Alcohol and Relationships
June 24, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Media, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Alcohol and Relationships

This post from Straight Talk On Relationships helps you recognize whether alcohol is playing too big a role in your life.

DO YOU HAVE A DRINKING PROBLEM?

by Lisa Merlo Booth

Too many couples have a third party creating problems in their relationship. That third party is alcohol. When alcohol is a source of stress in a relationship, it is typically because one partner thinks the other partner either drinks too much or is no fun to be around when they drink. The other partner, of course, does not think this is the case.

For those of you who struggle with this issue in your own relationship, let me help you out. Below are several warning signs that your drinking is, minimally, a problem and possibly alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
• You’ve ever been worried about your drinking and tried to stop or cut back as a result.
• You’ve experienced blackouts due to drinking.
• You become mean-spirited and nasty when you drink.
• Your drinking has resulted in your missing work, losing your job or not being able to perform your job as expected.
• Your partner, friends, children or co-workers have commented on your drinking.
• Your drinking is a source of tension between you and your partner (and not because your partner is opposed to drinking).
• You “have to” have a drink to calm down or relax.
• You often drink to get buzzed or drunk.
• You seldom, if ever, stop at just one drink.
• You use alcohol to loosen up and give you social confidence.
• You drink alone or hide your alcohol use.

There are several signs that your drinking has moved beyond social drinking to problem drinking, but the best indicator I know is: if your drinking is creating problems in your relationship or your life—your drinking is a problem. The problem is not your partner’s thinking it’s a problem.

If you’re not sure whether or not you have a drinking problem — chances are you drink too much. If people in your life think you have a problem and you get defensive when they say this — chances are you drink too much. If either of these two circumstances is present and you have a family history of alcoholism — you’re playing with fire. If you don’t control it, you will get burned.

Alcoholism has an uncanny way of getting passed from one generation to the next. If there is any question that your drinking is a problem, then deal with the issue NOW. Stop the toxic legacy of addiction. You, your marriage and your children deserve to have a safe, sober environment in which to thrive.

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The Balancing Act of Healthy Relationships
May 27, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on The Balancing Act of Healthy Relationships

21524-004-AB750978This piece from Straight Talk On Relationships explains how keeping your partner accountable while maintaining a loving attitude towards them is a mandatory part of a successful relationship.

ACCOUNTABILITY AND CHERISHING: A NECESSARY BALANCE IN RELATIONSHIPS

In my work with women, I often stress the importance of not settling in their relationships.  Too many women end up taking poor treatment, staying with active addicts or trying to coax a philanderer back to their bed.  I work with the women to set limits, hold their partners accountable and to ask for what they want rather than getting resentful for what they’re not getting.  The other side to this is to also be cherishing.

Holding our loved ones accountable for their behaviors is vital for both women and men; it’s a necessary component in any relationship. Many people, however, struggle with holding others accountable.  This struggle intensifies if the other person is at all volatile, controlling or intense.  Some people just wish others would act better and in the mean time they settle for what they’re given.

Not holding others accountable, however, does not help your relationship—nor does it help your partner, child, friend or whoever it is that you’re not holding accountable. Saying nothing about poor behavior sends the message that the behavior is fine.  It also sends the message that you will take whatever kind of treatment they give you.

When people don’t stand up for themselves, it results in a loss of respect — a loss of respect by others and for themselves.  The bottom line is you cannot have healthy relationships without accountability.

Equally as vital to relationships, however, is cherishing.  If a relationship is all about accountability, but has little cherishing in it, it won’t last.  Sometimes women, especially, will go from being kind at all costs to the extreme opposite end of only sharing about what they don’t like.  They become the relationship police.  They don’t ever want to be taken advantage of again so they are constantly on their partner about what they are doing wrong.  This will not work.

We need to remember that relationships are meant to fuel us.  They are meant to add to our lives, not zap us of energy.  We need to have the strength to call others out on the actions they do that hurt us while also appreciating the kind acts they do that fuel us. Too much in one direction or the other will hurt our relationships.  We need to find the balance.

Be loving and strong at the same time.  You will feel better for it and your partner will respect you more.

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Make The Big Picture, Little.
May 18, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Parenting, Pressure on Children, Relationships, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments (1)

In the last year the most used piece of advice I have given is this – ‘The little things matter.’  The walk on the way to school, eggs together at the diner, the conversations at bath time – all of these seemingly simple activities mean so much in your relationship with your child.

Parents are sadly bombarded with pressure about which school, what activities, feeding only breast milk-the list goes on and on. Many get a skewed sense of what is important about being a parent and get caught up in the sweeping tide of anxiety about over achievement for their children and for themselves. They will admit, “I spend more time pumping when I get home from work than hanging with the baby, I have to get the milk.” “I leave the bath to the babysitter so I can check my email when I get home so I am not over-run with work when I get into the office the next morning.” Or “I spent every night in the last two weeks working on the school auction, I want her to see how dedicated I am to her school.” The frantic energy and the desire to do a good job is palpable.

