This morning, over
coffee, one of my good friends spilled her guts to me about all of her failed
attempts to find the perfect man. Although her story is about her unique
personal experiences, I couldn’t help but feel like I had heard the same story
told by others in completely different circumstances a hundred times before.
It’s a heartbreaking
tale about the endless quest for perfection that so many of us are on…
The Perfect Woman
Once upon a time, an
intelligent, attractive, self-sufficient woman in her mid-thirties decided she
wanted to settle down and find a husband. So she journeyed out into the
world to search for the perfect man.
She met him in New
York City at a bar in a fancy hotel lobby. He was handsome and
well-spoken. In fact, she had a hard time keeping her eyes off of
him. He intrigued her. It was the curves of his cheek bones,
the confidence in his voice, and the comfort of his warm, steady hands.
But after only a short time, she broke things off. “We just didn’t share
the same religious views,” she said. So she continued on her journey.
She met him again in
Austin a few months later. This time, he was an entrepreneur who owned a
small, successful record label that assisted local musicians with booking gigs
and promoting their music. And she learned, during an unforgettable
night, that not only did they share the same religious views, but he could also
make her laugh for hours on end. “But I just wasn’t that physically
attracted to him,” she said. So she continued on her journey.
She met him again in
Miami at a beachside café. He was a sports medicine doctor for the Miami
Dolphins, but he easily could have been an underwear model for Calvin
Klein. For a little while, she was certain he was the one! And all
of her friends loved him too. “He’s the perfect catch,” they told
her. “But we didn’t hang in the same social circles, and his high-profile
job consumed way too much of his time and attention,” she said. So she
cut things off and continued on her journey.
Finally, at a
corporate business conference in San Diego, she met the perfect man. He
possessed every quality she had been searching for. Intelligent,
handsome, spiritual, similar social circles, and a strong emotional and
physical connection—absolutely perfect! She was ready to spend the rest
of her life with him. “But unfortunately, he was looking for the
‘perfect’ woman,” she said.
Everything We’ve Ever Hoped For
As human beings, we
often chase hypothetical, static states of perfection. We do so when we
are searching for the perfect house, job, friend, or lover.
The problem, of
course, is that perfection doesn’t exist in a static state. Because life
is a continual journey, constantly evolving and changing. What is here
today is not exactly the same tomorrow.
That perfect house,
job, friend, or lover will eventually fade to a state of imperfection.
Thus, the closest we can get to perfection is the experience itself—the snapshot of a single moment or vision held forever in
our minds—never evolving, never growing. And that’s not really
what we want. We want something real! And when it’s real, it won’t
ever be perfect. But if we’re willing to work at it and open up, it could
be everything we’ve ever hoped for.
That Imperfect Man (or Woman)
The truth is, when it
comes to finding the “perfect man” or “perfect woman” or “perfect relationship,”
the journey starts with letting the fantasy of “perfect” GO! In the real
world, you don’t love and appreciate someone because they’re perfect, you love
and appreciate them in spite of the fact that they are not. Likewise,
your goal shouldn’t be to create a perfect life, but to live an imperfect life
in radical amazement.
And when an intimate
relationship gets difficult, it’s not an immediate sign that you’re doing it
wrong. Intimate relationships are intricate, and are often toughest when
you’re doing them right—when you’re dedicating time, having the hard
conversations, compromising, and making daily sacrifices. Resisting the
tough moments—the real moments—and seeing them as immediate evidence that
something is wrong, or that you’re with the wrong person, only exacerbates the
difficulties. By contrast, viewing difficulties in a relationship as
normal and necessary will give you and your partner the best chance to thrive
together in the long run.
Again, there is no
“perfect.” To say that one waits a lifetime for their perfect soulmate to
come around is an absolute paradox. People eventually get tired of
waiting, so they take a chance on someone, and by the powers of love,
compromise and commitment they become soulmates, which takes nearly a lifetime
This concept truly
relates to almost everything in life too. With a little patience and an
open mind, over time, I bet that imperfect house evolves into a comfortable
home. That imperfect job evolves into a rewarding career. That
imperfect friend evolves into a steady shoulder to lean on. And… that
imperfect man or woman evolves into a “perfect” lifelong companion.
Now, it’s your turn…
Please leave a comment
and let me know what you think of this short essay.
Any other thoughts on perfectionism’s harmful role in relationships?
HOW TO RECONNECT WITH YOUR PARTNER AFTER HAVING KIDS
First things first: This is not another article that simply tells you to “go on a date night.”
Nothing against date nights. The best ones can remind you why you fell in love with your spouse or partner in the first place.
Or they can involve staring at each other in a sleep-deprived haze over an expensive meal while intermittently glancing at your phone for updates from the babysitter.
If date nights aren’t working for you, or if you’ve been struggling to maintain intimacy for months — or even years — after having children, here are some different ways to stay close to your spouse or partner, despite the stresses and frustrations of parenthood.
Try not to become complacent.
Just as there was never a perfect time to have children, there will rarely be a perfect time to rekindle a connection with your partner.
It’s easy to push your romantic relationship to the side: “Let’s get through sleep training first.” Or: “As soon as I get back into shape.” Or: “Maybe when I’m less tired.”
Then winter arrives. “Everyone’s sick again? Let’s wait until we get better.”
But if you keep waiting, experts say, regaining intimacy can become increasingly difficult.
“It seems to have been the norm for so many couples to say to themselves, ‘Now that the kids are here, we’ll focus on the kids. Our day will come,’” said Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage and family therapist whose TEDx talk about sex-starved marriages has been viewed more than 5 million times. “But here’s the bad news from someone who’s been on the front lines with couples for decades. Unless you treat your relationship, your marriage, like it’s a living thing — which requires nurturing on a regular basis — you won’t have a marriage after the kids leave home.”
Couples may start to lead parallel but separate lives — and discover they have nothing in common.
“They’re looking at a stranger, and they ask themselves, ‘Is this the way I want to spend the last few years of my life?’” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “And for too many couples the answer is no.”
But all of that is preventable, she added.
“It’s absolutely essential not to be complacent about what I call a ho-hum sex life. Touching is a very primal way of connecting and bonding,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “If those needs to connect physically are ignored over a period of time, or are downgraded so that it’s not satisfying, I can assure people there will be problems in the relationship moving forward.”
Slow down and start over.
