AskDrAllen

Writings on Mental Wellness Issues related to relationships and individual development
Yes, so many people stay in bad relationships, hoping they will get better! You might say that some of these people are "optimists" and that can be true to a point. The point that people reach where they are doing all the work in a relationship and yet not feeling that the efforts are being reciprocated - is a time for change. For many, not getting what they want is much easier than making a change and so they continue to stay. Change, specifically getting out of dead end relationships, can be scary. Probably there was a period of loneliness before the relationship began, and the "company" of another person might feel better than the previous loneliness, at least for now. Since it's probably a temporary fix, unless you've decided you're destined to be in a half-hearted relationship, let's talk about ways to prepare for turning your sights outward into the world again. People and activities can mean forward motion for your life. They can both bring energy that a bad relationship has been taking away from you. Take stock of your current inventory of interpersonal relationships - your support system. Do you have a tight or even loose circle of friends? Are there people around you that have always seemed supportive? Are you using part of your time to nurture and foster good relationships with those individuals? If there are some you've neglected, take a few minutes a week to send a note, make a call, invite them to a lunch, send an email saying you were just remembering what a good friend they are! I think I always "push" physical activity (although like everyone, I have to keep reminding myself too) because it serves several functions. It can help us to get out and connect with others. Many friendships have been made in gyms. It also gets you to begin self care, a path to self love, and a starting place to give yourself time to think about how you can fill some of your own needs. Walking, working out, swimming at a local Y, renting a bike to ride or buying your own, joining an exercise class, signing up for a short stint of dance lessons, window shopping for a few hours - all of it can be energizing physically and emotionally. If you can find a friend to do activities with, all the better, but if not, they can get you out of the house to meet others who are trying to do the same thing. If you're interested in just seeing who else is out there looking for a good relationship, there are so many venues online, you would be amazed! I don't want to name a specific one, or to endorse one over another. Just go into Google.com, put in online dating, and take some time to do your own research. Three of my clients have made nice marriages this way, as well as countless friends. Other ways...church singles groups, parties, taking a class, joining a club to help with a project, and volunteer groups. Loneliness can be our worst enemy. It can distort our thinking, and make someone appeal to us who would not normally get our interest. But lonliness can also be our best friend, since it's an emotion that drives us to connect with others, seek out new interests, and actively take charge in making our own lives better. If you feel that you're stuck and would like to reverse that trend, you can always seek professional help to assist in your process. Counseling can be found in your community or online from a licensed practitioner. Both can be equally good to help you get back into life again. Keep moving forward...keep looking for "exactly" what you need! Judith L. Allen, Ph.D., State Board Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Member of American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy http://Ingenio.com/AskDrAllen Counseling and Therapy and Relationships Categories
Writing a Mission Statement for your Marriage or Relationship Corporations and even small companies develop what is known as a Mission Statement for their businesses. A Mission Statement is a global plan which gives meaning and purpose for the business, for the management team, and for the employees to help guide them in a direction that is pre determined. Often mission statements will include elements of social relevance, moral and ethical guidance, desires for a particular public image, and expectations for the path of growth. Once in place, mission statements can be used as grounding for decision making. For example, if a decision was to be made and there was question about how the results would effect or fit into the relationship, the mission statement could be used as the point of reference. You could refer to the mission statement to see if the results of a decision would fit into the grand plan, or if it would go against what the relationship was about. In this way, in times of conflict inside a relationship, you can also refer to the mission statement to help you see where you may be getting off track and remind yourselves what the foundations of your intentions for each other are. Mission statements can be brief, or they can be more comprehensive. They may even be amended as a couple finds and defines their purpose more clearly. In the beginning of a relationship the statement might be as simple as: “We are here to create a loving, nurturing, and supportive environment for ourselves and each other, to maintain and foster personal growth and happiness.” It might say “We will always honor our own religious convictions and respect those of others.” You can add any ethical moral stances you might take as a couple. As time goes on and when/if children are added to the family, it might be added that you are both there to “foster excellence in interpersonal relationship skills and provide the best environment for academic growth in a respectful, loving and supportive way.” It might say “Demonstrating by example the type of love and support we expect children to follow.” When people are in conflict, under stress, and not treating each other with kindness and respect, it would be easy to see how that would “go against the mission statement” and help couples to see when they are not living up to their own expectations and pre-determined values. Get creative, brainstorm together, write a number of draft mission statements, and have fun together creating a “vision” for the two of you, for yourself, and for your family of what you want your life to be about. I would venture to assume that when relationships wind up on the rocks, or marriages wind up in a divorce court, that the couple worked very little on designing a plan which they worked to maintain all along. Sit down with your partner, and start talking about writing your marriage/relationship Mission Statement soon! Judith L. Allen, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC, AAMFT http://Ingenio.com/AskDrAllen Counseling and Therapy and Relationships Categories

