Category Archives: Relationship

Love Connection

One of my best friends is a social worker at a community mental health center. She took the position immediately out of college, viewing it as a natural step in the development of her career.

Within the first month, she found herself working closely with a handsome speech pathologist who treated a number of her clients. Now, many case meetings and treatment-plan reviews later, they’re engaged.

Bet you’re not surprised—or shocked. Most people crave social interaction and companionship. What better place to find it than on the job? After all, office life is hospitable to the development of romance on many fronts. Daily interaction, a safe and generally dependable environment and common interests are all conditions that can ignite an initial spark between two people.

Casual interactions, from laughter over a cup of coffee or heated discussions in the conference room to mutual schmoozing at a trade show, can naturally evolve into attraction. However, reconciling the personal and professional benefits and the perils of an office affair is a formidable task.

Dating a coworker may seem an ideal solution for those who just don’t have the time to meet a potential partner. Unlike the sometimes uncomfortable surroundings of a bar or nightclub, the office usually permits romance to blossom gradually and within an atmosphere of trust and respect.

Moreover, mates who are on the same career path usually find it easier to understand one another’s needs and to empathize with the demands that the job entails—an appealing benefit in any relationship.

How to Avoid Traumatic Stress Disorder

Most of us build our lives around the belief that we will be relatively safe. Granted, normal daily life involves many stressors, especially in these hectic times, but we expect these pressures to happen and we become accustomed to handling them. The more flexible we are and the more we know ourselves and are in touch with our abilities, the easier it is to deal with normal everyday stress.

Sometimes, however, any of us could be subjected to catastrophic stress. Our feeling of safety in these circumstances can vanish. We could experience terror and a complete inability to know how to handle these situations that are outside of the ordinary realm of experience. These catastrophic events can include rape, physical or sexual abuse, physical attack, mugging, car-jacking, natural disasters (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, floods, etc.), fires, car accidents, plane crashes, hostage situations, school shootings, military combat, or the sudden death of a loved one. It is not only the victims of these events, but also witnesses, families of victims, and helping professionals who can develop severe stress symptoms which can last for months or even years after the event.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the term used to characterize people who have endured highly stressful and frightening experiences and who are undergoing distress caused by memories of that event. It is as if the person just cannot let go of the experience. The event comes back to haunt them. The anxiety experienced during or immediately after a catastrophic event is called traumatic stress. When the symptoms last several months after the event, it is called post-traumatic stress. PTSD can last for years after the original trauma and may not become evident initially. For example, an individual may witness a murder as a child, but not experience the associated stress until mid-life.

Some people are more likely to develop PTSD than others. Experts are not sure why some people develop PTSD after a relatively minor trauma while others exposed to great trauma do not. Those who are very young or very old are more vulnerable. Individuals who already suffer from anxiety disorders, some personality disorders or depression seem more likely to get PTSD after extreme trauma. It seems that the more vulnerable one feels in dealing with the world, the more likely one is to develop PTSD.

Trauma of great severity is more likely to produce PTSD than lesser traumas. For example, it was found with Vietnam War veterans that prolonged combat with sniping and air bombardment produced PTSD more often than brief exposure to combat with few weapons. It has also been found that traumas between people (such as sexual assault and muggings) are more likely to produce PTSD than natural disasters like earthquakes or floods.

Symptoms of PTSD

People can be considered to have PTSD when they have been exposed to an extreme trauma, the symptoms last at least a month in duration, and the symptoms cause excessive distress so that social functioning and job performance are impaired. One sign of PTSD is that the traumatic event is relived repeatedly in the person s mind and this appears in the form of flashbacks, recurrent images, thoughts or dreams about the event…and even nightmares. Reminders of the event can cause distress so many people go out of their way to avoid places and events that remind them of the catastrophic occurrence. Many people experience anxiety, restlessness, concentration difficulties, decreased memory, irritability, sleeplessness, hypervigilance, or an exaggerated startle response. Some people even experience what is called survivor s guilt because they survived and others did not or because of certain things they may have had to do in order to survive.

There are three main clusters of PTSD symptoms, and all three of these groupings must be present for a diagnosis of PTSD.

Intrusive Symptoms: Intrusive and repetitive memories which stir up negative feelings experienced during the trauma can overwhelm a person. These memories can appear in the form of:

  • flashbacks (a feeling of reliving the trauma)
  • frequent, distressing memories of the trauma
  • nightmares
  • emotional and physical distress when traumatic memories are triggered.

