Mystery is the Root of Romance

Remember when you started dating your partner and there was such excitement in getting to know everything about them - their likes and dislikes, hometown, their family of origin, quirks, favorites, and plans for the future. It was also exciting to surprise them by sending sweet notes, buying little gifts and doing sincere gestures. Learning about each other was fun, effortless and a thrill, but over time, many couples lose that zest. They become complacent assuming they know everything there is to know about the other person. 

 The problem with assuming is that no person is ever truly stagnant in life. There is constant change occurring in a person’s heart, likes, needs, awareness, and life stages. Losing the desire to discover each other can be a real romance killer and lead to the dreaded “roommate” situation many couples find themselves in. What would it look like to seek out the unknown in your partner? To pursue them the same way you did so many years ago? This could be as simple as discovering new facts about their past and family, revisiting goals, hopes and dreams, or taking fun date night surveys. It could be as engaging as new vacations, new date spots, or starting a new hobby together. It doesn’t have to be hard but it does take intentionality. It is in the getting to know and being known that keeps the love alive.

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Reframing Negative Thoughts

 Life is sometimes difficult. We often don’t get what we want. 

It is easy to fall into a negative mindset about different life situations. When we continue to play negative thoughts over and over in our mind, they become more believable and often lead to self-defeating thoughts, emotions, and actions. A good way to combat negative thinking is cognitive reframing. Refraiming focuses on adjusting our point of view on a given situation, the facts remain the same, but a deliberate shit is made in how we see it. The goal in cognitive reframing is to try to find a more constructive interpretation of what is happening, which allows us to neutralize negative feelings and become more positive focused. 

The Cognitive Approach to Negative thinking: Ellis' ABC model 

A: Activating event- The specific event or trigger 

B: Beliefs- How do you see the situation? Your interpertation about event or trigger. (Often negative or irrational)

C: Consequence- What you do or feel as a result of the situation. 

In cognitive refremaing the change comes in the belief. The situation is still the same- we just change how we think about it. Let's begin adjusting our negative thinking.

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Dismissing vs. Supporting

In the process of supporting our loved ones, it is easy to move from being supportive to being dismissive without realizing it. Maybe you have run out of things to say that may be supportive and do not know how else to help. 

Being dismissive minimizes the value of what your loved one has said and felt. But, it does not always come from a place of not caring. It can look as simple as what we think is supportive; “It will all be fine...You worry too much; take a break...That person is not worth your time...You didn’t think that would be helpful before...” These things can tell your loved one that their fears, concerns, and hurt are unnecessary but simply confuse the fact that those feelings already exist. 

Support can be offered in many ways. Most often, you will find that your loved ones simply need to feel heard. You may not have to say anything! Think about the times when you have truly felt heard. How can you pass that feeling along?

Make eye contact

Paraphrase what they've said

Ask for clarification if you’ve misunderstood

Simply gestures, like a nod, let them know you’re still listening

Empathy and validation let others know that their feelings and thoughts are acceptable and you can appreciate why they feel that way, even if you may feel differently about the same situation.

Other times, your presence may be more than enough. We have this sense of urgency to fill the voice when there is uncomfortable silence. But when a loved one is hurting, they may just need that silence to process their thoughts and feelings, with your supportive presence. 

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Loving Someone Through Mental Illness

Loving someone who has a serious mental health condition can be a challenging and confusing relationship to navigate. It's important to know a few things in order to support and love them through it.

  1. Their mood is not because of you. Just because you may feel like have to be careful of what you say, just because you don't say the perfect thing, doesn't mean their whole mood is because of you. 

  2. Somedays are better than others. Each day can feel different and it's important to know that the good days may not always last all week, but either will the hard days.

  3. It's okay to ask them how they are feeling specifically. If you have a close relationship with them, it's important to ask the loving but hard questions sometimes.

  4. Use the language they are using to describe their illness or state of being. Don't use words they aren't comfortable using to describe what is going on in their life.

  5. They can't just "snap out of it" so don't expect them too.

  6. They care about you also, it's just hard to show it right now. 

Check back to read about boundaries that can be important to put in place when loving someone with a mental health condition.