We are on the wrong path here. The culture is pushing us to ignore the little things. Small opportunities for closeness with your child, looking at the world with them, just being. The big busy picture means nothing to them. And when you slow down and take time to think about it–it isn’t that important to you either.

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They’ve got 70 years: Sibling Relationships
May 11, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Preschoolers, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on They’ve got 70 years: Sibling Relationships

310px-SiblingRivalryCan you imagine a better feeling than watching your children enjoy each other?  From your preschooler making your baby erupt in giggles, or your two teenagers laughing and conspiring, to your grown boys joking and wrestling with relish. Nothing like it. Unfortunately, in addition to those times, and maybe even more common is your preschooler “accidentally” bumping in to the baby, teenagers bickering, or older bothers letting the other down. It is this intense combination of deep connection and deeply ambivalent feelings that characterize sibling relationships.

Think back to your own relationships with sisters and brothers if you have them.  Were they static? Is the way  you got along in elementary school the same way you relate now? Themes may be the same, but the actual relationships have probably gone through many twists and turns with loyalty and protectiveness as well as envy or guilt.

So why do people ask the question “Do your kids get along?” or “Are they close?”.  Our culture tends to frame things in back and white, rather than nuance. Inherent in that mindset is that there is one way or one answer, a close sibling or a bad relationship. Unfortunately, this thinking leads to parents feeling like they have either succeeded or failed. So let’s remember that most siblings have about seventy years to have a relationship. It will be full of everything: competition and adoration, hurt and comfort. Keeping that in mind, here are some things that these important relationships teach our children no matter how old they are.

Sibling relationships and rivalry are an opportunity to practice:

  • Handling the coexistence of positive and negative emotions.
  • Turning jealousy into admiration.
  • Learning about sharing.
  • Problem solving.
  • Experiencing protective instincts.
  • Healthy competition.
  • Empathy.

Here are some helpful ideas that help parents support closeness and not further inflame natural jealousy:

  • Divide and Conquer: spend time alone with each child or divide family time with each parent and a kid.
  • Fair doesn’t always mean equal.
  • The Buddha says: The cure for jealousy is celebration.
  • Be aware of pigeon holing.
  • You are not the judge and the jury.
  • Teach your children to use “I” messages.
  • Avoid micro-managing.
  • Keep dialogue open about sibling rivalry.
  • You as the enemy – a common bond.
  • Don’t allow abuse.

Sibling relationships have and always will be complex.  The question is not whether your children have conflict – all do – but rather how you respond to the issues.  This is an opportunity for you as a parent to examine the place of your own sibling relationships in your reaction to your children.

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Blame Game: You Can Only Change Yourself
May 4, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Mental Health, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Blame Game: You Can Only Change Yourself

This post from Straight Talk On Relationships explains the importance of taking control and accountability of your own emotions – enjoy!

RELATIONSHIP CHANGE: TRANSFORM YOUR RELATIONSHIP BY TRANSFORMING YOURSELF

by Lisa Merlo Booth

As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world — that is the myth of the atomic age — as in being able to remake ourselves.
Ghandi

One of the biggest obstacles to transforming relationships is an individual’s endless investment in changing the other person.  Regardless of whether the individual is male or female, most people are ultra-focused on changing their partner.  Many people will say that they do what they do because their partner does what s/he does.  Do any of these sound familiar:
•    “If he would be more responsible, I wouldn’t be so controlling.”
•    “If she weren’t such a nag, I’d be home more.”
•    “If he weren’t so cold and absent, I wouldn’t have to plead with him to speak to me.”
•    “If she weren’t so critical, then I would help more around the house.”
•    “If she weren’t so unaffectionate, then I wouldn’t have had an affair.”

I hear these comments and more like them almost every day.  Believing, however, that you’re the way you are because of someone else, is not serving you.  When you excuse your behavior because of the behavior of your partner, you give your partner WAY too much power.  Since when are you not capable of controlling your own actions?

If you truly want to transform your relationships, then start by transforming yourself.  Begin by looking at yourself rather than your partner.  Pay attention to your relational mistakes and change them.  If you’re too controlling—back off.  If you’re too weak—get stronger.  If you’re too strong—soften. If you’re defensive and dismissive—listen with humility.

Stop putting the onus of control for your behavior on your partner. Your behavior is 100% your responsibility.  Always.  No one makes you be critical, passive-aggressive, controlling or intimidating.  You do that ALL by yourself.  Stop defending your position and start changing your actions.

