Posts in Holidays
The Perfect Gift for your Partner this Season
 
couples counseling
 

Tis the season for giving.

You can spend endless hours shopping for the perfect gift for your partner. Scouring the Internet for that gift that will knock their socks off, but the greatest gift you can give is the one of true giving.

We all like to say that giving is better than receiving, but sometimes this very principal is one that often gets taken for granted in long-term relationships.

Give the gift of true giving this season.

What is true giving?

It is giving without the expectation of anything in return. It’s giving for the pure aim of making the other person happy, and fulfilling their desires.

This seems to be easier for couples to do in the early stages of their relationship. Dating is passionate and emotions can be so overwhelming that it’s difficult not to truly give. Love letters, mixed tapes (or iTunes playlists for the current generation), late-night text messages – it’s easy to profess your love in the beginning without the expectation of much in return.

In the early stages, you just want to make your partner smile and let them know that you love them. It doesn’t matter if that means you wake up at 5am to make them breakfast and pack them a lunch for the day (I totally used to do that for my husband when we first got married).

As time passes you begin to settle into routine, and many people have children and their resources become limited. Time, energy, and sleep are depleted, especially when you’re raising babies and young children. The thought of staying up to finish a movie after 10pm starts to feel insane, so getting in bed and making love on a work night can feel equally draining.

So what does this have to do with giving? And what the heck are you supposed to give your spouse this holiday season?

It has everything to do with giving. True giving.

True giving means that you give even though it may cost you resources. Not necessarily monetary resources, but other resources that may be spread thin during this time in your life – time, energy, sleep, etc.

The perfect gift is the one that your partner truly wants to receive.

You might think you know what they want, but it may also just be what you want to give – it may be coming from your perception of what love is.

This brings me to one of the principals that I generally share and teach the couples I work with in my practice – The 5 Love Languages. If you’ve never heard of this concept, be sure to click here to take the quiz online, and find out what yours and your partner’s love language is, it will truly change your relationship if you apply it.

In case you’ve never heard of the 5 Love Languages, I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes version: We all have specific ways that we show love, and ways that we perceive that we are being loved.

Gary Chapman breaks this concept down into 5 different languages, which are: gift giving, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and words of affirmation.

Which one best describes what’s most important for you to receive? Which one truly makes you feel loved? Is it receiving a small thoughtful gift? Spending an evening at home, talking and having quality time with your partner? Or is it hearing how much they love you, and having them express gratitude regularly for what you do around the house? Do you feel most loved when your partner sends you out the door with a lunch in hand, or folds your laundry?

And which one best describes your partner?

The complication that many couples get into is that they don’t always have the same love language. So, if yours is quality time, and your partner’s is physical touch, you may be continually trying to talk at him or her, when they just want to be cuddled.

I often use the analogy that your partner tells you, “I’m thirsty,” and so you go to the kitchen and bring them a glass of orange juice.

To your dismay, your partner doesn’t want orange juice, and they respond with, “I just want water please.”

But you’re so taken aback, and think, “who doesn’t want OJ?? It’s so tasty, and tangy, and has some essential nutrients in it.” You continue to try to get your partner to see your point of view, but alas, they just want water, and you feel like they’re completely missing out on your favorite drink.

Here you have two choices – you can either keep trying to get them to love OJ as their go-to thirst quencher, or you can just give in, and give them the water they so desperately want.

This seems like a no-brainer, right? I mean just bring a glass of water instead of the OJ and your partner will be happy.

So why, when we are talking about love languages, is it so difficult to speak you partner’s love language? I think it’s because we sometimes forget about the true gift of giving.

If all your partner really needs in the relationship is to feel your physical touch, why keep trying to talk? When you begin to feel disconnected, reach out, speak their language, and get physical.

Your love language may be quality time, and so having in-depth conversation may totally be your jam, but when you start to give without the expectation of receiving, and stop waiting for your partner to fulfill your needs before you take that step, you’ll see a change in him or her.

When you speak your partner’s language, they’ll be more likely to speak yours in return, and your relationship will improve.

Give your partner the gift they really need this season. The gift of love - in a way they can truly interpret.

If you’re stuck on this whole love language concept, please reach out to me! I love working with couples and helping them have the relationships they truly desire, you can reach me at (909) 226-6124, or learn more at www.ranchocounseling.com.  

5 Things to stop doing in 2016 To improve your relationship
improve your relationship

Out with the old and in with the new? While most people love to use the New Year to mark the start of new habits, here are 5 things you should give up in order to create a happier, healthier relationship in 2016:

1.     Stop sweating the small stuff. Before you pick a fight with your partner about the laundry, unmade bed, or what to eat for dinner, ask yourself – in the grand scheme of my relationship how much does this really matter? Will you be worried about it 1, 3, or even 6 months from now? If the answer is no, let it go, or at best, check your approach.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t voice your opinion or make requests from your partner about things that are important to you. Most bigger arguments aren’t really about what’s happening on the surface, and so if you are feeling your claws coming out over something benign, it may be time to check in with yourself and consider other resentments you may be holding on to.