 Do you feel like you’ve been down in the dumps or had a negative attitude these days?  Would you like to improve the way you’re currently viewing your life and your world?  There are methods that you can use, in order to emulate others who always seem to be happier than you are.  Let’s talk about some of these, and you can decide if you’d like to test them out to achieve a better outlook on life. 

1.    Make a list of people you have in your life on a regular basis.  By each name, give them a score between -10 and +10 depending on how much they add to or deduct from your emotional well-being.   

2.    After reviewing the list, decide which people to see more of, and which to see less of – depending on who helps your attitude most.  Look for those with a good disposition who don’t spend all their time with gossip and negativity. 

3.    Get a little exercise each day.  Make this at least 5 minutes.  You don’t need special equipment or a gym – just a carpet or mat and a few leg lifts, sit-ups, pushups, deep knee bends, etc.  Don’t overdo.  Add 1 minute per day until you reach 20 Minutes. 

4.    Call 1 friend each day, and share a positive thought with them.  It can be something you’re dreaming about doing or a funny story you heard – or anything else that’s fun to tell. 

5.    Review the words you use when you speak or think about your goals and plans.  Avoid words like should, shouldn’t, always, never, and “try”.   Also avoid using the phrases “I can’t” or “yes, but” in your self talk, or to others.  For example, when you get ready to make a change I your life, and you have done at least one step towards your goal – you are no longer trying, but actually “doing” something for yourself at that point. 

6.    What can you do about the past?  Absolutely nothing can be changed back there!  So why dwell on past incidents.  Unless you are undergoing psychotherapy, dwelling on the past is an exercise that leads you down a path of depression.  Ask yourself if you truly want to take that path. 

7.    Keep a list of three things you’d like to do for fun this week.  Each time you do something fun, mark it off your list, and add a new one. Always keep 3 going at a time.  “Looking forward” gives you hope and energy that does not exist in thoughts about the past. 

8.    If there are things you’d like to change in your life, take them 1-2 at a time.  More than that will challenge you too much, and you’ll set yourself up for defeat.  Also, make tasks small.  If you tell yourself to get the apartment cleaned up, then be specific…and break the apartment into sections to do some on Mon/Wed/Fri and keep the weekend or off time for yourself to do more creative and restful things.  If you keep telling yourself that there is ALWAYS (one of the bad words) something to do – then you’ll never have a real break to recharge and you’ll simply be immobilized. 

9.    Find a job that you like.  If you don’t like the one you have, keep it while you find something you will like, and a boss who is easy to work with.  If you are spending 8-12 hours a day in a situation you don’t like – what is that doing to your moods, outlook and attitude. 

10. If you are depressed, get help.  Often you’ll find that there is something you are tolerating which is making you very angry. 

If you’d like to talk privately, about your specific situation or relationship problem, please set up some time and we can work together to tailor coping strategies that closely fit your goals and commitment level.

Warmest regards,

Dr. Judith L. Allen

1-888-693-8437   Ext. 01966126 when prompted

Ph.D.LPC.LMFT.RC.CMH

AAMFT.APMHA.ADCA.ISMHO

We often hear about anger and depression being closely related.  On an emotional spectrum, anger may be preferable to depression.  It tends to make us talk more and this gives a better chance to verbalize the feelings that may be covered up with depression.

There is a good chance that the two may even be the same disappointment and hurt, but simply aimed at ourselves, or aimed outwardly to others.

