Sunday, October 21, 2012

Relationship Tip of the Week #96-Creating the Caring Connection

Why is it that our attempts to care for our partner often go unnoticed or unappreciated?

We may feel frustrated or hopeless about understanding what it takes to connect with our partner or for him/her to feel cared about. This often leads to resignation and giving up which leads to distance and the development of symptoms such as affairs, addictive behaviors or mental illness(depression, anxiety).

The caring connection begins by discovering what our partner needs and the best way to gain that information is to simply ask:

"Do you feel cared about by me? If yes, "what is it i am doing or saying that has created that feeling". If no, "what do you need from me to let you know that i care?".

When the answer comes, especially if it is a negative one, take a deep breath and listen. Even, if you believe that you have been doing what your partner claims is missing, make note that somehow it isn't working. Ask for more details of what it will take to help your message get through in a meaningful way. Take several days to think about what has been shared with you. If you are able to offer what has been requested, do so. Follow up with questions to find out if your shift in words, attitude, or behavior is working.

The process of asking the question, listening, and following through whenever possible is the beginning of creating the caring connection. Almost all partners will feel cared about if she/he knows that you really want to care for him/her.

Next week-gender issues in creating the caring connection

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Relationship Tip of the Week #95-The Challenge of caring-Part 3

The Roots of Caring

Why does it seem so difficult to care for your partner in a long term relationship when that was all you wanted to do when you first met and couldn't do enough for each other?

In the initial stage of a relationship, we want to be close, love and be loved, care for and be cared for; so naturally we put our best foot forward. We minimize differences and maximize similarities. As our relationship progresses, we notice our differences more, we now feel constraints on our individual needs that had moved to the background as the couple's needs were the priority for both members.
We feel ourselves being more critical of some of what we consider our partner's shortcomings. As in social dancing, it is almost impossible, to dance so close without at some point stepping on each other's toes or hurting one another in some way at some point. This causes us to step back from one another and become more cautious and less trusting. Unfortunately,this is a natural process and has to happen when our differences collide as we attempt to navigate the challenges of living together.
Now we are more likely to keep score of who is caring for whom and our list of resentments begins to lengthen which makes it more difficult to give freely.

All of the above is also effected by our own childhood experience of being cared for by our parents or caregivers as well as our experience of being neglected. What did your parents teach you about relationships?
Were you indulged and grew up expecting that relationship were about you receiving?
Were you neglected and learned to take care of your own needs?
Were you taught that it was your responsibility to take care of your parents as their needs were more important than yours?
Were you taught the importance reciprocal relationships?-The need to give and receive

Next Week-How to care for your partner so she/he feel cared for.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Relationship Tip of the Week #94-The Challenge of Caring-part 2

What to do when you do not feel cared for by your partner?

It is very difficult to be a caring partner when you do not experience some form of reciprocity. Unfortunately, sharing this information with one's spouse often leads to defensiveness or an argument and it becomes easier to avoid such discussions which then leads to resignation, disappointment and disconnection

Here are my four suggestions to remedy this challenge:

1) Utilize the soft start up and say something like." I know that you care about me and love me. I would like to ask you to consider adding a daily hug and a weekly date night(or fill in your need for these two behaviors) for us to the ways in which you express your caring to me.

2) Invite your partner to have a discussion about the ways in which you each feel cared for. Let him/her go first and listen in a non-defensive manner. When it is your turn, attempt to say everything in a positive way(what you want) and avoid negative or attacking comments(what you do not want)

3) If you have not made any progress, suggest to your partner that you sign up for my year long program in gift giving in order to strengthen your relationship. If he/she appears resistant, suggest that you can do it for a few weeks and then both evaluate whether it is helpful so your partner does not feel trapped.
You can do this by emailing me at and requesting to participate.

4) If this does not work, sign up for the course and model it for your partner and ask after a month if she/he is feeling cared for by you. This is the hardest to do but often has the most profound effect since it shows you are ready to care even if your partner is not able.

Next Week: Exploring the Roots of Caring

Relationally Yours,


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Relationship of the Week #93-The Challenge of Caring-part 1

Does your partner feel cared for by you?

Do you know what your partner considers caring?

What makes you feel cared about?

Have you shared with your parner the specific behaviors which create that feeling for you and been rebuffed?

The issue of caring for one's partner can be challenging since each individual experiences acts of caring in a unique way. What may be crucial for one person may be meaningless or even hurtful for another. Over the next six weeks i will be exploring different facets of caring.

Today, i encourage you to approach your partner with this seemingly simple question:

Do you feel cared for by me today? If your partner says yes, follow up with;

"What did i do or say that has given you that feeling? This is very valuable information if you want to be a caring spouse.

If your partner says "no"; take a deep breath and ask: What can I do right now that would give you that feeling?"

While this might seem easy, most people are frightened to ask this question because the answer might be a negative one. Try to keep in mind that this is information which will help you to know your partner in a deeper way. Whatever your partner says, take a deep breath and if you can do or say what she/he asks, of course, do it. If you need some time to process the information, say that you will take some time to consider what has been shared and will try to act in the future to be responsive to your partner's needs.

