it is important to remind yourself of your commitment to a good life in which dancing is an integral part. Although you may feel a desire for vengeance or punishment of your partner, such action stops you from experiencing your own joy and the ability to dance and move freely. You may resent being the one who most often leads the way to reconciliation; however, in the long run this behavior is a sign of strength and your contribution to the couple’s growth and stability.

The third phase is marked by a focus on forgiveness of your partner through an acceptance of your own limitations and mistakes. Nobody is perfect. We have all acted in ways which were hurtful to others. As you acknowledge your problem areas, you can find compassion for your partner’s insensitive behaviors. As you forgive yourself for such actions, you find forgiveness for those who have hurt you. As you remind yourself of your partner’s positive characteristics and strengths, your heart opens and the inherent drive to be close to another human being moves into the foreground of your consciousness.

This opening signifies the beginning of the final phase - reconciliation. Take time to review your experience. What have you learned about old patterns? Do you have plans to implement some new behavior? What did you learn about your ability to set limits, define your boundaries, and your ability to communicate? Your invitation to reconnect must be similar to a good lead in social dancing. Strong leaders do not force their partners to move when they’re not ready, but provide an opening that is clear, inviting and allows the follower to move in her/his own way and time. Thus, a sincere apology is one which is given freely and is not taken back if one’s partner is not ready to accept it. It’s also necessary to respect one another’s time frame for healing and to allow the relationship to resume naturally when both members are ready for contact.

With strong individual frames (enhanced through increased self-awareness and self confidence), fluid movement (aided by each person taking responsibility for his/her part), open hearts (forgiveness for each other’s mistakes and insensitivities), and a renewed commitment to a caring dancing partnership (reconciliation) the couple can continue their journey towards the elusive goal of “Dancing as One.”

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #35-First Aid For Dance Fights

This week's post is the second of a series of articles my wife, Carolyn Schwartz and myself wrote on ballroom dancing and relationships. I believe that anyone who has ever had a fight with his or her spouse will recognize the challenges described below whether he/she dances or not.


by Carolyn Schwartz, Ph.D. & Victor J. Goldman, LCSW

As you take your partner in your arms for the first dance of the evening, your mellow mood dissolves when halfway around the floor, she whispers in your ear, “You’re holding me too tightly.” A few more patterns and with the slightest irritation in her voice she adds, “You’re pushing me.”

Before you know it, you comment, “That’s because you’re moving too slowly.”

She responds, “You’re never supposed to push a woman.”

You counter, “I thought we agreed not to criticize one another while we’re dancing.”

She quickly parries, “Well, I can’t dance if you’re forcing me to move instead of leading.”

You go for the jugular, “Then, let’s leave.”

She one ups you, “That’s fine with me.” She may have the last word but you have the last move as you stop dancing and head for the exit.

How did that fight escalate so fast? What happened to your peace and contentment? Two days later, you’ll probably forget what the fight was all about.

There are times in a couple’s life when despite the best intentions to have a good time, a dance fight erupts, anger spews out, and a perfectly good evening is ruined. Having experienced such moments during the course of our many years of dancing and marriage, we offer the following suggestions to help salvage the situation and make a speedy return to the line of dance rather than to the door.

Step number one is understanding our reactions. While we may pride ourselves on our intelligence, human beings have the same evolutionary instincts as the rest of the animal world - SURVIVAL - when attacked, “It’s Fight or Flight.” In the above example, the woman experienced the man’s lead as an attack on her space. In her effort to correct this, she communicated her discomfort. This in turn was experienced by the man as a critique of hie dancing ability and thus he defended himself. The need to be right comes from a core view that there’s only room for one reality - Our own.

Step number two - Leave the dance floor and separate as gracefully as possible.

The third step is to begin taking some deep breaths and focus on our bodily sensations. This activity slows down the adrenaline rush and quiets our anxiety and fear which fuel our defensive responses. By paying attention to our rapid heart beat and clenched jaw, we start to realize that we’ve not only lost our psychological center but also our bodily center which is necessary for the movement and connection which creates smooth dancing.

As our body begins to relax, we are ready for step four - Examining possible causes of the fight. Very often hidden issues of which we are unaware, may be simmering below the surface. A sharp word or an irritating touch may be all it takes to bring them into consciousness. Did something stressful just happen recently or are there some long term problems which have not been addressed with your partner. By becoming aware of the causes of your tension, it becomes possible to separate these conflicts from your dancing experience.

Step five - Ask yourself, “What can I do to improve the situation?” Take control of your behavior, rather than depending on your partner to apologize or calm you down. Remember, there can be no fight if only one person is arguing.

Step six - Reconnect with your partner and suggest a moratorium. Do not attempt to talk out the problem. Dance fights have a life of their own, do not die easily and can be rekindled with just a word or two. Instead, allow the power of dancing to begin healing the wounds both partners have suffered. Focus on the music - let the melodies soothe your heart and the rhythms re-energize your passion, let the movement help to release your tension and allow one another’s touch to soften the anger. The joy of moving together can dissipate your frustration and hurt, and help you to re-establish your connection.

Finally, it is important to understand that even though dance fights can be painful and threatening, they provide messages which can illuminate new directions for a more positive relationship.

Footnote - Without the utilization of the above steps, this article would not have been written.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #34-It takes two to both tango and tangle

This week, i will be posting the first of a series of three articles my wife, Carolyn Schwartz, a clinical psychologist, and myself wrote about ballroom dancing and relationships. Although the focus is social dancing, i am sure you will be able to see how these articles are applicable to all activities in which couples have to cooperate.


by Carolyn Schwartz, Ph.D. & Victor J. Goldman, C.S.W.