When there’s something bigger that needs to be discussed, schedule a separate time to do so when you aren’t feeling overcome by emotion and can have a productive conversation about what’s really bothering you. If there are trust issues or there’s been infidelity in the relationship, then it’s time to tackle those issues head on.

2.     Stop trying to get everything you need out of your one relationship. We live in a culture where our romantic partner is supposed to be our best friend, greatest confidant, our lover, our ally in parenting, and everything in-between. While all of those roles are fantastic, the image of having them all checked off of the list may contribute to lower satisfaction and disappointment.

When you ask your partner to be all things to you, it sends the message that they are the end-all, be-all in your world. They should definitely be at the top of the priority list for you, however you just can’t get everything you need from one person. Having a healthy set of friendships outside your marriage where you can be authentic, share and receive advice, and gain perspective is just as important.

3.     Stop saying maybe when you really mean no. This just sets your partner up for disappointment, and while you may be trying to let them down easily, it’s much more important to be yourself. Showing up genuinely in your relationship is the surest way to have a healthy and intimate relationship.   

4.     Stop going to bed with your phone. Make the bedroom a cell-phone free zone, and limit other screen time before bed. Those moments before bed when you unwind from a long day can best be spent talking, laughing, and sharing your thoughts with your partner, and this can do wonders for improving your relationship.

5.     Stop trying to change your partner. If changes need to be made, you can make requests, but for the most part, people are who they are, and unless they are committed to making changes for themselves, things will likely remain the same.

If there are character traits that bother you it may be time to look at the reasons they are urking you. Chances are those traits were there when you first entered the relationship but you looked past them. Moving forward in a relationship with the intention of breaking someone else’s habit is wasted time and energy and will likely leave you disappointed. Learn to embrace your partner’s flaws and instead look at what changes you can make in terms of your reactions and responses to the things that bug you.

I’m wishing you an amazing 2016, and if you could use some support in dropping some of the habits that are keeping you frustrated in your relationship I’d love to help. You can call me at (909) 226-6124 for a fee phone consultation where we’ll talk about how your relationship can improve in the New Year. 

The greatest gifts to give your single self this Christmas
singles gifts after divorce

It’s better to give than to receive, right? In that case, this Christmas give yourself exactly what you need. While love from others is necessary, welcomed, and can help you to forget your single status, love for yourself is far more important so while you may be mending a broken heart, pushing past a rocky patch in your relationship, or just enjoying the single life, here are a few things that will make any of those, that much greater:

 

1.     “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero. Admittedly this was one of my favorite books this year. It’s an awesome self-help book for those that loathe the term “self-help.”  Jen gets to the nuts and bolts of pushing you past the things that are holding you back from being your most badass self! She takes the kid gloves off, and gives it to you straight. I like her style, and I think you will too (unless you take offense to curse words).

2.     Adult Coloring books. Remember how fun it was to color as a kid? Whether you kept it in the lines, or were a perpetual scribbler, I bet you never recognized the mental health benefits as a child. Coloring can be meditative and it decreases anxiety and increases creativity and you don’t have to be an amazing artist to enjoy it.  There are some fabulous patterns available for adults that will put those cartoon characters you used to color to shame.

3.     Pandora radio subscription.  This is not a completely novel idea, but the reason I suggest the paid version is because we all deserve commercial free music. Pandora’s Calm Meditation Radio is one of my favorites to help me get to Zen. Meditation has some amazing health benefits. Set the timer on your phone, put your headphones in, and sit and focus on your breath for a few undivided minutes per day. You’ll notice a positive shift in your mood, decrease in your stress level, and gain mental clarity. Meditating first thing in the morning can help you start your day off right, and the right music sets the tone.

4.     “Rising Strong” by Brené Brown. Brené Brown is one of my all-time favorite writers. She rocks it in her latest book, which will help you pick yourself up, recognize the power of vulnerability, and change the way you approach relationships. Brené is a fantastic story-teller and researcher. This book is pure gold as it teaches you to own your story about challenges and heartbreak.

5.     An adventure. Once you take the plunge into becoming a badass and rise strong, it’s time for a new adventure! Pick a hobby or that thing you’ve always been curious about and go out and do it. Don’t wait for the perfect person to enjoy said activity with, know that you are ok all on your own, and take your strong, badass self on that hike you’ve always wanted to conquer. Heck, you might even want to join a hiking club, or a watercolor class, or take scuba lessons. Push past your fears and just to diminish the excuses, book that lesson or class as a gift to yourself this Christmas. You’ll be glad you did!

