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Relationship Footprints: What Story Do Your Choices Tell?

Choices are like footprints

Choices are like footprints

On a recent vacation, I spotted these footprints in the sand along the coast of Lake Michigan.  With no other people in sight, I still knew something about the people who left the footprints.  They were heading north.  Under the overcast sky, I had an epiphany… our choices are like footprints in the sand – they tell a story.   And with each choice we make, we move closer to a happier or less happy ending. [Read more…]

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What Can Veterans Day Teach Us About Relationships?

Veterans Day traces its origin to the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918.  At this hour, the Allies and Germany agreed to a cease fire on the Western Front.  Although some fighting continued in other areas, it became the date that  the “war to end all wars” ended.  Celebrated as Armistice Day in many allied countries, after WWII, the holiday became known as Veterans Day in the US.   And at 11:00 am on Veterans Day, many people will observe two minutes of silence: one to remember soldiers we’ve lost, and one to remember those who remain.

We pay tribute to military personnel past and present on 11/11/xx because a huge conflict ended on 11/11/18.  Hostilities ceased when two warring parties agreed to stop fighting.  At a moment in time, intentions changed and a war ended…

How could a focus on intention change our relationships? [Read more…]

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How to Improve Communication with Teenagers

Last Friday night, my teen daughter and I watched as Nik Wallenda crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope.  For too many parents, talking to teenagers can feel like walking on a tightrope (minus a safety tether).  How can you avoid this feeling and find a connection with adolescents?

 Here are some suggestions to help keep your feet on solid ground:

  1. Calm your body.  If your heart is racing and your gut is churning, you may need to take a few deep breaths before proceeding to communicate with your teenager.
  2. Be present and tune in to your teenager’s inner world.  You hear and see what she’s doing, but really listen and think about what she may be experiencing inside.   Too often we misread clues: I’ve mistaken anxiety and fear for obstinance.
  3. Maintain your own emotional balance.  Your excessive emotional reaction can incite communication chaos and a rigid cold reaction won’t promote a healthy connection.
  4. Pause before speaking or acting.  This might save you from impulsively putting a parental foot in the mouth.
  5. Face your fear.  During the pause consider if the anger and irritation you feel is driven by your own fear and not your teenager.  Sometimes our parental fears are irrational.
  6. Show empathy.  Try to see the situation from your teenager’s point of view.  Can you sense his intentions and imagine what something means in his mind?

Maybe it’s less about what our teenagers bring to the table and more about how we respond.  We have little control over the former and most control over the latter.

 What helps you communicate with your teenager? 

What are your challenges?

 

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If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.

Wine, Music, & Relationships

Relationships can be a struggle.  Sometimes they age like a fine wine; other times they sour early in the vintage.  Some moments we dance in beautiful sync to music we and our partners love.  Other moments, it feels like someone drags us to the floor and compels us to dance to music we abhor.

What compels us to keep tasting wine long past it’s prime?  

What makes us dance to the tune of someone else’s music?

If tasting wine and dancing to music are metaphors for relationship styles, a typical answer to these questions is codependency.  In a codependent relationship one partner is unhealthily manipulated or pulled onto the dance floor seemingly by another.   In a broad sense, the person being pulled depends on the needs and the control of the puller, consistently ignoring his/her own needs and dismissing his/her personal sense of control.  It’s as if she cannot say, “No thanks, I’ll skip this dance.  No thanks, I’ll pass on that wine.”

In my perspective, codependency is less about specific behavior and more about a partner’s inner need to accommodate someone else’s needs at the expense of his/her own needs.  It could look like this: (1) a wife sacrifices her sleep each night in order to “manage” her husband’s nocturnal anxiety attacks, (2) a 16 year old son curtails his social life in order to “change” his father’s drinking or depression, or (3)  an octogenarian exhausts her retirement account after years of compensating her adult son’s penchant for bad business deals.  Isolated instances of waking up in the night, staying home from a date,  or lending/giving money are not necessarily codependent behaviors.  Codependency lurks in the inner pull which propels us onto the dance floor against our better interests.

How do we break the spell of that inner pull?  Maybe a first step is to become aware of ourselves and our needs.  Maybe we learn to pay attention to the neglected dance partners – us.  Maybe we begin to acknowledge the taste of wine we enjoy.  It’s not about getting a new dance partner.  Rather than give up wine, music and relationships, we learn  a new way to relate to ourselves, and in the process,  discover a healthier way to relate to others.  

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If so, please Contact Me and describe your concerns and we'll discuss how counseling can help.