Often depression and anger are just easier than facing an ultimate truth that is being hidden.  Almost like a distraction from a fear, a rejection, a loss, a disappointment, or a feeling about ourselves which is too painful to explore fully, so it’s guarded carefully and covered up.

Frequently in therapy when the roots of the anger and depression are explored and discussed, the feelings of anger diminish, and the feelings of depression seem to lift.  Talk therapy,  as psychotherapy is often called, can help by providing a safe place to process our deepest and scariest thoughts.  When they are shared with another person and new perspective is gained, it’s amazing how your mind can let go, and find a peaceful landing place.

Most of our fears and negative feelings are not real.  They usually are based on perceptual confusion.  Our minds can be introduced to an idea (real or not) and the mind can take in the suggestion and hold it to be an ultimate truth.  When that happens, someone can build his or her perceptions on a mistake. 

If you find yourself feeling frequent anger or depression, it might be good to discuss it with a therapist, to find out what you may be hiding, even from yourself.  A part of you knows what causes the pain.  When you are finally able to express it, you’ll find it can lose its power over you. Your moods may become better very rapidly.  

If you’d like to try a short call to begin to express your feelings, you can reach me at: 1-888-464-3646 and use Extension # 01904509

I look forward to working with you to make life better.

Dr. Judith L. Allen, LMFT, LPC, AAMFT

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist -Licensed Professional Counselor-Clinical Member AAMFT – APMHA - ISMHO

Do you or a family member or friend have Bipolar Disorder?  And if so, what can you do about it?

 

Signs and symptoms of mania (or a manic episode) include:

·        Increased energy, activity, and restlessness

·        Excessively “high,” overly good, euphoric mood

·        Extreme irritability

·        Racing thoughts and talking very fast, jumping from one idea to another

·        Distractibility, can’t concentrate well

·        Little sleep needed

·        Unrealistic beliefs in one’s abilities and powers

·        Poor judgment

·        Spending sprees

·        A lasting period of behavior that is different from usual

·        Increased sexual drive

·        Abuse of drugs, particularly cocaine, alcohol, and sleeping medications

·        Provocative, intrusive, or aggressive behavior

·        Denial that anything is wrong

A manic episode is diagnosed if elevated mood occurs with three or more of the other symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for 1 week or longer. If the mood is irritable, four additional symptoms must be present.

Signs and symptoms of depression (or a depressive episode) include:

·        Lasting sad, anxious, or empty mood

·        Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism

·        Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

·        Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed, including sex

·        Decreased energy, a feeling of fatigue or of being “slowed down”

·        Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions

·        Restlessness or irritability

·        Sleeping too much, or can’t sleep

·        Change in appetite and/or unintended weight loss or gain

·        Chronic pain or other persistent bodily symptoms that are not caused by physical illness or injury

·        Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts

A depressive episode is diagnosed if five or more of these symptoms last most of the day, nearly every day, for a period of 2 weeks or longer.

What can be done? 

According to NIMH Research anyone with bipolar disorder should be under the care of a psychiatrist skilled in the diagnosis and treatment of this disease. Other mental health professionals, such as psychologists, psychiatric social workers, and psychiatric nurses, can assist in providing the person and family with additional approaches to treatment.

Help can be found at:

·        University—or medical school—affiliated programs

·        Hospital departments of psychiatry

·        Private psychiatric offices and clinics

·        Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)

·        Offices of family physicians, internists, and pediatricians

·        Public community mental health centers

People with bipolar disorder may need to get help.

·        Often people with bipolar disorder do not realize how impaired they are, or they blame their problems on some cause other than mental illness.

·        A person with bipolar disorder may need strong encouragement from family and friends to seek treatment. Family physicians can play an important role in providing referral to a mental health professional.

·        Sometimes a family member or friend may need to take the person with bipolar disorder for proper mental health evaluation and treatment.

·        A person who is in the midst of a severe episode may need to be hospitalized for his or her own protection and for much-needed treatment. There may be times when the person must be hospitalized against his or her wishes.

