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Are We Compatible? We Fight!

If you frequent the many on-line resources (message boards, blogs, advice columns, podcasts, etc.) related to dating, specifically dating at a more “advanced” age, you will surely encounter at least one article about “compatibility” in relationships. What exactly does compatibility mean? If you read all the advice on the internet, this post included, then you’ll find that there is a wide array of opinions offered. Opinions range from the alignment of interests and goals to the notion that there can’t be any disagreements or conflicts within relationships. However, according to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary compatibility is, “being capable of existing together in harmony”.  Dr. John Gottman (2016), the world-renowned relationship researcher, described compatibility as, “Agreeability and conscientiousness are the characteristics that people really mean when they talk about “compatibility.” These qualities are indexed by a person being able to say things like “Good point,” or “That’s interesting, tell me more” or, “You may be right, and I may be wrong” during a disagreement.”

It’s always interesting to me that couples often fear that they are incompatible if they encounter conflict within their relationship. Conflict and the ability to address and resolve it are important aspects to relationships; it says a lot about the relationship’s strength when a couple or family is willing to confront the areas of conflict in their relationships. However, there is a myth perpetuated by society and the media that “healthy” relationships are conflict-free. That’s an unachievable expectation that can be dangerous to a connected relationship.

How can everyone’s needs be met if unmet needs can’t be expressed because it is seen as starting a fight? You’ll notice I changed the wording in my last question from conflict to fight; I’ve noticed that many times the two words are used interchangeably. Fight, typically, has a negative connotation that denotes a level of aggression or force, however. While conflict simply implies a disagreement. Often though, couples and families see any form of disagreement as a fight and it can feel dangerous to the relationships. I teach my clients that it’s important to recognize that you can have a conflict/argument/disagreement and the relationship can still feel safe. How can you safely have a disagreement? I believe that if couples can set up a few rules to how they are going to “fight” that they can maintain safety, not just physical but emotional and psychological as well. Below I’ve listed a few of the boundaries that I recommend couples start with while encouraging them to add their own personal ones that are relevant to their situations:

  1. Use “I” and “me”- if it’s important to you than make sure you are keeping it about who it is important to. “You” statements can feel very blaming.
  2. Keep the volume in check- while some people’s voices get very animated and the volume increases as they get elevated, regardless if it’s from excitement or frustration, it can be very scary. No yelling and screaming!!!
  3. Keep the language respectful. Personal attacks on character, name calling, mocking, being sarcastic, condescending, or patronizing are all ways that can leave people feeling devalued and demoralized.
  4. Telling your partner how they do or should be feeling. Everyone is entitled to their feelings regardless of whether they make sense to others. Use this as an opportunity to be curious about your partner and their experience.
  5. Timeouts aren’t just for kids. A negotiated and stated 20-minute timeout to re-group and calm down can do wonders for a disagreement while reinforcing the importance of safety in the relationship.

Conflict is an important part of relationships, as Dr. Gottman said they introduce diversity and make relationships more interesting. Additionally, they can be used as avenues to deepen our connections with partners by exposing and discussing vulnerabilities. However, for a conflict to be an opportunity to grow it must feel safe for both parties to express those vulnerabilities. Fight for your relationships and connections, not against them!

photo credit: canstockphoto.com – dolgachov

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Are You Ready to Date?

Boy, has dating changed in the last 25 years! As a happily married person, I never paid attention to the struggles of my single contemporaries. However, as a widow of 3 years, I recently ventured back into the realm of dating and into online dating. Wow! That’s some culture shock for the uninformed. Now, I’m sure that there are people reading this that are wondering what my starting to date has to do with therapy? Well, since I am in the business of relationships, personal interactions, and self-concept, this is a very relevant topic as dating in this highly technological, swiping app, game of numbers age morphs these concepts into something much less personal…at least at first. How does someone that is unfamiliar with the “new” rules of dating venture in? I think it’s important to have a plan, not a set-in stone rigid plan, but a basic idea of what you want to gain from the experience.

What should this plan look like? What is your expectation? Are you wanting to meet friends? Date a lot of people casually? Get into a relationship? There are apps, groups, and websites devoted to all these scenarios plus any other variation that you can imagine. I’d suggest evaluating what your needs and wants are. Have you ever dated using the technological environment of today? Setting realistic expectations is important. Although you have access to many more single people than what you would likely have otherwise, there is still the need to weed out people that you feel would not be compatible with you or your lifestyle. For example, dating an atheist if you are very religious and seeking someone with the same quality. It would be unrealistic to expect someone to change their spirituality to such a degree…it’s an unrealistic expectation. Yet, it happens repeatedly in various forms, people often think that they will “change” a person.

