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!

Got a New Years Resolution to Revitalize Your Relationship?

cw_withbg_250x250Try These 7 Tips for a Happier Marriage/Committed Relationship:

We all know sustaining strong, healthy relationships can be challenging.  What most of us really want to know is how to stop arguing, nagging, or getting bored and annoyed with each other. How can we get our relationship back to where it was when it started? How can we make it fun and romantic again?  Use these 7 tips to revitalize your relationship, and at the end, discover the easy to use web app “tool chest” that actually enables you to integrate these great ideas into your real life – way more than a blog post, book, or video can do!

1) People that play together, stay together.   

Play more together in ways that are easy to do, require no scheduling, and are even free.  Be silly. If you are saying to yourself, you can’t find the time to play and have fun, fret no more. Here are two of 333 games you can do that transform the ordinary situations of everyday life into extraordinary fun:

*Be Each Other Game:  At Dinner: Everyone writes their names on slips of paper, folds them up, puts them in a cup, shakes them and who ever you get, you talk and eat like that person. You ”Be each other!”  This is where you might find out that you talk with your mouthful, play with your  mustache, or interrupt others.  Be sure that you use the tool we mention at the end, however for an important warning.

*The Kvetch Game: While in the Car or Shopping:  If you need to complain – Go through the alphabet in turns, complaining about whatever you can dream up, real or imagined, that starts with the letter you get on your turn. For example, if it’s your turn and your letter is B, you might have the following kvetch: “I wish I had more bucks in my pocket today,” or “Old Bill at work sure gave me a hard time.”  The idea is to not only have fun with complaints, but to give vent to real gripes and frustrations in a way that’s fun and easier to hear. Chances are, just being heard in a spirit of good fun will allow everyone to feel safe and ready to consider adjusting their behavior.

2) Use arguments as opportunities to create a stronger connection with your mate instead of a weaker one, and learn more about yourself and your partner in the process.

Start by asking yourself this heart and mind expanding and possibly life changing question, “Am I more committed to winning this argument, or to the quality of our relationship?” Learn a tried and proven 4 step technique called, “Non-violent Communication”.  Replace arguing with compassion, empathy, discovery of unmet needs, and simple doable requests.  Walk in the other person’s shoes, practice validation, and move toward positive change rather than stonewalling.

3) Make resolving unmet relationship needs a priority.  

You may be wondering what unmet needs negatively affect relationships.  Respect, compassion, finances, & understanding are a few. Learn the eight needs that are most predictive of long lasting happy marriages. Empathize with the other person so that you can feel their pain in not getting their needs met.  Establish one mutually agreed upon action that will better satisfy this intention. Get automatic reminders to help you keep that agreement.  

4) Be mindful and accountable.  

Trust depends on behavior that is consistent and reliable.  Any kind of relationship that doesn’t have trust, isn’t a safe, healthy, nor authentic one.  Find out daily or weekly – or as often as you want- exactly how well you are doing in meeting the other’s most important relationship needs by spending 5 minutes checking into a certain web app on your computer.  Take the action recommended to continue building strength and resiliency in your relationship.

5) Restore the other’s faith that you can and will be a better partner.

How?  By using a tool called “Motivate My Partner”.  Consider the sources of the other person’s reluctance to engage in efforts to restore and/or strengthen your relationship.  Get suggestions on how to gently address those concerns.  Saying something like this could help, “We have some problems that need fixing. Let’s tackle the small problems we have now, before they turn into big problems later.”

6) Be more constructively honest with the other person and help him/her to be more constructively honest with you.

Sounds tough? There’s soon to be a software tool that will help you do this. It is fittingly called, “Sleeping Dogs”.   People that want to avoid facing difficult truths often prefer to let sleeping dogs lie. Using this simple and effective tool, you can take your relationship to the next level of understanding and connection.  

7) Get a helpful reminder with tips to maintain five positive interactions for every negative one. 