If you had a vaginal birth, you and your partner may expect to begin having sex as early as six weeks after the baby is born, if you have been physically cleared to do so.
For some couples, that signals “the clock is now ticking,” said Emily Nagoski, author of “Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science That Will Transform Your Sex Life.”
But a lot of women simply won’t be ready that early. And that’s O.K.
“After the postpartum checkup, I didn’t feel like myself, I didn’t feel physically ready to have sex,” said Emily Stroia, 33, who lives in Los Angeles. “In terms of libido, I didn’t really have one.”
Ms. Stroia, the mother of a 10-month-old, eventually starting having sex with her partner once a month — but before she became pregnant, they had sex nearly every week, she said.
“I still kind of forget that I’m in a relationship,” said Ms. Stroia, who is struggling with sleep deprivation. “I have to remind myself that I have a partner.”
After any potential medical problems are ruled out, Dr. Nagoski advises couples to “start over” with one another by establishing a sexual connection in much in the same way they might have done when they were first getting to know each other: making out, holding each other and gradually moving in the direction of bare skin.
That’s especially important if there’s a birth parent involved, she added.
“That person’s body is brand-new,” Dr. Nagoski said. “The whole meaning of their body has transformed.”
It also helps to remember that “intimacy isn’t just hot sex,” said Rick Miller, a psychotherapist in Massachusetts.
“It’s steadfast loyalty, a commitment to getting through stressful times together and, most importantly, enjoying the warm, cozy moments of home together,” Mr. Miller said.
Put on your life preserver first.
Taking the time to nurture your individual physical and emotional needs will give you the bandwidth to nurture your relationship, too, so that it doesn’t feel like another task on the to-do list.
“When you experience your partner’s desire for intimacy as an intrusion, ask yourself, ‘How deprived am I in my own self-care? What do I need to do to take care of myself in order to feel connected to my own sexuality?’” said Dr. Alexandra Sacks, a reproductive psychiatrist and host of the “Motherhood Sessions” podcast.
That might mean going to the gym or talking to your partner about decreasing the invisible mental load that is often carried by one parent.
Enlisting the support of your family (or your chosen family) to take some time for yourself or discuss some of the struggles that accompany parenting can help you recharge.
“Relying on others is an indirect way of working on intimacy,” Mr. Miller said.
This is especially important for gay couples, he added, who may not typically share vulnerabilities “because the world hasn’t been a safe place.”
Practicing self-care as a couple is equally important.
Dr. Sacks recommends making a list of everything you used to do together as a couple that helped you feel close, and thinking about how those rituals have changed.
Is your toddler sleeping in your bed, spread out like a sea star between you and your partner? Have you stopped doing the things together you used to really enjoy like working out or going to the movies? Dr. Sacks recommends thinking about how you’re going to make an adjustment in order to create physical and emotional intimacy with your partner.
For example, if you always used to talk about your day together and now that time is completely absorbed by caregiving, the absence of that connection will be profound.
“You can’t just eliminate it and expect to feel as close,” she said.
Think about what turns you on.
According to Dr. Nagoski, one way to nurture intimacy is to remind yourselves of the context in which you had a great sexual connection together.
What characteristics did your partner have? What characteristics did your relationship have?
Then, she said, think about the setting.
“Were we at home with the door locked? Were we on vacation? Was it over text? Was it at a party in a closet at a stranger’s house against a wall of other people’s coats? What context really works for us?” Dr. Nagoski said.
When doing this exercise, and when thinking about your current libido (or lack thereof) it’s also helpful to remember that not everyone experiences spontaneous desire — the kind of sexual desire that pops out of nowhere. For example, you’re walking down the street and suddenly can’t stop thinking about sex.
Millions of other people experience something different called responsive desire, which stems from erotic stimulation. In other words, arousal comes first and then desire.
Both types of desire are normal.
Create a magic circle in your bedroom.
Dr. Nagoski suggested cordoning off an imaginative protected space in your mind where you can “bring forward the aspects of your identity that are relevant to your erotic connection and you close the door on the parts of yourself that are not important for an erotic connection.”
With enough focus, this strategy can work even if the physical space you’re using contains reminders of your role as a caregiver.
It can also help to think of your bedroom as a sanctuary, advised Ms. Weiner-Davis.
For couples who have spent years co-sleeping with their children, that can be somewhat difficult.
“I do believe there comes a point where it’s important to have those boundaries again,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said.
Don’t bank on spontaneity.
It’s easy to forget how much time and effort we put into our relationships in the early days: planning for dates, caring for our bodies and (gasp) having long conversations with one another.
“People feel sort of sad when they get that news that yes, it does require effort to build a connection across a lifetime,” Dr. Nagoski said. “You don’t just dive in — you don’t just put your body in the bed and put your genitals against each other and expect for it to be ecstatic.”
Karen Jeffries (a pen name she uses as a writer and performer to protect her privacy) said her sex life with her husband is better than ever after having had two children. They’ve always had a strong physical connection, she said. But they also plan ahead and prioritize.
“There are times where I’ll text him and I’ll be like, ‘We’re having sex tonight,’ and he’ll be like ‘O.K.’ or vice versa,” she said. “Sometimes I’ll send him a picture of a taco and he’ll send me a picture of an eggplant.”
Ms. Jeffries, 37, a fourth-grade dual-language teacher in Westchester County, N.Y., is the author of “Hilariously Infertile,” an account of the fertility treatments she endured to conceive her two daughters. Her children, now aged 6 and 4, are on a strict sleep schedule with a 7:30 p.m. bedtime, allowing for couple time in the evening.
Think of building good sexual habits just like you would develop good eating or exercising habits, she advised.
“Sex begets more sex. Kind of like when you go to the gym,” she said. “It takes you a while to build that habit.”
Then, she added, “You’ll notice little by little that it becomes more and more as opposed to less and less.”
A small 2018 study found that attending group therapy helped couples with low sexual desire as well as those who had discrepancies in their levels of sexual desire.
Individual or couples therapy can also be a good place to start.
For many parents, however, and especially those with young children, finding the time and money to go to a therapist can be challenging.
Esther Perel, a psychotherapist whose TED talks on sexuality and relationships have been viewed by millions, offers an online course, currently $199, that includes a section called “Sex After Kids.”