Next week: What to do when you do not feel cared for by your partner?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Relationship Tip of the Week #92-The Challenge of Caring

Why does it seem so difficult to act in a consistently caring manner for your partner?

Is it because you are too busy?

Is it because you are angry about something that he/she said or did to you?

Is it because you are too tired?

Is it because you are not receiving caring from your partner?

Over the next 6 weeks, i will be exploring this challenge in my blog posts and invite you to join me in my third series of 30 days of Gift Giving Exercises or for those who find that too great a challenge, my 4 Weeks of Gift Giving. If you sign up to participate, you will receive a daily e-mail from me each day for thirty days beginning on May 22nd with a suggested exercise in Gift Giving for your partner. If you choose the 4 weeks of Gift Giving, you will receive an e-mail on Monday with one exercise to be completed during the week and an e-mail on Friday with an exercise to be completed over the Weekend. Although it is preferable if both partners particpate together, one person can take this course and have a significant impact on his/her relationship.

If you are interested in signing up for this program which does not cost anything but your willingness to give to your partner, please e-mail me at and i will include you in my data base. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me by e-mail or call me at 631-928-4114.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Relationship Tip of the Week #91-I messages

This week i am featuring a blog by Dan Wile who has written the best book(After the Honeymoon) i have ever read on the communiation process of couples. Many authors offer their advice on how to have the best conversations but in real life, they rarely take place. Below, Dan Wile offers his take(written for therapists) on why the process often gets derailed and how to help couples create the best chance for a successful exchange:

TRANSLATING YOU-MESSAGES INTO I-MESSAGES- The task in Collaborative Couple Therapy is to turn fights into intimate conversations— or to put it in Thomas Gordon’s terms, to translate you-messages (“You hurt me”) into I-messages (“I feel hurt and then I feel angry”). When one partner sends the other a you-message, we move in, speak for the former, and show how it would sound if instead he or she had sent an I-message.

We need to be careful, however, since many I-messages contain hidden you-messages—and I don’t mean just obvious examples such as “I feel you are a jerk.” For example, in sending an I-message, people are told to say, “When you do such and such, I feel such and such.” “When you come home late, I feel hurt”—or sad or lonely or mad. Some communications skills trainers recommend stating the feeling first: “I feel hurt when you come home late.” In either case, the person being addressed is likely to hear the person speaking as saying: “You shouldn’t come home late” and “I feel hurt because you hurt me.” The person speaking is making a complaint—which is why he or she uses the words: “when you do such and such.” And a complaint is by nature a you-message. That person is saying, “You are doing something I don’t like” or “You are failing to do something I would like.” In using the “when you…I feel” formula, the speaker includes a feeling, but the complaint is still there, and the feeling (“I feel hurt”) often has a you-message hidden in it (“because you abandon me”). The “when you…I feel” formula does serve an important purpose, however. It limits the person’s complaint to a specific behavior (being late). There is no room for the inflammatory “always” (as in “Why are you always so late?”) or for character assassination (“You’re irresponsible,” “You’re inconsiderate” or “You think only about yourself”).

Use of the formula softens the accusation by excluding such escalation-promoting elements. In our efforts to translate the partners’ you-messages into I-messages, we engage in a different kind of softening. We acknowledge the doubts they might have about the fairness of their accusations, the fears they might have about how their partners might respond, and the wishes they might have about what they hope to accomplish. We can say, for example, speaking as one of the partners to the other, “I hope you don’t take this wrong.” Or “I know I’m being critical.” Or “I fear this might not go over well.” Or, “At the risk of saying something I will regret, I’m going to tell you that….” Or “I don’t want to ruin the good mood between us, but this has been on my mind.” Or “I hope I can find a way to say this that doesn’t just make you angry.” Or “I’m upset so I might not be saying this in the best possible way.” Or “I’ve had a bad day so I hope I’m not just taking it out on you.” Or “I know I’ve got some nerve complaining since I’m not so easy to live with.” Or, “I realize that it’s hard for you to get away sometimes, it’s just that….” Such examples of what people could (but generally don’t) say makes clear that what comes out our mouths is typically only a fragment of what goes on in our minds. In confiding their doubts, fears, and wishes, the partners would be bringing each other into their ongoing dialogue with themselves. They would be creating a meta-level—a platform—from which to look with each other at what is going on in their minds. They would be adding elements of an I-message to their you-message. But when people are upset, they are unlikely to do such confiding or, for that matter, to be able to use or even remember the “when you…I feel” formula. They sink into a grim, narrowed-down state in which they lose track of all doubts, fears, and wishes and just blurt out, “Why are you always so late? You’re selfish and inconsiderate.”

It is hard for people to send an I-message when they are in a you-message frame of mind—that is, when their neuro-circuits and neurotransmitters are in anger mode. Even if they manage to come up with the right words for an I-message, their tone of voice gives them away. Later, when they and their partners have calmed down—and if the issue at hand isn’t long-term and embittering—one partner may slip into I-message mode and reach out to the other: “I’m sorry I came on so strong about your being late.” Such acknowledgement might be too little too late. But it has the potential to shift the other into I-message mode—that is, the state of mind in which it is possible to send true I-messages. The partner who apologized for coming on strong is making him/herself vulnerable in a way that can disarm the other partner and trigger a cycle in which each (1) admits what he or she had just been denying, (2) appreciates the reasonableness of the other’s point of view, and (3) takes back many of his or her accusations.

