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Posts Tagged ‘gratitude’

Making Life Dreams Come True for Both You and Your Loved Ones

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

My son will be starting high school next year and he must select an area of emphasis to guide him in course selection, such as Law Enforcement or Science and Technology.   His initial reaction was to choose a path that matched his aptitude, not necessarily his passion.

This has generated plenty of discussion around the dinner table.  My husband and I shared how neither one of us followed our intuition or passion and initially wound up in unfulfilling jobs.

One of my favorite authors, Wayne Dyer, often says “Don’t die with your music still inside you.”.  In his latest book I Can See Clearly Now, he details the twists and turns his life took and how he always followed his intuition and passion to create a life of purpose and fulfillment.

We all have music inside us and we all have dreams.  Careers should be full of passion, not just paychecks.  But passions also arise in many other areas, such as travel, adventures, sports, creative outlets . . . there is no limit when it comes to passion and dreams.  These are not just bucket-list items to be checked off, but things we feel called to do in our lifetime.

As I reflected on how I arrived in a career that I love, I felt a debt of gratitude for my husband.  He has supported me along the way in more ways that I can count.  And I have done the same for him.

In Gottman Method Couples Therapy, making life dreams come true is at the top of the Sound Relationship House because it is one of the necessary ingredients inSound house relationships that work.  In fact, Gottman believes it is the most important thing.

Initially I was surprised by this statement, but as I now reflect on it, I can see from personal experience that when partners support each others dreams it generates many positive feelings.  We feel heard and supported in our relationship, cherished by our partner and happier in our life.  And I believe the same is true for our children too.

My son’s music is just now emerging, literally.  While he may have an aptitude for math, his passion is creating music.  The teen years are full of inspiration and dreams, and how he navigates his adolescence will have a tremendous impact on the rest of his life.  Helping him to feel safe to explore his dreams and to feel the supported is one of the best gifts I can give him.

It’s my way of paying it forward.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC

Certified Gottman Therapist

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(281) 812-7529

Houston (Kingwood), TX

 

Rituals of Connection Strengthen Relationships

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Sound houseThanksgiving is upon us and that warms my heart.  Over the past 20 years my husband and I have unwittingly developed  rituals around this day of gratitude.  We honor his family tradition of tamales and football and my love of Brussels sprouts and my friend Mary, who has spent 18 of the last 20 Thanksgivings with us.  When any of these things are missing from our day, it simply doesn’t feel right.

And that is how rituals go.  They are routines that create shared meaning in relationships and strengthen emotional connections.  Notice that Creating Shared Meaning is at the top of the Sound Relationship House, the model we use in Gottman Method Couples Therapy.  Rituals are important in relationships because we look forward to them  . . . they symbolize who we are as a couple or as a family.  They have the power to smooth over rough spots and transitions that we all naturally experience over the course of time.

We tend to think of rituals on holidays, especially ones that honor cultural heritage, faith or family values.  But rituals on a smaller scale are equally important.  How couple and families routinely come together creates a sense of belonging.  Rituals demonstrate that we take time out of our busy schedules to make one another a priority.

Here are some examples of rituals from my own family, as well as ones I have heard from other couples and families:

  • Six second kiss when you wake up, when you say goodnight, and when you come and go
  • Family dinnertime where everyone talks about their day
  • Walking the dog every evening
  • Making a cheesecake for your partner on their birthday because it is their favorite dessert
  • Going for pancakes every Saturday morning
  • Weekly date night
  • Returning to your honeymoon destination every year on your anniversary
  • Leaving love notes by the coffee maker for your partner to find every morning
  • Training for a distance bike ride together
  • Watching a favorite TV show together
  • How you approach your partner for sex
  • Family game night
  • Going to Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve
  • Snuggling for 10 minutes every morning after the alarm goes off
  • Parents and kids volunteering once per month at an animal shelter
  • Planting a vegetable garden every year
  • And my son’s favorite . . . serving his “lucky” foods (Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino and shrimp cocktail) before he plays a football game

Rituals create positive memories and are like glue in relationships . . . they keep you connected. What are the rituals in your relationships?

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

 

 

 

How Does Weight Gain Affect Couples?

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

“You’ve gained so much weight . . . I am no longer attracted to you”.

More than 34%  of Americans are now obese and it has become a national epidemic.  Co-morbidities related to obesity, like diabetes, often take the spotlight but weight issues have deleterious effects on relationships as well.