Ms. Perel also hosts the popular “Where Should We Begin?” podcast, in which couples share the intimate details of their troubles during recorded therapy sessions.
Regardless of what steps you take to rebuild a connection with your spouse, experts say it’s important to take action as soon as possible.
“The child is not going to take up less space over time,” Dr. Sacks said. “So the question is: How do you carve out space for your relationships around the child, as the child continues to develop with different but continually demanding needs.”
Though your body might be ready to return to sex after a
miscarriage, are you?
How soon can you have sex after experiencing a pregnancy loss?
It’s a common question among women of childbearing age, considering that up to
20 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriage and approximately 1 in 100 in stillbirth. There’s not a standard — or
straightforward — answer. Generally, physicians counsel patients to wait until
they feel ready. But readiness for a woman and her partner can depend on a
number of physical, and emotional, factors.
“From a medical
and practical perspective, the primary thing is to ensure that the pregnancy
has passed completely, the cervix has closed, and that there isn’t an increased
risk of causing infection in the uterus,” explained Zev Williams, M.D., Ph.D.,
chief of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility and an
associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Irving
Medical Center. “The timing for this depends on how far along the pregnancy was
at the time of the loss and how quickly the woman’s body recovers.”
romantic readiness is another question altogether.
roadblocks are a big factor: Women may feel reluctant to engage in sexual
intimacy while still grieving their loss. Miscarriage can also change a woman’s
relationship with her body, and what sex represents to a couple might shift. If
this seems hard to understand, it is: I am a psychologist specializing in women’s
reproductive and maternal mental health, and I didn’t fully comprehend how
complex returning to sex could be until I experienced a second trimester miscarriage
firsthand. Then I understood all too well: There’s no one-size-fits-all answer.
“There are no
guidelines with regard to telling patients what to expect about returning to
sex after miscarriage. Routinely, we don’t discuss sex after loss unless patients
bring it up,” said Jessica Schneider, M.D., an ob-gyn at Cedars Sinai Medical
Center in Los Angeles. “There’s research about how safe it is to get pregnant
again after a loss, but not about sexual function or satisfaction.” And the
fact is, sexual function and satisfaction can, and do, change.
I talked to
several women about their experiences around sex after pregnancy loss to find
out how they approached returning to intimacy. (The women preferred their last
names not be used due to privacy concerns.)
Some women, like
Ash, 36, felt ready to have sex right away. After experiencing a stillbirth,
she turned to sex for healing. “It was a way to feel powerful in my body,” she
said. “I felt like my body had failed me, and sex was a way to get that back.”
There was one caveat though: She didn’t want to risk another pregnancy. “It
felt better to engage in sexual acts that couldn’t result in one.”
Trying to get
pregnant again is a sensitive topic medically and emotionally. The World Health
Organization’s official stance is to wait six months before attempting another
pregnancy. Recent research, however, suggests that having
sex sooner doesn’t have a negative effect on future pregnancies and could actually help success rates.
“The doctor told
us to wait until we were comfortable,” said Maria, 26, who has had four
miscarriages. “It was nerve-wracking to return to sex. I think because I was
terrified of getting pregnant again and losing it or not getting pregnant
again. It was challenging mentally.”
self-blame can enter the bedroom after pregnancy loss and create trouble where
there previously was none. Hanan, 27, thought she was ready to have sex again
immediately after a stillbirth, though her doctor told her to wait six weeks.
She said she felt arousal and the desire to have sex, and engaged with her
husband in everything other than penetrative sex, while waiting for medical
clearance. But the first time they had intercourse, she wasn’t prepared for her
emotional reaction. “I cried so much after the first time. I felt very guilty,”
she said. “My body wanted to, but my brain didn’t. It felt selfish and immoral
— like I should have been celibate while grieving.”
are especially challenging for women who are actively trying to conceive again.
“I did not want to initiate sex after my loss, but at the same time, I did want
to get pregnant again,” said Maggie, 32. “My vagina became a constant reminder
of the loss.”
Some women said
they resented their bodies for a perceived failure. “After my miscarriage, I
couldn’t be with anyone for over a year,” Zachi, 27, told me. “The fact that my
body failed impacted the way I felt sexually afterward. I carried the baby
emotionally, long after physically.”
While a 2015
survey found that 47 percent of respondents who had experienced a miscarriage reported feeling guilty about it — and
nearly three-quarters thought their actions may have caused it — the reality is
that chromosomal abnormalities are the explanation in about 60 percent of
miscarriages. Pregnancy loss cannot be prevented.
If you’ve been
trying to conceive for a long time, sex following a pregnancy loss can become
especially fraught — even unappealing.
“After my first
miscarriage, we only had sex to conceive. It started to feel like a task,” said
Gina, 30, who has experienced infant loss and two miscarriages. “That mentality
compounded after my second miscarriage and killed all sexual desire for me.”
Sonali, 33, who
has lost four pregnancies, had difficulty returning to the very place she got
pregnant. “Sex with your other half in the bed where you conceived the babies
you lost is so triggering,” she said.
thinking about where I’d be in my pregnancy now; how I wouldn’t be able to have
sex in this position,” Maria said. “It makes me feel guilty to feel great, when
I should be seven months pregnant and uncomfortable.”
can have unintended positive impacts on a woman’s sexuality, too. Zachi said
that she is more assertive in her sex life because of her miscarriage. “I have
to listen to my body now,” she said. “It becomes painful not to. I am a lot
more sure in what I want.” A miscarriage ultimately brought Maggie and her
husband closer together, she said. “During the loss, I felt like I was on an
island,” she remembered. “The first time my husband and I had penetrative sex,
I cried from relief, because I felt so re-connected to him.”
enjoying sex again is really about one thing — personal readiness — which is
what I tell my patients. It’s O.K. to feel grief and sexual desire
simultaneously. “Moving on” is not a prerequisite for pleasure.
said, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” – Revelation 3:19, NIV
Nine-year-old Al had disobeyed his father who, as a strict disciplinarian, sent
him with a note to a police station in London. When Al came in late after
curfew, his father met him at the door and handed him a note and said,
“Take it to the jailhouse.”
Al was terrified.
“The officer, a friend of his father, opens the note, reads it, and nods,.
