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A group of independent counselors serving Kingwood and Houston
Specializing in Gottman MethodTM Couples and Marriage Counseling

Archive for 2012

Thanks and Giving

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

A few years ago on a warm Thanksgiving morning (yes, this is Texas) my family and I were walking our dogs before getting down to the serious business of smoking a turkey and watching football.

As we approached our house my husband found a dollar bill at the edge of our lawn.  He stooped to pick it up and my sister called out “I found another one . . . and another . . .  and another!”  Excitedly we combed the cul-de-sac, finding 17 dollar bills sprinkled on the street.

I thought maybe a neighbor went to the grocery store for a last minute item and accidentally dropped the money.  Neighbor after neighbor denied this theory.  This was turning into quite a mystery on our quiet cul-de-sac.  I began to suspect the money was left intentionally.

An Act of Kindness

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 a bite to eat and a cocktail.  Without a reservation we had to sit at the bar.   No problem.  Visiting this establishment had become part of our annual ritual of connection.  After the second bite into our burgers the bartender directed us to slide us down a few seats to make room for another party.   Her abruptness irritated us.

The new party saddled up to the bar while we noshed and sipped, recovering quickly from our game of musical chairs.  When we got the check, 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 our irritation and gave thanks for his generosity.  After chatting for a few minutes he simply asked that we do something nice for someone in return.

Giving Feels Good

Paying it forward is an age old concept where the beneficiary of a good deed pays it back to someone other than the original benefactor. And it feels oh-so-good to give. When we are generous, we are more aware of the good in our lives.   We develop compassion for others. Acts of kindness make us feel more connected to others.

Several years ago Oprah had a Pay It Forward challenge where she gave audience members $1000 and a camcorder to capture their good deeds.  Their acts of generosity were incredibly touching.  The givers talked about how it changed them, not the receiver.

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.

Money was serendipitously thrown at me in all directions on the holiday of Thanks and Giving.  I was charged with how to pay it forward.  My son and I decided to give dollar bills away, in the same fashion we found them.  By carefully placing them in locations where people would surely find them (napkin dispensers at restaurants, toilet paper rolls in restrooms), we had great fun imagining the surprise on their faces when they discovered their bounty.

It was a great start to the holiday season.

 

 

Fifty Shades of Foreplay

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Over the last few months I have had more than one person tell me that Fifty Shades of Grey has spiced up their sex life.

So out of curiosity I joined the ranks of people reading what is now being called “mommy porn”.  And that it is . . . erotica that goes to the edge of pornography, but not hardcore.  Women are exploring their sexuality and realizing they want to be more adventurous in the bedroom.

Erotic fiction is a way for women to explore their fantasies and they are getting turned on by the steamy sex scenes.  The use of sex toys, various positions, locations and submission/dominance scenes is offering some variety to dull sex lives.  In my opinion, probably the more important thing that Fifty Shades is providing is stimulating the brain and the vocal cords.  One of the biggest problems with dull sex lives is that couples do not think about, prepare for or get excited about sexual encounters with their partner like they did during the early phase of their relationship.  Typically during that phase sex is exciting.  Couples plan for it by buying sexy outfits, anticipate having sex and making sure that it happens . . . a lot.   Over time these things wane as pregnancy and children enter the picture or as couples stop focusing on their relationship as a priority.

The book series is getting couples talking about sex.  Women are sharing the detailed sex scenes with their partners and talking about their needs and fantasies.  Having intimate conversation with your partner is one of the best ways to rev things up in the bedroom.  Talking to your partner about sex before, during and after the act is the best way to make sure your needs are met.  Sure, erotica can spice things up and be considered normal and healthy, but don’t lose sight of what is important in a relationship, and that involves lots and lots of talking.

Women often wonder what is normal and healthy regarding sex and don’t know where to turn to get answers.  John Gottman, relationship expert and bestselling author, along with his wife Julie, have developed a very good series on sex that guides couples to more intimacy and satisfying sex lives.  Check out www.gottsex.com for more information.  Dr. Laura Berman, psychologist and sexologist, also offers great information on her website and TV/radio programs http://www.drlauraberman.com/homepage

My mission is to help couples have the whole enchilada . . . an emotionally satisfying AND sexually satisfying relationship.

 

 

 

Fostering Independence in Your Adolescent

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

My husband and I are approaching our son’s budding adolescence in very different ways.

He really misses the days when our only child wanted to be with us, curled up with us on the couch watching TV.  He is melancholy about not being numero uno in his life and being ousted from that spot by a best friend.  Our child’s moods and changing interests have caught my husband off guard.  He wasn’t prepared for his own emotional roller coaster during this tumultuous time.

I, on the other hand, am not getting caught up in nostalgia.

While I loved all of those  things, I am loving the independence and growth our 12 year old is experiencing.  Maybe it’s because I clearly remember the exhilaration of being 12 and exploring the world, well, at least my little piece of the world.