·        Ongoing encouragement and support are needed after a person obtains treatment, because it may take a while to find the best treatment plan for each individual.

·        In some cases, individuals with bipolar disorder may agree, when the disorder is under good control, to a preferred course of action in the event of a future manic or depressive relapse.

·        Like other serious illnesses, bipolar disorder is also hard on spouses, family members, friends, and employers.

·        Family members of someone with bipolar disorder often have to cope with the person’s serious behavioral problems, such as wild spending sprees during mania or extreme withdrawal from others during depression, and the lasting consequences of these behaviors.

·        Many people with bipolar disorder benefit from joining support groups such as those sponsored by the National Depressive and Manic Depressive Association (NDMDA), the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA). Families and friends can also benefit from support groups offered by these organizations.

If you have been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and are now on medication treatment, you will also need ongoing support from a licensed therapist.  This can help to break old patterns of behavior and learn more appropriate ways of relating to others.  Seeking help is often as important to your family and friends as it is to you.  Please call on me or one of the other licensed therapists here.

Judith L. Allen, Ph.D.

Resources: National Institutes of Mental Health

Stress is different for each of us. What is stressful for one person may or may not be stressful for another; each of us responds to stress in an entirely different way.

Positive vs. Negative Stress: Stress can be perceived as positive or negative, dependent on the person, the situation, but mostly the perception of what is happening.  It’s important that whether the stress is caused by healthy changes or dealing with new unexpected circumstances, that we manage it, so that we don’t have too much to deal with at one time.  When stress is managed, it prevents being overwhelmed by it – and actually improves our outlook on life.  A completely stress-free life is often reported as dull or boring.

You can manage stress effectively by prioritizing: Stresses and the problems that cause it are not created equal.  Small problems can be dealt with more quickly as you gain confidence in finding solutions.  Then, with the added skills, you can tackle the stress related problems more effectively.  Don’t look at all stress as equal and by doing so, react to the enormity of the total of everything causing stress.

Find creative ways to deal with stress which fit best for you: Instead of listening to experts on stress, get to know yourself and what helps you to feel good about life.  For example, some people thrive on relaxation, and it helps them to regenerate and go back into the stress with renewed energy.  Others may need sports activities, working out, or some high risk activity to make stress more minimal and deal with it better.  Which one are you?  Design your own plan.

Look closer for symptoms of stress: Increased blood pressure over an extended period can be a sign of the body dealing with stress.  Lack of concentration, headaches, stomach problems, sleeping too little or too much, or feeling that you need to be alone for extended periods of time can all be symptoms of stress that you are not paying attention to.  Symptoms tell you to get a change of pace, learn more how to relax, or even change the way you are living your life.  Many times the things we are tolerating in our lives can create a type of stress which can be eliminated.

If you have a stressful situation it often helps to talk it out with a friend or therapist.  If you’re dealing with a life situation that is stressful to you, and you’d like to have a brief telephone consultation, please feel free to call me to discuss any subject or issue.  This is a great way to take care of you and stay healthy.

I look forward to working with you soon!

Dr. Judith L. Allen

State Board Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

State Board Licensed Professional Counselor

State Board Licensed Registered Counselor

Clinical Member AAMFT

Clinical Member of American Distance Counseling Association (http://ADCA-Online.org)

 

References:

American Psychological Association

The Center on Domestic Violence has a great identification chart that helps you know if you're around an abuser, or if you might being unaware that you are being abused.  Love sometimes confuses us, and we may minimize what is happening in our life. 

A chart has been developed by the Domestic Abuse Intervention Project, to help you decide if you are being abused, if you know someone else who is,  if you know an abuser, or if you yourself may be demonstrating abusive behavior, the Chart is located at http://www.stoprelationshipabuse.org/pdfs/PowerControlwheelNOSHADING.pdf:

I hope you'll take a few minutes to review the chart, and post any comments you may have about what you read there.

If I can help via a telephone call, please call on me here at Ingenio.

Dr. Judith L. Allen -- (AskDrAllen) at Ingenio, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist - Clinical Member AAMFT

 

 

 

Have you ever noticed that when your partner is having a bad day, or dealing with some internal conflict, that you seem to be the target of undeserved harshness?  How you handle this can either lead to greater understanding, or it can absolutely make the situation worse for both of you.