What about the amount of time that you are going to dedicate to your dating endeavor? If you download the apps, you can be instantly and constantly connected to any potential “matches.” However, is this healthy? For me it wasn’t, I felt tethered and “on-call” all the time. A possible solution is to look at the website or app only from a computer or dedicate a set amount of time per day to dedicate to the search. Boundary setting early on can help alleviate the anxiety and stress that can accompany the online dating platforms and help you not feel so tied to an app.

What about when you do match with someone? Have you formulated a plan and appropriate boundaries within yourself to deal with inappropriate questions, comments, and expectations from strangers? What are you comfortable sharing with a virtual stranger? What information do you need to protect? What about meeting for the first time, do you have a plan in place to make sure that it’s a safe encounter? These are all things to be considered before any of those scenarios happen. Personally, I think that best advice I received concerning first meet-ups was to keep them short, make sure they are in very public places, and go in with no expectation other than talking to someone new for a few minutes.

You’ve made it to the first meet, and you are feeling self-conscious…yep, it’s almost like junior high all over again. How can you deal with the potential feelings of failure and rejection? Acknowledge them. I’d be amazed if anyone that has done an online dating meet or has been on a blind date hasn’t experienced these exact feelings; it’s natural to be nervous. Likely, the person you are meeting with is having these same emotions to some degree, why not just put it out there? This is a genuine and open expression of what is happening for you in the moment; be yourself, that is the person you want them to like.

Dating can be a scary and anxiety ridden experience. However, it can also be a fun “re-do” for something some of us haven’t done since we were teens. Setting reasonable expectations, having a good set of personal boundaries, and being self-aware can all help in making it a good experience rather than the nightmares you read about. Now, go be your best self, and get to dating!

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Case Studies for Parenting Young Adults: Marriott Alumni Magazine

Case Studies for Parenting Young Adults: Marriott Alumni Magazine

Do you have an adult child and sometimes struggle to know how to have proper boundaries in your relationship? You’re not alone! When our kids are little, it’s appropriate for us to tell them to brush their teeth and eat their vegetables, but when they grow up and have their own identities, it’s easy to get confused about how much input we should give into their lives. For example, should we be giving them advice on their jobs, their finances, and their dating lives? Of course we shouldn’t be helicopter parents to a man or woman in their 30s, but what if they’re really struggling and need some direction?

I shared my thoughts on this topic in a new Marriott Alumni magazine article written by Holly Munson. Here’s a summary of common scenarios parents face with adult children and my take on how to best handle them:

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#1 Marriage Advice From a Marriage Counselor

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You’ve probably been getting marriage advice since you first started dating, or even earlier! Some of it has been solicited and helpful, some of it has not. I hope, since you clicked on this article, that my advice can fall into the first category.

People, apparently myself included, are eager to share what they have learned about what works (and what doesn’t) in marriage. About half of the clients that I have seen over the past seven years have been couples.

Here is a link to an article I recently wrote on my blog understandingtherapy.com. It’s my #1 Marriage Advice that I have gleaned from observing and counseling distressed couples.

 

https://understandingtherapy.com/2016/07/11/my-1-bit-of-marriage-advice/

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Are You Dating a Nice Guy or Jerk in Disguise? Women’s Health Mag Interview

Are You Dating a Nice Guy or Jerk in Disguise? Women’s Health Mag Interview

When you’re dating it can be hard to find a nice guy. If you’re found one, make he’s the real deal by watching for these 8 signs.

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“You want to watch for patterns,” says therapist and relationship expert Julie Hanks, Ph.D., owner and director of Wasatch Family Therapy in Salt Lake City, Utah, and author of The Burnout Cure. “We all behave in unhealthy or manipulative ways once in awhile, but it’s problematic when there are consistent patterns of behavior that don’t feel quite right.”

“If he says unkind or hurtful things to you couched in a kind voice, or in the name of ‘I’m just being honest,’ that’s still mean,” says Hanks. “Or, if he makes cutting or belittling comments and then laughs it off by saying ‘I was only joking! Why do you take things so seriously?’ he just may be a jerk in disguise.”

“You may be flattered that he wants to spend every free moment with you,” says Hanks. “But how does he respond when you aren’t available? A great guy will be able to express disappointment and that he’ll miss you. A jerk in disguise will pout and give you a cold shoulder or a guilt trip for choosing someone else over him.”

