Learn about ways to have better relationships.

November 2021

The Holidays Are Coming-How Will It Be With Your Family?

2024-04-28T18:59:13-04:00November 15th, 2021|relationships, stress management, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

The holidays are almost here. This is our second COVID holiday season. For some families, it will be lovely. Being able to be connected to be family that you may have been separated from for a length of time during shelter in place orders. Other families continue to be polarized. Some members are vaccinated and some are not. Many vaccinated people choose to not be around unvaccinated people. If people are not vaccinated they may have very strong feelings about people that are vaccinated. Given this time of a country divided, I am seeing more and more families divided also.

I am concerned that some of these estrangements may not ever be reconciled. How do you dialogue with family that you feel like are not listening to facts? How do you avoid confrontations about these issues? Do you just make up an excuse as to why you are not going to Aunt Hilda’s for Thanksgiving or do you say you are not comfortable being around unvaccinated people? What about the people caught in the middle? Aunt Hilda wants everyone to come and doesn’t understand why you won’t eat with Uncle Billy who is not vaccinated and refuses to wear a mask. And both you and Uncle Billy feel like you are right so how do you even have a discussion?

I think each of us is and should set our boundaries around what feels safe to us. Some don’t feel safe in any crowd regardless of vaccines or masks. That is okay. We have (and are still) been traumatized by this past year and a half of COVID. Over 750 thousand Americans are gone. Many of us had our lives turned upside down not being able to visit friends and family, learning to work at home, or having to work when you did not feel safe doing so. Feeling anger and confusion about what was happening and how it was handled. Many of us are still navigating trauma symptoms. We may have lost family either to the illness or estrangement. People are still trying to figure out what is normal.

It is still a very tough time. I have no easy answers to this. I can say the following:

Take care of yourself in whatever manner you can.

Set your boundaries and keep them.

If your family has strong differing feelings you don’t have to engage in discussion or justify your decision. No is a complete sentence.

Create other communities or spend time with the people you feel safe and held by.

Remember we are still all just doing the best we can in a very challenging and unprecedented time in this country.

I hope you can enjoy whatever holidays you celebrate!

October 2017

Coping with political differences with family and friends

2017-10-10T14:06:09-04:00October 9th, 2017|communication, relationships, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

Coping with political differences with family and friends

I have been listening to Brené Brown’s new book “Braving the Wilderness”. I like to listen to Brené rather than read her books. They just resonate more for me that way. She talks a lot about relationships in this time of turmoil in our country. She believes that talking to others that are different from us is a good thing. Many of us are in opinion tunnels where we only spend time with people that have beliefs like us. I am going, to be honest; I am struggling with what I am hearing her say. One the one hand I do believe that being around people that are different from us is good for us. We all should be exposed to diversity in people it makes our lives richer. On the other hand, I struggle to be close to people that support things that I find abhorrent.

Right now the country feels as divided as I have ever seen it in my life. Talking about politics with everyone I know never seemed important to me. Now it all feels so critical. It literally feels like lives are on the line and I truly do not understand people that have such different views than I. Brené says we should be curious and respectful and I agree with that. At the same time when I have tried to do that I often feel very attacked from the get-go. And I will admit I do not respond well to that.

Recently I tried to dialogue with a friend about a political issue and was just immediately shut down. What would Brené say to do next? I am not sure. I suspect she would say keep trying to be vulnerable and authentic when I can. I believe she would also say it is also okay to set boundaries if people cannot respond in kind.

What I can do now is to keep trying to dialogue with people that are willing to do so. I am also trying very hard to be very mindful of kindness in my daily life. I try to go out of my way to be nice to those I know need it right now. That is what I feel capable of doing to counter the negativity that is going on. I will also continue to challenge my self to do more. Let me know in the comments how you are coping with this.

Brené’s book link is found below. This is an affiliate link so if you click through I get a small commission.