Vulnerability inspires vulnerability. “Yes, but I’ve got to work harder to be on time.” “Yes, but I shouldn’t mind so much when you’re a little late.” “Maybe, but it’s still inconsiderate—and disrespectful.” “Yes, but I’ve got to remember that what drew me to you in the first place is your relaxed attitude: how you’re not always worried about getting everything done so perfectly and so exactly on time.” “Yes, and I need to remember that what drew me to you was how efficient and organized you are. I wanted some of that.” When partners shift from the you-message to the I-message frame of mind, they become different people and find themselves in a different relationship.

In conclusion: (1) you-messages come in various degrees and shades: expletives (“Go fuck yourself”), character assaults (“You’re selfish”), exaggeration (“You’re always late”), sarcasm (“I love how prompt you always are”), complaints (“You’re late”) and even certain I-messages (“I feel lonely” when said with a tone of voice that implies “You abandon me”). (2) To send a true I-message, partners need to be in the right frame of mind, one in which their anger or hurt has sufficiently quieted so they can reach out to the other. (3) You-messages are contagious (people receiving them are likely to respond with one of their own), and so are I-messages (vulnerability inspires vulnerability). (4) To the extent that we, their therapists, have not joined them in the you-message mode, we will be in position to translate their you-messages into true I-messages—by confiding (reporting) the complaint rather than making it, eliminating the barbed tone, and bringing in the speaker’s doubts, fears, and wishes.

To visit Dan Wile's Blog click below:

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Relationship Tip of the Week #90-Caring

If you want to take a quick check of the status of your relationship, ask your partner:
"Do you feel cared about by me at this moment?"

Many of us are frightened to ask this question because the answer may be no. And yet, what better way to find out if your partner has some issues that need to be addressed. Many men are afraid to open this door and let a barrage of complaints come through but will claim that they want their partner to be happy. Both partners often feel as if they are already doing everything they can to care for their partner and thus they often feel overwhelmed, unappreciated or simply hurt by their partner's statements.

It is actually an act of courage and caring at the same time to ask this question and hear where you stand with your partner.

If you are able to do this and your worse fears are realized and your partner is not feeling cared about, take a deep breath and listen to what is being said. You do not have to defend yourself(this will definitely make matters worse), nor come up with a quick solution or what may be an empty promise to change your behavior. Take a day to think about what your partner needs and whether you can truly make changes to help him/her to feel cared for by you. If you do not think you can meet your partner's requests, state that you will continue to think about what she/he needs and will remain open to the possibility of change. If you can stretch yourself to be more sensitive to what your partner needs than of course take action.

At the very least, the act of inquiring, will help the two of you to become more connected.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Relationship Tip of the Week #89-Instant Romance

If you have been feeling disconnected from your partner for a while and you want an instant fix, i suggest you find a copy of the song you used for your first dance at your wedding or a slow romantic song that has meaning for you and your partner, take your spouse's hand , turn down the lights, turn up the music, pull him/her to you, hold each other close as you move in unison and let the memory of the love that brought you together wash over your mind's eye.

If you don't have a favorite romantic song, i offer a brief list of mine:

Have i told you lately that i love you? by Van Morrison
Just A Kiss by Lady Antebellum
At Last by Etta James or my favorite version by Red and the Red Hots(excellent swing band from the 90's) which is easier to dance to
I won't Let Go by Rascal Flatts.
Someone Like You by Van Morrison
I Finally Found Someone by Barbara Streisand and Bryan Adams

If you have a favorite romantic song, please e-mail it to me at and i will list it in one of my relationship tips in March.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Relationship Tip of the Week #88-"I love you but i am not in love-Part 2

In my last post, i described how we "fall out of love" with our partner and the symptom of no longer "being in love" with him or her.

Is it possible to get that feeling back after losing it?

I believe that it is but that both partners must be willing to work at it and confront some painful truths.

First, there has to be a willingness to share the hurts and disappointments that each have experienced over the years and a commitment to address them in a non-defensive way.

Second, each has to be ready to bring positive energy and an openness to one an other's needs.

Third, if there are any addictions that have developed, they must be addressed.

Fourth, the couple must make a significant effort to spend quality time together and bring an attitude of fun to the experiences they share

Fifth, each must express an interest in one an other's life(work, parenting hobbies) apart from the couple.

Sixth, hold an honest discussion of your physical connection and commit to explore your needs for affection and sexual intimacy.

Seventh, each must make time together a top priority despite the demands of today's busy society.

If this sounds a lot like what happens when most couples meet and fall in love-of course it is- except for number one as the couple has not experienced the challenges and differences that surface in a living relationship.

While you can never get back the feelings of infatuation and newness of a relationship that has just started, you can feel deeply connected and a joy at being together with someone that truly knows and cares about you.