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Meeting on the Mountain

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Most couples who’ve graduated into a king-size bed fully understand the ups and downs about the change. Gone are the days when the two of you naturally fell into the canyon in the middle created by your joint weight, cozily cuddling. Instead, you’ve probably permanently moved into your own canyons on the far sides of the mattress, keenly aware that king-size beds create a “mountain” in the middle, unless you’ve made a conscious attempt to share the middle “we” space, or have sex four times a day. If you live in a hot climate it makes it more pronounced – who needs to cuddle when bodily contact warmth isn’t a necessity for comfort? The up side is that you probably enjoy the ability to fully stretch out without worrying about unwittingly shoving your elbow in your partner’s nose. Ah, space… But there are costs to your new found independence: Disconnection! Less intimacy! Waning pillow talk! So, in the spirit of avoiding all these forms of alienation, I say, “be deliberate about meeting on the mountain!”

Here are three ways the rendezvous on the summit can help a relationship:

  1. If you do it together or take turns, you’re practicing compromise and collaboration in the name of closeness.
  2. You’re being intentional as a couple about maintaining intimacy and connection.
  3. You’re practicing the delicate balance between the “Me” and the “We,” so key to close relationships.

So, think of “Meeting on the Mountain” as a perfect metaphor for what you need to do in many areas of your partnership, only this time with a giant mattress underneath you.

 

4 Daily Practices Essential to a Happy, Fulfilling Life – A Therapist’s Take

If you don’t live under a rock, chances are that you see headlines in magazines, news IMG_0004programs, and various online sources about the quick secrets to having a happy life, whether it’s a happier sex life, a better relationship with your body, your boss or your mother – you probably get inundated with sound bytes about the path to bliss.

In my many years of practice as an individual and couples therapist, and as a coach, I’ve learned a thing or two about what really makes people happier and more fulfilled. The sad reality is that it’s not a quick or simple fix. The good news is that you don’t have to move to Bhutan and become a monk to have a happier life. If instead, you commit to these first four specific daily practices you’ll be well on your way, without the plane fare and upheaval. So, here are the first four attitudes and behaviors for you to practice, maximizing the possibilities for a lifetime of more joy and meaning:

  1. Be grateful. Spend time each day moving away from aspirational thinking about your wants and needs, (your strivings), to acknowledging your appreciation for what you already have: a loving partner, a feisty child, a generous neighbor, funny co-workers, a sweet dog, a warm bed, your health, food on the table, beautiful sunsets, etc. Manifest gratitude by thanking the people around you for who they are or anything they’ve done that you appreciate. It costs nothing, and softens everything. Focus on your blessings and amplify them with your attention and gratitude. You’ll be more present in each moment, and you’ll be building and strengthening happy neural pathways in your brain, while generating positive energy in your relationships. – all vital keys to joy.
  2. Be intentional. Live life “on purpose” by connecting with your motivations, and with plans for actionable, followup behavior. Get away from “shoulds,” like “I should eat more healthfully, get more sleep, be a better friend,” etc., to “I commit to…”, “I will,_________”, because you’ve connected to your motivation. So, if you set an intention on a given day to be a more solicitous friend, decide why, and how you will put that into action that day. By setting an intention each day, giving yourself reminders, and committing to an action plan for that intention, you’ll feel more in control of events, you’ll feel better about having a moral compass, you’ll make more carefully considered and less reactive decisions, and you’ll  have less regrets down the road about what you did or didn’t do. You will have de-automated your life.
  3. Be kind. Unless someone is aiming a gun at your head, there’s usually lots of room for kindness and compassion in relationships. Recognize the interrelatedness of all beings, and all your opportunities to treat others with the best of your heart.  Also, do it on a micro scale: tell the sales clerk how helpful and efficient he was, smile at passersby, take a moment to help a co-worker with something she’s carrying, give your spouse an unsolicited kiss or smile. Don’t confuse kindness with being an unassertive suck-up. If you’re not being abused or violated in some way then you’re kindness is a gift, not a defense or coverup for negative feelings. Also, direct your kindness to yourself. Treat yourself with compassion and respect, the way a good friend would. Avoid damning self talk or punitive self paybacks. Unless you’re a serial killer you probably deserve to treat yourself gently.
  4. Be responsible. Take care of business. Pay your bills and taxes. Return calls and emails in a timely way. Make your bed. Organize your space so it functions well and reflects back on you positively. Be on time for appointments. Live within your means. Don’t drink or text and drive. Pay attention to the rules you’ve agreed to live by. Be a grown up and you’ll avoid experiences of shame, chaos, disappointment or trauma to yourself and others. You’ll feel calmer and freed up to do all the other fun stuff if you don’t get stuck in the weeds of life’s “business.”

Commit to these first four attitudes and practices and you’ll be well on your way to a happier life.

*To find out about four other key practices, tune into my next BlogTalk Radio episode, “8 Practices Essential to a Happy and Fulfilling Life” on Wednesday, April 13th at 8:30 PM.

