Beyond Romantic Myths: 9 Tips for Getting real about what it takes to have a great marriage.
I recently listened to a fascinating program on Diane Rehm’s show about what we know about love, attraction and what makes a great marriage. Here are nine tips which express the current consensus of what it takes to have a great marriage:
1. Takes some time before you marry. Your brain isn't fully developed until the age of 25 and research shows that the older one is when s/he marries, the happier the marriage will be.
2. Toss out the romantic myths. Love is not fundamentally an erotic or romantic feeling. It is a mature concern and desire for the wellbeing of your mate. ( Just like Paul said in Corinthians 13) .
3. Develop Realistic Expectations. There is no "perfect" person or perfect relationship. Great relationships may also have serious problems. Thus, the key to having a great marriage is not about finding the “right” person or expecting that that a great relationship should be problem free. It is important to understand that not only is no one perfect but … everyone has emotional wounds which complicate and make intimate relations difficult.
4. Become aware of each other’s unreasonable reactions. A major source of marital discord is the clashing of unconscious and exaggerated reactions which come about in the wake of frustration or disappointment. These irrational responses were formed in the wake of trauma, usually in childhood. As such, it is necessary to identify them and understand how they are triggered.
A mutual understanding and acceptance of each other’s history of emotional wounds and the relational distortions that these wounds have created (e.g. difficulty trusting, forgiving or controlling destructive impulses) can go a long way in preventing irrational and unpleasant confrontations.
5. Replace emotional reactions with reasonable responses. What make a relationship satisfying and durable is knowing how to and then being able to deal with intense emotional problems in a constructive and reasonable way.
6. Great relationships are not natural and do not just happen. Thus it is vital for couples to reach a mutual understanding of each other’s issues requires effort. Specifically, the work which needs to be done involves increasing empathy and acceptance of your own and your partner’s struggles.
7. Make a commitment to healing each other’s childhood wounds,( i.e. to understanding the perceptional and response distortions created by past trauma) and to gaining a wider perspective and awareness of how each other’s unresolved issues create conflict between them.
8. Learn fundamental communication and impulse control skills In addition to consciousness raising, each partner must learn some basic skills such as how to empathically listen and to speak clearly and directly. Also both must develop the ability to control destructive/ emotional impulses such as anger or the need to control. Dysfunctional reactions must be replaced them with constructive / reasonable responses.
9. Finally, it is important to understand that love and intimacy is not a fixed or static thing. If the effort is made, love and intimacy grow throughout your life together. If necessary, marital therapy can help not only those couples whose relationships are in trouble but also those who want to improve the level of their marital satisfaction.
Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. 10 19 2016
* With acknowledgment for image to : http://www.goodmorningquote.com/sweet-love-words-romantic-images/
Why Mental Health Check-Ups Are a Good Idea
Everyone knows that seeing your doctor on regular basis for a check-up is a good idea. Periodic physical exams are a good way to identify conditions early. Catching a problem early is better than waiting until it has become bigger and more complicated. Well, the same is true for mental health.
Unfortunately, many folks don’t think about their mental health when they go for their physicals. But fortunately more and more doctors are beginning to include mental health screenings for such things as anxiety, depression, trauma and stress disorders as part of their routine examinations.
In addition to a doctor’s protocol, it is important for patients to understand that mental health issues are fundamentally connected to their physical health and to include their emotional health when thinking about their overall wellness.
Specifically, it is important for a folks to be mindful of any significant changes in their life that have occurred since their last visit which may be affecting their mood or overall happiness.
Here are some specific areas to pay attention to:
1. Significant losses or additions to one’s life. For example the death of a friend or relative or the birth of a child are changes which can result in grief reactions or increases stress.
2. Less attention to self-care. Normal stress and especially increased stress require good self-care and stress management to cope successfully. Unfortunately, when we experience increased demands or difficulties, it is common to neglect both physical and emotional self-care needs.
3. Unusual changes in sleep, appetite, energy levels ,mood or social connectedness. Increased stress and emotional disorders often present with these common symptoms. Like with medical issues, the earlier an emotional problem is identified, the easier it is to treat.
So, if you have noticed that you’ve been having problems sleeping or you’ve lost or have an increase in your appetite or you that you’ve been feeling more depressed or anxious or irritable over an extended period of time ( two weeks), don’t ignore it. Give your doctor a call. A visit or two may be all that is needed to help restore things back to normal. Many times simply becoming more attentive to one’s basic self- care needs like getting more exercise or learning some relaxation techniques is all it takes to do the trick. Sometimes some counseling or even medication may be prescribed.
To maintain optimal health, it is important to remember the inter-connectedness of one’s mind and body. Understanding that emotional changes can sometimes signal physical problems and that physical problems can sometimes indicate psychological disorders is key to maintaining good health and emotional wellness throughout your life.