‘Follow me.’ He leads the wide-eyed youngster to a jail cell, opens the door,
and tells him to enter. The officer clangs the door shut. ‘This is what we do
to naughty boys,’ he explains and walks away…. The jail sentence lasts only
five minutes. But those five minutes felt like five months. Al never forgot
that day. The sound of the clanging door, he often told people, stayed with him
the rest of his life.
“The fear of losing a father’s love exacts a high toll. Al spent the rest
of his life hearing the clanging door. That early taste of terror contributed
to his lifelong devotion to creating the same in others. For Al—Alfred
Hitchcock—made a career out of scaring people.” (From UpWords from
Max Lucado, www.maxlucado.com)
True, discipline is important, but it always needs to fit the crime. Some
children are impaired for life because of severe punishment as a child. Others
are left terrified if they were beaten severely or abused. It is imperative
that parents never discipline out of anger because that is punishment, not
discipline. Discipline always needs to be in love.
Those whom God loves, he disciplines in love—not punishes in anger. We need to
do the same with our children.
God, thank You that when You discipline me it is always out of Your love for me
and for my good. Help me to do the same when disciplining my children. May it
always be in love and never out of anger. Thank You for hearing and answering
my prayer. Gratefully in Jesus’ name, amen.”
4 STEPS TO OVERCOME GRIDLOCK THAT HARMS RELATIONSHIPS
All couples are bound to have arguments. When they struggle to manage these ongoing disagreements with constructive conflict conversations, the result is what Dr. John Gottman calls “gridlock.”
Gridlock is like a Chinese Finger Trap. Each partner pulls for his or her position, making compromise impossible.
My Dreams Are Becoming My Worst Nightmare
Our dreams are full of aspirations and wishes that are core to our identity and give our life purpose and meaning. Gridlock is a sign that each partner has dreams that the other hasn’t accepted, doesn’t respect, or isn’t aware of.
Some dreams are practical, like obtaining a certain amount of savings, while others are profound, like owning a beach house in Hawaii. The profound dreams often remain hidden beneath the practical ones.
For example, Kurt wants to make a seven-figure income, but why is that so important to him? Underneath his dream is a deep need for financial security.
When couples are in gridlock, it is only by uncovering the hidden dreams and symbolic meanings that they can get out of the Chinese Finger Trap.
The way out is to first identify the dream within conflict. When partners are gridlocked, they see each other as the source of difficulty. They tend to ignore their part in creating the conflict because it’s hidden from view.
If you find yourself saying, “the only problem is his lack of intelligence,” that’s probably not the whole story.
Uncovering a hidden dream is a challenge and it won’t emerge until you feel the relationship is a safe place to talk about it. If you don’t feel comfortable enough to open up, focus on the first three principles in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.
My Dreams Are Silly
Personal dreams often go unmentioned because people worry they will burden their partner or negatively impact the relationship. It’s common for partners not to feel entitled to their dreams, but when you bury a dream, it can lead to resentment and ultimately gridlock.
When you share your dreams with your partner, you give your marriage the opportunity to have a profound purpose and sense of shared meaning. As Dr. Gottman explains in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, “couples who are demanding of their marriage are more likely to have deeply satisfying unions than those who lower their expectations.”
4 Steps to Overcome Gridlock
When you begin to uncover the dreams beneath your gridlock, the problems in your marriage will not immediately go away. It may actually seem to worsen rather than improve. Be patient. The very nature of gridlock is that dreams are in opposition.
Step 1: Explore Each Other’s Dreams
Pick an issue that you both feel causes gridlock in your marriage. Take time to reflect on the hidden dreams that may underlie your position. Talk about it with your partner by using Dr. Gottman’s Conflict Blueprint for a truly effective conflict conversation. Focus on understanding your partner’s position.
What not to say: Kris: I’ve always dreamed of buying a beach house in Hawaii. Kurt: First of all, we can’t afford something like that. I can’t think of anything more stressful than trying to upkeep a property in the middle of the ocean. Think of all the wear and tear we will need to replace. Kris: Forget it…
What to say instead: Kris: I’ve always dreamed of buying a beach house in Hawaii. Kurt: Tell me more about what it means to own a beach house in Hawaii. What would it do for you? Kris: It would be heaven on earth. My family and I used to go every year and my parents always said they wanted to buy a beach house. I’d feel such a sense of accomplishment and we’d be able to invite my parents over! They’d be so proud.
Acknowledging and respecting each other’s deepest most personal hopes and dreams is key to saving and enriching your marriage.
Step 2: Soothe Yourself and Each Other Discussing deeply held dreams that are in opposition can be stressful. Pay attention to your stress levels. If flooding occurs, stop the conversation, take a break, and use repairs.
Step 3: Reach a Temporary Compromise Now it’s time to make peace with this issue (for now) by accepting your differences and establishing some kind of initial compromise. Understand that this problem may never go away. The goal is to remove the hurt so the problem stops being a source of pain. To do this, refer to the Conflict Blueprint to separate the issue into two categories:
Non-negotiable areas: Aspects of the issue that you are unwilling to give up on because it will violate your basic needs or core values. Try to make this section as small as possible.
Areas of flexibility: Parts of the issue where you can be flexible. Try to make this section as large as possible.
Share your list with your partner and work together to come up with a temporary compromise. This compromise should last about three months. Afterwards, you can review where both of you stand. Don’t expect to solve the problem yet. Your goal here is only to live with it more peacefully. After all, 69% of all problems in a relationship are unsolvable.
Here’s what Kris and Kurt did:
They defined minimal core areas they are unwilling to change. Kris says she must have a house in Hawaii. Kurt says he must save $40,000 in order to feel financially secure.
They defined areas of flexibility. Kris says she can settle for a condo, rather than a beachfront house. Even though she wants to buy now, she is willing to wait 3 years as long as they can work together to make it happen. Kurt says he can be flexible about how quickly they save, as long as he knows both of them are working towards this goal. They decide that 5% of their income goes into this savings account.
They found a temporary compromise that honors both of their needs. They will buy a condo, but not for another three years. Meanwhile, they will devote half of their savings to a down payment and half into a mutual fund. In three months, they will review this plan and decide if it’s working or not.
Both Kris and Kurt realize that the underlying perpetual problem will never go away. Kris will always be the visionary, imagining a life on a beach, and Kurt is going to worry about their financial security. By learning to work with each other, both partners are able to cope with their differences, avoid gridlock, and work support each other in achieving their dreams.