Weight gain often accompanies marriage.  Couples can become couch potatoes, watching TV instead of being on the go.  Working out may take a backseat now that one is no longer on the prowl for a mate.  Nurturing your loved one with delicious meals, celebrating with food and frequently enjoying cocktails together can pack on the pounds.  Couples can influence one another with eating patterns, often to their detriment, and this can boost caloric intake.

Much to my chagrin, weight and body shape changes can and do occur over time.   Pregnancy, menopause and the aging process all contribute to changes in size and shape.  Couples who support each other through these transitions tend to be the happiest.  Change is inevitable and it is best to accept that some change in weight and physical attractiveness will happen for both of you over time.

Unfortunately for many couples weight issues take front and center stage in marital unhappiness.  When one partner gains weight, the other often doesn’t know how to handle it.  Sometimes they try unsolicited advice like “Go to the gym with me” or “Maybe you should give Weight Watchers a try”.  Advice giving can morph into nagging or ultimatums, and this constant pressure adds conditionality to the relationship.

Derogatory remarks about weight are devastating to a relationship.  Name calling, telling your partner you are no longer sexually attracted to them or saying oink oink every time your overweight partner reaches for seconds all cut to the core.  Being critical of your partner is toxic and according to John Gottman is one of the predictors of divorce.  We all want to feel loved for reasons beyond the number on the scale or our clothing size.

Attacking the overweight spouse compounds the problem by adding layer upon layer of shame and humiliation.  Making negative comparisons or ogling a sexy stranger makes the overweight partner feel worse, more insecure and vulnerable.  Instead of feeling cherished, one feels disrespected and devalued.  Using shame as a tool to motivate always backfires.

Shame is different from guilt.  According to Brene Brown, shame researcher from University of Houston, shame is very painful and focuses on our self worth and sense of belonging.  Shame says “I am fat and unworthy of love”.  Guilt focuses on behavior and says “I overate and feel miserable”.  Shame interferes with our connection to self, as well as to our partner.

Women who have engaged in lifelong battles with their body are especially prone to shame when they plump up after marriage.  They feel big and unsexy and often dress to hide their curves.  Whereas they once pranced naked in front of their partner, now they dress and undress in private.  They often avoid sex in order to avoid rejection.  They simply feel “not good enough” or unworthy.

We used to think that men were less prone to body image issues, but the truth is their issues were present but off the radar.  They often share the same feelings of shame when they gain weight.

Secrecy is often a component of shame and weight issues.  This wreaks havoc in relationships, especially if the overweight partner has binge eating disorder (BED).  People with BED eat salads in front of their partner and gorge on junk food in private.  Bingers are not only grazers and chocolate cravers, but they feel out of control with eating.  They avoid eating in front of others to avoid judgment and in the process destroy intimacy and emotional connection.  It’s like an affair, only the affair partner is food.  Not only does the couple need marital counseling, but the binger will also need individual therapy to deal with their issues.

Many other dysfunctional patterns arise in couples where eating issues or BED are present.  Chronic dieting to compensate for overeating affects how couples approach food in social situations.  It also affects rituals of connection like family dinnertime and holiday food traditions.  Sometimes we see issues of codependency or enabling by placing the responsibility of the eating issue on the normal weight partner.  Other times we see sabotage through the form of temptation, especially if the binger loses weight and there are underlying power struggles in the couple.  And sometimes couples abuse food together to promote a sense of closeness.

But is the excess weight or the presence of BED to blame for plummeting marital happiness and sexual intimacy? Not so according to Gottman.  In his extensive research of couples he found that 70% of both men and women report satisfaction with sex, romance and passion when the quality of their friendship was good. Additionally he found that couples whose sex lives go well after the birth of a baby stem from the man keeping his mouth shut about the changes in his wife’s body.

Friendship, fondness, admiration and deep emotional bonds are what keep couples connected as they traverse changes over time.  Attraction to your partner has more to do with what’s in the emotional bank account than the number on the scale.  Physical changes are not at the heart of deteriorating marriages.  Happy couples see their partner as worthy of honor and respect.

In couples where weight has become a weighty issue, there are underlying problems that are being overshadowed by the weight gain.  It is easy to point the finger at the obvious, but loss of the friendship system, emotional avoidance or problems with conflict management are more likely the root cause.  Weight loss alone will not change the trajectory of a troubled relationship.

As we say in Gottman Method Couples Counseling, every positive thing you do in your relationship is foreplay.  Never comment adversely about your partners weight or your attraction to them.  Instead be affectionate and appreciative.  Focus on their positive attributes instead of dwelling on their weight.  Kind comments reassure your partner that you love them no matter what their body looks like.