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When Accepting Responsibility Hurts

All the way back to elementary school, we are encouraged to consider the impact of our words and actions on others. Recall the golden rule; “Treat others as you wish to be treated.” These concepts are reinforced as someone's feelings are hurt. This is the early stage of teaching empathy. Being accountable for one's actions and appreciating how they’ve made another feel is an important part of navigating this human process we are all in together. However, is there a point where this becomes harmful to ourselves?

Consider the child afraid to raise their hand in class, or the adult feeling isolated because they’re unable to engage in casual conversation. What do these scenarios have in common? Fear. Everyone is crippled by fear; they have accepted responsibility for their words and actions long before they have the opportunity to occur.  

If you find yourself riddled with anxiety over what to say or do next, you may be accepting too much responsibility. This is not a free pass to say and do whatever you please but permission to lighten the burdens. While we each have the responsibility to treat others as we wish to be treated, we also cannot control another’s feelings. Your even-toned compliment to a colleague may be interpreted as a sarcastic, hurtful one if the colleague is already berating herself over her white, after Labor Day outfit choice. Use your words and actions with honest intentions and accept responsibility for what is within your control.

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Being Clear

Being clear can be difficult for some. We may fear judgement from others if we honestly share our thoughts and feelings with them. We may also fear hurting others if we let them know what’s truly on our hearts and minds.

 However, being clear is actually one of the kindest things we can do, both for ourselves and for others. When we are clear, we lessen the chance for confusion and miscommunication to happen. Clarity allows us to better set and maintain healthy boundaries for ourselves and to communicate our needs to others. All of this actually allows us to increase the chance for connection to happen. It allows others to interact with us on a more genuine basis, having more accurate information from us.

When working on more clearly communicating, one of the most important things we can do is utilize “I” messages. This means being intentional with using “I think… I feel… I want… I need… I would appreciate… I am going to…” in our interactions with others. Being clear may be uncomfortable at times, but in the long run, in can strengthen and deepen our relationships while allowing us to feel more seen, heard, and understood by those around us. It can also lessen our own resentments when we feel our unspoken wants and needs are not being met. Those around us can’t read our minds! 

Being clear does require us to be vulnerable. Vulnerability takes bravery and courage. So know that each time you lean into sharing more authentically, even when it’s hard, you’re being both kind and courageous!

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Avoiding "Dirty John"

The television series and podcast Dirty Johnis based on a sadly true story of an intelligent, successful woman who falls for an emotionally manipulative and abusive con artist, John Meehan. It can be frightening how effective the tactics of a psychopath might be on the most unsuspecting victims. Since there are men out there who are manipulating and using woman who are simply looking for love and a healthy longterm relationship, below are a few checklist items to help safeguard against falling prey to a “Dirty John” type.

  1. Do not date in isolation- Anybody can pretend to be Mr. Debonaire if they are all alone. It is in the presence of others that we see someone’s true character revealed. If your dating partner only wants to be with you solo all the time, be on alert. 

  2. Be wary of suspicious and possessive behaviors- Statements like “I don’t trust other men won’t be able to keep their eyes off of you,” “I want you all to myself,” “Let’s run away together,” or “Let’s move in together right away” may seem charming and romantic, but are cause for alarm as they all hint at jealousy and possessive. Be alert.  

  3. Check out his online presence, run a background check- Colleges do it. Employers do it. Your friends do it. You should do it. If there is no online presence or if there is anything suspicious, stay alert and run a background check. 

  4. Make sure he is a “One woman type of man”- If the man wooing you still has a dating, married or even soon to be divorced status make him wait. As tough as it may be for you, see if he is actually that into you by successfully terminating other relationships so that he can be solely committed to you. 

  5. Look for healthy boundaries and commitment level- If he is wanting to move in, marry or have a baby with you in the first month - RUN! Again, it may seem romantic and similar to a lot of chick flick movies, it is not healthy. Your hormones and love chemicals will say go for it but common sense says wait. Anything good is worth waiting for, and if he cannot seem to wait, then he must not think you’re that good. 

