Got Jealousy? How to Check It Before It Wrecks Your Relationship

JealousyWe all know the destructive powers of Jealousy.  When in the presence of someone taller, richer, smarter, thinner, younger, prettier, or anything else-er… it has the opportunity to rear its ugly head.  Let’s face it, we can’t be all things all the time.  That would be downright boring anyway. But what about those feelings of insecurity, self doubt, and low self worth that emerge when our defenses are low?  Let’s break them down into their composite parts and root causes.  As a Therapist and Coach, it helps to dissect emotion, its triggers, and resulting behaviors. So let’s begin with a few related outcomes…

Insecurity:

When we listen too closely to our inner critic, we naturally feel insecure and unsure of ourselves. It’s uncomfortable and can stifle us from taking risks, stepping outside our comfort zone, and stretching toward new levels of achievement.  What to do?  Challenge it!  It’s healthy to check yourself, but if you’re obsessing about mistakes made or are fearful of acting on the wrong decision, it’s time to consider other possible explanations and ideas about yourself and the task at hand.  Acknowledge your negative self talk and substitute that critical gremlin’s loud mouth with statements of encouragement and wisdom. Open your mind to best case scenario and successful endings to the story.

“The task we must set for ourselves is not to feel secure, but to be able to tolerate insecurity.” – Erich Fromm

Comparison:

When we compare ourselves to others, we are setting ourselves up for a fall.  It’s a mean trick our brains play on us.  Typically we notice the strengths of others while honing in on our own shortcomings.  When you compare the two – someone’s strengths against your blind spots and challenges – you naturally end up with unfair comparisons and a recipe for discouragement.   An example of this is, “Her hair is so pretty, I bet all the guys like her.  I’m overweight and miserable in my job.”  Say ‘hello’ to the metaphorical apples and oranges argument!  Stop and question the assumptions you make.  Catch the unfair comparisons in action.  You never really know the details of someone else’s life story and therefore, comparing it to yours is fruitless (pun intended!).

Remember the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Self Worth:

When insecurity and unfair comparisons combine, the result is low self worth.   This can be disastrous to your mental health, relationships, and personal growth.  Take a step back.  Get off the couch.  Realize your potential and the possibilities.  If you’re feeling lonely, expand your friend group.  If you’re feeling incompetent, expand your skills and expertise. If you’re feeling unfulfilled, choose an activity or interest to explore.  Identify one goal you can and will accomplish this week to get one step closer self improvement. Take a class or join a meet-up group.  It will improve your quality of life – and your self worth.  Don’t capitulate to the unwanted negative feelings.  They will loose their strength and influence when you take your power back.

“A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval.” – Mark Twain

Take-Home Message:  peaceful yoga girl

You are in control of your thoughts and feelings.  Jealousy is a product of the way you think about the events of life.  When you feel the pang of insecurity, low self worth, or jealousy, pause and practice gratitude.  Switch your attention to three things you are thankful for right now, in this moment.  I’ll share mine for today – the warm weather, my family, and my cats.  Now what are yours?

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” – Cicero

This article was written by Heather Edwards, LMHC, NCC, BCC.  She is a Manhattan based Therapist and Coach with over 15 years combined experience working with individuals, families, and businesses. She is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Board Certified Coach, and MBTI Certified Practitioner.

“1st Image courtesy of anankkml/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

“2nd Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”.

10 Ways to Resolve Marital Conflict

IMG_0270Who doesn’t love a wedding? But with months and months of planning, it only lasts a short while – and then there’s the marriage. If history is prologue, neither former first daughter, Chelsea Clinton, nor longtime boyfriend, Marc Mezvinsky, had great role models for marital bliss. And that’s even without the religious issues – she was raised Christian and he’s Jewish.

This much publicized union is affirmation of America’s shifting religious landscape. There has been a gradual increase in interfaith marriages over the past two decades and more than 30% U.S. households now are mixed-faith. Despite changing attitudes, it’s still not easy to make marriage work.

If you or a loved one has recently tied the knot, you know that marriage constitutes a major change. Emotional reactions at times of transition are common and normal. And in making the necessary adjustments, some conflict is inevitable – all couples get angry and have arguments. Whether a marriage will last depends, in part, on how you prepare for the challenges. You’ll find that some of these tips may serve you well:

1. Keep your communication open and honest.Talk out misunderstandings before they become arguments. Don’t resort to low blows or get side-tracked by pointing out questionable character traits. Practice active listening skills and sending I-focused messages to clarify that what you’re saying is your own opinion.