As for dealing with shame, the antidote is empathy.  Replacing shame talk with positive self talk is crucial.  In other words, if you are overweight talk to yourself like you would talk to your child.  When shame is present it grows by leaps and bounds when it is stuffed.  Release shame by talking to your partner . . . their job is to express empathy and understanding.

Couples need to maintain positive regard for one another to cope with the changes that time brings, and that includes changes in weight and physical attractiveness.

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD

Certified Gottman Therapist

 

 

 

 

 

Paying It Forward

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

On Thanksgiving morning my family and I enjoyed a walk with our dogs before getting down to the serious business of cooking and football watching.

As we returned to our street my husband found a dollar bill in front of our house.  My sister called out that she saw another . . . and another . . .  and another.  Of course then we all began looking and $17 dollars later we wondered what was going on, thinking a child must have lost their money.  Checking with the neighbors and not finding the rightful owner, this was turning into a mystery on our quiet cul-de-sac, but I set aside the cash to deal with other pressing Turkey Day activities.

Black Friday rolled around and my sister, friend and I made our annual pilgrimage to the mall.  After a few hours of battling the crowd we headed to our favorite watering hole for bite to eat and a cocktail.  Without a reservation we had to sit at the bar, but we didn’t mind since visiting this establishment has become part of our annual tradition.  After the second bite into our burgers the bartender said she needed to slide us down a few seats to make room for another party.  Her abruptness in moving our food out from under us caught us off guard and we were a bit irritated, and had no choice but to comply.

The new party saddled up to the bar and placed their orders while we noshed and sipped, recovering quickly from our game of musical chairs.  When the bartender placed the check in front of us the man in the party that displaced us called out that he appreciated what we did and was picking up our tab.  Instantly we felt guilty for the irritation we felt and found ourselves giving thanks to him for his generosity.  After chatting with him for a few minutes it was clear that money was not an issue for him and he simply asked us to do something nice for someone in return.

Paying it forward is an age old concept of the beneficiary of a good deed paying it back to someone other than the original benefactor.

Several years ago Oprah had a Pay It Forward challenge where she gave audience members $1000 and a camcorder to capture them doing good deeds.  The stories that came out of those acts of generosity were incredibly touching.   Catherine Ryan Hyde wrote a novel that was turned in to the “feel good” movie Pay It Forward, starring Haley Joel Osment and Kevin Spacey.  Spacey, a teacher of 11 year old Osment, instructs the class to come up with an idea that would change the world.  Osment’s character comes up with the idea that for every good deed bestowed upon you, do three good deeds for someone else that they could not accomplish  themselves.

Indeed that sort of generosity would change the world.

By having money serendipitously thrown at me in all directions on this holiday of Thanks and Giving, I now am charged with how to pay it forward.  My son and I have already begun giving the one dollar bills away.  By carefully placing them in locations where people are sure to find them (napkin dispensers at restaurants, toilet paper rolls in restrooms etc), we are having great fun imagining the surprise on people’s faces when they discover their bounty.  Because of the gratefulness and generosity of the stranger at the bar, we are now looking for opportunities to be grateful and generous.  What a perfect start to the holiday season.

So why do I bring up this tale of gratefulness and generosity on a blog about mental well-being and healthy relationships?  Simply put, these are some of the basic ingredients for emotional balance and happiness.  Studies done of the expression of gratitude on a routine basis have shown that focusing on the positive things in life correlates with a higher level of psychological and physical well-being.

In Gottman Couple’s Therapy™ we teach couples the importance of giving appreciation, rather than allowing resentment and contempt to build in a relationship.  Being appreciative for what we have, rather than focusing on what we don’t have, can go a long way in charging your emotional battery in any relationship.

Acts of kindness help us to feel more connected to others and a feeling of connection is important for our happiness.  By being generous we are more aware of the good in our lives and we develop compassion for others.  Being generous can make one feel better about oneself (unless they have an ulterior motive to gain something in return) and raise their self-esteem.  No matter how you slice it or dice it, generosity and gratitude lead to improved well-being.

So if you are out and about this weekend and happen to find some money, consider that it may not be lost but a gift to be paid forward.  And when you do, see how it affects your mood and well-being.

Namaste,

Mary Beth George, MEd, LPC, RD/LD


Couples Counseling and Psychotherapy Associates provides service to Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, Porter, Fall Creek, Summerwood, North Houston and surrounding areas.

Couples Counseling & Psychotherapy Associates

2330 Timber Shadows Drive
Suite 106
Kingwood, Texas 77339
Ph: 281-812-7529

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