Read the entire article here

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Date Your Spouse

canstock empty-nesters

How long has it been since you last “dated” your partner or spouse? I’m not talking about going out to eat or to the cinema, but actually doing some type of activity together to get to know them? If you’re like most couples, you’ve probably succumbed to the requisitions of life like a thriving professional career, the squatters who keep calling you “Mum” or “Dad”, or the pursuit of higher education. Let’s face it, the demands of life are all vying for your precious time and it can be difficult to maintain the balance necessary not to forget your significant other in all of it. Here are three helpful tips to enrich your relationship and remind you of why you chose your sweetheart to accompany you in the beautiful chaos that can be life. YOU’RE WELCOME.

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Ask A Therapist: I Really Want To Trust My Boyfriend

My boyfriend and I have been dating for almost four years. We have a really great relationship. However, over the last few months, I’ve been suffering from anxiety. I feel like something is wrong with our relationship and I am having a really hard time trusting my boyfriend. My boyfriend dated his ex for two years before we dated. She cheated on him and I don’t think he ever got over it. I had never dated anyone before him. He has never cheated  on me and up to this point we have been looking for engagement rings. it all started with an article I read online about men cheating. I was feeling insecure and I looked at my boyfriends phone. he still had his ex-girlfriends contact info. I asked him to delete it and anything else relating to her, but a few weeks later, I saw that he still had some old pictures and emails from her on his computer. I feel like he’s keeping all these things for a reason. I just can’t get over it. I feel heart broken. He says he forgot he had all this stuff. How do I trust him? Is it me?

 

A: Thanks for your email. This may be more of your own personal issue than an issue of trust with your boyfriend. Do you have a history of rejection or abandonment in your past? From what you’ve shared, you have a solid relationship. Watch the video for my complete response.

Take good care of yourself!
Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Ask A Therapist: I’m So Lonely But I Should Be Happy

Simply put, I’m very lonely.
 I should be happy.  I just graduated college and starting my masters’ degree.  I own my own home. I have a job. I’m very fit. I try to do things that are social, but most of the things I do are by myself because I don’t have friends.
I’ve always had a boyfriend, and finally realized that they were a crutch, so I’ve been single for the past 2 years and concentrated on myself and my education. But being alone night after night and not having anyone to do things with is terrible. I’m considerate and friendly, but I just don’t know how to find friends. Seems like I’ve even lost my mojo in dating. I don’t feel like the person I used to be, and maybe I’m not anymore in a good way, but I can’t figure out why I don’t have any friends and am living a solitary life. It’s so lonely. What can I do?

A: I have more questions than I have answers. How long have you struggled with friendships? Has this been a pattern even when you were younger in elementary and junior high or is this recent? No matter where you live you can find friends. Watch the video for some suggestions for overcoming this loneliness and sadness.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

Cialis vs Viagra it is old dispute between two similar medicines which stand by the way almost equally. but here not a task how to decide on a choice and to start using one of them. Viagra vs Cialis much kontsentrivany cialis which is on sale in the form of powder and we use it as required emergency. but nevertheless what harm they neninut especially if the birch costs.

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Ask A Therapist: Lost My Virginity and Now I’m Sleeping Around and Drinking A Lot

Q: I have a question. I’m 21 and I was dating this guy and well, I lost my virginity to him and I loved him. I felt like he used me. I was so hurt when we broke up and I then slept with his best friend and then another guy 6 times.  I drink a lot and I have low self esteem please I need some advice. I’m so lost.

A: It is incredibly painful to feel so deeply for your boyfriend that you would share your heart and your body with him only to have the relationship end. I’m so sorry that your boyfriend didn’t value the gift that you gave him, your first full expression of your sexuality.  While it’s incredibly difficult to feel used, there are many healthier options for dealing with your hurt than by doing things that cause more pain for you and others. Drinking and sexually acting out may temporarily make your feel powerful and numb your emotions but won’t lead to a healthy emotional place and will likely create more pain and hurt.

Please turn toward healthy relationships. Who have you gone to in the past for emotional support? Have you reached out to friends and family during this difficult time? If not, please share your pain with people you trust so you can receive comfort and strength.  Also, please consider seeking a therapist to sort through the loss of your relationship, understand the root of your unhealthy behavior, and to develop healthier coping skills. Click here if you need help to find a therapist in your area. You can feel good about yourself again. You can develop healthy love relationships.  Remember, you deserve to be with a man who wants to be with you and who cherishes you, body and soul.

Take good care of yourself!

Julie Hanks, LCSW

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Can A Wandering Eye Be Good For Relationships?: KSL TV News

Holly Willard featured on KSL Happy Living discusses ways in which you can use that “wandering” eye to improve your relationship.

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