Back in the dark ages we had much more freedom than kids today.  I remember the thrill of riding the bus into town by myself and being able to go into the department store all alone.  Riding my bike meant travelling all over and  doing crazy stunts and sometimes not coming home until after dark.   I could cook an entire meal without scalding myself or burning the house down and it made me feel very grown up.  My best friend was my constant companion and the crush I had on a boy named Jimmy was all-consuming.  Yep, 12 was pretty darn exciting.

What I don’t remember about being 12 was feeling incompetent or being criticized by my parents for my 12 year old-ness.  I’m quite certain I wasn’t as savvy as my memory recalls.  Truth is, I probably was quite nervous when I first rode the bus, ran home in the dark or cooked a meal for the first time.

I am forever grateful that my parents appreciated my independence rather than trying to keep me more child-like.  This wasn’t necessarily a well thought out  parenting strategy on their part.  They both worked and it was just assumed that the kids would step up to the plate.  It’s now different than in the dark ages, but I still want to impart a feeling of competence and acceptance in my child’s development.

Children always let us know one way or another that they are ready to take a leap in development, either with their words or behaviors.

It shows they are learning to reason and think independently. It is important for parents to realize that forbidding freedoms they are requesting makes them all the more appealing.  Keeping an open line of communication is my preference for handling these issues.  Because I don’t want to learn of behaviors ex post facto, I have worked hard at making it safe for my son to tell me what is going on in his world.  Reactivity and always saying no to their requests is a sure ticket to acting out, rebellious behavior committed on the sly.

My strategy is simple and involves only two words, “Yes, but . . . . “.

A few months ago he came home from school and asked me if he could have a girlfriend.  Ok, I have to admit my first reaction was a vision of some scantily clad tramp being very  inappropriate with my sweet boy, but I quickly snapped back to reality.  His nervousness in telling me was priceless.  He was reaching out for a little guidance and if I said anything remotely negative I would be closing the door on advice giving, forever.  If I said “no, you are too young” he would probably just seek advice from his friends and hide his girlfriend from me.  So I said “yes, but” and defined the limits of what a girlfriend means at this age.

We have had a million “yes, but” moments in the last few months.  Mom, can you leave my room now?    Can I go to Wendy’s for a Frosty?   Can I stay out a little longer?  These are terrific opportunities to allow for growth yet set appropriate boundaries.

Don’t get me wrong, we still say no too.  Safety is never a time to compromise, but don’t confuse normal, age appropriate risk with unsafe situations.  Our job as parents is to raise independent kids.  Of course they will make some mistakes, but if they are small, don’t worry.  On the other hand, what seems like a great idea to an adventurous 12 year old may make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.  The key is to not belittle them in the process of setting a firm limit.

I understand my husband’s feelings.  This is the age where we start to let go a bit and we move into unfamiliar territory.  It is bittersweet.  If we have done a good job of instilling values and have worked on keeping communication safe and open, letting go really means keeping them close by. The relationship between parent and child can blossom into one of mutual respect.

 

Romance Novels and Rom Coms vs Real Life

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

I think there is a possibility I might get kicked out of book club.

Or at the very least I will be labeled a killjoy.  Call it a hazard of the job, but I just find it hard to embrace novels or movies with dysfunctional family drama or unhealthy relationships.

Last month I pointed out the sociopathic behavior of one of the characters and how the heroine of the story got revenge in an equally dysfunctional way.  I was disturbed rather than entertained.  In this  month’s selection I was equally disturbed by a two day torrid sexual affair that the character was convinced was her true love.  She carried the pain of the loss of that relationship for her entire lifetime.

I have a dear friend who refuses to see Rom Coms.  He says that the plot always makes it  permissive for the protagonist to have an affair. The character is made so likeable that the audience is cheering on the infidelity.  Humor is craftily woven into the plot making it easy to condone these behaviors, and since it always works out well for the main character, who cares that the relationship started dysfunctionally?

Well, I guess I do.

I embrace the idea of escapism.  We all need a break from our daily lives and these movies and books offer entertainment and talk around the water cooler.  Who wants to read about stable, healthy relationships that depict mutual love and respect.  We want those relationships in theory but we don’t want to read about them because they are well, uh, kind of boring.

The drama and intensity that is portrayed in the movies often starts with intense beginnings.  The problem is that intense beginnings often have intense endings.  Healthy relationships trade that rapid intensity for the slow development of trust and respect.  Both parties know and  respect themselves enough to maintain good boundaries in their relationships.  By being honest with themselves and with each other, they can adequately deal with their  relationship struggles that will occur along the way.

The seemingly boring plot development of healthy relationships lacks drama and intensity, but the trade-off is a true feeling of trust, validation, intimacy,  and love.  Unfortunately, we don’t all have good role models for healthy relationships.  So without knowing what a healthy relationship is, people may actually believe that what they see in movies or read in books is the way relationships are supposed to be.  That couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you find that your relationship is mirroring the drama of a romance novel or a rom com, it may be time for a tune up.  You may need to trade some of the drama for a healthy dose of reality and some guidance in healthy relationship behaviors.

 

 


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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