Know that we all have our fault lines or, as I like to say, our edges.  Our edges are those behaviors that aren’t serving us.  They’re typically the behaviors that those closest to us complain about.  When we can own these edges with humility and have compassion and love for ourselves despite them, it is an incredibly freeing life shift.  Stop dismissing, justifying, rationalizing or blaming your edges on others and instead address them head on.  Change your side of the equation and it will force a change in the entire system: Changing Me, Changes We.

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“Oh Honey, Not Tonight”: Sex After Parenthood
April 22, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on “Oh Honey, Not Tonight”: Sex After Parenthood

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“I’m too tired”, “We’re just too tired”, “Do we have to schedule it on our Blackberry’s”, “Who has time for sex, I need to pump”, are just some of the comments we hear from new mothers. The transition from being a couple without children to parents typically takes a pretty big toll on your sex life. Spontaneity, extra energy, tight tummies and libido may seem gone and never to return. Many couples really struggle to bring back an intimate, physically connected, satisfying sexual relationship after kids.

Sex is often hard to talk about even in the most communicative relationships. Often the subject is joked about, or argued about but not really discussed. So here are some suggestions given by women over the last two decades that have made the transition to being sexual and parents at the same time.

  • Don’t worry–this is all normal. Every couple goes through tremendous changes in their sex life after having children.
  • Don’t make assumptions about what your spouse is thinking. No one is a mind reader.
  • Talking is the best aphrodisiac. Getting close emotionally about the changes makes couples more apt to reconnect sexually.
  • It is normal to feel satisfied from the physicality with the baby and to feel less of a need or desire for sex.
  • Some lubrication is necessary be it wine or KY or both.
  • Do schedule it! It can become an exciting and fun private joke to know that Saturday nap time, or Thursday nights are your time.
  • Fake it ’til you make it. Many feel a resistance to begin having sex but once they push themselves past that point they are so happy that they did.
  • Just one night alone without the baby can have a lasting effect–so line up those grandparents or good friends and go to a hotel or just be alone in your own place.
  • Women are hard on themselves about weight gain. Don’t assume your husband feels negatively toward your body.

The added responsibilities, the physical changes, the stress that parenting brings, naturally shifts your sexual desire and changes to your pre-baby sexual frequency. Try not to focus on how it was- but more on how to make the present fulfilling for you and your partner.

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Phoebe Prince’s Death: A New Look At Bullying
April 8, 2010 · Posted in Bullying, Child Abuse, Communication, Discipline, K-5 Kids, Media, Mental Health, Parenting, Pressure on Children, Relationships, Social Action, Technology, Teens · Permalink · Comments (1)

bullyingPhoebe Prince, the high school girl who hung herself last week, was purportedly “bullied” to death. Tortured is more like it. Hounded, cursed, humiliated in school and on-line. Defining bullying clearly is critical. Many adults think of bullying as a rite of passage in childhood. Clearly there is a difference between being picked last in gym class and being targeted by an individual or group of kids whose aim is to intimidate and shame.  Today’s landscape for children is also markedly different in that Facebook and email amplifies and exacerbates the intensity of peer relationships.We need to take a fresh look at bullying.

“Peer Abuse” is a phrase that more clearly defines the difference between teasing and belittling. “Peer Abuse” includes not only the physical aggression most associate with bullying, but also the verbal and emotional abuse that are a part of situations like Phoebe’s.

“Peer Abuse” are repeated acts over time of physical assault, psychological manipulation, name calling and using social power to ostracize an individual or group. This goes against our commonly held belief that bullies are loners, having been rejected socially. New research shows that it is often popular kids that use subtly abusive tactics to put down others to maintain their social status. Becoming the victim of malicious bullying can happen for a variety of reasons.

The message here for parents is that any of our children can, and most likely will be aggressive or cruel to other children at some point. Make this an open discussion in your family: Model respectful behavior, take seriously claims that your child is being bullied, talk about the pressure and responsibilities that come with popularity. Teach your child to speak up and stand up if someone is being abused. Adults need to do the same. The stakes are too high to be complacent.

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Defense Is Offence
March 23, 2010 · Posted in Communication, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on Defense Is Offence

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It is easy to get caught up in defending ourselves when it comes to communicating, especially when you feel attacked.  This piece from Straight Talk On Relationships describes the importance of taking yourself off the defense, gaining an attitude of humility and working through conflict together.

THE ART OF GOOD LISTENING: HUMILITY VERSUS DEFENSIVENESS

By Lisa Merlo Booth
Defensiveness can be the death of a relationship.  There are few things more frustrating than having a partner who gets defensive the moment you dare to speak about anything that might be upsetting to you.  Do you know what I’m talking about?  It sounds something like this:

Jody:  Honey, can we talk about the other night?

John:  What?  What’s wrong now?  Jeez—are you EVER happy?

Jody:  I haven’t even said anything yet.  Why are you getting so upset?

John:  Because I already know it’s going to be something about what you don’t like.  I haven’t even done anything.  Forget this–I’m going to the gym.