I hope you receive all the gifts you truly deserve this Christmas. My wish is that your holiday will be filled with great connection to people that matter. But don’t wait for others to fulfill your wish list – instead, grab that list by the horns and make it happen for yourself. You’re worth it!

If you could use some extra support through the holiday season and beyond, don’t hesitate to give me a call, (909) 226-6124. I’d love to help you gain the strength you need to push past your relationship struggles and get what you truly want out of life.     

Surviving Engagement Season as a Single
surviving engagement season single

The holiday season is supposed to be all about joy, togetherness, and connection. It can also be a time to feel more lonely and scroogy than ever, especially when you’re single and every jeweler in America decides to roll out their holiday commercials and glorify this time as the perfect season for engagements. While those commercials can be heart warming to some, they can also be heart wrenching for others and serve as a reminder of your singleness. If you fall into the second camp, I have a few tips on how to survive engagement season as a single:

1. Have a plan. Decide to recognize that there are triggers this season that can cause you to feel down about yourself, your relationship, or lack thereof.

Plan your own important events throughout the season. Make sure you've scheduled down time and things that excite and energize you. 

There’s a huge difference between slowly pushing through with your head down, and moving forward with a positive plan and trajectory in mind.

2. Prepare and remove yourself from things that trigger negative thoughts. Fast-forward through those commercials, don’t watch sappy love stories, and stay away from songs that make you want to sing your heart out through bouts of tears. Instead focus on things that are positive mood boosters.

Have you always wanted to try meditation, painting, or that weird dance class at the gym? Do it! Find a class nearby and put it on your calendar. Replace those cry sessions with something that makes you feel great about yourself.

3. Stay aware of your feelings in order to regulate them. If you find yourself having negative feelings about a friend or family member who is getting engaged stop and take a time out. Evaluate your feelings and try to figure out where they are coming from. Is it your own feeling of - things aren't quite where you'd like them to be in your life? If so, make a plan as to what you’ll do when those feelings arise.

Staying aware and having a plan will be the difference between feeling a giant punch in the gut, or a friendly jab on the shoulder, when you watch your cousin get down on one knee and propose to his girlfriend in front of the entire family.

4. Make plans for the future to get you to where you’d like to be. If you would also like to be engaged make a list of things that are stopping you or standing in your way, and then a plan for what you'll do about those things. Do you need a better partner? Are you giving your partner a vibe that you're fearful of marriage? Or do you perceive your partner to be fearful of marriage?

You can’t be engaged if you aren’t dating anyone and serious about the relationship. Healing your own heartache and working on bettering yourself before getting into a new relationship is always the best recommendation and something to focus on when you feel negativity start to creep in.

5. Don’t just accept where you are, own it. If you’re currently struggling to put one foot in front of the other and move forward from a lost relationship, find acceptance in that, but also take ownership of it by choosing not to wallow in it, and continually commit to working through it. Set intentions each day to do at least one thing that will help you move forward.

Connect with a friend. Talk to someone about how you’re moving forward. Commit to doing something that your old relationship might have been holding you back from doing. Focus on yourself and being a whole person so that when you’re ready to meet someone else you have much to offer him or her.

Replacing thoughts of negativity with reminders of what you are doing to move forward will help you remain positive and can even help you to feel like celebrating the love that people you care about are experiencing.

If you’re struggling to push through the season, and would like some support, I’d love to help. You can call me at (909) 226-6124 for a free consultation where we can talk about ways to get you on track towards healing. 

Enjoying the Holidays In spite of your relationship Status

In an attempt to get away from the traditional “Surviving the Holidays” guide, I don’t want to talk about “surviving” something that is meant to be amazing, but instead I want to share ways to have a kick-ass holiday, in spite of your relationship status.

You may be sitting at the Thanksgiving dinner table as a single, or with a partner that you’re barely holding on to, but in either case, you can have a rockin’ holiday, and I want to give you some tips to go about doing so.

It all starts with mindset. This is key to so much in our lives. The things we tell ourselves about what is to come, or what is, has the power to take over and become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you’re stuck in loathing the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, and your mind is filled with thoughts of dodging questions about your relationship status, that’s likely what you will experience.

While I admit, sitting at a table filled with couples can remind you of your singleness, but being prepared beforehand, and focusing on your mindset can do wonders for your mood and how you interact with family and friends when they ask you yet again, if you’re ready to get back out there.

From the time of this publication until Turkey Day, you have 2 weeks and 2 days to get your mind right and prepared to have more than just a ho-hum holiday.