Step 4: Give Thanks Overcoming financial gridlock requires more than just one discussion about the issues that have deeply troubled your marriage. The goal with this step is to cultivate a culture of appreciation in which you express your gratitude for all you have. This will feel difficult after talking about such an emotionally charged issue, but that’s all the more reason to make effort to end the conflict conversation on a positive note.
The best way to cope with financial gridlock is to avoid it in the first place. Don’t wait until resentment has set in to ask your partner about their dreams – Dr. Gottman suggests becoming a “dream detective.”
4 KEY ISSUES FOR NEW PARENTS AND HOW TO SOLVE THEM
We all know that having a
new baby presents unique challenges, and research shows that couples are more likely to feel dissatisfied with
their relationship after a child is born. As much as expecting parents plan and
prepare, there is still so much to learn about raising a child while keeping
their relationship with their partner intact.
In fact, according
to research by The Gottman Institute, 67% of
couples had become very unhappy with each other during the first three years of
their baby’s life. Only 33% remained content.
As with any life
transition, challenges are inevitable. It’s natural to disagree with your
partner on issues around parenting, finances, household chores, and marital
expectations. But as overwhelming as that sounds, it is possible to reach a
solution that everyone is happy with.
Differences in parenting
styles are a growing cause of concern in marriage, and issues can
arise between couples even before they bring their new baby home if there is no
established sense of unity and connectedness in place.
Perhaps your partner is
in favor of sticking to a strict parenting routine, while you prefer to be more
lax. Maybe you disagree on how to hold or change the baby. Whatever the issue,
it can become a source of tension in your relationship, particularly if the
problem is brought up repeatedly with an inability to see eye-to-eye.
Learning how to handle
stress and conflict effectively in order to understand each other more clearly
and reach compromise is essential. For example, through empathetic listening, you might realize that
your partner wants to develop a routine so that everyone sleeps better. Once
you understand their views and needs, you could compromise by creating a schedule
that works for both of you.
is key, so be sure to schedule some time to discuss parenting. Incorporate a
daily stress-reducing conversation and a
weekly state of the union meeting—even just 10
minutes a day of quality face time can drastically increase a couple’s
friendship and intimacy.
When you and your partner
disagree on parenting styles, it’s a sign that you both feel strongly about
what’s best for the baby, which is not at all a bad thing, and couples
counseling can help you focus on these positive intentions.
New moms struggle with
hormonal shifts, body changes, recovering from childbirth, and issues like
postpartum depression that can significantly reduce their desire for sex after
birth. While intimacy is an important part of sustaining healthy relationships,
it’s really important to create a situation that both partners feel comfortable
Start by discussing your expectations for physical
touch, affection, and sex openly and honestly with the understanding that you
might both be coming from very different places, eagerly trying to bridge the
gap. Practice a judgment-free zone without becoming defensive and try not to
take denied requests for sex and intimacy personally. Determine how best to say
yes, and how best to say no, so that you both feel understood and respected.
Your partner trusts you
enough to be vulnerable and wants a positive sex life, and it is a crucial time
to respect that trust and vulnerability. And if you feel that you or your
partner might take sexual rejection personally, talk about ways to indicate
that you’re not feeling up to it that you both understand and that won’t be
hurtful to either of you.
distribution of chores
It’s easy for chores to
pile up after a baby is born, and finding the right balance can be tricky,
especially after both partners have life demands to deal with like returning to
work, running errands, trying to exercise, seeing family members (especially
those who haven’t yet met the baby), trying to find a few moments of personal
downtime, and, of course, taking care of the new baby.
To help with the
increased workload of caring for a child on top of everyday chores, a weekly
planning discussion between you and your partner is imperative to coordinate
schedules, share co-parenting duties, and keep the house clean and tidy for the
During this discussion,
you might decide that if your partner cooks dinner, you’ll do the dishes, or if
you complete a job you really despise (like emptying the diaper bin), your
partner will do it next time and you’ll take turns.
Arguing about chores
might seem minor, but disagreements can quickly escalate to become major
sticking points, so it’s best to tend to them on a weekly basis. Voicing your
concerns and complaints early on in a respectful, non-blaming way will keep
negativity at bay and will allow you to effectively resolve your issues
Most people know that
raising a child is expensive. According to a report from the USDA, it will cost a
middle-income family $233,610 to raise a child born in 2015
through to the age of 17. That’s some serious money, and the spending starts
the moment you find out that you’re pregnant. This can put a lot of strain on
your relationship, particularly if one partner is a big spender while the other
prefers to save and be frugal.
Try sitting down together
to create a financial plan for the year. This should
include budgets for groceries, clothes, bills, utilities, medical care, prescriptions,
and other essentials, as well as plans for college savings, family vacations,
and larger purchases. Try to check in and discuss your finances at the same
time each month in order to stay on top of things and make adjustments as
needed. Financial planning is a skill that will serve you well for the rest of
If you can address each
of these issues as part of an overall parenting plan, then you can reduce the
amount of stress you and your partner will experience while adapting to the
life of being new parents. The two of you are a team, and while raising a child
is a big challenge, you have each other’s backs. Stick to the plans you make,
and remember that despite the pressures of parenting, your relationship can
still be a wellspring of trust, love, and devotion.
IF YOU STOPPED BELIEVING IN LOVE, READ THIS ESSAY NOW
Have you endured a lot of heartbreak, and now you’ve
stopped believing in love? I’m here to give you the courage and insights you
need to trust love one more time. Read on…
always fascinating to me the responses I receive when I tell women that if they
want to break their Prince Harming patterns, then they
must stop overly prioritizing finding a man who is sexy and successful.
They must ALSO prioritize finding a man who:
revels in open, honest communication
displays 20/20 listening skills
shows a Gumby-like flexibility for compromise
women wind up laughing heartily at my description of this evolved kind of man.
insist this type of man does not exist!
“You’re a female chauvinist!”I’ve called these women.
further explain to these women how prejudiced they are being – because they
cannot believe it’s possible for men to be emotionally evolved.
wonder these women have stopped believing in love!
they believe in love – when they have stopped believing there are men out there
who are capable of communicating honestly and deeply from their hearts?
