Sunday, June 29, 2014

Let Your Garden Grow

Six Qualities 
of Healthy Couples 
that Stay Together:

1- Love - This may seem cliché or obvious but it cannot be ignored. The exciting sensation that may lead one to declare “I am in love!” early on in a relationship is often much different than the deeper loving attachment experienced in a healthy long term relationship. In relationships that last, both parties take the time to cultivate love just like someone would take care of a flower garden. Love needs to be nurtured, tilled and watered, figuratively speaking, in order to continue to blossom over and over year after year. Healthy couples keep fresh in their minds the qualities and reasons why they love the other person particularly during the tough times that come up along the way in any long term relationship.

2 - Honesty/Trust/Loyalty - These three are interrelated but all critical factors in healthy relationships. Simply put, for a relationship to be healthy there has to be that sense from both parties involved that neither party is going to betray the other. With that concern off the table, it is easier to work on the other qualities.

3 - Communication - Healthy couples have to be able to communicate openly and freely. When communication stops, that is one of the telltale signs of a relationship on the decline. Where there is healthy communication, there is always hope for resolving disagreements. Without communication, disagreements devolve into resentments

4 - Forgiveness - The old cliché says - "A marriage is the partnership of two good forgivers" - It is inevitable in relationships that your partner will hurt your feelings or be insensitive at one time or another, even if it is by accident. Holding on to grudges is a sure fire relationship killer

5 - Socialization/Recreation/Friendship- Healthy couples enjoy spending time with each other. In healthy relationships that last, there is still that desire to keep the conversation going and to share one another's ongoing life experiences. Sharing some likes and dislikes and hobbies can be so important. When two people in a relationship are constantly in separate rooms, watching separate TV shows every day that is a bad sign. Healthy couples make sure not to neglect "date night" at least once in a while, whether it’s watching a movie together or going out to eat or any other shared enjoyable activity

6 - Intimacy - Friendship is great but for a relationship to really be a relationship there needs to be a degree of intimacy which involves closeness, familiarity and affection that lasts as long as the relationship does.

Questions for Self Examination:

Which of the above are areas of strength in your relationship?

Which of the above do you need to work on?

What else not listed above has worked for you? 
(Feel free to leave a comment below)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Asking the Right Questions

A client and I were in session recently and we were discussing insight and denial. Spontaneously within the flow of the session I uttered the question: “So what are you in denial about?” Afterward the client and I both paused and then chuckled at the utter ridiculousness of that preposterous question. Obviously, if someone can accurately answer the question, “What are you in denial about?” then they clearly aren’t in denial about the answer! Think about it.

In reality, however, all of us are in denial from time to time. No one is so “super-aware” or “meta-insightful” that they fully understand and recognize everything there is to know about themselves. Insight is a beautiful thing and it is quite necessary for growth, however insight doled out in large, unfiltered doses especially by others, can at times be toxic. Just imagine for a second, being made fully aware, all of the time of every area in your life that you need to work on. Imagine if you knew everything negative that everyone else thought about you. Unless you are a glutton for punishment, most people would consider that a quite unpleasant experience to say the least.

Please don’t get me wrong here. I am not advocating that we should all strive to be in denial or walk around with our head’s in the sand in order to save ourselves from unpleasant realities. To the contrary, insight and self-awareness (which are both the antithesis of denial) are essential building blocks in the process of positive change. When we realize there is a problem or a shortcoming or a mistake that we need to work on, only then can we really start to the process of trying to either change the situation or change ourselves for the better. Sometimes life slaps us upside the head and wakes us up to face reality and that can be the quickest route out of denial into enlightenment. An eye-opening consequence at the right time can often be the greatest teacher as all of us surely have all had that experience many times over. Unfortunately at other times, life can shake you quite a few times repeatedly with multiple consequences before we finally roll over and wake up to reality. (Think for example, of addiction where multiple consequences often occur before someone recognizes the need to change their behavior)

On a person to person, face to face level, however, the task of one person helping another person to come out of denial and increase awareness can often end up being much more of a slow and deliberate process. People usually don’t respond positively to someone else just blasting them all at once with the bitter realities of all that they need to change (Although in some cases that can work, but usually when someone gets figuratively slapped in the face with reality by someone else, the response is more often to either run away in shame or fear or else to stay and “slap” the person right back in a spirit of defensiveness) When leading someone out of the darkness into the light, so to speak, it can take time for their eyes to adjust to the light as things can be quite blurry at first. Therefore when helping others this often has to be a consideration.

So If you are in helping role (such as a counselor, a parent or even a friend) working with someone else who may in fact be in denial, then it can be critical to be able to manifest the right combination of compassion, empathy, resourcefulness, wisdom and patience needed to help facilitate this gradual and often challenging process of insight and awareness building. So what are you in denial about? I don’t know either, but we can discuss it!