Call 877-497-9046 to join me live on the air with questions or comments, or listen to the recording afterward at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

 

Reframing: 4 Ways it May Be Good For Your Mental Health!

Snow Falling on Spring Along with hundreds of thousands of other New Englanders, I’m staring out the window on one of the first days of “Spring,” looking at five inches of newly fallen snow with more on the way(!) It’s been coming down hard most of the day, with the temps hovering around a balmy Spring 26 degrees. The first Red Sox game of the season was canceled, so I know there are probably lots of unhappy fans as well. Last week my husband and I were laying on Flamenco Beach in Culebra, luxuriating in the soft, tropical breeze and the warm aqua water. Life is Hell…… Or is it?

If it hadn’t been for the brutal weather I’d have been miserable, catching up on my book work after our little Puerto Rican getaway. If the sun had been shining and the weather glorious and Springy I wouldn’t have opted to complete some online trainings I’ve needed to do. The laundry and the cooking would have fallen behind, the bills wouldn’t have been paid before the week was in full swing, the AirBnB reviews would have been undone, I wouldn’t have discovered all the terrific Ken Burns videos on Amazon Prime, and I certainly wouldn’t be enjoying the warmth of the roaring fire my husband has made. Nor would I be looking forward to later taking a toasty hot tub under the stars, amidst the newly white landscape. So, am I being a Pollyanna, or am I using the needed skill of reframing? It’s the latter, my friends.

Reframing is very good for your mental health in a number of important ways:

  1. It helps you transform a situation which might make you feel like a victim into one of opportunity.
  2. It helps you to make a creative “reboot,” expanding your sense of possibilities and problem-solving.
  3. It sets a positive tone, helping you to feel good as you change the noise in your head.
  4. The more often you feel good the happier you’ll be, and the more you’ll spread it to others. The more often you spread happiness, the more people will want to hang out with you. Chances are, you’ll then have a more satisfying social life.

So, bring on the snow, April 4th or whenever!

BlogTalk Radio Show Wed. 3/16/16 8:30 PM DST: “Digital Infidelity – Is Your Spouse Just Texting or Cheating?”

iStock_000007791827Small-2 Modern technology has brought us all a mixed bag of useful tools as well as potentially boundary and trust violating capability through smartphones, iPads and laptops. The practice of creating or maintaining independent, private outside relationships via texting has become a huge challenge to spouses wanting to balance the “we” and the “me” in their marriages.

Don’t miss this 30 minute episode where I’ll explore the issues related to boundaries, trust, intimacy and independence, which can get very blurred in this arena. I’ll invite listeners to define where they may draw the line between “personal space” and “cheating”  regarding outside relationships maintained through texts. I’ll also shares some tips from my work with couples about how spouses can harness that same power of texts, emails and voicemails to create more excitement and stimulation within their marriages.

To join the episode live with questions, comments (or war stories!), call 877-497-9046. If you can’t make the live broadcast you can hear the recording anytime afterward at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

One way or the other, I hope you can tune in!

“The ABC’s of Financial Goal Setting” BlogTalk Radio Show Wed., 2/17/16 8:30 PM EST

Put this on your calendar and tune in!

Heather Brountas small head shot

In this 45 minute episode, my guest, Heather Brontas CFP, a popular financial advisor at Ameriprise Financial Services, shares key information about how we all need to manage the four major aspects of our financial lives. Heather is returning for another episode after her “Divorce and Money” show last year got such a huge listenership, so you don’t want to miss this one! People generally expect to pay big bucks for this kind of professional advice, so tune in and get 45 minutes of it for FREE and you’ll be on your way to realizing your goals for financial health and peace of mind!

Join the live conversation with questions or comments by calling 877-497-9046 on Wednesday, February 17th at 8:30 PM EST.

Can’t make the live show? Catch the recording at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager anytime afterward.

Battle for The Truth

If you’re in a marriage or any kind of long term partnership, after the initial rose-colored glow has worn off, you’ve probably had the unpleasant experience of each seeing the same events very differently. Either you remember the “significant” details around the situation differently, or you have alternate realities about who said what, who did what, what was decided or who’s to blame. Sound familiar? If it does, you probably have also experienced some of the unsavory effects of this disconnect – like hostility, mistrust, disappointment, or hurt. If so, unfortunately, you’re in good company with half the planet.

I call this situation the “Battle for The Truth” – as though there were an objective reality or single “truth” to events. The hard thing is that “The Truth” is all about individual perspective, observation and context, so you may already realize that arguing over “The Truth” is usually fruitless.

If you’d like to learn more about how this plays out in relationships, signs it’s happening, long-term effects, and tools to put down your weapons, then tune into a terrific BlogTalk Radio program scheduled for Tuesday, February 2nd at 8PM EST: “The Texas Conflict Coach.” Host Pattie Porter, a famous conflict expert is having me on as her guest. Join us live on the show with questions or comments by calling (347)324-3591. If you can’t make the live show you can hear the recording on BlogTalk Radio at: http://www.texasconflictcoach.com/category/upcoming-shows/

Either way, hope you can join us!

