What Makes a Healthy Relationship?

First, let me start off by saying there is a lot of variation with what a heathy relationship looks like.  Certain things work for certain people.  For example, some people stay in long term relationships without ever getting married. The concept of marriage holds no value for them. However, trust, growth, companionship and good communication does. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this- if it’s working- it works-PERIOD.  I’ve also seen SO much diversity with sex.  A couple that has sex 4 times a year and they are both VEY ok with it because they both have lower sex drives- a couple that has sex every day because they have higher sex drives, couples that swing, couples that are into different sexual escapades…the list goes on.  While these behaviors may be unhealthy for some couples and may make some cringe, for others it works. 

So, relationships are as diverse as human beings.

So, are there some rules to healthy relationships?  Are there some strategies, applications, and skills to healthy relationships- You Better Believe It!  It’s important to recognize that healthy relationships are relationships that bring out the best in you.  That make you feel safe, cared for, and acknowledged.

 

Communication skills are probably at the top of the list.  In my opinion (both personally and professionally, the couple that has good communication skills (communicating their needs, wants and desires and listening to their partner’s needs, wants and desires) are in a harmonious relationship. And, let me tell you- this is easier said than done.  Most often we fail at the listening part.  With all of the distractions that surround us every second of every day- technology, things that need to be done, our own thoughts etc.  Research states that we generally listen at a 25% level- which means we miss 75% of the message.  That’s a problem.

In my work with couples I suggest there be time set aside to do daily “check ins” and weekly, more depthful conversations about how each partner is feeling.  All electronics put away and letting go of the noise that is around you and in your head.  The art of being present.  Listen for feelings and respond to those feelings not in opposition- because you can’t tell someone how to feel. Respond to those feelings- “I am sorry you feel that way, that’s not my intention- is there anything I can do to help you not feel that way (even if it’s about something you did or are doing)?” This allows your partner to feel heard and acknowledged.  Of course, if you say you’re going to do something you need to do it- that’s being responsible and accountable. 

Then, there are the obvious signs of a healthy relationship- ones that don’t need much explanation such as trust and honesty, compassion, independence, growth, respect, intimacy (all of which need to be separate blogs because some get confused by what these mean. Growth is a great example of this- Growth is not sitting on the couch watching TV together and rationalizing that you spent time together therefore you’re growing your relationship.  Growth is exploring ways to make your relationship better, learning new things with one another, having experiences together that create memories and inspiration.  Growth is learning to problem solve effectively and forgiving each other. Growth is also allowing your partner to grow and being supportive.

There is no perfect relationship (we all know this). However, if you don’t feel happy in your relationship most of the time-there’s a problem. That problem may be within the relationship it could also be internally. It’s important to explore the origin of these feelings.  Often, it’s lingering resentment, stories you’re telling yourself, or your incongruency with how you view relationships (they’re not Hollywood love stories every day).

Emotional Freedom Technique

A couple weeks ago I had the chance to really work with EFT.  After years of reading about it and years of studying (informally) energy in the body I got the chance to sit with a knowledgable therapist and explore this really cool technique.  A technique that I do regularly because I believe it works well.

My fascination with energy probably started as early as my single digit years.  My study of energy started developing around the age of 19 and skyrocketed around the of 30. At 19 my fascination with Carl Jung led me to think about the dualistic nature of thoughts and beliefs.  One that has been at odds for years exploring scientific data about mysticism and the acknowledgement of parts of the brain that lead to things like premonitions, psychic abilities and connection to people and things from distant pasts.  I became and am still fascinated by things which we can not understand, things which science can not prove- which lead to a love/hate relationship with science itself.

Everything from exploring (head on), different religions, magic, channeling energy, to acupuncture, reiki, mind power, past life regressions and many things in between I have been a part of.  To learn about things outside of the mainstream, for me, is another way to understand human beings (including myself) and life in general.

The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is one that fascinates me because of the research behind it and the simplicity of it.  EFT draws on various modalities in alternative medicine such as acupuncture/accupressure, neuro-linguistic programming, thought field therapy and energy medicine.  If you are familiar with Chinese medicine, EFT has similar concepts.  Energy fields (CHI) getting blocked.  The goal is to open those energy fields so that energy can flow freely.  

To do that you find your energy meridians.  They are 1. The beginning of the eyebrow, 2. On the bone bordering the outside corner of the eye, 3. On the bone underneath your eye (about and inch below your pupil, 4. On the small area between the bottom of your nose and the top of your upper lip, 5. Midway between the point of your chin and the bottom of your lower lip, 6. The junction where the sternum and collarbone, and 7. On the side of the body at a point even with the nipple (men)or the middle the bra strap (women), about four inches below the arm pit (both men and women) (Dave Gooseman, LCSW).

The goal is to state the problem.  Tap on each meridian point 7 times (go through all of the meridians in a tapping motion). Don't go overboard and hurt yourself- If it hurts, you are tapping too hard.

For example, you can use the word "anger" while tapping, or "unhealthy relationships."  The idea is the cause of all negative emotions is a disruption in the energy system.  No matter how diligent you are with exercise and diet, if your emotional health is in the crapper, you're going to have some issues.  

For more information about this click the link below.  It is important to not take my word for it- but to research it yourself.  It is only through this process that you become your own advocate as well as well-informed.Jump out of your comfort zone and try it!!

 

Personal Space. Do We Respect It Anymore?

Personal Space is loosely defined by dictionary.com as "the variable and subjective distance at which one person feels comfortable talking to another." 

Boundaries with personal space depend on many different factors that are different for everyone such as gender, type of relationship, environment, individual preference and culture.