Rev. Michael Heath , LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. 10/3/2016
Appreciating the Health Benefits of Good Friends
When it comes to mental and physical health, science is learning more and more about both the benefits of friendship and the increased risks of social isolation. The short quiz given in the link provided below is a good summary of the benefits. For example:
1. Having good friends can boost your life expectancy more than 20%.
2. Loneliness is as harmful to your health as alcoholism, smoking or obesity.
3. Specifically, friendship: -- Eases stress
-- Boosts you immune system and
-- Protects your heart.
4. On the other side, social isolation can lead to: -- Depression
-- Memory loss and
-- A weakened immune system.
5. Also, keeping in touch with friends who have moved and now live far away provide the same benefits as those friends who live close by.
The take aways from these findinga are important.
If your are without friends, don't dispair. Social media provides an excellent way to break the ice and find folks you have things in common with. Friendship can spring from meeting someone withwhom you have common interests.
If you have been neglecting your friends, don't ignore this change because it could be a sign of depression.
Finally, it is important to appreciate how important your friends are. If things have become distant, do something about it and reconnect. You'll be glad that you did !
Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. . 9 15 2016
When it comes to sex, men are Windows and women are DOS
We all know that men and women are really different, especially when it comes to sex. If not understood, the differences relating to how often one is in the mood and what is arousing can lead to unnecessary misunderstandings and painful conflicts. Fortunately, there is an easy way to conceptualize the fundamental differences between male and female sexuality: Think of the differences between Windows and DOS computer operating systems.
Back in the day, before a computer was directed by a cursor and a mouse, computers were controlled by Microsoft Disc Operating System (MS DOS). Instead of clicking on an icon on your video screen to navigate through files and folders, DOS was controlled by discreet code commands which told the computer what to do.
The differences between a graphics based, point and click system and a code/ command entry system were dramatic. Not only did Windows make it faster to get to and open a file but you could also have multiple files open simultaneously.
This computer analogy, while not perfect, can help us to understand the differences between male and female sexual response in several ways:
1) Many men have the sex application (interest in) open all of the time. Although it may be minimized in the task bar, all it takes is one key stroke (so to speak) and the program is up and running.
2) The sexual arousal file for most women, in contrast to men, is buried in one sub folder after another and it requires that a series of precise “commands” be entered in order to reach it. For example: One folder to be opened is rest and relaxation and another is having good feelings toward one’s mate while still another is feeling emotionally and physically safe and secure. Only after these “folders” have been opened (i.e. is after a woman is in accesses these feelings) is she able to become sexually interested, available and responsive.
3) Given this more complicated process, the time required for women to reach sexual ecstasy is longer than it is for men. Men require only a few minutes while women commonly need 20 + minutes.
4) Men also need to know that the “foreplay” which precedes sex and is needed to help their partners “get in the mood” is primarily not sexual. Making life easier by helping around the house, being complimentary and considerate are critical steps to opening the female arousal files.
5) Just like with DOS run computers, if one of the preliminary steps to arousal was not properly entered, the whole process can come to a halt or have a less than satisfying conclusion.
6) Understanding female sexual response patterns also provides guidance to trouble-shooting when things don’t go well. If the wife is tired or stressed, if she is not feeling well physically or if she is depressed , having a satisfying sexual experience will be unlikely. Also, if she is angry or resentful at her mate or if there are concerns about honesty or fidelity, these factors can block a robust response.
Finally, understanding and talking about our partner’s experience and concerns, especially when it is different than our own, can be helpful in deepening mutual empathy and increasing the sense of closeness which is needed for lasting and satisfying relations.
Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. 8 31 2016
Good News for People Who Worry about Memory Loss
A lot of folks are worried about Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. While deterioration in cognitive abiltity is a serious problem for many, it is important to understand that most memory glitches are not permanent nor are they progressive. In fact, many memory problems are caused by other things such as anxiety, depression, dehydration and other medical conditions and most importantly ... are not indicators of Alzheimer's disease.
Recently there has been some good news for people who worry about forgetting things . According to the study, a person's ability to know that s/he has forgotten something is a strong inidcator that that their cognitive aparatus is in tact.
Nonethe less, if you are worried, the first thing to do if you have concerns about your memory or being forgetful, is to see your doctor. There are simple tests which can identify treatable issues which can clear up the problem and relieve your worry.
Also, learn more about what dementia and other cognition impairing conditions and what is actually involved. Here is a helpful link which provides more detailed information about what your doctor will look for. : https://www.healthafter50.com/memory/article/what-is-dementia-what-doctors-check-for?&utm_medium=email&utm_content=EMH_160815_001&utm_campaign=EMH&spMailingID=9355028&spUserID=MTQxMTQzNTkwMjc3S0&spJobID=981187311&spReportId=OTgxMTg3MzExS0
Remember : The more you know, the less you will worry needlessly !
Rev. Michael Heath LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C. 8 14 2016