Show your admiration, respect, understanding, and appreciation to those most important to you.  John Gottman’s Five to One Ratio demonstrates that couples who have five positive interactions for every negative one have a more successful marriage. When one person demonstrates positive sentiments, it’s typically reciprocated and becomes a natural element of the relationship.  Just like laughter is contagious, so is kindness and warmth.  

So what is this wonderful tool chest that enables you to integrate this advice into your daily life? It’s a web app (not yet mobile) called CoupleWise.com.  Its new version is just launched and they are anxious to get their first 2000 users a.s.a.p. It’s free until your partner joins, and then for 30 more days. If you sign up now it’s only $4.95 per month after the 30 day free period (soon to jump to 19.95).  It’s not yet mobile, so you’ll need a desktop or laptop.  If you want the tips, tools, reminders (and soon rewards!) required to accomplish this relationship revival, stop wasting time.  Activate your New Years Resolution this month.  What are you waiting for?  

*For more ideas on games to play that make the ordinary situations of everyday life extraordinary, no matter how busy you are, check out Simple Fun for Busy People: 333 Ways to Enjoy Your Loved Ones More in the Time You Have, whose author is the cofounder of CoupleWise.com.  After all, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing!” -Ashley Montagu

P.S. In case your partner isn’t as motivated as you are by these tips and the Couplewise app, follow us on twitter @Couplewise to get our upcoming “Motivate My Partner” contest invite. In the meantime, Couplewise has a neat tool that does just that.  It provides great ideas from motivated wives and husbands that proved effective for them in motivating their partners.  You can get a free one year subscription to CoupleWise for sending in a great idea yourself.

Please send us your suggestions and questions. Suggestions for improving Couplewise.com can get you one year for free. Gary@couplewise.com or Heather@couplewise.com

5 Easy Tips to Strengthen Your Marriage

136048-136019In this blog written by Heather Edwards, LMHC and Mark Banschick, MD originally published in Psychology Today, five simple tips are offered to breathe new energy into your marriage.

It’s Time to Kick-Start Your Marriage:

It’s easy to get caught up in work, childcare, managing your home, and keeping up with bills. The day to day realities of adult life can be draining, and under these pressures, any relationship can atrophy.

Marriage Has Positive & Negative Cycles:

Most couples go through it. Communication breaks down, sexual intimacy becomes an after-thought, fun is infrequent, and empathy is a strain. Sometimes conflict and arguing escalates, or for others, the marriage starts failing as the couple resorts to living parallel lives. Either way, the negative cycle has replaced the life enhancing positive cycle that couples find when they turn love into an action verb.
Find a Therapist

Since the “D” word was not in your vocabulary when you got married, how can you flex and rebuild that svelte marriage muscle?

In this guest blog, Heather Edwards, a New York based therapist and life coach, lays out five ways to build positive energy back into your relationship.

Have Fun:

It sounds like the easy answer, but it’s always a good place to start.

Consider the ways you used to enjoy each other’s company. You used to play together. What did you enjoy doing most? Was it going to a concert, park, or favorite restaurant? Maybe it was taking a bike ride, getting a massage together, or walking on the beach. Whatever the activity, make a commitment to one new action that brings energy into your relationship. If being together feels stifling for you, it probably feels the same way for your spouse or partner. Any activity that doesn’t have some level of enjoyment in it will eventually be one you want to rid from your life. The same applies to your marriage. So start breathing fresh air into it!

Self Awareness:

Be aware of your needs.

What needs are not being met by your partner? Respect, encouragement, acceptance, and trust are a few needs that can feel compromised when marriages break down. These higher-level needs are sometimes masked by the day to day gripes, nagging or avoidant behavior that can become commonplace. Recognize your own negative behaviors as destructive, not constructive, and question what need is suffering underneath it. That’s probably what’s motivating your bad behavior, not just the dirty socks on the floor. Consider ways to constructively express yourself.

Ending a negative cycle begins when you see what you are doing to each other.

Communicate:

Your partner is not a mind reader, nor does he or she have a crystal ball that will enlighten him or her.