Ugh, I’m getting frustrated just writing about it!  For anyone who has been on the receiving end of defensiveness, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The other person is either defending what they did, explaining to you that they didn’t really do what you said they did, accusing you of being too sensitive or turning the entire story around so that you look like the one who was in the wrong.  Sound familiar?  By the end of the conversation you’re either wishing you had never said anything or wondering if perhaps you were the one in the wrong.

Let me help relieve your sense of sanity for a minute.  If your partner becomes defensive about feedback you’re giving them—they are off.  Defensiveness stifles growth and shuts down relationships, period.  Do not begin to question yourself just because your partner gets what I call BIG.  When someone becomes defensive, in essence they are puffing themselves up and going on the attack, thinking the best defense is a great offense.  People use this technique because…it works.  It gets people off their back and they don’t have to look at their own behaviors.  Unfortunately, it only works in the short run.  In the long run, the damage is very costly.

If you struggle with defensiveness, you need to learn the art of humility.  Who are you to think you would never make a mistake?  We all make mistakes—that’s what makes us human.  When your partner has the courage to tell you that they’re upset with you, step up and have the courage to listen.  Listen with humility.  Listen for truth in what your partner is saying and have the strength and integrity to cop to it and repair it.

Making mistakes does not ruin relationships.  Refusing to be accountable for the mistakes we make absolutely does ruin relationships.  The reality is that defensiveness gets people off your back temporarily.  Your loved ones will eventually begin to stop sharing their upsets with you.  They will no longer tell you when they are hurt by your actions.  They eventually will truly get off your back – and then you will need to worry.

The cost of listening with humility and owning your imperfections is far less than the cost of defensiveness.  Defensiveness will erode your relationship.  Apologizing for your mistakes and doing things differently will save it.

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Insurance for the Hardest Unpaid Job In The World
March 18, 2010 · Posted in Fatherhood, Marriage, Parenting, Relationships, Separation/Divorce, Work/Family Balance · Permalink · Comments Off on Insurance for the Hardest Unpaid Job In The World

life_insurance1ALERT! Women are still making 77 cents on the dollar! Sylvia Ann Hewlett, an economist and the founder of the Center for Work-Life Policy has estimated that the penalty is 10% of income for every two years out of the job market, a loss that is never recouped. If a woman divorces, the Rutgers Divorce Project states, her standard of living decreases by 27% and a man’s increases by 10%. So between lower wages in general, no social security benefits for full time mothers, and divorce rates holding between 40 and 50%, what’s a woman to do?

Here’s an idea that you and your spouse can implement which takes these facts into consideration. Not romantic, but realistic and fiscally responsible planning. How about a Family Insurance Plan?  A self-made insurance policy for the mother who stays at home for a number of years. Each year you can put aside a percentage of the family income toward this safety net. We get life insurance so that our family is cared for if we die, so why wouldn’t we honor the work being done at home and protect your family financially at the same time.

Whenever this is suggested in Mother’s groups, women first get excited and then deflate- fearful about bringing this up with their husbands. Men and women alike have difficulty attaching a monetary value to being the family manager. More importantly, woman are worried that bringing this up feels like a vote of no confidence in the marriage.

On the contrary, this is a protective forward-thinking gift to the whole family. You address the financial sacrifice that women make by deciding to either decrease, or stop their work outside the home, and you protect your children from undue financial hardship. Sounds like a win-win!

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At The Diner With Azalea
March 11, 2010 · Posted in Parenting, Preschoolers, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on At The Diner With Azalea


At the Diner with Azalea

by Bethany Saltman

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We sit in our booth.
She is 3 and I am 40,
so that’s the kind of conversation
we have: simple. A little contrived.

Across from us are two women,
of the same age, both a little rough, sad even,
probably lovers, for a long time. They open their menus
and one silently closes hers: the decision maker.
The other just isn’t sure what she’s in the mood for.
She just had a ham and cheese omelet yesterday
and the day before, too! So it is, she says,
as she closes hers.

Azalea and I argue over something.
Probably apple juice.

I keep kind of staring at the omelet lady.
I can’t help it. I’m intrigued.
Three days in a row is a lot of omelets!
Will she be happy with it when it comes?
My own body buzzes with that wild pleasure
of waiting for something I know I love.

So often it’s something salty
on a plate, but it could also be the warm, wide face
of someone who will share my burden. Or it could be
the quiet that barely exists when I walk into the house
by myself, unencumbered by people or tasks. Or the milky
pee smell of Azalea as she awakens from rest.

Alone—the meal, the husband, the house, or child—
they all turn on their own axis, filling their exact shape
in space. When we meet, it’s not that those bodies change
or enlarge to include me, but something happens between us
and it all disappears. And it’s that blank space
that I really long for between the pages
of every menu, on the brink
of every thing.
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