Do You Suffer From Pudding on Your Finger?

If so, according to my highly informed husband, you are in good company with half the planet!

Earlier this evening my husband and I were sitting in our hut tub, savoring the warmth as we gazed up at a starless, moonlit winter sky. I then began to grouse about not being able to set up “Touch ID” on my new iPhone which required a four digit passcode I didn’t know. It would have been so cool to have my unique fingerprint give me exclusive access to all my stuff in the new device! Incredulous, Thom then launched into an impassioned speech about how that was actually a good thing, as he’d read that “Touch ID” could compromise one’s security, particularly if you happen to have pudding on your finger! Apparently, this problem has plagued thousands of innocent smartphone users all over the world. (A well read, very intelligent person telling me this with absolute conviction).

Having fortuitously been saved from this apparent horror, I began to wonder how many unfortunate souls have suffered from pudding on their finger?
– while x-country skiing
– while driving in a hurricane
– while making a speech in a political campaign
– while swimming with dolphins
– while clapping enthusiastically at a Broadway show

The gruesome possibilities are endless! It’s something new we probably haven’t worried enough about! OMG!!!!

So, if you too have been unable to set up “Touch ID” on your fancy new phone, don’t complain! Don’t get frustrated! Count your blessings while you manually key in your old passcode with the rest of the masses. And remember, sometimes this new-fangled technology can be a really, really dangerous thing……

“Living with Loss – A Conversation with Ashley Davis Bush” BlogTalk Radio Show on Monday, 1/18/16 7 PM EST

Tune into my next 45 minute BlogTalk Radio episode “Living with Loss – A Conversation with Ashley Davis Bush” on Monday, January 18th at 7 PM. Ashley and I will discuss the process of grieving – the realities and the myths, as well as tools for coping, from her latest book, “Hope and Healing for Transcending Loss.” 

When we lose someone, it’s easy to feel unmoored. We have to find a new rhythm to our days and new ways to connect to the ones we’ve lost. Ashley Davis Bush offers just that.

Ashley’s book is filled with small lifelines and glimpses of hope for coping with the death of a loved one. Included are daily meditations offering comfort and tools for how to move on, living with gratitude, compassion and meaning. In this BlogTalk Radio episode Ashley will share key points from this latest goldmine of a book.

Ashley Davis Bush, LCSW, is the internationally bestselling author of six self-help books, including the classic “Transcending Loss.” She is a compelling and wise presenter, having appeared on many television and radio shows.

Call 877-497-9046 on Monday, January 18th at 7PM EST to listen, make comments or ask questions. You’ll be glad you did!

Are You a Time Optimist?

My husband and I still have a ridiculously predictable ritual: We agree to do some errands together on a weekend, often involving returning or searching for an item in a Marshalls or T.J.Maxx store. I tell him I’ll be ten minutes, he says “ok,” and half an hour later I’m still in the dressing room frantically trying on deals of a lifetime while he’s outside, aggravated, saying he should have brought a book! As someone who is generally considerate of other people’s feelings, I apologize and we agree not to shop together in the future, because I lose all sense of time, and he hates to wait. He forgives me, and all is well, until…..the next time.

Here’s another similar scenario: I have a family member (whom I won’t mention by name), who is joyful, highly creative and full of intense energy. He does everything with tremendous passion. Unfortunately, that usually means fixing or building something, or solving some complex problem “in no time” while he makes his wife wait for him to go somewhere or do something else. He’s a loving, thoughtful husband who somehow lives in the doghouse much of the time in his marriage. Luckily, he too has a forgiving spouse who adores him.

Are we folks who chronically underestimate the time it takes to do things really just inconsiderate of others? Do we all have ADHD? Are we disorganized or are we just “time optimists”? I like to think that it’s the latter category – chronically underestimating the time it takes to do things. When our son was about eight years old he remarked one day that I seemed to always be “missing ten minutes!” How astute! – yet it took me another nine years to realize that I could leave for work ten minutes earlier and not be crunched for time – that inevitably, en route to work I’d get caught behind a school bus or an old lady driving fifteen miles an hour, no matter how well intentioned I was about not being late for clients.

These days, I still try to add at least ten minutes onto the estimate for the time needed for just about everything in life. I’ve relinquished myself to the “higher power” of Geologic Time – that no matter how fast I can do things, the world still moves very, very slowly. I can tell you that this practice lowers your stress level, makes everyone around you feel much less irritated, helps you enjoy the scenery behind old ladies and school buses, and can even improve your marriage! The only thing that I can’t vouch for is what happens when you hit a sale in your favorite store….

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Susan Lager

I am a licensed, board certified pyschotherapist and relationship coach in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Through my psychotherapy or coaching services, I can provide you with skills and tools to transform your life.

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