 

Of course it’s natural to become defensive when you feel that you are being attacked by another person.  You’re human, and harsh words can make you feel like you’re being treated as an enemy!  And what do enemies do – they fight with one another. When you’re feeling that your friend or partner is treating you this way, you are subject to feeling unloved at the same time.  It feels hurtful, and you might strike back or even recoil in a self-protective stance.

 

It might be better if you don’t react at all for a few minutes, and take a position of listening to what the other person is saying.  In most circumstances, if the person sounds very angry and charged with emotion, it may not be about you at all.  Even though it’s hard to do, you might notice first that your friend or partner is in emotional pain.  Someone you love is in emotional pain.  Instead of getting defensive, you might ease the situation by listening and asking more questions for clarification, and finding ways to help.

 

You don’t have to be a saint to be able to do this, you just need to believe that the harsh words are not about you, but about the person speaking them.  Harville Hendrix, the creator of Imago theory, teaches that even our accusations about other people tend to be about the parts of yourself that you do not acknowledge.  For example, if someone is calling you “controlling” they may have an issue with control themselves.  If they are calling you “stupid” – then most likely, they have issues with their own security about their intelligence (maybe they were called stupid by a critical parent when they were children).  Understanding this clearly, can help you stay calm in the wake of the angry outburst.   

 

Understanding that your partner or friend has “issues” as we all do, can help you to learn more about them and what they need.   Even though this is sometimes akin to trying to hug a porcupine, it helps to praise people in the exact area that they seem to have issues with in other people.  They are giving you a window into what they need most.  For example, those who tend to call others “stupid” need praise when you notice that they have figured out a problem and successfully solved it.  A carefully placed “Wow, that was great how you did that – you are really smart!!” can help someone stop calling you and others “stupid.” 

 

This follows for someone calling you lazy, uninterested, selfish, etc.  You can actually help other people become more confident and in turn they can become better people and better friends and partners for you.  The next time it happens, take your time and think about what is really going on.  It will help you to not take messages from others so personally, and it will help with your own emotional development. 

 

Please call on me if you’d like some individual or couples help.

 

Judith L. Allen, Ph.D.

AskDrAllen at Ingenio

Clinical Member AAMFT, ISMHO, APMHA

Women tend to think idiosyncratically, in that they believe and assume that their male partners feel and think in the same way as their women friends.

 

Misunderstandings take place when women think in some of the following ways:

 

  • When a woman feels that the balance of chores is uneven, she might think he should just help without being asked.  (He should know!)
  • When a woman is doing all the cooking, she may feel that her partner should jump in and take a turn.  (He should know!)
  • When a woman wants to be taken out, is tired of staying home all the time, and not doing anything fun, she may expect that her husband will understand and come up with some fun things to do.  (He should know!)
  • When a woman is down emotionally, and can’t express what she needs, she may expect that her husband will notice her silence, see her sad expression, and ask “Anything I can help with?”  (He should know!)
  • When a woman has a bad day at work or home with the kids,  she might expect that her partner will see the look on her face and understand that it would help to sit her down, get her coffee, and let her talk for awhile.  (He should know!)
  • When a woman is upset that her partner is too involved with other interests and has been neglecting her, she might expect that if she becomes distant and silent, that he’ll realize what he’s doing and change his behavior and attention.  (He should know!)

Yes, there might be a man here and there who has the sensitivity you’re seeking, but by and large, each man you are with needs help in learning what you want, what your expressions mean, what your silence means, what your needs are, what you like and don’t like, etc.  Most men are eager to please, if only you’d give them instructions about what makes you happy.  

 

If you’re reading that last paragraph, thinking “He should know!” – believe me that he doesn’t.   Try an experiment for a week, asking your partner for each thing you want from him, and see what changes in your relationship.  Be sure to ask for your needs to be met in a straightforward and respectful way. 

 

Two ways to make your needs known to your partner:

  1. “Sweetheart, I love flowers, would you bring me some this week?”
  2. "John, you never surprise me with flowers like other men do, what’s wrong with you?"