Arousal Symptoms: PTSD sufferers experience physiological reactions, which indicate that they don t feel safe and they are physically on the alert to deal with danger. These can include:

  • being easily startled or feeling jumpy
  • hypervigilance (feeling on guard even when the situation is safe)
  • concentration difficulties
  • outbursts of anger and irritability
  • problems in falling asleep or staying asleep.

Avoidance Symptoms: People suffering from PTSD go out of their way to escape the overpowering memories and arousal symptoms. This pattern of behavior can include:

  • avoiding places, people or situations that serve as reminders of the trauma
  • avoiding thoughts or feelings associated with the trauma
  • memory loss about some aspects of the traumatic event
  • feeling emotionally numb
  • feeling estranged or detached from other people
  • feelings of hopelessness and helplessness about the future
  • decreased interest in pleasurable activities.

There are other emotional and physical problems that may accompany PTSD. Unfortunately, some people seek relief from these symptoms without dealing with the root cause so that the symptoms persist. These problems may precede PTSD, in which case they become exacerbated, or they might develop after the onset of PTSD. The emotional problems include panic disorder, agoraphobia (fear of being out in public), social anxiety (speaking in public), depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder, sleep disorders, suicidal thoughts and substance abuse (drug or alcohol abuse). The physical problems can include skin problems, pain, gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue, respiratory problems, low back pain, muscle cramps, headaches, and cardiovascular problems.

It is important to remember that PTSD is a normal reaction to a very abnormal situation. There is no shame in experiencing these symptoms, nor is having these symptoms a sign of weakness. Help is available from trained professionals so that in most cases, with the appropriate effort and courage, the symptoms can disappear completely, or at least substantially decrease and become more manageable.

Communication will Solve Broke Relationship

Michael and Gwen enter the counselor’s office and nervously take their seats. Michael fidgets and stares at the floor while Gwen sits upright, looks toward the therapist and utters the words that marriage counselors hear so frequently, they can almost say them in unison, “Doctor, we’re not like most of the couples you see… we don’t have any really serious problems; he doesn’t drink or beat me or chase other women—nothing like that. Our problem is that we just don’t communicate.”

“We just don’t communicate.” The cry is frequent and the assumptions are clear: Communication means a better marriage; more conversation means more connection; increased interaction means increased intimacy. It all sounds logical enough—or does it?

Brace for fallout

In the past, I might have rushed in with a glut of techniques to help a couple like Michael and Gwen accomplish their stated goal of better communication. But over the years I’ve learned that working to improve marital communication is a lot like exploratory surgery: The risk of what might be exposed is fraught with peril. Couples need to brace for the potential fallout that better communication may bring before they recklessly plunge ahead with the scalpel.

Good communication involves both partners being aware of their own thoughts and feelings and expressing them in an open, clear way. When a person communicates effectively, there is congruence between their inner experience and their outward expression. However, even an increase in direct and consistent communication doesn’t insure that a relationship will improve.

Let’s take television’s Cleaver family, for example. If Ward started to be more open with June, maybe he would finally tell her that he doesn’t like her award-winning meatloaf or share the fact that he’s still upset about her quitting her job last year. He might even confess that he just lost half of their savings by making a bad investment. If June risked better communication, she might reveal her dissatisfaction with their sex life, complain about Ward’s low income or disclose the fact that his inebriated brother made a pass at her last Thanksgiving.

Conundrums in Relationships

Even in the strongest of relationships, there will be times when small irritations can cause mountains to grow out of molehills, so it’s important to keep striving for better communication.

As the essence of relationships, communication has a great impact on every aspect of life. Yet the channels of communication can sometimes become blocked, even among people who care deeply for each other. It’s often difficult to put our feelings into words or concentrate fully when our partner speaks. Unhelpful silences or verbal attacks can arise and drive us further apart.

Common barriers to communication include: threatening or unpleasant behavior such as criticism and bossiness; only hearing what we want to hear; getting bored or distracted; and not expressing our point clearly. Fortunately, working on our communication skills helps us to break through this sort of impasse. So follow these tried and tested tips to stop you reaching for the expletives and reach an understanding instead.

