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Planning Quality Time Together

I work with several couples who love each other and want their relationships to thrive and grow, but they don’t put much effort into planning quality time together. “Busyness” has become a major rationale for many couples, as they balance the multiple roles of employee or business owner, parent, friend, relative, self-care, and partner.

I find myself telling couples with some frequency that wanted time together won’t just happen on its own when you have a lot on your plate. Wishing for it isn’t enough – you need to be more intentional about making it happen by putting it near the top of your priority list and individually and together planning.

If you’re a bit wary about whether your ideas for meaningful, fun time together will be a hit with your partner then ask them about the kinds of activities indoors and outdoors they’d enjoy. You can each make a list, put the ideas in a jar, and pick from each other’s jars, taking turns. (My “Jar Exercise” I refer to in one of my free articles you can receive by signing up). Don’t allow quality time together to become a one-person job. It’s best to share the labor of connection.  You’ll also get more “bang for your buck” by introducing novel places and activities.  Neuroscience points out the benefit of novelty to the bonding experience between couples, so try to avoid doing the same old thing every time you’re together. Try to balance tried and true rituals you both enjoy with new experiences and places. You’ll be enriching your relationship in a major way. You’ll be avoiding the big pit of “busyness” and disconnection in your relationship, and you’ll feel better about being proactive about this issue.

Start now!

OMG! I have Election Stress Disorder!

Just when I thought all the years of therapy had finally done their magic, and that I’d be free at last, I discover that my fatigue, nail biting,  cynicism, and catastrophic thoughts about the future aren’t related to my crazy family upbringing, but about NOW, 2016 with this psycho election! The fact that I’m glued to the TV set, watching the pundits fight about whose crimes are worse, who’s a wuss, who’s really a psychothopathic liar, who’s fingers should be on the nuclear codes, is not because I’m a glutton for punishment, but all manifestations of my new diagnosis: Election Stress Disorder! AND, to make matters worse, I am apparently in good company with half the planet!

As a psychotherapist always keyed into actionable, positive change attitudes and behaviors, this one really stumps me. How do we all feel more hopeful and impactful when every day new dirt gets dug up on our candidates of “choice,” with Russia and Wikileaks playing their hand in events as well? This is a paranoid’s wet dream! One candidate is clearly a Neanderthal, the other cast as a disingenuous double talker. And, speaking of double talk, no one ever answers a question directly anymore, but on both sides they all pivot constantly, meaning deflect, avoid, spin! I pity the poor journalists who have to listen to this day in and day out without losing their cool!

Maybe the only hope for all of us with ESD is to remember that nothing lasts forever, that most truths come out in the wash eventually, that Election Day is less than a month away, and that until then, we all can put our fingers on the “Off” button when we’ve had enough. (Now, gotta go watch the final debate….)

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.

 

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!

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….

Obsessions, Manias, Fixations and Preoccupations

I haven’t been blogging for more than a month, not only because of the holiday busyness, but because I have an overactive brain which got hijacked by an obsession for grain-free, low carb cooking and baking. I’ve discovered several websites which tout tons of recipes for healthy, wheat-free, sugar-free breads, cakes, soups, muffins, appetizers, candy, etc., all part of the “Wheatbelly” crusade. I’m hooked. I’m like a junkie on crack. I’m often up till 1:00 AM immersed in a world of other “junkies” who spend every kid-free, husband-free, (I’m not being sexist, it’s mostly women), moment making these healthy treats, and blogging about it on their sites. I call one bunch the “Mad Midnight Popsicle Mavens.” (They really started me on this mania, with their mouthwatering pictures of their mostly sugar-free creations).

This obsession actually started for a logical reason. I’d been suffering with acid reflux and asthma for several years, often rudely injecting itself into sessions with clients, with me either wheezing or choking for a period of time, on their dime. Clients were always very understanding, but I couldn’t tolerate feeling like an old coot, so I did my homework and found out about grain-free eating  as an antidote in the Wheatbelly research. Thankfully, this way of life has helped enormously, but with the mixed outcome of creating a new “mania,” as I like to think of it – not a mental illness, but a happy passion. So happy, in fact, that I could forget to sleep, if I allowed myself, but I generally don’t.