The first way of asking is the best, of course.  And the second way, which is commonly used, does get information across, but in such a negative and blaming way, that the hurt it causes overrides the information you’re trying to impart.  Starting with the faulty belief that “He should know!”  leads to hurt feelings that often get translated into blame as a self defense.   Why not try it out for a week, and see how it works.

 

Oh, one last piece of advice; don’t think that he’ll remember what you tell him on the following week.  Be sure to ask just as kindly as you did the first time.

 

If I can help you on an individual basis with relationships or any personal concern you’re facing, my contact information is below.

     Judith L. Allen, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC, AAMFT

     http://Ingenio.com/AskDrAllen  

     http://www.liveadvice.com/counseling-therapy/

     30 Minute Counseling Call for $60 at 1-888-693-8437 Ext. 02191962

     Counseling and Therapy – Relationships – Women’s Health Categories

There will always be times when you and your partner don’t agree on every issue.  Many times, one partner will remain silent about their feelings, not sharing what they feel out of fear.  Conflict is healthy!  It helps remind us that we are two distinct individuals and it can help us learn about, and get closer to, our loved one.  

 

One of the fears of disagreement is that we might get “too” angry, and even harm the relationship.  When in fact, years of not expressing what we feel can have the same effect of keeping us isolated until we become strangers.

 

Conflict can have positive effects because it helps us to learn more about each other so that it can amend how we think and how we behave together.  If you never talk about your feelings or openly express your opinions, you may even be perceived over time as “dull” and “boring” to a partner. 

 

You do have your unique perceptions and they may be different from your partner, and that is very acceptable!  Your expressed thoughts make you an interesting individual, even though others have their opinions too.  There is rarely any right/wrong in the exchange of opinions, but rather a description of our uniqueness, and that’s what helps to make us a whole person.  Everyone longs to be with an authentic person, as we strive to be on ourselves.  Conflict and differences help make this possible.

 

What may frighten you is that you may not know how to deal with conflict in an organized way.  Here is a template of a ten step approach which uses techniques to keep keep disagreements contained in a healthy way.

  1. Pick your time and make it fair.  No fair if you’ve been thinking about an issue for days, and you are the only one who gets to decide when the discussion will take place.  Ask your partner for a time to talk, and tell them what the issue is that you would like to talk about.
  2. At the agreed meeting time, set some ground rules, i.e., “Please let me talk about what has been on my mind, and then I’ll be quiet and listen while you give me some feedback about what you feel.”
  3. Stick to the issue, only one issue, and avoid blaming.  State only how you feel about the given situation being discussed.  Remember that your feelings come from your interpretation of a situation.  They may even be based on not having a complete picture of all the information.  Be prepared to amend these feelings if you get new information.
  4. Let your partner have their turn to talk and express their feelings, and listen closely to the words they are saying.  When they are done, ask questions for clarification.
  5. Look for areas of agreement and verbalize those.  “I see we are together on this part…”
  6. Describe the parts of disagreement and ask for feedback again.
  7. Choose two solutions each and write them down.   Read them and see if one suggestion from each of you is close to one of the other’s
  8. Agree on selecting one of the suggestions or rewrite a composite one, which includes some of the thinking of each person.   If this does not work, agree to compromise by using one person’s suggestion for one week, and then switch to the other person’s suggestion, and evaluated which had better results after 2 weeks.
  9.  Review your discussion and apologize if you have been blaming and accusatory, or if you have used any negative labels or name calling. The apology should include a promise not to use these tactics in the future.  Ask for the same from your partner, if you feel they violated these same fairness and decency rules. 
  10.   Make a bridge back to love.  Yes, you love each other, but in times of conflict, love may have been pushed aside.  Some examples could be:  a) Say something loving, b) decide to do something fun together, c) write a loving card, d) give a loving gesture like a long hug.   

If at any stage in the conflict you feel that it has gotten out of control, call a truce and go back to step one.  Find another day, another time, and start again.  If it happens that you keep getting stuck in the process, get some help.  Ask a friend to sit in, or talk together with the intervention of a therapist to keep the fighting fair.  Don’t give up… it’s worth it to fight for a good relationship.

