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.