Couplespeak™ Blog

Take It Easy! Life Is Short!

Everyone, including myself, is running around getting ready for the rest of the holidays, and I mean “running around,” and now in more than a foot of fresh snow! We’re in the home stretch now for getting our homes sufficiently decorated, getting those gifts bought and in the mail, making sure all our cards are written and sent out, choosing our menus, and finalizing our holiday plans so we don’t feel left out of all “the fun” socially. Then there’s the usual busyness of housework, making meals, working jobs so we can pay the bills, raising our children, getting some sleep, and of course, finding some time for self care, like indulging in a measly workout here and there. Not to mention the little detail of having an occasional conversation with our partner, or loved ones!

As I participate in, and observe the race all around, I’ve decided that three things are important to keep in mind to preserve one’s sanity, and to actually derive some fun and meaning around the holidays:

  1. Check your perfectionism. Even Martha Stewart, the maven of style, class, and coziness, has legions of “elves” all around to create the illusion of perfection. So don’t buy into the invention. Instead, establish a “good enough” standard which allows for the realities of your time and energy constraints, allows you to enjoy yourself, and to stay focused on your goals for the season. At this juncture, less is more. Keep those expectations in check.
  2. Let others help. Don’t over-function your way into martyrdom. You’ll be a more pleasant companion if you let other people share in the labor of making holiday traditions happen. The people around you will feel more invested in activities they have helped to create. You’ll also be more rested if you don’t view the holidays as a “one man/woman show”.
  3. Practice the fine art of saying “no” if you are feeling maneuvered into doing more than your fair share of holiday activity. If you have a partner or sibling who seems to be bailing out on you, and expecting you to compensate for their inactivity, then draw a line in the sand, and let consequences happen. You’ll then avoid some resentment around feeling exploited.

Stay conscious and have happier holidays!
Susan Lager

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Right about now, every year I think I should probably pack up my pajamas, grab a cot and move into Home Depot. Come Spring, every free minute gets chewed up by trips to H.D. to get countless bags of mulch, new rakes, river stones, grass seed, bug spray, weedkiller, pavers, sand, annuals, fertilizer, loam, paint and various kinds of rented equipment like powerwashers, sodcutters and the like. And that’s just for the outside of the house!

It’s very easy to get totally overwhelmed reflecting on the dollars spent making Home Depot richer. It’s also depressing to see how each year it gets harder to recoup at night after the backbreaking home and garden toil. But as my husband and I hobble around for a garden walk afterward, scanning the fruits of our (slave) labor, we invariably “ooh” and “ah” in delight at the beautiful, orderly outcome. That’s the point where I also swear I’ll never do the mulching myself again, and where he takes an oath about never re-seeding the lawn himself again. We promise each other we’ll keep that promise. Till next Spring….

The Wifeguard

My husband Thom thinks he’s a regular handyman. He loves to “fix” things like re-wire lamps, unclog dishwasher parts, and make trash drawers slide like they’re supposed to. I affectionately call him “Mr. FixIt” because most things he “fixes” with the best of intentions, end up slightly better in some ways, but still essentially broken.

His real passion, however, is yard work on our land where he gets thrills from chopping down trees, hauling brush, seeding and mowing lawns, and generally riding around in his tractor, happy as a clam. What all this “work” requires, however, given the loud equipment he uses, is a pair of industrial “earmuffs,” supposedly to protect his hearing. But I’m convinced the muffs are for an entirely different thing – to block out my constant requests that he do this or that. I have therefore affectionately, (but I think, aptly), named the muffs “THE WIFEGUARD.”

As a couples therapist and relationship coach, I think my husband has devised a unique marital tool – a perfect way to ignore me without ever having to say anything hurtful or rude. When I shout requests at him, he either doesn’t hear me at all, and just keeps doing his thing, or he smiles at me quizzically, shakes his head,  makes a motion that he can’t hear me, and cheerfully keeps going. Occasionally, when I wave my arms and make faces, looking really adamant about being heard, he takes off “the Wifeguard” momentarily and shouts, “What???”

How can I be mad, married to such an industrious, clever guy?

Ah, marriage………
Susan Lager

PS. For access to a somewhat more traditional marital tool, you can get a copy of my newly published book, “I’m Talking! Are You Listening?”Fix Communication Problems With Your Partner In No Time Flat!  You can buy it on Amazon at: http://amzn.to/Qprh8v

Drunk Drivers

I had the most unnerving experience driving home tonight from work at about 9 PM. (Yes, I work late some nights, but don’t roll into work until noon most days.)

I go home via a long, winding, country road which is beautiful by moonlight. I pass farms, fields, barns, stately old Maine colonial homes, ramshackle cottages with lobster traps and junk all over their yards, coastal inlets, deer, foxes, and all things wild and natural. The trip home is usually a lovely site-seeing interval after an intense work day. Not tonight.

I was directly behind someone in a pickup truck who at first seemed to be doing some site-seeing of their own, weaving back and forth in the lane. Before long, they were veering into the oncoming traffic lane, then all the way back, almost into the snow ditch, barely avoiding utility poles and mailboxes. It was obviously a very drunk driver, having trouble staying on the road, but too drunk to get off the road, and out of harm’s way. I noted the license plate, called 911, and reported the event, thinking I’d be ruining this driver’s night, but the alternative was deadly. From the comfort and anonymity of my car, this was an easy choice.

It made me wonder, however, if I’d have the courage to stand up alone, and speak up in a not so anonymous situation, if I were witness to some reckless or unconscionable act.

I’d like to think so. Would you?

Always,
Susan Lager

PS. You can now buy my newest article, “Format For A Productive Couples Check-in,” on the Products page of this website at: http://wp.me/P1ayQF-d6 You’ll get key tools for how to engage with your partner productively around any problem!

Knowing When To Stop (Anything)!

I’ve had a nasty sciatic pain going down my right leg for almost four months now (!) At first I thought I’d pulled a muscle, then I thought I’d overdone a workout, then I thought I had a slipped disc, then I thought I needed hip surgery, then I thought I just needed to loosen up the joints in that side, then I thought I probably had a tumor, then I thought I was becoming a hypochondriac. But in all these months it never occurred to me until yesterday that my real problem was knowing when to stop doing what I was doing – exercising just about seven days a week to “loosen it up”. In the name of “working it out”, in all this time I’ve continued doing strenuous weighted workouts usually three days a week, and intense speedwalks the other four days of the week. Occasionally when I’m very tired, I give myself a big break by walking in a slightly less maniacal way when I do the cardio, so anyone “with” me is still visible in the background. It’s the joke of my family and friends (my Nazi walk), but I love the rush I get from my muscles communing with nature in this way. It’s not a competitive thing, as I’ve never entered a race, and usually prefer doing it alone without even timing myself. It’s always been one form of self-care for me……..UNTIL the big sciatic puzzle.

Yesterday it occurred to me that to keep doing what you’ve been doing, expecting different results, is what someone defined as insanity! So I finally got a referral to an orthopedist for an evaluation, and here I am today, actually taking a day off, relaxing, and goofing off! So, what’s the point of all this? I think knowing when to stop is not my unique problem. Clients and friends don’t seem to know when to stop

  • engaging with a hostile loved one
  • cleaning
  • talking
  • eating
  • working
  • nagging
  • playing
  • helping
  • drinking
  • shopping
  • watching TV – especially “Mad Men,””Dancing With The Stars,”or “CSI”

Look for yourself on this list, and see if you too are in the “insane” cycle. If so, try something new.

Think of me, sitting here, relaxing, relinquishing my dearly beloved Nazi walk! Anything is possible.

Lazily,
Susan Lager

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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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