2. Use cooperation and compromise. Be direct yet flexible as you make your way through disagreements. Look at the issue from your partner’s perspective and practice empathy. Ask yourself if being right and winning the fight is more important than the success of your relationship.

3. Minimize emotional overload. Flooding is a physiological arousal that is activated when tensions are high and communication stalls. If you’re quarreling, state a desired outcome and stick to the subject at hand. Try not to blame your partner or get defensive, and take some responsibility for what’s going on.

4. Practice non-threatening behavior. Monitor any negative comments and be slow to criticize. Try to control your emotions because your body language and tone of voice make a difference. Count to 10 before reacting – if it looks like the conversation is escalating, walk away.

5. Agree to a time-out strategy. Before you say something you may later regret, decide to put some distance between yourselves and the problem. Plan to return to the conversation later and work out a solution. And then take a break until you’re less upset and settled down enough to listen without planning a rebuttal.

6. Find a comfortable position, close your eyes and breathe deeply. Hold your breath for several seconds and release it slowly through your mouth. Repeat this several times, brushing away any distractions. Notice how focusing only on each breath can make you feel more calm.

7. Pay attention to constructive thoughts. You can turn the negatives into more positives.  For example, his anger isn’t all about me; we really do love each other; she’s under a lot of pressure at work; this too shall pass; I’m upset now but I know we’re right for each other.

8. Choose your words. In the midst of an argument, any one of these phrases would be welcomed by a partner feeling misunderstood: I might be wrong; stay with me and don’t withdraw; I see my part in all of this; let’s find common ground; I love you and we’ll work this out.

9. Stay engaged. A gentle touch, eye contact or a quick hug can release oxytocin, a hormone that facilitates bonding as well as reduces blood pressure and stress levels. When you’re feeling tense, an affectionate moment can help you feel closer, loved and even more relaxed.

10. Build emotional dividends. If you characteristically turn toward rather than away from each other, the goodwill you accumulate can provide an emotional cushion. Maintain a reserve of shared positive feelings and you will be able to draw from this supply of affection in times of conflict.

No matter who you marry, there are bound to be all sorts of differences – family values, cultural backgrounds, socioeconomic status, religious traditions. But if you work toward understanding, each can complement and enrich the other.

Chelsea and Marc have attended family holidays together so they may have already started a discussion that includes Christmas trees and Hanukah menorahs. It is often rituals and family relationships that give faith meaning. The Clintons have raised Chelsea well and she has stood by her parents through tough times. And Chelsea is a survivor – resilient, transcendent, private, well balanced – all qualities that can only enhance a marriage that seems off to a very good start.

This blog post was contributed by Phyllis Goldberg, PhD © HerMentorCenter, 2012. All rights reserved. The above material may not be copied to another web site without the express permission of HerMentorCenter.com.

Got Relationship Blues?

Hint: Stop Criticizing

Why endless criticism is doomed to failure.

 

Look at your relationship.

The problems seem obvious. But, what are the solutions?

This guest blog by Heather Edwards, breaks down relationship problems into a digestible form,making it easier for you to do what’s needed to be happier.

The Good Relationship:

Sometimes the key to discovering what works best in a relationship is eliminating what we knowdoesn’t work. There are a number of scientifically proven actions that destroy relationships. John Gottman calls these the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” So let’s start there.

Criticism:

The first is Criticism. Unless this is constructive with the intent of helping, it’s probably hurtful. In destructive criticism, couples will attack each other’s personality or character in an effort to prove who is right and who is wrong. It leaves both feeling angry and dissatisfied in the long and short run. These statements tend to start with generalizations, and include absolute words like “always” and “never.”

Contempt:

The second is Contempt. In this communication style, one partner will attack by name-calling, mockery, hostility, and negative or aggressive body language and tone of voice. Its intent is to demean and dis-empower the other person’s position and character. There are no happy endings when contempt enters the room.

Defensiveness:

The third is Defensiveness. When one partner feels like a victim, she may deny or make excuses for her behavior. Or, he may cross complain by lodging one of his own complaints in retaliation, or “Yes, but!” the original complaint in refusal of responsibility. It’s a very closed, blaming, andjudgmental way of approaching conflicts. And it doesn’t work.