That means it is up to you to say what you mean, and mean what you say. If you want your message to be heard in a non-defensive way, then you need to verbalize your thoughts and feelings in a way that is not blaming, judging, nor critical. Blaming and judging can lead to defensiveness and stonewalling. Criticism can lead to contempt and resentment—and that’s the negative cycle.

If what you want to build is openness, strength, and mutual support, then change the way you communicate. Rather than focusing your attention on your partners actions, focus on your experience of it. Own your feelings. Simply state what you feel when certain behaviors occur. Clearly and calmly ask for what you want. State, “I feel ___, because ___, and I want ___”.

Empathy:

Now that you’re aware of your true feelings, needs, and wants, consider your spouse’s experience of this problem.

All relationships experience power struggles. And, you know you are in one if either you or your partner needs to win at all costs. You may not always agree, but you need not make him or her feel stupid or crazy. When it’s about winning an argument, you both lose.

Hear the feelings words he or she is using. Notice the body language and requests made. Imagine how it feels to express oneself in the manner he or she is using. Practice walking in their shoes. Check it out. It’s okay to let your spouse know that you recognize their struggle and that it’s real and valid. After all, you’re in this together, trying to find a way to live your lives better.

Intimacy:

Intimacy can be the barometer, or measure of pressure and change, in a relationship. Have you noticed your intimacy changing as stress, conflict, and detachment rise? Well, it’s an easy indicator that something is suffering badly and needs your attention. Identify the troubled areas in your marriage and apply all of the above interventions to them. Make improving your sex life with your spouse a priority.

Oxytocin, a bonding hormone that is released during sex, will bring you closer and increase warm, loving feelings toward each other. Just do it! Set aside time to nurture yourselves in this way.

Have fun reconnecting with each other!

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Heather Edwards, MA, LMHC is a therapist and life coach located in New York City. She can be reached for consultation at:

http://newyorkpsychotherapyandlifecoaching.com/

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For more on The Intelligent Divorce and Other Relationship Advice see:

Twitter: twitter.com/MarkBanschickMD

Website: http://www.TheIntelligentDivorce.com

Online Parenting Course: http://www.FamilyStabilizationCourse.com

Radio Show: http://www.divorcesourceradio.com/category/audio-podcast/the-intelligent-divorce

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFE0-LfUKgA

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Transition to the Five-to-One Ratio

The following is from the book “Fire Up Your Communication Skills” (ISBN 09657620-6- 8) by Fire “Captain Bob” Smith. He is a recognized expert and speaker/author on stress, communication and relationship skills. He is a humorist, coach, entrepreneur and frequent talk show guest. He also produces customized presentations for career and personal growth.

To book him as a speaker, ask him any questions, or get a copy of his book and tapes call (888) 238-3959. e-mail: captbob@verio.com. WebPage: http://www.eatstress.com.

Transition to the Five-to-One Ratio

There is exciting relationship research coming from the Family Formation Project at the University of Washington in Seattle. John Gottman, Ph.D., an award winning psychologist and author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, has conducted a twenty-six-year study on what makes love last. Dr. Gottman claims that there is no evidence that the theory of conventional counseling works. With up to 67% of marriages failing, and 50% of those couples who enter counseling still ending in divorce, one would expect the odds to be better if today’s conventional counseling really was effective.

Read more of this post

Critiquing “Hope Springs”: Find out what you won’t learn about couples’ counseling and sex therapy from the movie.

The following review has been written from the perspective of a sex therapist, Dr. Barbara Bartlik, MD (http://drbarbaramd.com/) and Gary Krane, PhD, co-founder of couplewise.com.

 

ImageThe recently released movie, “Hope Springs,” (GET TICKETS) depicts couples’ counseling and in a sensitive and realistic manner, providing viewers with a glimpse of what couples’ therapy actually is like. In addition, the film portrays sexuality in older people in a positive light, which is rare in our society. The film also underscores the importance of good communication and demonstrates how couples can grow in their relationship beyond that which they thought they were capable. We highly recommend the film for people in significant relationships, whether they are new or longstanding. Read more of this post