Photo Copyright: jjesadaphorn / 123RF Stock Photo

May 2017

Putting a little kindness into the universe

2021-07-26T23:23:23-04:00May 5th, 2017|connection, positive thinking, relationships|

Putting a little kindness into the universe

271 cute young girl, isolated on white

I will admit I used to be exceedingly shy. In my 20’s I would have rather done almost anything rather than speak publicly. It gave me a bit of a reputation as aloof. Which wasn’t true. If I knew you I was super friendly but if not I could barely raise my head to talk to you. Back in the days when I got licensed (I had to throw this in), we had to take an oral exam along with the written exam. I knew I had to be able to do that. So I started on my own exposure therapy plan which included me teaching some classes. It worked and I passed the exam first try and subsequent to that I would no longer consider myself shy.

However, I would not say I was very friendly either. Again if I knew you it was fine but if not…. I am not sure what shifted in me one day but I became friendly. I started to talking to people everywhere. Not on every occasion but when something came up in a grocery line I would talk to the person next to me. I even initiated conversations. And what I found was that rather than draining this introvert it actually invigorated me.

There is a lady that lives on my street (this is related I promise) who walks a lot and has always seemed rather odd. Not bad just odd. One evening she rang our doorbell and gave us a package that had been misdelivered to her house. She had made a concerted effort to bring it to our house when we were home to make sure it got to us safely. It was very nice. Ever since that day every time I pass her she waves and I wave back. In fact, the other day I passed and she was waving at me with two hands. I actually almost stopped the car because I thought something was wrong but it was just an emphatic wave. It brought a big small to my face. She has been so happy to be friendly with us in this small way. I wonder how she gets treated in the world and I know perhaps people ignore her a lot because she does come across as odd. But not looking beyond is so short sighted. We won’t be best friends ever but I think it is nice for both of us to be able to exchange our friendly wave. And when I saw her two-handed wave the other day I really realized how important this small acts of kindness are. there is a lot of negative going on in the world right now. I think it serves us all to try and put a little bit of kindness out there when we can.





Photo Copyright: piovesempre / 123RF Stock Photo

May 2016

The Value of Connection

2017-03-25T23:08:00-04:00May 20th, 2016|relationships, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

The Value of Connection

The other day in between clients I ran over to the bank. As I was walking back to the office I heard a lady yelling hey at me. I admit I was tempted to ignore her but I turned and acknowledged her. She gestured me over and then started complimenting me. She admired different aspects of my outfit (which honestly wasn’t all of that IMO). But she was so genuine and happy. I chatted with her a few minutes and then went on my way. As I was leaving she grabbed my hand and said, “Keep wearing paisley”. It was such a Bay Area moment for me. I went back to work with a big small on my face.

I was born and raised in NJ. That means you grow up with a certain attitude and you move fast. I recently complained to a friend about how rude New Yorkers were after a recent visit there. I said, “they never say hi and they always try to run you over”. She replied, “ When you first moved to CA you used to complain about people talking to you everywhere, you thought it strange.” She was right. I often complained about that when I moved out here all that talking was slowing me down. Now I try to get in the grocery lane of the checker who also likes the Oakland A’s so we can catch up on what the team is doing wrong this year.

It is good to recognize that for me right now I like the slower pace and the random conversations that happen where I live. These connections actually feed me and they make me feel seen. In the world right now we seem to often forget about the value of connection. It is what makes us have joy. That is the place to spend time, rather than think it is a waste of time.


March 2014

The Science of Happy Relationships

2017-03-25T23:08:01-04:00March 7th, 2014|relationships, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

Happify did a recent infographic on the science behind a happy relationship. Seems to me that it isn’t really science at all but common sense. It boils down to couples that have positive interactions have relationships that last. It also stresses the negative impact having children has on relationships. This is something I see a lot, people underestimate the negative impact of children on the happiness of relationships. Obviously people are going to have children but I think we need to be more honest about helping parents prepare for what it means for a relationship especially when the children are young. When you don’t have children it is much easier to make your partner your focus. This means showing appreciation for all the little things that they do. So often when a marriage starts to get difficult it is because one or both spouses feel unappreciated. Say thank you even for the little things like taking out the garbage and see how that changes a relationship.

In regards to the things that make you crazy that your spouse does I suggest reframing them in your mind. What about thinking about how grateful you are to have a spouse that (fill in the blank here with annoying habits). Having worked with people suffering from grief they all say they would love to have the person they lost in their life doing said annoying thing. We so often don’t appreciate what we have until we have lost it. A happy life means we work very hard to appreciate what we have in the present.