Stonewalling:

The fourth is Stonewalling. When one partner stonewalls, he has shut down the conversationThe relationship store is closed for business. There is a stony silence, avoidance, and a withdrawal from communication. There may be a belief that the avoidance prevents a bigger blow up, but what it really conveys is icy distance, disconnection and smugness. It actually worsens the problem and sabotages thechance of resolution.

Learning From Happy Couples:

Happy couples have 5 positive interactions to every negative one. Gottman calls this the “Five to One Ratio.” Positive interactions are cultivated everyday in successful marriages. A few examples of easy ways to do this are giving a compliment, showing your appreciation for something big or small, reliving a fun memory, or doing something nice for the other person. The key to the most successful relationships is spending time being together and talking together. Share your ideas, experiences, and dreams with each other.

More sex = more joy. People are 55% more likely to report higher levels of happiness when they have sex two to three times per week. Having sex at least one time per week makes people 44% more likely to report happiness. The happiest couples have sex at least 2 to 3 times per month. The hormones released during sex create stronger bonds, warm fuzzy feelings, and a sense of relaxed satisfaction. What are you waiting for? Make sex a priority in your busy life.

Strong relationships have the Michelangelo Effect:

This means that one partner brings out the best in the other. It creates a sense of esteem and personal satisfaction in actualizing the ideal self. They also share new experiences, celebrate good news, and laugh together. So go for an evening walk, try a new restaurant, explore new places, relive a funny moment, and show enthusiasm for the other person’s accomplishments.

When in disagreement, their arguing style is open, considerate, and empathic. It includes active listening, humor, and affection. They even concede on certain points their partner makes. After all, one person can’t be right all the time! Plus, very few things in life occur “always” or “never”—except, of course, for sunsets and taxes.

Now you have an idea of what empowers relationships, and what destroys them. You may have recognized some of these positive and negative qualities in yours.

Remember that it’s never too late to make things better. If you and your partner are invested in enjoying a happy life together, then start employing some of the tips here—and try to change the negative oneswhen they surface.

________________________________________________________________________

This piece was a contribution by guest blogger, Heather Edwards, MA, LMHC, who is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at:

• http://newyorkpsychotherapyandlifecoaching.com/

 _____________________________________________________________________________

Four Horsemen and Michelangelo

IMG_6974In this article, Heather Edwards sheds light on what makes relationships thrive – and what makes them destined for doom.  It was originally published on her blog, New York Psychotherapy and Life Coaching. She is a Psychotherapist and Life Coach, and the Blog Editor in Chief of Couplewise.

                           ************************************************

The problems are obvious.  What are the solutions?

Sometimes the key to discovering what works best in a relationship is evaluating and eliminating what we know doesn’t work.  We know there are a few scientifically proven actions that destroy relationships.  John Gottman calls these the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse”.  So let’s start there.

The first is Criticism.  Unless this is constructive with the intent of helping, it’s probably hurtful.  In destructive criticism, couples will attack each other’s personality or character in an effort to prove who is right and who is wrong.  It leaves both feeling angry and dissatisfied in the long and short run.  These statements tend to start with generalizations, and include absolute words like “always” and “never”.

The second is Contempt.  In this communication style one partner will attack the other’s sense of self using name-calling, mockery, hostility, and negative or aggressive body language and tone of voice.  It’s intent is to demean and disempower the other person’s position and character. There are no happy endings when contempt enters the room.

The third is Defensiveness.  When one partner feels like a victim, he/she might deny or make excuses for their behavior. They may cross-complain by lodging one of their own complaints in retaliation, or “Yes, but!” the original complaint in refusal of responsibility.  It is a very closed, blaming, and judgemental way of approaching conflicts. And it doesn’t work.

The fourth is Stonewalling.  When one partner stonewalls, he/she has shut down the conversation. The relationship store is closed for business.  There is a stony silence, avoidance, and a withdrawal from communication.  There may be a belief that the avoidance prevents a bigger blow up, but what it really conveys is icy distance, disconnection and smugness.  It actually worsens the problem and sabotages the chance of resolution.

What we know about happy couples:

Happy couples have 5 positive interactions to every negative one.  Gottman calls this the “Five to One Ratio”. Positive interactions are cultivated everyday in successful marriages.  A few examples of easy ways to do this are giving a compliment, showing your appreciation for something big or small, reliving a fun memory, or doing something nice for the other person. The key to the most successful relationships is spending time being together and talking together.  Share your ideas, experiences, and dreams with each other.

