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Ginger Holczer, PsyD






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Be a love detective

Do you and your partner continually have the same argument?  Many couples come to therapy and report not only the same fight, but they fight the same way over and over again.  How do we put an end to this frustrating cycle?  Be a love detective!

Instead of going to your separate corners and putting on the boxing gloves, sit with each other and gather clues.  Ask your partner questions to help you understand what happened and what his/her thought process was. Here are some ideas for being a super love sleuth:

  • What happened?
  • What kept you from getting the task completed?
  • Is there a way to improve the way we get that particular task done?
  • What was your thought process when you said or did  ____________?
  • Am I understanding this correctly? Do you mean ______________?
  • Do you have any other solutions?

There are many questions that you can ask--just be sure the questions don't have a "blaming" or condescending tone, such as "what on earth were you thinking?!". Try and keep your voice calm and neutral, leaving the emotion out of it.  Ask questions with the intent of gathering information and not to use later as "ammunition".  Your partner will appreciate the effort you are making to understand the situation.  Sherlock Holmes, look out!



Savoring life

Oprah recently shared several fascinating articles on her website, featuring the Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh (click here to see article).  One article was an interview about his new book, "Savor: Mindful Eating", in which he focuses on savoring food instead of simply eating our food mindlessly.  I love this concept and in fact, have taught this way of savoring with each of our senses in past workshops.  Using a chocolate kiss, I taught participants to savor the bit of chocolate goodness with all of their senses, being in the moment with the experience.  I use the same type of concept with clients, encouraging them to "be in the moment" with a cup of coffee or tea.  

How can you be in the moment?  Try sitting with your coffee or tea, or a piece of chocolate.  Savor the smell, notice the way it looks,  feel the warmth of the cup or the smoothness of the chocolate, taste it with relish.  As you sit with this experience, try to simply notice any intrusive thoughts, without judgement, then let the thought go.  Enjoy that particular moment, not worrying about what the day will bring or the dishes you should be doing.  

What if you could practice this way of being mindful in other ways? You could go for a walk, noticing the breeze on your face, actually smelling the roses, paying attention to the way your body moves.  How wonderful it would be to take a "mindful" walk, instead of letting worries rent space in our brains for free!  Even doing chores would take on a different "feel"-- the silkiness of soap suds, the squishiness of a sponge--see where I'm going with this idea?

This brings me to sex.  What if you could "savor" your lover's body?  Feel the way the hip curves or the turn of the jaw, the way your partner's skin tastes, or the smell of freshly washed hair.  Sex can be such a sensual moment, if we abandon thoughts like--"does my bottom look big in this position," "I should be cleaning the house right now," or "is my erection firm enough."  Try savoring your partner like you might savor a glass of good wine, noticing every part of the body with your senses, taking it in with relish.  Similarly, notice the yummy sensations of your own body--without judgement.  Savoring...



how and why to stop comparing yourself to others

I can't begin to count how many times I hear clients and friends comment about how someone else they know "has it better than they do."  It seems that many of us get caught up with looking at other people and wishing we had what they have.  I am totally guilty as charged, by-the-way.  There is an old addage, "Don't judge your insides by someone else's outsides."  Think about what this means--that we judge the way we feel about ourselves with the way someone appears to us.  

Let me give you some examples of the type of judgements I have heard.  "I sit here in therapy working on my problems for weeks/months/years, while my ex is moving forward and already in a new relationship."  We look at the ex and how happy that person seems, then begin speculating on their wonderful life!  We don't have any idea what is REALLY going on.   It could be that the ex feels horribly stuck because the truth is, they ended up rushing into a relationship too quickly.  Or, the new love interest is treating them badly and they don't want anyone to know, so they put on a happy face.  There are literally hundreds of options to this scenario.

Sometimes a person might be envious because they say someone had a "better life," without strife or abuse.  Again, we have no idea what is going on in that person's psyche, or behind closed doors, for that matter.  Maybe the person is secretly a domestic violence victim.  Maybe they struggle inwardly with debilitating Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and have to drive home six times during the day to check that the stove is turned off in order to make the horrible anxiety go away. The possibilities are endless.