No matter what else is going on, try to make time for your partner on a day-to-day basis. Good communication is about deepening your understanding of each other, not simply avoiding arguments. Easier said than done, of course, but making time to talk is worth the effort. All being well, these occasions will be enjoyable and bring great rewards, so make a dinner date, share a bath or go for a walk together and let the conversation flow.

Secondly, remember the importance of intimate, non-sexual contact. Hugs and kisses are the glue which holds a relationship together, and consider activities such as sport to reconnect non-verbally. Psychologists believe the vast majority of communication takes place without words through body language.

Do you believe you know everything there is to know about your partner? It may be worth checking this out by asking them questions to reveal more about themselves. To deepen the communication and understanding between you, try talking about the times when you feel happiest or your hopes and dreams for the future. Don’t assume that your partner feels the same way you do.

This could bring up relationship ‘hot spots’ – work, money, childcare – which can then be dealt with openly. Experts suggest setting up reciprocal arrangements in which you both agree to take on an equal number of tasks and chores.

If you find yourself slipping into an argument, there are many ways to keep the row healthy. Most importantly, own your emotions by using “I” statements. For example, rather than “You make me angry,” or “This is all your fault,” try saying, “I feel concerned/upset…”. This keeps things calmer and makes it easier to compromise, as your partner will not become so defensive. Then keep to the point rather than slipping into attack and counter-attack, or emotional withdrawal.

But talking this way is only possible if you are aware of your own feelings. For this, you must recognize them, be accepting of them, and able to express them. We each have our own way of dealing with conflicts – your style may be to avoid the issue, give in, or blame the other person. Being aware of your style and that of your partner will help you resolve the situation.

In the heat of the moment, try to stay calm and accentuate the positive. See the other’s point of view while showing respect, and then look for a compromise that you can both accept. Listen carefully, give empathy and positive responses, and overlook the insults. Respond to criticism as useful information, if at all possible! Remember, the objective is not to stop every argument but to stop the escalating bitterness.

If either partner gets beyond the point of being civil and rational, ask for a “time-out” to calm down. But be sure to agree on continuing the discussion when you have had time to think about it.

How to get strengthening families relationship

One key to an emotionally healthy life is having the support of a strong, supportive family. A strong family may be as small as two people or as large as a kinship network of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. The size of the family, indeed the composition of the family, does not matter as much as the feeling of belonging and the sense of sustenance that emerges from living with stable familial support. People seem to do better in life when they have the feeling of belonging to something larger, and stronger, than they are individually. It helps in eliminating uncertainty from the stresses of everyday living.

The family has undergone many changes over recent decades, due mainly to major social and cultural changes. When life was mainly agriculturally based or when immigrants came to a new land, the traditional family was able to thrive. We looked to our kin for support and they were there for us. The decades since the middle of the twentieth century have seen a steady unraveling of this bygone ideal. It is difficult to describe precisely what caused this change. It may have been such factors as social security (the government, rather than children, could take care of people when they grew old). Or the automobile and modern roads (people were no longer confined to one location any longer – family members could move away). Or was it television? Computers and electronic data transmission? Improved communication technology? The high divorce rate? What we do know is that families today find it more difficult, due to competing demands from the larger world, to spend time together, to feel committed to each other, to communicate with each other, to share spiritual values and to cope with crises together. Some families, however, seem to have overcome these threats to a strong and thriving family life.

An ongoing research project conducted by Dr. Nick Stinnett at the University of Nebraska has aimed to identify the characteristics of strong families around the world. Stinnett and his colleagues since 1974 have surveyed over 3,000 families, about 80% of whom were from the United States and 20% from other parts of the world. About thirty percent were rural and 70% urban. The participants represented different economic levels, racial/ethnic classifications, age groups, religions and educational levels. In spite of cultural, political and language differences, strong families had similar characteristics.

Here are the six qualities shared by strong families:

A Sense of Commitment to the Family

A commitment is a pledge or a promise. Applied to family life, it is a sense of responsibility or duty to the family that overrides temporary conflicts or times of crisis. Members of strong families take their familial commitment seriously. It is conscious, unwavering and unconditional. Strong families are not immune to the problems faced by everyone else in modern times – they too face hectic days, financial difficulties, demanding work hours, marital infidelity, and illness. In strong families, however, commitment implies that family members help each other out during hard times. They make the family relationship a priority, even if it means sacrificing personal wants, activities outside of the family, or work demands. At the core of sacrificing for the family is the idea of putting the interests of others ahead of one’s own – a notion that reflects moral values and integrity.