 

Judith L. Allen, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC, AAMFT

http://Ingenio.com/AskDrAllen  

http://www.liveadvice.com/counseling-therapy/

Counseling and Therapy – Relationships – Women’s Health  Categories

 

How do you ask your husband to take out the trash?  
How do you ask your wife to pick up your suits at the cleaners?
 
We often get so consumed with brevity and efficiency, that we may not be aware of how our requests are felt on an emotional level.  Yes, life is rushed!  Yes, we are all so busy!  But also a larger yes is probably the answer to this question:
 
Would you be willing to change how you ask for favors, if you knew that it would also make another person feel special, precious, and needed?
 
I was discussing this subject recently with a woman who says her husband is always grumpy when she wants him to help her.   She admitted that his unwillingness made her feel unloved.  Not only did she expect that he would anticipate her requests and do them magically without her having to utter a word, but when she did make a request, she also expected that he would never forget or say no.  Further, she perceived his forgetfulness as passive aggressive behavior, and felt that he was getting even with her for even asking.
 
Wow.  For men reading this, they may nodding their heads.  For many women, they may also feel it's their truth too.  Fortunately it helps to see it in print, and to know that communication can make a relationship wonderful, or it can lead to it's demise.  With a few changes, you might get different results on both sides.  Your spouse will be less confused, feel more appreciated, and progress will be made, by changing the approach we use to request assistance from others. 
 
Don't get into the trap of thinking that your partner is or should be a mind reader.   Don't fall in the trap of thinking that the forgetfulness of others means that you are unloved.  And certainly don't personalize every gesture or word from a partner to interpret it as "hurt that is being dealt out to you."   This is a huge issue in therapy.
 
Instead, how about a new approach to getting help for things that need doing, and also making your partner feel special at the same time?  Wouldn't people be more willing to help if they felt appreciated and loved in the process?  After all, people usually work harder out of love, than for money. 
 
The next time you would like to make a request from someone you love, add a new prefix before you state your request.  Loving names like: Angel - Sweetheart - Cutie Pie - Baby - Honey - Sugar - Sexy - Princess - Lover Boy -Sunshine -Beautiful - Darling, can open up someone to listening more readily. 
 
You may have been saying to your partner
"I need you to stop at the store and get cat food before you come home."
 
After a while, it may be heard as "I need" "I need" "I need" by your partner.  I love the word Sweetheart (but choose one  you like)  and when it comes from your lips, it reminds both you and your partner of your special relationship.  Try this revision instead:  
 
"Sweetheart, would you stop by on the way home and get the cat some food, we just ran out."   Or, "Sunshine, would you press my blue shirt for me?  I won't have time before I have to go to the meeting."
 
Remember that what you want, is only a request.  Be prepared for others to say no.  If you find yourself getting angry about an unfulfilled request, then you might have to recognize that it was actually a demand, rather than a request.  And since it is supposed to be a request, deliver it as politely as possible, and try using a loving nickname!  It can be a win/win proposition.
 
Judith L. Allen, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC, AAMFT
 
http://Ingenio.com/AskDrAllen  Counseling and Therapy and Relationship Categories

Corporations and even small companies develop what is known as a Mission Statement for their businesses.  A Mission Statement is a global plan which gives meaning and purpose for the business, for the management team, and for the employees to help guide them in a direction that is pre determined. 

 

Often mission statements will include elements of social relevance, moral and ethical guidance, desires for a particular public image, and expectations for the path of growth.  Once in place, mission statements can be used as grounding for decision making. 

 

For example, if a decision was to be made and there was question about how the results would effect or fit into the relationship, the mission statement could be used as the point of reference.  You could refer to the mission statement to see if the results of a decision would fit into the grand plan, or if it would go against what the relationship was about.

 

In this way, in times of conflict inside a relationship, you can also refer to the mission statement to help you see where you may be getting off track and remind yourselves what the foundations of your intentions for each other are. 