Our world today pushes personal boundaries and pokes at personal space. In the age of technology accessibility is easier and faster than it has ever been at any time in history.  And, there is a HUGE personal and professional impact on our lives stemming from this.

Personally and professionally I have had my challenges with this. For example clients texting me outside of their scheduled session with therapeutic issues, questions in my inbox(s) asking for answers to problems from random people, invitations from random people for "meet-ups", and just random texts from people, including current and past clients.  Once in a while it is nice to hear someone is doing well- and I love to hear that. I am ok with that occasional text or email.  Everything else, however, is a violation of my personal space- and it drives me CRAZY!  Boundaries are high on my list for this reason.  It still boggles my mind why people think it is OK to text therapeutic issues?  Or why clients in the past have thought it was ok to text me on my personal time?  I've had to set some pretty strong rules around this over the years and for the most part it doesn't happen.  However, it still happens on occasion.

 I think people forget that other people have lives and they are trying, at least, to live it.  For me, it is offensive to be grocery shopping, or spending time with family or friends, or reading, or working on one of many projects and get a text from someone (especially a client violating rules that I teach them, that they often complain about in thrown personal lives).  It's like, "Hello? Are you so caught up in your own self-absorption that you don't recognize you're violating my space?" Grrrrrr......., not recognizing that these "intrusions" cause people's stress hormones to rise drastically?  And, can and often does have an impact on the therapeutic relationship?  

And, I think it's important to note that people who struggle with boundaries aren't bad people (well, some might be) but in general they are good people.  People who have good intentions but just on't realize their over stepping.  

So I question the impact of this.  And, I think people HAVE become so self-absorbed and unaware that it may not cross their mind or it does and they don't care.  I mean...after recognizing your own needs the next step (automatically) which is useful, is recognizing the needs of others (with regard to personal space). Why is this not understood by so many?  It is also important to note that those who do have issues with boundaries are not bad people-AT ALL. In fact quite the contrary in most cases. In most cases it's some level of connection being sought. 

Science is now looking at this personal space issue, examining what goes on in the brain when personal space is violated.  Brain regions that are activated are the premotor cortex in the frontal lobes and the parietal cortex.  When activated these areas serve to "protect" which is a good thing. However, when these areas are consistently activated and people are living in "protect" mode stress hormones run high.  This is one of the reasons why people "snap."  There are clear biological consequences to invading personal space-yet, it seems to be getting worse.

A while back I took a break from facebook, something I like to do to give me some space from technology.  I got several messages through my website (people actually went to my website to contact me-people I didn't know and some I knew just a tad) asking if I was ok. I thought to myself, WTF? Do I have to explain to these people what I am doing and why?  Needless to say, I felt my stress hormones rise.  I chose not to respond.  Think about that for a second, these days people think you have to answer to them? How the hell did this happen?  Is the assumption that if you are on social media or have a career that is in the public eye that you forsake privacy? What kind of self-absorbed person would think this? Apparently, the majority of people.

I think social media promotes the idea (in subtle ways) that we are all "friends."  I think many people can see therapists and coaches in this same way.  Texting and IM-ing (DM-ing) are some of the biggest violations of this, and it is absolute bullshit. A brainwashing, unaware, self-absorbed big pile of bullshit.

From a therapist's perspective, I am not sure how or why people think that they can contact a therapist outside of their scheduled appointment unless it is to ask a quick question about a therapeutic exercise or to cancel/reschedule an appointment (unless on retainer).  It's like people get into their heads that a therapist is a therapist 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  The reality of that is (and I want to be VERY clear with this)

A therapist in particular needs space away from work in order to regenerate, renew and work with clients effectively. This is called having boundaries which most therapists teach their own clients.

It is important for me to state this right here right now.  I am not defined by being a therapist.  My down time is to first regenerate, then read, go to seminars and conferences and explore ways to help ALL of my clients.  NOT to respond to your every thought. This is what appointments are made for.  And, while this may sound harsh, it is part of the layers of health and wellness that really everyone needs to be aware of.

"A respectful sense of privacy and privileged communication" (Ed Vilga).  In an age of social media chatter and irresponsible use of technology it is important to keep your boundaries clear.  

So the next time you think of texting someone other than a close friend (therapists and coaches are NOT friends) think twice.  Open up the lines of verbal communication and ask them what is appropriate when it comes to texting?  Respect their space. 

Sexual Wisdom

Below are really important quotes that I must say 100 times a week.  I think they need to be forever shared with you.

"Women, get in touch with your bodies. Know what feels good for you sexually, then ask it of your partner."

"Men, when you focus too much on your penis, anxiety can become center stage. This is one of the origins of Erectile Dysfunction and Pre- Mature Ejaculation. Try focusing on the Whole Body Experience instead."

"Singles, partners do not fall from the heavens - though I am sure many of us would like to believe this.  If you are single - GO OUT!  A large part of finding a mate is about being resourceful.  Ask your friends about matches, use dating websites, attend meetups, use your charm, your strengths AND your weaknesses. These are often seen as assets."

"LGBT Never let anyone tell you who and how to love.  Love and sexual attraction come from within.  And, remember, who we have sex with is a very small part of our identities.  Who we are as people - our character, our interests, how we define ourselves as human beings is at the forefront of our identities."

Taking action is the greatest skill one can possess when they want to make change.  Many of us just "think" about what we want and it becomes a fleeting thought.  Sometimes, a source of pain.  To change that you figure out what you want and start taking action steps to get there, even if they are small action steps!  Even if you feel like the action step failed- it didn't.  The fact that you did something is a success.  Keep trying and keep moving.

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We All Have Sexual Wisdom...It's Innate Within Us.