July 2012

Having relationships in this world of technology

2017-03-25T23:08:02-04:00July 10th, 2012|relationships, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

While technology can add much to our lives I fear that it may remove even more. Remember the time before cell phones when you were not expected to immediately respond to every call? Now there is no thoughtfulness about answering a cell phone call, text, or email.  We just feel a buzz or hear a beep and respond. To begin integrating mindfulness into your daily life this is a good place to start.  When you receive that next call or text take a moment to think about whether or not you want to respond right away. Try to stop responding automatically for a day and see what happens. Take the time to actively decide whether you want to engage with the other person. Better yet don’t pull out your phone every time it rings.  Designate a time to review your calls and respond rather than always being connected.  While at home have times where the tech gadgets are off limits.

I suspect the last two sentences made a lot of people slightly nauseous.  But while being virtually connected can be a good thing, being fully emotionally connected to other people is better.  Real relationships matter to our overall well being.  A real relationship isn’t one where we are on the internet at the dinner table. That is sharing space. Remember when you need something it isn’t your Iphone that is going to be there for you it’s your friends and/or family. Take the time to make and nurture your real emotional connections for those are the only ones that really matter.

January 2012

Communication Blockers

2017-03-25T23:08:07-04:00January 17th, 2012|communication, relationships, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

In a recent blog post I talked about dealing with difficult people.  As a follow-up I am writing some posts about communication skills.  I will start by reviewing communication blockers.  These are all the things we do when we are not willing to communicate directly with another person. 
This is a list of ways in which we may block communication from occurring.  If we are not listening fully than we are not engaged with the other person.  Take a look at the list and see what blockers you use. 
When you interrupt you do not allow the other person to tell their side which indicates that you are not interested in what they are saying.
If you ignore the other person you are totally disengaged from the communication process.
Sarcasm shows a lack of respect for what the other person is saying
If you blame or accuse the other person you are not giving them a chance to explain their side of the conflict. 
Making personal attacks is not just counterproductive but also abusive.
All or Nothing
This is when you generalize person’s behavior to they “always” do something or “never” do something.
Stating Opinion as Fact
We are each entitled to our opinions but that doesn’t make them facts. 
Expecting Mind-Reading
Sometimes we expect that people should know what we are thinking.  This is unfair to others.  We must take responsibility for communicating our thoughts and feelings. 
Pat Reassurances
If you try and reassure someone without really listening it seems as if you don’t take the situation seriously.  Remember most people just want to be listened to, not for you to solve their problems.
Changing the Subject
This shows that you are not interested in what the other person is saying.
Now that you know what you are doing to block conversation you can move forward to improving your communication skills.   I find that many of the communication blockers arise because someone gets more focused on being right than on being engaged.  I would suggest that if you cannot be fully engaged in your conversation that you work on scheduling it for another time when you can be fully present. 
The resource I cited in the footnotes has more extensive handouts on the topic of communication.

November 2011

80% of relationships end in sweat pants

2017-03-25T23:08:08-04:00November 1st, 2011|relationships, Thoughts From A Psychotherapist|

I saw this quote on a netflix envelope the other day.  It did get me to thinking about what makes relationships work or not.

For me the things that are needed for a relationship to work are:

1. sense of humor
2. shared values
3. gratitude

I think a sense of humor is key because if we can’t laugh with our partners then I am not sure what else there is.  I believe part of being in a sustaining relationship is being able to be ourselves without censorship.  If you aren’t able to be authentic in your relationship, than I would daresay it isn’t much of a relationship.

Shared values are important because values are where we set our goals from.  If you have different values about money, for instance, then your goals regarding your savings etc are going to be in constant conflict.  The same with raising children.  Compromise is a key to relationships, but it is harder to compromise if you are compromising against your values.

Gratitude for me is the most important one.  How often do you say “Thank you” to your partner?  Do you notice the little things that they are doing for you?  Are you grateful to have a partner in your life?  To me the relationships that last are ones in which we are grateful to be in.  That includes not taking the other person for granted.  You can wear the sweatpants and be comfortable, but you also need to be engaged emotionally with your partner, and not just sitting on the couch and watching television with them.

What do you think the keys to successful relationships are?

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