Start with gratitude. There are small moments in each day that we can be thankful for. This time of year gets people into posting things on social media about what they are thankful for daily. This is a great exercise, but if you aren’t into the whole social media thing, just do it for yourself. Get a little notebook and keep it by your bedside, or use the note app on your phone and jot down/type at least one thing you are thankful for each day.

Is there something that your relationship status has brought you that you can be thankful for? Looking for the silver lining in crappy situations can be powerful. Maybe you and your partner are going through a rough patch in your relationship, but it’s caused you to think more deeply about your relationship, and who you want to be as a partner. Introspection and growth are amazing things, and we sometimes need a difficult situation to kick us in the gut to help us realize it’s something we need. This is something to be thankful for, and something you can write down in your notes.

Check your limiting beliefs and that tape that plays on repeat in your head. What is it that you tell yourself about yourself? What do you tell yourself about your relationship? Are you constantly repeating over and over that you’re a horrible person for causing a break-up, or the difficult path you and your partner are on right now?

You might be saying these things to yourself and not even realize you’re doing it. Take some time out to listen to the messages you’re giving yourself, and what happens right before that, to evoke those messages.

Let me give you a personal example: I’m a person that has had a tendency to run a few minutes late to events and non-work stuff, and by a few I mean 5-15 depending on the day. It’s not something I’m proud of, but something I’m definitely working on. I noticed that I was typically showing up to wherever I needed to be, frazzled and unexcited. Getting out of the house can be a chore with a 1 year-old in tow.

When I sat down and really started thinking about my mindset and the things I was telling myself, I heard things like, “you’re never on time!” “OMG get your act together already!” “If you just would’ve gotten off the couch 10 minutes sooner, you wouldn’t be in such a rush!” and other expletives that I won’t share here. But it’s no wonder why, when I arrived to my destination that I didn’t have energy or excitement about whatever it was that I was about to do. I was spending the entire car ride mentally tearing myself apart.

After dissecting these thoughts, I came to the conclusion that I needed to change the tape that I was playing in my head when I am running late. Instead of negative thoughts, I’ve replaced them with loving affirmations. I say things like, “you are awesome,” “this event is going to be great,” and reminders about why I signed up for said event, and things that just evoke happiness. You can fill in your blank with anything positive that you see fit. But I can attest to the fact that positivity is powerful, and being kind to yourself has the ability to change a future event from something you drag your feet to, to something amazing.

As for that baby-shower I helped host over the weekend, I totally rocked it, and it was because of my mindset. I arrived with energy, eagerness to work the crowd, and I was ready to pour out all the love I had for my friend and her new baby.

I won’t pretend this is easy. Changing automatic thoughts can take weeks, months, and even years. Sometimes there are deeper-rooted issues that keep you stuck in those mindsets, but if you take the time to listen and figure out what those issues are, then you can begin working towards clearing them up.

Once you identify the negative things you’re telling yourself, it’s time to pick some new things you’d like to say instead. Write them down, and read them to yourself when you wake up, before you go to bed, and any other time you get a moment. This will help you to memorize them and recall them when you’re in that negative situation, and by the time you pull up to your parent’s house on Thanksgiving, you will be able to recite them and remind yourself of how awesome you are, and of the positive things you have to look forward to while sitting at the dinner table.

While you might not be able to change what’s happening with your partner in time for Thanksgiving, you can mentally prepare yourself for family asking about when they’ll be hearing the pitter-patter of little feet. Anticipating those types of questions that typically make you cringe, and identifying the messages you tell yourself as a result of those questions will make a world of difference.

If you know Aunt Agnes is going to ask you why you’re still not married, and you know that will in-turn cause you to over-eat, ever-drink, or over-indulge in self loathing for the remainder of the night, nip that pattern in the bud. Show up having done some work around this, and prepare a new plan of action, a new affirmation, and a new state of being so that question will just roll off your back, and you can change to subject and point out all of the fabulous things you’re doing with your life these days a result of being single.

Watching your newly married cousin and her husband play footsie under the table can have you wishing for better days with your spouse, but if you meet that head-on with a plan to focus on what the holiday is all about – a favorite dish, tradition, or a laugh you’re looking forward to having with your cousin who’s in from out of state, your mindset can help keep you thankful, and looking forward to the next family gathering. A relationship issue may be all consuming, but if you take a minute to step outside and look around, you will see that you are more than your relationship, and there truly are things to be thankful for if you just give them a chance.

If you want a little kick in the butt to get you motivated to change your mindset in preparation for the holiday season, you can click here to get my 14-Day Mindset Boost Calendar, where you’ll find a small exercise each day to help you clear the clutter, and get you prepared to truly enjoy your holiday.