So, what’s the point of this tale? To let anyone out there know that if you too are prone to fixations, preoccupations and manias, to be aware of how and when you allow them to rule your world. Do you forget to pick up your kids at daycare because you’re in a happy shopping trance? Does your obsession with learning an instrument trump paying the bills? Do you neglect your spouse because you’re fixated on a new puzzle? It’s all a consciousness and balance game.

Anyway, I gotta go. The grain-free cookies are calling….

Overfamiliarity

Are you in a relationship which seems to have mysteriously lost its magic? Has the experience of mystery and romance dissolved into thin air without an obvious reason?

If you’ve thought “Yes! Yes!” then you and your spouse or partner may be guilty of too much familiarity, and too many liberties taken with each other by allowing boundaries to get too squishy. Here are some examples of this you may have seen creeping into your partnership:

  • Going to the bathroom with the door open, allowing your partner the charming pleasure of hearing and smelling the result
  • Passing gas without any attempt to be private about it
  • Talking about every minuscule detail of your day, however boring
  • Continuous contact through texts, calls or emails
  • Sharing every detail of your fantasies, regardless of consequences
  • Revealing all the gory aspects of your deepest insecurities or areas of poor self-esteem

These are only a few illustrations of how partners mistakenly think that total openness without privacy will promote more closeness and comfort.

Esther Perel, author of the bestselling book “Mating In Captivity” makes the clearest case for how intentional space is necessary for eroticism, excitement and ironically, intimacy. She talks about how total democracy, lockstep teamwork and lack of space have eroded modern partnerships. Couples used to spend longer spans of time courting, longing, missing each other, having less symbiotic “togetherness,” and as a result, often experienced the critical tension the space provided for more romance and excitement.

So, if this issue of overfamiliarity seems to have seeped into your relationship, take a look at how together you may have allowed too many boundaries to have broken down, notice the effect, and explore how you can re-install some mystery and privacy – (NOT secrecy), but space in the name of closeness.

Wednesday, June 3rd 8:30 PM BlogTalk Radio episode “Life Your Way” – A Talk with Author Amy Wood”

Don’t miss my next 45 minute BlogTalk Radio episode, “Life Your Way” – A Talk with Author Amy Wood.” We’ll discuss this prize-winning, vital book which provides a compelling approach on how to manage the constant “Go! Do! Be Better!” stresses of 21st century American life.

Get some really useful insights on how you can use your instincts and intuition to find balance and confidence, and how to move more intentionally toward a happier, more fulfilling life.

Call toll-free 877-497-9046 to join us on the air with questions or comments, or to just listen and benefit from the conversation about such an important topic.

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

Give Yourself a Break!

It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in here because I’ve been practicing what I preach: giving myself a break. And, you know what? Nobody got killed! I took time to do some light gardening, some socializing with family and friends, some cooking and baking, some Spring organizing, some reading, and some mindless fun. It was totally delightful. For a few weeks no major trainings, no BlogTalk Radio shows, no bookkeeping, no internet work, no professional reading, no raking and mulching, and no blog writing. It was a daily practice of exorcizing my “shoulds,” and I would strongly recommend it to all of you as part of your mental health workout.

People today talk constantly about being too busy, but often don’t challenge the underlying assumptions and automatic or duty-driven behaviors which fuel the compulsive whirlwind of activity. Companies expect employees to be available without limitations, so it exacerbates the perception and experience of busyness as “loyal,” “responsible” and “valued.”

I would invite you however, to step off the emotional treadmill every so often to stop and smell the roses. Be silly, non-“productive,” self indulgent, time “wasting,” and in the moment. Relax, and see what happens…..

“Healing Trauma Through Yoga – Hope for Survivors” BTR Show 2/5/15 8:30 PM EST

I’m very excited to announce this upcoming BlogTalk Radio episode about Trauma Sensitive Yoga with Lisa Boldin, a graduate of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, and specialist practitioner in this unique form of Yoga.

In this episode we’ll discuss the unique advantages of Trauma Sensitive Yoga for anyone who is struggling with anxiety, emotional stress, or trauma related to experiences such as sexual assault, military combat, or domestic violence.

Call in toll-free at 877-497-9046 to share comments or ask questions about this Yoga. Or, listen live streaming (or later to the recording) at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager where you will learn more about how and why this practice offers unique benefits for coping with PTSD. You won’t want to miss this show!

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About
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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