Try these things:

Arrange a family council for an hour once a month. Discuss your family goals, what you are doing to meet them, and what needs to be worked on. Listen to each other’s ideas rather than condemning them. Encourage free, open and accepting communication.

If everyone in the family is too busy with outside activities, rearrange schedules so that more time can be spent together with the family. Or have each family member agree to give up one outside activity.

Designate a wall in the house as the “family wall.” Decorate it with photos, souvenirs, and family mementos.

Make a record of the family history in a photo album, identifying dates, places and special events.

Showing Appreciation and Building Self-Esteem

Healthy families share in common the ability to show appreciation to each other. By showing appreciation, we are essentially saying that the other person is worthy and has dignity. We are declaring that we can see the positive qualities of the other person. This message is crucial to emotional wellness because it is a core building block of self-esteem. Thus, strong families help to build healthy personalities. Parents and siblings have a strong influence in molding children to see themselves as either good or bad. When a person’s self-definition is characterized by negative self-esteem, he or she has difficulty both in acknowledging positive feedback and in giving it. Strong families cherish their members, show that they are valued, and build self-esteem in their members that can be carried on to the next generation.

Try these things:

 Set a goal of giving each family member at least one compliment per day.

Create a positive home environment by reframing negative statements into positive ones (instead of saying, “You are always trying to control me,” say “I like how you are concerned about my well-being all the time”).

Write down ten things you like about each member of your family – and then show them your list.

Sharing Positive Communication

One research study has shown that the average couple spends seventeen minutes per week in conversation. In contrast, strong families spend a great deal of time talking with one another  ranging from trivial matters to important issues. Communication helps us to feel connected, and because members of strong families feel free to exchange information and ideas, they become good problem solvers. Some families set aside time for family council meetings and others do their talking over the dinner table each night. Most communication in these families, however, is spontaneous. Positive communication involves both talking and listening.

Try these things:

Designate a time for the family to share the events of the day (for example, at dinner). Avoid disciplining and negative remarks during this time.

Look objectively at your communication patterns and determine which ones can be improved (for example, using sarcasm, creating crises, cutting off someone else who is speaking). Work on one communication habit for a month. Then, the next month, work on another.

Love and Infatuation

Finally, you have met him or her. You know what I mean, the one. All your life, or so it seems, you have been waiting for the person who made your heart pound, made the stars bright, and taken over all reasonable thought processes with ideas of making love on every beach from here to Tahiti.

You have a weird expression on your face, food suddenly seems like a mere inconvenience and sleep is just something you used to do. Your friends tease you about being in love. Your mother WARNS you about being in love.

Of course, you’re not stupid. You’ve been around (more than Mom knows about), and you have spent time in meditation/therapy having explored your own needs in the world. You want a soulmate but this guy or gal is just so sexy that it’s hard to imagine introducing him or her to your parents at all.

Going Public

So, things are going well and you are looking toward the next step, becoming an item. Going public. Everyone knows and invites you as a couple. People you know speculate about the future of your relationship. But the future means forever when it comes to commitment, so how do you know if this is really a good thing?

Are people whispering about how happy they are for you, or are they wondering if you should be committed yourself (like in a secure mental health facility)? And how about yourself? Do you feel comfortable with your newest love interest or do you just want to feel comfortable with someone? Is this the person that you want to spend your life with or are you just afraid to march into the future alone?

These very large questions deserve great considerations. The passions of new love are so entwined in our own emotional makeup that it seems impossible to find objective considerations when proceeding along love’s thorny paths. So, for the purposes of this discussion, let us define love and infatuation so each can be thought about in a more organized manner.

Love is Forever Changing

Love as a dynamic process. For me, that means that there is a relationship that flexes, changes and grows as people mature, experience happens upon them, priorities and dreams are built and goals are met. Love brings out the best in people as individuals. The relationship between them becomes the way they define their lives. As jobs, careers, and family concerns change, people are able to work as a team to be understanding and flexible so the relationship (their lives) will flourish.

Dynamic process of love equals a sharing of emotion, trust, and growth of relationship. Growth is increasing ability of a couple to live symbiotically, enjoy each other’s company, trust each other with more secrets, depend on each other in more crises over the years, in raising children and taking care of aging relatives. It’s about growing old together, and long-term investments like real estate and children.