“You’re basically saying that all men areemotional bimbos,” I tell these women.
the combo of the words “female chauvinist” and “emotional
bimbo” shock these women into a fuller awareness of how
gender-prejudiced they’re being.
these women that they must stop being “negative evidence collectors,” seeking
proof that all men are “emotional bimbos.”
warn these women about how they can accidentally encourage a self-fulfilling
prophecy of bad behavior from their man – if they treat a good man
to their bad attitude toward him.
instruct these women to become “positive evidence collectors.”
assignment: They must mindfully start to look for proof of the plentiful,
wonderful Prince Charming–esque guys who are out there.
These good men could be married to or dating their lucky girlfriends.
Or they could be written up in the news.
Maybe they are working alongside them at their offices.
Plus they could even be in the very bed with them – right beside them!
women against using the words “always” and “never” –
in either reference to their love life or men as a category.
“I will never find a man who values growing.”
“I always meet guys who cheat.”
time you create a sentence with an “always” and/or “never”you set
yourself up with a limiting belief that can create a self-fulfilling prophecy
of doom and gloom.
when you use “always” and/or “never” in
a sentence, you put yourself in a hopeless, depressed frame of mind.
I’m with someone who says they’re depressed, I assign them to jackhammer-drill
down to find and dump their pesky “always” and/or “never.”
one of these two words is at the root of their depression – draining them of
faith and vitality.
The words “Always” and “Never” are liars.
whisper mean beliefs into your subconscious and conscious mind, about how you
will forever be unable to change your situation.
call these beliefs “permanent” and “pervasive.”
are wildly dangerous to your spirit and your potential for a happily ever after
The truth is:
very rare that there’s a “never” or an “always” in someone’s life.
Have you stopped believing in love?
If so, try to locate your “always” and “never” limiting beliefs.
Try to understand the root of these beliefs. Do they come from your childhood and/or a series of bad experiences?
Next, be willing to unblock these limiting beliefs. Be open to the possibility that you can find a good partner – someone who truly has lots of emotionally evolved qualities!
This brings us to lawyer time. Pretend you’re a lawyer! Find proof that your “always” and “never” are liars!
Finally – get yourself to fully accept that good partners are very much walking around on this planet! Once you believe in the existence of these good quality people – you will be more likely to find them!!
It’s amazing how powerful changing your belief system can be. When you
change the way you look at men and love, you wind up changing what you notice
film produced for the UnLonely Film Festival and Conference last month
featured a young woman who, as a college freshman, felt painfully alone.
She desperately missed her familiar haunts and high school buddies who seemed,
on Facebook at least, to be having the time of their lives.
It reminded me of a distressing time I had as an 18-year-old
college sophomore — feeling friendless, unhappy and desperate to get out of
I visited the university health clinic where an astute psychologist examined my
high school records, including a long list of extracurricular activities, and
noted that I had done only schoolwork during my first year in college.
nothing the matter with you that wouldn’t be fixed by your becoming more
integrated into the college community,” she said. She urged me to get involved
with something that would connect me to students with similar interests.
I protested that as a biochemistry major with classes six
mornings a week and four afternoon labs, I had no time for extracurricular
activities. And she countered: “You have to find time. It’s essential to your
health and a successful college experience.”
better option, I joined a monthly student-run magazine that fit into my
demanding academic schedule. I soon fell in love with interviewing researchers
and writing up their work. I also befriended a faculty adviser to the magazine,
a grandfatherly professor who encouraged me to expand my horizons and follow my
Two years later as a college senior and the magazine’s editor, I
traded courses in physical chemistry and advanced biochemistry for news
reporting and magazine writing.
rest is history. Armed with a master’s degree in science writing and two years
as a general assignment reporter, at 24 I was hired by The New York Times as a
science writer, a job I have loved for 53 years. In making rewarding social
connections in college, I not only conquered loneliness, I found a path to a
connections, in a very real way, are keys to happiness and health,” noted Dr.
Jeremy Nobel, founder of the UnLonely Project and faculty member in primary
care at Harvard Medical School. In an opinion piece in The Boston Globe written with
Michelle Williams, dean of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, these
experts stated that loneliness and social isolation play “an outsized role” in
preventable deaths by suicide.
They urged that social relationships be considered a national
public health priority “to roll back those heartbreaking, preventable deaths of
But it’s not just young people who are lonely. “More than a
third of adults are chronically lonely, and 65 percent of people are seriously
lonely some of the time,” Dr. Nobel said in an interview. Among the groups with
especially high rates of loneliness are veterans, 20 of whom take their own
lives each day on average. Even half of chief executives experience loneliness (it
can be lonely at the top), a state that can adversely affect job performance.
The rate of persistent loneliness is also high among older
adults, who, in addition to limitations imposed by chronic illness, may suffer
the isolating effects of mobility issues, lack of transportation and untreated
However, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology professor at
Brigham Young University, told the UnLonely conference that no one is immune to
the toxic effects of social isolation. “It’s so distressing, it’s been used as
a form of punishment and torture,” Dr. Holt-Lunstad said.
“Loneliness saps vitality, impairs productivity and diminishes
enjoyment of life,” Drs. Nobel and Williams wrote. Its effects on health match
that of obesity, alcohol abuse and smoking 15 cigarettes a day, increasing the
risk of an early death by 30 percent.
The aim of the UnLonely Project, Dr. Nobel said, is to raise
awareness of its increasing incidence and harmful effects and reduce the stigma
— the feelings of embarrassment — related to it.
“We want people
to know that loneliness is not their fault and to encourage them to become
engaged in programs that can diminish it,” he said. One program featured in the
film festival depicts a group of older women in the Harlem neighborhood in New
York who participate in synchronized swimming. One of the women
said she didn’t even know how to swim when she joined the group but now
wouldn’t miss a session.
In Augusta, Ga., in partnership with AARP, a program of painting
together, as well as music and dance, was created for caregivers who often have
little opportunity to connect with others and reap the benefits of mutual
support and friendship.
Doing something creative and nurturing helps both caregivers and
people struggling with serious chronic illness get outside themselves and feel
more connected, Dr. Ruth Oratz, medical oncologist at New York University
Langone Medical Center, told the conference, convened by the Foundation for Art
The foundation’s goal, Dr. Nobel said, is to promote the use of
creative arts to bring people together and foster health and healing through
activities like writing, music, visual arts, gardening, textile arts like
knitting, crocheting and needlework, and even culinary arts.
