Couplespeak™ Blog

Three Big Questions for Spouses with Kids

I was recently contacted by Parenting New Hampshire Magazine for my thoughts about three big questions they have about spouses with children. I thought they were really good questions parents should be reflecting about, so I sent the magazine some of my ideas about the subject. I don’t know if my “answers” will be used in the article, but I thought I’d share them with you, my readers.
Here’s the first question:
Why is it important for spouses/partners in their own relationship to “not always be about the kids”? 
Most importantly, you as a couple came first, and unless you “fill your tanks” properly you won’t have
much of value to give to your children. Nourishing your partnership creates positive energy and “zest”
that then can radiate out into more constructive and loving interactions not only with each other, but also
with your children, especially when they are presenting aggravating or challenging attitudes and behaviors.
 
Also, by giving your marriage proper care and attention you will be providing not only a positive model
for self nurture and self valuing, but also an important frame for connective, collaborative partnership. Don’t be
fooled by what looks like self absorption in your kids – as busy as they may seem with their own lives,
they’re always watching you and unconsciously imitating your attitudes and behaviors!
 
One final thought about this question: In about 18 or so years your children will hopefully be “launched” and
out on their own. What of value as a couple will you have to share if you’ve created a totally “kid-centric”
life together? If you haven’t nourished your relationship sufficiently you will be less adept at communication,
managing conflict, taking turns, feeling close, and just plain having fun together!

Making Lots of Lemonade

I’ve been making lots of lemonade in the last few days. On Friday I had knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, (which happened on the second day of a two week trip to Slovenia and Croatia – another lemonade story)!  So here you see me trapped in an easy chair with the big, swollen knee, with only trips to the bathroom labelled as “walks.” The highlight of my day was watching our shared Lab, Tucker, chewing on a Kong on the blanket in front of me a few hours ago. Big doin’s!

So what do you do when you get a bunch of lemons? Make lemonade! – in my case, finding a way to reframe my entrapment into something meaningful, productive and hopefully fun. I spent a whole day tending to my “Google Business” site, beefing up my Psychology Today listing, at last funding my EasyPark USA account, watching the White House debacle of sociopaths and narcissists in action, cleaning out my email box, watching more criminals on TV, and reading my new “What Dogs Think” magazine. Not working out, not doing dishes, not Christmas shopping, not cooking or cleaning, not trimming garden beds, etc., etc. Just relaxing!

In psych lingo we’d call this very good “reframing.” Taking a less than stellar situation and “finding the silver lining”, “making lemonade out of lemons”, “looking through rose colored glasses,” to rattle off just a few metaphors for finding optimism and advantage in a negative situation. It’s an important skill all of us must hone to not let life make us crazy. In Buddhist ideology it would be related to the challenge of “letting go of expectation,” “acceptance,” and “cultivating stillness” as we strive to experience more peace of mind and presence in the moment. In Western thinking it would be about resilience and dealing more effectively with disappointments and mishaps, not becoming bitter and dark when life deals us difficult or aggravating blows.

So, whenever lemons have been dumped on you, find a way to make some really sweet lemonade, and you’ll get through it more peaceably with some learning and grace.

Now, back to all the criminals running the government……

Quieting the Noise in Your Head: BlogTalk Radio podcast Wed. 11/28/18 8:30 PM EST

“You’ll never finish that project!”  

“You’re a loser!”

“You’re too fat and nobody will find you attractive!”

“You’re unlovable!”

“You’re mean and selfish!”

Chances are, at one point or another in time you’ve heard that noise in your head – the oppressive voices of self doubt and self denigration. You probably also have experienced the toxic impact this self talk can have, freezing you out of effective action, isolating you, exhausting or overwhelming you.

If you relate to this, then I’d recommend that you tune into my next half hour BlogTalk Radio podcast on Wednesday, November 28th at 8:30 PM EST at www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager

If you’d prefer you can call live into the studio with questions or comments at toll-free 877-497-9046.

I’ll be discussing this topic, sharing key tools for quieting the noise in your head, such as naming The Voice and understanding the setup ingredients, among others. You don’t want to miss this podcast! It could help you lower anxiety, self doubt and your stress response!

*If you’d like some individual help with this issue outside the podcast, feel free to call my confidential voicemail at: 603-431-7131 to make an appointment.