 

Mission statements can be brief, or they can be more comprehensive.  They may even be amended as a couple finds and defines their purpose more clearly.  In the beginning of a relationship the statement might be as simple as:

 

“We are here to create a loving, nurturing, and supportive environment for ourselves and each other, to maintain and foster personal growth and happiness.”  It might say “We will always honor our own religious convictions and respect those of others.”   You can add any ethical moral stances you might take as a couple.

 

As time goes on and when/if children are added to the family, it might be added that you are both there to “foster excellence in interpersonal relationship skills and provide the best environment for academic growth in a respectful, loving and supportive way.”  It might say “Demonstrating by example the type of love and support we expect children to follow.”

 

When people are in conflict, under stress, and not treating each other with kindness and respect, it would be easy to see how that would “go against the mission statement” and help couples to see when they are not living up to their own expectations and pre-determined values. 

 

Get creative, brainstorm together, write a number of draft mission statements, and have fun together creating a “vision” for the two of you, for yourself, and for your family of what you want your life to be about.

 

I would venture to assume that when relationships wind up on the rocks, or marriages wind up in a divorce court, that the couple worked very little on designing a plan which they worked to maintain all along. 

 

Sit down with your partner, and start talking about writing your marriage/relationship Mission Statement soon!

 

Judith L. Allen, Ph.D., LMFT, LPC, AAMFT

http://Ingenio.com/AskDrAllen Counseling and Therapy and Relationships Categories

 

Yes, so many people stay in bad relationships, hoping they will get better!  You might say that some of these people are "optimists" and that can be true to a point. 

The point that people reach where they are doing all the work in a relationship and yet not feeling that the efforts are being reciprocated - is a time for change.  For many, not getting what they want is much easier than making a change and so they continue to stay.

Change, specifically getting out of dead end relationships, can be scary.  Probably there was a period of loneliness before the relationship began, and the "company" of another person might feel better than the previous loneliness, at least for now.  Since it's probably a temporary fix, unless you've decided you're destined to be in a half-hearted relationship, let's talk about ways to prepare for turning your sights outward into the world again.

People and activities can mean forward motion for your life.  They can both bring energy that a bad relationship has been taking away from you.  Take stock of your current inventory of interpersonal relationships - your support system.  Do you have a tight or even loose circle of friends?  Are there people around you that have always seemed supportive?  Are you using part of your time to nurture and foster good relationships with those individuals?  If there are some you've neglected, take a few minutes a week to send a note, make a call, invite them to a lunch, send an email saying you were just remembering what a good friend they are!

I think I always "push" physical activity (although like everyone, I have to keep reminding myself too) because it serves several functions.  It can help us to get out and connect with others.  Many friendships have been made in gyms.  It also gets you to begin self care, a path to self love, and a starting place to give yourself time to think about how you can fill some of your own needs.   Walking, working out, swimming at a local Y, renting a bike to ride or buying your own, joining an exercise class, signing up for a short stint of dance lessons, window shopping for a few hours - all of it can be energizing physically and emotionally.  If you can find a friend to do activities with, all the better, but if not, they can get you out of the house to meet others who are trying to do the same thing.

If you're interested in just seeing who else is out there looking for a good relationship, there are so many venues online, you would be amazed!  I don't want to name a specific one, or to endorse one over another.  Just go into Google.com, put in online dating, and take some time to do your own research.  Three of my clients have made nice marriages this way, as well as countless friends.  Other ways...church singles groups, parties, taking a class, joining a club to help with a project, and volunteer groups. 

Loneliness can be our worst enemy.  It can distort our thinking, and make  someone appeal to us who would not normally get our interest.  But lonliness can also be our best friend, since it's an emotion that drives us to connect with others, seek out new interests, and actively take charge in making our own lives better.  

If you feel that you're stuck and would like to reverse that trend, you can always seek professional help to assist in your process.  Counseling can be found in your community or online from a licensed practitioner.  Both can be equally good to help you get back into life again.

Keep moving forward...keep looking for "exactly" what you need!

Judith L. Allen, Ph.D., State Board Licensed Professional Counselor, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Clinical Member of American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy  http://Ingenio.com/AskDrAllen Counseling and Therapy and Relationships Categories