I had a thought provoking experience a few weeks ago. In a couple’s therapy session, a client turned to me (after arguing with her husband for a few minutes), and said, looking for confirmation: “the greatest gift you can give someone is your undivided attention.” It felt poetic! It sounded true, at least worth arguing about! I thought about it for a while after the session. As a marriage therapist, it is important to know what the greatest gifts you can give to one another truly are! The other interesting part that stayed with me was that her husband did not seem to agree…
So, I decided to put it to the test. I started asking others what they thought about the concept of undivided attention. Some people’s eyes would light up like a Christmas tree and would whole-heartedly agree with the statement. However, others would seem to be unaffected by it, receiving it with a “ho-hum” response, if anything at all. Surely, the greatest gift for that client was undivided attention, and she is not the only one! However, it appears that others would fill in the end of that sentence with a different response: “The Greatest Gift You Could Give Me is _______________.” How would you fill in the blank?
Some people joke that women talk in code (and there’s probably some small truth to that!). But what if women owned up to their mixed messages and instead spoke their truth and said what they meant? That’s the topic behind this round of “What To Say Instead.” While it can be tempting to speak somewhat passive-aggressively, it’s much better to be honest and authentic about our feelings.
The following scenarios are ones in which woman mask their true emotions with trite sayings. But doing so is harmful to relationships because it’s deceptive and can limit intimacy. Read about better things to say to communicate and bridge those connections:
Scenario #1: Jane gets a call from her sister. At the time, she is trying to make dinner for her family, take care of her sick baby, and help her recently unemployed husband comb through job applications. Her sister asks how she is doing. Her response: “I’m fine.”
What To Say Instead – If this is a sister with whom she has a close relationship, it’s okay to open up! She doesn’t necessarily have to divulge all personal details, but saying something as simple as, “I’m having a really hard day, honestly” is telling the truth. There’s a pressure as women to appear as if something is going smoothly, but it’s okay to admit we don’t have it all together.
What does good self-esteem look like? It is when we are thinking, feeling, and acting in a way that shows that we respect, accept, and believe in ourselves. It also implies that we trust ourselves and who we are. Self-esteem is not a constant. It is variable and experiences many ups and downs, highs and lows, which can be affected by a number of the different things we encounter in life; both good and bad.
Here is a fantastic way to boost or to move toward a healthier self-esteem:
When people find out I am a marriage therapist, I inevitably get asked two questions. 1) What is the number one reason people come in for marriage therapy? and 2) When do you know it’s time to see a marriage therapist? I could go on for several pages about the different reasons that couples come into therapy. However, my answer to the second question is pretty cut and dry. There is no such thing as starting marriage therapy too early. However, there can be a point where it is too late. Often times people only contact professional help after a catastrophic event has happened in their relationship. Too often one or both people involved are coming to therapy so they can have peace of mind that “they did everything to save the marriage.” The very sad truth is that the marriage could have been saved if the couple had come in at the first sign of difficulty. For those of you asking whether now is a good time to start therapy, let me ask: Are you H.A.P.P.Y. in your relationship?
It is human nature to cope. We try to make the hard things a little easier to endure. As a clinician, I have noticed that there are certain tendencies to cope that don’t help at all. These tendencies typically help us either ignore the problem or cause new ones, neither of which is effective. We live in a culture programmed for immediate gratification. Consequentially, poor coping mechanisms are easily available everywhere we turn. These mechanisms could include alcohol abuse, drug abuse, pornography, excessive gaming, excessive social networking, binge television watching, self-harm, infidelity, and even unhealthy eating patterns. You can guess how some of these behaviors could lead to addiction, and/or cause other emotional, relational, or health problems in a person’s life.
Healthy coping strategies will lead to positive outcomes, such as relief from stress or solutions to the problem. Healthy coping strategies do not rob you of the opportunity for growth. They take more effort, but the pay out is far greater and the effects long lasting. Here are some examples of healthy coping strategies you may want to add to your repertoire.
1. Exercise. The research overwhelmingly indicates the positive benefits of exercise both for the mind and body. There is no question that consistent exercise relieves stress and tension during life’s hardships. The more consistently you exercise, the more your brain will learn that a splendid cocktail of needed and pleasant hormones come after such activities. It will be a great day when something hard happens and your brain craves exercise for relief, rather than a doughnut. Lastly, exercise can lead to better sleep, and of course we cope better when we aren’t tired and grumpy.
2. Talk to a friend. Sometimes when things are hard, we have the tendency to isolate ourselves. This can be caused by the shame we are experiencing due to our problems. However, loneliness just leads to more problems and unhappiness. Though it is hard to talk to others about our problems, we know that it leads to a sense of relief and strengthens essential supportive relationships. Sometimes people use social networking or infidelity for a faux sense of connection, rather than going through the appropriate channels such as family and friends, to meet essential connection needs.