To state the obvious: the best way to deal with a dance fight is to not have one. However, as anyone who has taken ballroom dance lessons or gone out social dancing knows; this is easier said than done. In this article, we will present a number of techniques for the prevention of arguments on and off the dance floor. While some of our suggestions are geared to both partners, others can be accomplished by one member of the couple. Remember, it takes two to both tango and tangle.

We believe that the most valuable preventative technique a couple can practice, takes place before they arrive at the studio or the dance. This approach involves the clarification of expectations. Many disagreements erupt because the partners have different agendas - one wants to focus on the steps from a recent lesson; the other wants to relax and enjoy an evening of social dancing with patterns previously mastered. A dance lesson can become tense because one partner wants to concentrate on style while the other wants to learn a new routine.

Before either a lesson or a dance, we take the time to ask each other: "What do you need in order to have a good time or to have a productive lesson?" Most of the time, we find that our needs are similar:

1) Make eye contact - this helps us to not get lost in our own thoughts or what's happening around us.

2) Offer encouragement and support rather than criticism. Everyone knows that people respond with openness and trust when they feel safe and become defensive when they feel attacked. We agree that once out on the dance floor, any comments, requests or suggestions about one another's dancing wait until we are off the floor and able to talk in private.

3) Sensitivity and gentle touch - we remind one another that we have different levels of sensitivity to touch and the manner in which we like to be held.

4) Occasionally, one of us will need something for a particular mood or the situation we are in - ie: starting with some slow dances if one of us is not feeling energetic or taking more time to socialize with friends we may not have seen for a while and thus, sitting out some dances.

We recommend that this process can be a aided by agreeing to several minutes of active listening (each person has a turn to speak without interruption or comment) or by writing a list of each's needs and goals and sharing it before dancing or a combination of both.

We also a believe that the following attitudes when practiced by one or both partners can prevent conflicts from arising because one person's positive energy can have a calming effect on their partner who may be getting angry or become controlling when frustrated by the dance experience.

Most important, Remember the relationship. Dancing is for fun, connectedness and the sheer pleasure of movement. It is very easy to become obsessed with doing the steps perfectly, trying to look good for others or looking at yourself in the mirrors that are in most dance studios. Don’t forget your goal of dancing as a couple.

Expect to go through some difficult periods. As in all aspects of a relationship, one partner is likely to learn more quickly than the other and will begin to feel impatient and judgmental. If your priority is to continue dancing together, tolerance and support are needed for the slower learning partner who may be feeling poorly about him/herself.

Practice focusing on what you can do to improve the couple's dancing rather than criticizing your partner’s efforts. When one person changes his movement or frame, it creates a need for adjustment on the part of the other. Instead of trying to control your partner, work on your self and change will come about naturally.

Letting go of being right. As good as it feels to be right, this means that your partner has to feel wrong and this can only create tension. When there is a question about a step or movement, ask your teacher. You may be right, but it’s not much fun dancing alone.

Accepting and respecting differences. People are different. Men and women are different. Each of us will hear the music a little faster or a little slower. What is experienced as a firm hand hold by one can be felt as a vice-like grip by another. Again, as in all elements of our relationship, we must take time to negotiate our differences and respect our partner’s perspective, even if we have difficulty fitting it into our own world view.

Despite all of the obstacles, the challenge of moving as one around the dance floor with each person taking responsibility for his/her own part is an opportunity for couples to experience a sense of exhilaration and connectedness that can heal the deepest wounds at the same time that it enhances love and intimacy

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #32-Give your love with compassion and generosity

This week, i will conclude my blogging on "How To Improve Your Relationship Without Talking About It" by Pat Love and Steven Stosny with a look at the final element of their "Power Love Formula"-Handing out love with compassion and generosity. The authors suggest that you make a simple contact between yourself and your partner by stating "This is how i will show my love for you every day" and then list the ways in which you will carry out that promise. Writing it on a piece of paper and giving it to your partner makes it more real and strengthens the comittment.
Examples might be: speaking in a kind voice; lighting a candle at bedtime; making the morning coffee; leave love notes once a week; etc. My suggestion for ensuring your success is to start with one or two actions and if you are able to consistently deliver these, than consider adding one or two more rather than a long list which may not be as easy to follow through when starting on this element of the formula.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #31-Hold Positive Thoughts

We continue with the Power Love Formula described by Pat Love and Steven Stosny in their book, "How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It".
The third action is holding positive thoughts about your relationship. This only takes about a minute and can be done several times during the day. Simply pause, close your eyes and imagine several of the positive qualities that your partner possesses. This is very helpful overall but particularly if you are going through a rough stretch as it can balance the negative images that may pass before your mind's eye during the course of a day.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Relationship tip of the week #30-Hold your partner close to your heart

Today i will be describing the second of four elements of "The Power Love Formula" put forth by Pat Love and Steven Stosny in their book, "How to improve your marriage without talking about it". This is the conscious decision to think about your partner in a positive way four times during the day: 1) when you wake up 2)before you leave home 3) when you return 4) as you go to sleep. Obviously, starting the day with a positive thought about your partner is going to put you in a good frame of mind and as you add to this intitial conscious decision, the remaining ones will build upon one another until you go to sleep and what better way to start an evening of dreaming than with a feeling of love towards your partner. Of course this is not always easy to do when you are angry, but by practicing this routine daily, it will become second nature even when you and your partner may be at odds with each other.