More sex = more joy.   In a recent study it was determined that people are 55% more likely to report higher levels of happiness when they have sex two to three times per week.  Having sex at least one time per week makes people 44% more likely to report happiness.  The happiest couples have sex at least 2 to 3 times per month.  The hormones released during sex create stronger bonds, warm fuzzy feelings, and a sense of relaxed satisfaction.  What are you waiting for?  Make sex a priority in your busy life.

Strong relationships have the Michelangelo Effect.  This means that one partner brings out the best in the other.  It creates a sense of esteem and personal satisfaction in actualizing the ideal self. They also share new experiences, celebrate good news, and laugh together.   So go for an evening walk, try a new restaurant, explore new places, relive a funny moment, and show enthusiasm for the other person’s accomplishments.

When in disagreement, the happy couple’s arguing style is open, considerate, and empathic.  It includes active listening, humor, and affection.  They even conceding on certain points their partner makes. After all, one person can’t be right all the time!  Plus, very few things in life occur “always” or “never”.  Except, of course, sunsets and taxes.

Now you have an idea of what empowers relationships, and what destroys them.  You may have recognized some of these positive and negative qualities in yours.  Remember that it’s never too late to make things better.  If you and your partner are invested in enjoying a happy life together, then start employing some of the tips here – and recognize and change the negative ones when they surface.

Everyday is Valentine’s Day

IMG_7082This article is written by Heather Edwards, LMHC, NCC, BCC Psychotherapist, Life Coach, and Blog Editor in Chief of Couplewise.  It is originally posted on her blog at NewYorkPsychotherapyandLifeCoaching.com .  In this piece she suggests ways to celebrate your love everyday.

Valentine’s Day is the day of love notes, red roses, and heart shaped chocolates. Romance is awakened and we feel reconnected.  For centuries, it’s celebrated as a day to declare and honor our one true love.

Some love it.  Some hate it.  Some just follow the relationship protocol.  There are those who yearn for a special day of gifts, romance, and kindness. There are those who loathe the “Hallmark Holiday”, deeming it contrived and corporate.  There are those who choose not to rock the “love boat” and dutifully follow tradition.  Whether you love it, hate it, or are apathetic to it, it happens every year – and this year its happening 3 days from now.  What’s one to do?

Imagine removing the pressure of finding the perfect gift or expression of love on that one day each year.  Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be a single day of celebration fraught with gift giving, spending money, and the materialization of love.  What if instead, we mindfully loved more generously and openly in our everyday lives and relationships? Everyday.   Stop wasting your time and energy searching for differences, problems, and sources of anxiety – they’re way to easy to find and obsess about!  Shift your focus to what is positive, good, and loving.

Let’s take a moment to consider the ways we celebrate and acknowledge our love and relationships on this not-so-subtle reminder called Valentines Day.  There are pretty predictable ways we conform to social expectations, but as you continue reading, imagine incorporating these ideas into each day. Yes, 365 days per year.

Acts of Kindness –

Whether you’re the gift giving type or the favor offering kind, remember the ways you reached out to your partner when your relationship was new.  What were you eager to do for that person, simply for the sake of making him/her feel good?  How did you express tenderness, infatuation, and desire?  Take time to plan a meal, give a massage, or connect through sharing ideas, dreams, and plans.

“I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame.” – W.B. Yeats

Seek Adventure –

When your relationship was new, everything you did together was adventurous simply because YOU were new to each other.  Some of those activities may have gotten lost in the shuffle of responsibility, boredom,  or routine.  Keep novelty alive!  If you are not new to each other anymore, find activities that are unique.  Get outside your comfort zone, together.  After all, getting to know each other was exciting and challenging when there was uncertainty. Recreate that excitement.

“What we find in a soulmate is not something wild to tame but something wild to run with.”  – Robert Brault

Greater Intimacy –

Some confuse intimacy with sex.  Although they can be mutually exclusive, they are far better when shaken and stirred together in a loving cocktail of sensuality.  Touch frequently.  Express gratitude.  Speak warm sentiments.  Be vulnerable.  Ask for what you need.  Confide your fears and exert your power (in a loving way, not threatening).  Don’t assume.  Take risks.  Share your innermost self.

“Warm me like sunlight and soothe me like rain. Burn me with passion and steal away the pain.” – Tyler Knott Gregson

If you’re lucky enough to be in a loving relationship, nurture it everyday.  Keep your feet on the ground, your head on your shoulders, and notice the life partner sharing this journey with you.  When you keep that in mind, everyday can be Valentine’s Day!