  6. Get to know his family and support system- This is similar to number one. He may want to get to know your family and friends and be quick to win them over which is an enchanting quality. However, if he is not just as willing to introduce you to his family and friends, then several red flags could arise. A few off hand examples are he has another girlfriend, no friends or family, no one can speak to his good character, or he isn’t even who he claims to be. 

  7. Obtain feedback from your family and support system-The saying “love it blind” has truth to it. We need other people emotionally unattached to give objective, healthy feedback on partner choices. If you are worried your friends and family will not approve, then that may be an indicator you, not “love bombed,” would also disapprove.

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Reinforcing Boundaries

Boundaries are an essential part of healthy relationships, but often times it can be difficult to build and hold boundaries in relationships that have long-standing patterns of poor boundaries or no boundaries at all. Initially, communicating a new boundary can be so difficult and uncomfortable that when it is not immediately honored, the new boundary is abandoned for fear of what would happen if it were reset and upheld.It is natural or people to give push back and test new boundaries we set; however, if we do not stand firm and maintain our boundaries with consequences when they are ignored, we nonverbally and unconsciously communicate to others that we are not serious about our boundaries, and therefore they continue treat us however they wish without repercussions. This perpetuates ongoing cycles of poor boundaries that often lead to anger and resentment. The good news is, that while setting and enforcing boundaries is challenging and requires courage, the process can be quite simple. See the flow chart as a guide for how to begin setting and holding strong to healthy boundaries in your relationships.

Enforcing Boundaries Flow Chart.jpg
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"I Don't Have Time!"

Raise your hand if you have said recently, “I don’t have time!” Yes, you. And, you in the back there. We are all guilty of saying this at some point in time. On occasion, this may mean, “I don’t have time to both unwind and go out with you.” And that is great! You are setting some healthy boundaries for yourself. But, I would bet that more often than not, that phrase is used to excuse the fact that self-care has not been a priority.

Sitting in the office, even the busiest of individuals typically find an extra five minutes in their day to complete intentional self-care. Maybe it is getting up five minutes early or staying up five minutes later. Or, maybe it is packing lunch on occasion, so you have a few extra minutes for yourself. It may even be that your kids spend five extra minutes at daycare, so you can crank up your favorite song on the radio.

1. Find those few extra minutes each day.

2. Create a short self-care list to include ideas that take 1, 5, 15, and 60 minutes. When you find yourself with extra time (or have created the extra time), you won’t find yourself bored and wondering what to do.

Some ideas to get you started:

Adult coloring books

Reading

Peaceful cup of coffee

Music

Hiking/running/walking

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How to Practice Self-Care Anywhere

Do you often struggle to find the time to take care of yourself? Self-care is not only important, but it can be easy to do. You don't need to always find an hour or so in your busy schedule to practice self-care. Self-care can be practiced anywhere! If you are always on the go or just can't seem to find the time to take care of yourself-- try practicing one of the self-care tips below.  

 Mindful breathing

You got it- just being mindful about your breathing can be self-care. Take a deep breath in. Hold for five seconds. Breath out through pursed lips -like you are breathing out of a straw. Repeat. Make sure to be mindful of your breath. Listen to how you breathe. 

 Mental Gratitude list

Life can be overwhelming and we can quickly forget the good things when we have a lot on our plate. Give yourself five to ten minutes to make a mental list of 10 things you are grateful for. Ten can seem like a lot when you are having a bad day- but I promise if you really think about it you can find ten things you are grateful for.

 Read

During lunch, right before bed, while in the elevator, are just a few times you can choose to read. Make sure you read something you enjoy. A page of a book, a blog post, a magazine article, 

 Listen to music

While you're driving, at lunch, during a break try to listen to a favorite song. Music can be a powerful mood booster. You can listen to just a song or listen to a station you enjoy while you work.

 Walk

Get outside. Find time for a short walk- I'm not talking about working up a sweat- but you can if you have the time. Just a short walk can help you feel good, clear your mind, and wake up your body.

 Strech

Take some time to stretch. Just stand up tall and stretch your back, arms, and legs. 

Try one or all of these self-care activities. You are important and you deserve to take care of yourself.

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