We work hard to get the job. We interview as best we can. We get the job. But, how often do we really get a good job description. I am talking about the job of partner, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, husband, wife. More people sit in my office and say things like "S/he is just never happy...no matter what I do!" or "S/he keeps pushing me away and I don't know why!"
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Yesterday I put my own advice into action. I invited a colleague to join me to walk the labyrinth. Really, this is something I should be doing more of as it is an amazing path to mindfulness. When I work folks, we often include some form of meditation, mindfulness or centering to help manage anxiety, fear, stress, discord and just general feeling blah. There are many people who love meditation and find it to be an important part of their mental health. There are just as many who, try as they might, can seem to quiet their minds and bodies to be still. I am one of the latter. Quiet still meditation is hard for me – I can do it from time to time but it seems to take a great effort to get there. I do it whenever I can. However, when time is precious or being still just seems in possible, I try a moving meditation – like walking a labyrinth.
When I work with couples, one of the earliest things we do is look at how we communicate. We begin with the basics of starting to look at our words and tone so that we can hear and understand each other. As we get deeper into our process we begin to look at something far more challenging, and potentially more destructive than our words. We begin to look at our assumptions.
Sometimes we make mistakes and we ruminate: why did I do this, why didn't I do this, what can I do next time, what I wish I did, and the criticism continues. Guess what, it didn't get better and chances are you, at least I did, continued to make that same mistake.
When I start working with a new couple or individual around relationship concerns I often begin by asking them what their relationship goals are. Most, but not all, will tell me that they are just looking for a nice, loving, monogamous relationship. They say that like I am supposed to know what that means -- and I don't. Not that I am clueless, but rather because I know that there is more than one meaning to the word monogamous.
We all go through changes as we move through life. Some of these are minor and not that impacting. For instance, you might gradually stop frequenting places you used to visit or lose touch with casual friends. Other changes are major, such as graduating from college, changing jobs, or beginning and ending serious relationships. Some other changes, however, are not only major in terms of outward effects, but also in terms of how they affect our world view and sense of ourselves. Have you ever experienced a profound change such as this, one that rocks you to the core and causes you to question core beliefs that once seemed certain to you?
My grandmother always told me that it was the greatest honor to be with someone when they took their first breath and when they took their last breath. She was a very wise woman. However, when managing this whole life and death journey, the life part seems infinitely easier and full of joy and we dread the death part, preparing ourselves for a journey of great sorrow, guilt and loneliness. But, it doesn't have to be that way.
You know those times when you are getting frustrated in your relationship because you just aren't getting your needs met? You keep telling your partner that you want things (sex, communication, warmth, etc.) and feel like your requests are falling on deaf ears? Frustration creeps in and you start losing stake in the relationship feeling that your connection is more distant and fractured.
I have had patient after patient come into my office talking about what a harsh and relentless winter this has been. I can’t agree more! It is always interesting to see how people talk about the weather. There are two classic perspectives that get presented: How cold it is on the thermometer and how much energy is being used by the thermostat. What an interesting way to understand ourselves as well!
You can’t dig your way out of a hole. Think about it. You are in a hole and you keep digging. What happens? Eventually, the hole gets so deep that you can’t throw the dirt out of the hole anymore and it just keeps falling back down around you. If you start to dig sideways, the integrity of the walls weakens and risks falling in around you. What should you do?
Divorce isn’t easy on anyone. When you are getting divorced with children, trying to minimize the amount of change and disruption can be overwhelming. Nesting is where the children stay in the family home and the parents take turns coming in and out according to the parenting schedule. Think of it as the kids have custody of the parents who come home and then go to the other house! Nesting is not for everyone and is fraught with difficulties, but when the situation works, there are great benefits.
Divorce is never easy on anyone. When you have children, it is even more complex. How you make decisions to navigate the divorce process and ensure your children are as insulated as possible will take special insight and a tremendous amount of personal resiliency.
Have you ever been in a relationship (whether romantic or platonic) and felt frustration about how things were going -- wishing the other person would behave differently? You have tried being nice, coaching them to change (whether they knew it or not) and spent hours considering how impossible it is that someone couldn’t notice how inappropriate and unsatisfying their behavior is? We have all experienced it. Sometimes we can just let it go and sometimes it gets so bad we find ourselves in a divorce, looking for a new job or estranged from a friend or loved one.
Bringing a new baby into the family is an exciting time. We celebrate the newness of life and have hope for the future. People are curious about the delivery and the birth story. Parents are excited and siblings are cautious (at best).
In my practice I meet with many folks who discuss their frustration with partners, co-workers, children and friends because they are being quite clear in their communication and the other person has a completely inappropriate response. I hear things like “I was quite clear when I said….” and “He knows exactly what I meant!” In return, these folks get angry and say things like “Well, what he said was…” and “She actually used those words!”