“Loneliness won’t just make you miserable — it will kill you,”
Dr. Nobel said. “Creative arts expression has the power to connect you to
yourself and others. How about a monthly potluck supper? It’s so simple, such a
great way to be connected as well as eat good food.”
Much of modern life, though seeming to promote connectivity, has
had the opposite effect of fostering social isolation and loneliness, experts
say. According to the foundation, “Internet and social media engagement
exacerbates feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety.”
rarely relate intimate tales of misery and isolation on Facebook. Rather,
social media postings typically feature fun and friendship, and people who lack
them are likely to feel left out and bereft. Electronic communications often
replace personal, face-to-face interactions and the subtle signals of distress
and messages of warmth and caring such interactions can convey.
So consider making a date this week to meet a
friend for coffee, dinner, a visit to a museum or simply a walk. Online
communities like Meetup.com can be a good source for finding others with common
interests. If nothing else, pick up the phone and have a conversation with
someone. Chances are, you will both be better off for it.
Beth was my ex-stepmother, but “mother” was still a part of her title. Could I share a home with her?
Beth and I first lived under the same roof in 1982, when I was 13. My father, who was 47 at the time, invited Beth, then 23, to spend the summer in the Maine lake house he and I had fixed up the summer before. I refused to leave my room the night she arrived.
Without laying eyes on her, I knew she would be another of Dad’s interchangeable “little chickies” as he called them — the skinny, busty former students he liked to date.
The next morning, I was eating Honey Nut Cheerios when I heard her coming down the stairs. My father had already retreated to his desk upstairs, purportedly to work on a lecture on Puritan literature, but mostly to take hits from a hidden bottle of vodka.
I planned to freeze Beth out of existence with my thoughts — a superpower every gay boy needed in the 80s. But instead of making awkward chitchat, Beth just smiled, picked up her copy of “Crime and Punishment,” and ate her own Cheerios in silence.
When done, she asked if I liked the book I was reading — stories by John Cheever. Dad asked such questions only to hear his own opinion. Beth was actually curious to know mine. She was making me like her before I had the chance to hate her.
Soon on sunny afternoons, Beth and I lay on the dock together, tanning and lightening our hair with lemon juice, as one did in the 80s. Neither mentioned a shared lust for a neighbor — a combination seminarian and jock — who joined us for a swim from time to time.
Dad and Beth married the following September. By May, two semesters later, my father’s tantrums had driven her away. Amazingly, he never once had an ill word to say about Beth. And this was a man who in five minutes could convince you Gandhi was a narcissist and Jesus a sociopath.
He did have bad things to say about his first wife, my mother. And she gave him reasons. Beneath her charms lay inchoate storms of hurt and aggression. As Dad was leaving her for the last time — I was 12, a year before Dad met Beth — she told him she was going to take me to “Luna,” a recent Bertolucci film. A terrible look came over his face, not rage this time but horror.
After he left, I was too terrified to look at the art house flyer taped to the fridge. My mother never did take me to see the movie, but a few years later, “Luna” returned for a Bertolucci retrospective. This time I did read the flyer and wished I hadn’t. “Luna,” it turned out, was “the story of the incestuous relationship between a mother and her teenage son.”
To be clear, my mother had never acted on the themes of the film, but she craved an emotional closeness that was too much for a son to give.
At 17, I went as far away as I could, first to college in California and then on to a journalistic career I kept undercutting with debt-fueled geographic cures that never worked for long — not Los Angeles, not Paris, not even Rio de Janeiro.
At first, Beth and I stayed in touch, but like me, she kept moving. She married again, had a daughter, divorced and, as a social worker/actress, constantly chased cheap New York City rents. By around 1995, the handwritten phone numbers in our respective address books were no longer valid.
When Dad died in 2005, the vodka finally having wiped out his liver, my sister tracked down Beth’s email and cc’d me. I was living in Rio, where I thought I’d found both happiness and a mate for life. Right away, Beth and I were yakking the way we had on the dock. Soon, I was visiting her for weeks at a time, ostensibly to work on a screenplay but mostly just to be together.
In 2013, a Supreme Court decision legalized same-sex marriage, enabling my Brazilian husband, 14 years my junior, to immigrate to the United States as my spouse. We moved to Upper Manhattan — two blocks from Beth. The Brazilian complained that she and I analyzed movies to death. We both thought, but we live to analyze movies to death.
One afternoon, I left him on the couch playing video games and texting bar plans that I no longer wanted to be part of. I walked to Beth’s, where she and I talked about substantive things — books, movies, joys, griefs. On the way back, I realized I wasn’t just bored at home. I was also lonely.
It was the Brazilian who left in the end. Beth comforted me as neither of my parents nor the Brazilian could have — she was patient, protective but never pitying, sure of my strength.
Suddenly, she and I were both single and struggling to pay Manhattan rents. Why shouldn’t she move into my extra bedroom? I hesitated, ostensibly because of her clutter problem. I once left some junk mail on her coffee table, only to find it in the same place when I returned six months later. When I threw it away, she was actually a little sad. I, by contrast, strove for the modernist austerity of the homes I wrote about for architecture magazines, and threw away not only clutter but even things I actually needed.
However, clutter was just cover for a deeper fear. By living with my father’s former wife, would the incestuous waves, at last, pull me under?
In 2010, Mom learned that her gut discomfort was stage-four colon cancer. “Forgive me …,” she said nine months later, from her hospice bed. Whether because of the pain, the morphine, or her own hesitation, she couldn’t name the thing to be forgiven. “For … for … well, you know,” she said.
I had found peace with my dying mother, but was still haunted by her earlier avatar — the Medea willing to psychically drown her son. Beth was my ex-stepmother, but “mother” was still a part of her title. Could I really share a home with her?
Then when I was 47, I lost my biggest freelance client. My finances were in free fall. Two months later, Beth, by then 57, moved in. I gave her the master bedroom and the two largest closets. In return, she ceded all aesthetic control of common spaces.
The clutter problem turned out to be only a minor annoyance. When her things piled up, I placed them on her bed while she was out.
The Mommy issues took longer. I would share details of my own peccadilloes, but plugged my ears and hummed when Beth did the same. “So you can talk about sex and I can’t?” she asked. “I guess that’s another one of your double standards, sweetie.”