 

Knowing You Can….

 

My husband Thom and I have developed a weird yearly ritual: As my beloved 2009 Ford Escape (“Pup”), gets older and more tired, we spend about a week each Fall researching new SUV’s. Last year we were obsessed with the Toyota Highlander, the year before that it was a Lexus, up until tonight it was a Subaru Forester, then a Honda CRV. We spend hours researching all the reviews, the specifications, and the best deals in a 150 mile radius. Then in preparation for the Big Event we either vac and sanitize Pup ourselves or have him professionally detailed, all spiffed up for the big trade before we head off the next day to a select group of dealerships.

THEN, I take another look at my now shiny, immaculate little Pup with his new brakes, exquisite sound system, zippy energy, handy trailer hitch, remote starter, cozy leather seats, giant moonroof, and perfectly engineered boxlike physique, and I cancel the dates to cheat on him with fancier, younger Dudes. I feel like an ungrateful cad, betraying Pup’s steadfast determination to get me around safely and comfortably with some modicum of style as well. And in his quiet, forgiving way he takes me back….

So what is this weird ritual all about?

After examining all the aspects of replacing Pup, including scrutinizing the cost of “new” vs. the cost risks of “very used,” and looking closely at the issues of “want” vs. “need,” it all comes down to prerogative: how a choice becomes more of a choice, when you know you can do something. When it’s not an act of desperation made under duress, or an act of vanity to preserve or protect your image or sense of self, or some indulgence which might put you over the edge in some way, then you become free to choose it or not. You’re released! You can say yes or no!

So, once again, I choose to stay with my less sexy, but loyal, cozy old Pup, savoring the memories we share, and looking forward to the journeys in store for us together.

Living in Connection

I recently returned from a whirlwind vacation in Slovenia and Croatia, where my husband Thom and I not only had a terrific adventure, but also where the experience of living in connection was palpable. In the above picture I was having one of our daily Cappuccino’s at a riverfront cafe in Ljubljana, the capital city of Slovenia. Not only are their coffees terrific there, but most special was being immersed in a culture which seems to embrace connection. People there routinely sit outside together, young and old, regardless of the weather, enjoying coffees, wine, sweets, meals and good old conversation all day and night! We hardly saw anyone on their cellphones, ignoring the humans in their midst the way we routinely do in the USA. We were struck by how friendly and happy the people there seemed, and not just the tourists who were enjoying a vacation. We returned to the States convinced in a new way that the experience of daily human connection and personal happiness are intertwined.   So, when you’re not on vacation in a friendly spot what can you do in your daily life to promote connection?  
  1. Be intentional about engagement when you’re with other people. Maintain eye contact, listen, share, and most importantly, don’t confuse cellphone use with human socialization unless you’re sharing photos or anecdotes, and it’s not a solo, isolating activity.
  2. Take time each day to find people and places where you can have some meaningful conversation – whether it’s at the cooler, at lunch on a walk, or after work at a restaurant. If you’re a stay- at- home Mom join a mother’s group or a gym where you can find connection.
  3. Create small pockets of connection with your partner if you lack big expanses of time. Get away from an”all or nothing” frame. Share a glass of wine while cooking dinner, sit together and talk about the TV program you’re watching, share news about your day over dinner or walking the dog together. Plan your weekend and create something to look forward to.
  4. Use technology to let the people you care about know you’re thinking about them, then make a date. Don’t use technology as a substitute for the real thing, creating pseudo intimacy. Reach out and do stuff with the people you value.
  5. When you’ve experienced conflict in a relationship, (as you inevitably will in most normal relationships), don’t let it stew – instead, address it in whatever way the relationship will sustain, so it doesn’t become a barrier to connection. (The exception to this would be relationships which feel abusive, then boundaries are your best resource).
  6. When you’re alone find moments of connection with strangers who feel safe to you – talk with the supermarket clerk, start a conversation with the person next to you at a bar or restaurant, compare dog stories with other dog walkers. Engage!
However you do it, be intentional and creative about maximizing the experience of connection in your life. You’ll be happier, for sure.                                                          PS. If you need help with this issue feel free to contact me at my Portsmouth, NH office at 603-431-7131 for an appointment.

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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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