What about women?  How many times do we look at another woman and think about how put together she is compared to us?  We say things like, "she has such a great job, she doesn't have to worry about money," or "with a body like that, what does she have to worry about!"  Think about the options. Maybe she is in an unhappy marriage, or a parent is dying, or her child is failing school.  

How can we stop doing this?  First, think about the things in our lives we can be grateful for, instead of what we don't have.  That can be hard--sometimes our gratitude may be something as simple as we got out of bed that day, but come up with something.  Remember that other people have problems, too, even if we don't see it.  Try telling others how you see them, it might make a difference to them at that moment.  For instance, "you always look so nice and put together!"  or "you worked so hard to get your current position at the company!"  How would that make you feel if someone were that thoughtful to you?  We all do this at times, so don't be too hard on yourself.  Just take good care of your insides and forget about the outsides of other people.  After all, they may be comparing their insides to your outside!  



"Good Enough Sex"

Clothes fly off, you both fall into each others arms, everything is going hot and heavy, and then....Wait! That wasn't supposed to happen!  You can fill in the blank here, with everything from flaccid penises to unlubricated vaginas to bad breath to kids running into the room!  When we begin this sexual journey the expectation becomes getting to the destination--orgasm.  The problem occurs when being sexual and the act of sensuously enjoying each other's bodies always becomes the means to the end. 

Barry McCarthy, PhD and Michael Metz, PhD gave the field of sexology the notion of "Good Enough Sex" (Click here to see article).  They suggest that even the most healthy couples vary in the quality of sex experiences.  According to the article, 35-45% of sexual experiences are "Very Satisfying," 20-25% are rated "Good" for at least one partner, 15-20% are considered "Okay" or not remarkable, while 5-15% of sexual experiences in healthy couples are considered "Unsatisfying" or dysfunctional.  Further, they state that among this group of satisfied couples, intercourse does not happen up to 15% of the time.

So, the next time things don't go so well in the bedroom, think about how you can move forward.  Try an erotic play time without intercourse.  Since our experiences vary in quality, it seems logical to consider that we should aim for more variance in the type of experiences we share with each other.  Make sure you are talking about it, experimenting with each other, and laughing about it when it's appropriate.  Remember that in reality, sex is not always a perfect, mind-blowing experience!


Taking Responsibility

Adding to my last post about "getting out of the rut,"  one step in accomplishing this is to take responsibility.  What do you need to do to take responsibility in your life?  What do you have control over?  What do you have no control over?  The only thing you really have any control over is your own reaction to a situation or another person.  When we keep choosing not to take responsibility, it is often because it is what we learned and it worked for us at some point in our life.  Usually, though, it ends up being maladaptive, and not doing the job for us anymore.  So, how do we go about taking responsibility?

  •  Be honest with yourself.  Don't judge or blame, just acknowledge.  You don't deserve harsh judgement and you do deserve the ability to take some control of your life.
  • Be kind to yourself.  Honor that not taking responsibility was a way that worked for you, but now is the time to let it go and find a different coping skill.
  • Look at other options.  Many times we see ourselves in a situation with no way out.  Almost always, there are options.  Brainstorm with a person close to you or make a list of things you could try.  Write down everything you can think of, no matter how outrageous!  One of those ideas may lead you to the answer you need.
  •  Get back on the horse and try again.  Don't give up if the situation feels too tough or something you tried didn't work out so well.  You don't want to get back into that rut.
  • Fight apathy and paralysis.  Doing nothing keeps us immobilized and feeling dependent and helpless.
  •  Try mindfulness.  Be in the moment.  My favorite way is with a cup of coffee or tea.  Sit with the cup, trying to focus on your senses.  Feel the warmth of the cup, smell the aroma, look at the color of the liquid contrasted with the cup, taste the drink.  Engaging all of your senses is key.  If intrusive thoughts come in, acknowledge them without judgement and let them go.  You might visualize them blowing away in the wind or rolling away on a wave.  This exercise will help you keep from staying in the past or stressing about the future.

 If you continue to have trouble, seek a mental health provider who can help you find tools that will work for you.

When you blame others, you give up your power to change.  --Author Unknown

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