Like aversion therapy, this controlled exposure has had marvelously curative effects. Now, Beth can get as graphic as she wants, and it is fine — at least tolerable. And gradually I have come to see my mother as a charming, cultured woman who, in 1980s Baltimore, kept up with Italian cinema.
Beth and I still analyze movies to death, but now from the comfort of the sectional couch I bought with the Brazilian. I am still regrouping for my next foray into love and marriage, but most days that question seems moot.
I’m still learning that a happy home is constructed not with Modernist furnishings but emotional safety — a language that, after nearly four decades, Beth is still teaching me to speak.
Many parents sending kids off to college worry that their time as a
family is over. But that isn’t always the case these days.
The Sugerman family’s
trip to Southern Utah this past May involved a treacherous drive. There were
hairpin turns; the three adult children needed to move boulders to clear a path
for the car. “We were on these roads which were barely roads, climbing up
canyon walls,” said Andy Sugerman, of Ann Arbor, Mich. “It was night. The sky
was beautiful. Everybody was fully engaged.” The value of shared adversity and
overcoming these obstacles together allowed for bonding unlike any other kind
of experience, he said.
Many parents sending kids off to college weep over their empty
nests, thinking their time as a family is over. And a generation ago, young
adults often wanted to get as far away from their parents as possible once they
entered adulthood. But that isn’t always the case these days. An increasing number of young adults move back home for summers or after college.
And even for those who launch quickly, family vacations present an opportunity
for parents to remain close to their adult children.
The trip to Utah was the latest annual family vacation for Mr.
Sugerman, his wife, Gayle Rosen, and their three sons, Eli, 25; Alex, 23; and
Sam, 19. The family’s first outdoor adventure — a road trip across the West in
2008 — was motivated by the recognition that “as the kids were getting older,
the opportunities for time together would be more limited,” Mr. Sugerman said.
Since then, the family has explored 28 national parks together.
Rosen presumed that as the boys grew into young adulthood, they’d lose interest
in being with their immediate family and that the trips would stop. But that
has not happened.
opportunity to go on a cool outdoor trip with my family continued to present
itself, and I’ve continued to take it,” said Eli, who lives about four hours
away from his parents, in Chicago. “I see no reason why an end would be in
Ms. Rosen feels fortunate that her children still want to go. “I
love being outdoors with them. We all unplug and I get to see the amazing human
beings they’ve become,” she said.
A variety of
factors are keeping young adults connected to their parents — both
geographically and emotionally. Research by Karen Fingerman, a professor of human
development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, found
that, compared to the mid-20th century, young adults today tend to be less
financially stable and are more likely to marry later — keeping them closer to
their families — while many more of them live with their parents. She also
discovered that technology and accessibility of transportation make it easier
to stay close. “The culture is shifting toward increased contact and increased
interdependency” between parents and their young adult children, Dr. Fingerman
Her work indicates that 30 years ago, only half of parents
reported weekly contact with a grown child, while currently nearly all parents
had contact with a grown child in the past week, and over half of parents had
contact with a grown child every day. She found affection and intimacy between
young adults and their parents rising as well. Dr. Fingerman said this is
generally a positive development that benefits both generations. As young
adults turn more to their parents than their peers for guidance, “they’re
getting better advice from people who care about them,” she said.
you can foster close relationships without spending money, taking a family
vacation with young adults is a growing trend, said Rainer Jenss, president and
founder of the Family Travel Association, a company that encourages family
travel. He points to Backroads, a Berkeley, Calif.-based company focused
on upscale active travel for families as an example. Next year, Backroads will
introduce a “20s & Beyond” segment dedicated to parents
traveling with their children in their 20s and 30s. Tom Hale, the company’s
founder and chief executive, said that last year, 6,500 parents and their adult
children went on the company’s trips, even though the trips weren’t specifically
aimed at this older age group.
a relationship psychologist based in St. Louis and author of “Stress Less, Live
Better: 5 Simple Steps to Ease Anxiety, Worry, and Self-Criticism,” suggests
these trips go better if parents manage their expectations, don’t overschedule
and allow everyone to have time to themselves.
Laura Sutherland, who lives in Santa Cruz, Calif., and her
husband, Lance Linares, have taken their son, now 30, and daughter, now 32, on
10 trips since they graduated from college. The trips now include their
spouses. Ms. Sutherland recommends booking accommodations with private rooms if
possible. She assigns everyone responsibility for preparing or treating for a meal
— and pitching in with cleanup. “We have clear communication in the beginning
that parents shouldn’t be servants,” she said.
If budgets or timing don’t allow for travel, hiking close to home or going out for lunch and a visit to a local museum can work, too. As young adults strike out on their own, there’s a delicate balance that parents need to achieve. It starts with respecting kids’ growing independence in adolescence, said Dr. Ken Ginsburg, co-director of the Center for Parent and Teen Communication at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. They should feel comfortable coming to you for advice. By the time they are young adults, it’s no longer a one-way street.
“When you honor the fact that they can guide and support you,
you’re developing a relationship that can last for decades,” Dr. Ginsburg said.
Dr. Sanford says if a dispute arises, instead of reacting or
getting angry, “pause, take a breath and ask yourself whether it’s more
important to get your way or have the opportunity for a good relationship.”
Carl Pickhardt, a counseling psychologist based in Austin, Tex.,
and author of the blog “Surviving Your Child’s Adolescence” and the book Who Stole My Child? Parenting Through the
Four Stages of Adolescence,encourages
parents of adult children to repeat a few mantras to themselves: I will respect
the choices you make and how you face the consequences; I will not criticize or
censor your behavior in any way; and I will cheer you on as you engage in life.
He said to never provide unsolicited advice, but to request permission, saying
something like, “I have some advice I would like to give that would be helpful,
but only if that’s something you would like me to do.” Dr. Ginsburg suggests
determining if your child wants you to listen or to provide advice, using
language like: “I’m so glad that you always feel you can come and talk to me
about these things. How can I be the most supportive?”
Ginsburg emphasized that there are some situations that call for a parent to
become involved if the adult child’s safety is at risk, including dangerous
depression, significant and substantial drug use or domestic abuse.
As young adults
struggle with their identity and their life goals, parents should rest assured
that they continue to play a vital role, Dr. Ginsburg said. “You are the person
who is going to love them no matter what.”
you take a vacation or just spend time together at a movie or a restaurant, he
noted, “Your highest yield time is to just be with each other and enjoy each