3. Spiritual Practices. I am not talking exclusively religion here. Many times when things get rough, we are so focused on the chaos outside us, that we forget to nurture what is on the inside of us. Spiritual relief comes in many different ways for many people. This could include prayer, meditation, being in nature, music, service, and many other possibilities. These practices increase self-awareness and bring the body out of fight or flight mode, which in the long term can be very destructive to our health and relationships.
Try adding at least one of these strategies to your life consistently, over an extended period of time, and I promise you will notice a big difference. Happy coping!
Many of the arguments and misunderstandings that take place in relationships come from assumptions. Too many times we make an assumption about something that leaves us feeling disappointed, frustrated, and hurt. If we can learn to do away with assumptions and be more direct, our relationships will feel more full and satisfying.
Ashley Thorn, LMFT is quoted in the Psych Central article below.
Click the link to read the first article in a 2-part series about common assumptions that are made in relationships, and how to avoid them.
The arena is full of screaming fans losing their minds in anticipation of your arrival on the stage. The laser light show (which has been through rigorous test runs during pre-show rehearsal) is perfectly sync’d with your guitarist’s heavy monster riffs, your powerhouse vocal range, your bassist’s thumping bass licks, and your drummer’s pounding drum kicks. Your big moment arrives as you make a fashionably late but unforgettable entrance onto the stage and you slay the audience with your ferocious yet infectious energy. The crowd is electrified and shouting in unison back to you the lyrics to your well-crafted and polished songs. You move on to the next city. Repeat. Life as a rock star couldn’t be grander. What does this brilliant analogy have to do with you and some of the issues you may be facing? Everything when you incorporate the S.T.A.R. method.
What is S.T.A.R. you ask? Let me break it down for you:
S = Stop
T = Think
A = Act
R = Review
When we are bogged down with anxiety, depression, and other life struggles we tend to neglect the inner ROCK S.T.A.R. within us. When we stop – we allow ourselves the opportunity to consider the alternatives which gives us time to think – about what our actions and perceptions create within ourselves. With this critical information we are able to act – in ways that are beneficial to staying true to the simple universal truth that we are all capable of doing amazing rock star like things and for that we can happily review – our renewed sense of confidence in our ability to handle ourselves like the rock stars that we are. We too can slay our struggles like our favourite entertainers do to audiences on a regular basis.
LCSW Clair Mellenthin recently appeared on KUTV to discuss why some moms are unfortunately mean to other moms. She explains that it almost always comes back to insecurity: women who don’t feel good about themselves as mothers or lack confidence are more likely to lash out and belittle others. Sometimes there is tension between moms who stay at home and moms who work. This too is usually fueled by insecurity or the need for a mom to try to “prove” she is better.
What’s a good way to deal with a mean mom you may encounter? One way would be to avoid such a person, but what if it’s the mother of one of your child’s friends? Clair says that if you find yourself in the company of a mom who begins insulting others, simply giving positive input can stop the conversation. She always explains that it’s okay to be brave, say you’re uncomfortable, or even change the subject completely.
“What if I’m the mean mom?”
If you are a mom and find yourself being rude, judgmental, or mean to other moms, it’s a good idea to look inward. What insecurity or pain is causing you to project negativity onto others? Try cultivating gratitude for small things in your life to counter the temptation to be mean to others. Finding ways to be happy and confident can help you be more kind and considerate to other moms.
Watch the video for more about how to deal with mean moms.
One of the things I have learned about the most as a parent of multicultural kids is the importance of being mindful and staying in the moment. This isn’t the easiest thing to do and yet, it’s one of the best things to do. You’ll see lots of parents blogging about how they’ve stopped yelling or stopped using their electronic devices as a way to be more mindful and present with their kids. Being mindful has its benefits in that it allows you to pay attention in the moment and, as parents, to use the moment to create meaningful connection with our kids.
As a multicultural parent, the same goal applies when being mindful in those quick moments of questioning that kids give us ever so often. When it comes to addressing cultural differences, many times we experience a hesitation that is just quick enough to send a message to our kids that “we don’t talk about differences.” And, in our not-so-great moments, we scold our kids for asking an age or developmentally appropriate question based on our own discomfort around differences.
When we are mindful we can create teaching moments in response to our kids’ curiosity by engaging in the present moment as it’s happening. There is a balance to doing this because you want to do it in a way that intentionally educates, demystifies, and normalizes differences so that you can connect with your child comfortably and confidently.
We’ve all met those people that seem to offer up more criticism than healthy advice or positive reinforcement. Learning how interact with those overly critical people without letting them bring you down can be a very difficult thing. Sometimes we may be able to simply walk away from them, but other times we are forced to have those people around us. If you ever struggle with this, here is an article with some of my thoughts and tips on how to more effectively respond to the critical people in your life.