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Princess Diane & Kate Middleton - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brides and Mother-In-Law Blues

Inevitably the upcoming nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton cause many of us to remember Princess Diana and her fairytale wedding thirty years ago. As the wedding countdown continues, the press has been full of comparisons between the two women leaving many of us to wonder if we would want to be compared to our own mother in law, especially at our wedding?

First of all, why do we all think about Princess Diana’s memory at her son’s wedding?

We are still in love with the princess who was so much like us-- rejected, misunderstood, and betrayed by her husband and his lover. We identified with her failures as much as with her successes. We also still have enormous compassion for the sons she left behind so William’s big day is somewhat healing for us all—we like to think of him as comfortably partnered. But there are several reasons why Kate will be compared to Diana:

Both Larger than Life: Both women will have married the heir apparent to the British throne. We all love meteoric rises and we will enjoy seeing their lives transform from routine to royal.

Both are Open and Humble: Both of these women share an uncommon friendliness despite their great stations in life. They both enchant us in by their humble demeanors.

Dreams Versus Real Life: Diana enthralled the world with her dramatic life and we journeyed with her from Cinderella dreams to the stunning reality of betrayal and divorce. We don’t want Kate to suffer a similar fate so we are studying her similarities and dissimilarities with her mother in law to reassure ourselves.

How will Diana’s legacy impact the marriage?

Prince William has already been quoted as saying that “no one is trying to fill my mother’s shoes.” He will, no doubt, be highly protective of Kate since he does not want her to be pursued and hunted by the media like Diana was. This is ultimately a chance for William to do what he could not do for his mother—protect her. Diana’s example has also made this couple much more careful in committing since they know that the spotlight can be tough on a marriage. Diana’s legacy will make them much more likely to move as a team and to put their marriage first before their royal positions.

So for the rest of us, why are mother in laws often so challenging for daughter in laws?

There are several reasons:

Confused About Roles: There can be natural tension because these two women have to share the same man. Many mothers are reluctant to move from being the top female in his life to a secondary position. On the other hand, many women enter the marriage demanding that they “own” their husband and the mother in law is seen as interference.

Mom is Right: Research shows that men are often reluctant to “buck” their mothers even if their wife demands it. They see the wife as stronger and younger and the one who must make concessions to the older woman.

Empathy is Needed: Men have more difficulty talking about emotional matters than women. The woman initiates eighty five percent of relationship- focused conversations. A man becomes overwhelmed by conflict faster and he shuts down to prevent his discomfort from rising. When his mother is the issue, this habit on his part can be especially frustrating since he shuts down and disappears into silence.

Closed to Reassessment: Many men refuse to look at things from their wives’ perspective. “She didn’t mean it like that” or “you’re too sensitive” are common excuses. Sometimes mother in laws do mean exactly what their daughter in law thinks they mean. On the other hand, some women can be oversensitive and inaccurate in how they’re interpreting their mother in law. Their husband needs to at least hear her out and help her reach a solution in her own mind.

Here's how you can improve your relationship with your mother-in-law or your daughter-in-law today:

For Mothers:

Respect her relationship with your son, don’t criticize her parenting even if you disagree, don’t criticize your grandchildren to her, and please do not compete with her mother. Keep your boundaries and focus on your grandchildren—they are your ultimate legacy!

For Wives:

Your mother in law is your husband’s mother and holds a sacred place forever in his life. Hold your boundaries with grace. Lose that idealism about how things should be and focus on making things better as they are. Don’t compete with her, please try to diffuse conflict by being overly gracious and don’t cut him off from his family. Your children will suffer and you will regret that loss.

Remember that you will be a mother in law someday and that you are teaching your children how to navigate differences in a family. Be kind because we always reap what we sow!

Score Keeping In Relationships - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scorekeeping is common in even the best of marriages. Is there any value to keeping track of what your partner has done in the past or can scorekeeping become destructive over the long haul?

Why do couples like to keep score in marriage?

Scorekeeping is a symptom of a marriage in distress. When you begin to debate the “who did what last” things can get heated and you can find yourself squaring off regularly with the person you pledged to love for “better or worse.” An atmosphere of division and contempt replaces marital collaboration.

Here's how scorekeeping begins:

Too Exhausted: Most of us are too tired and too emotionally stretched to be objective about the words and actions of each partner.

Magnify Our Contributions: We begin to magnify everything we do in the relationship and discount what he or she does.

Blaming Gives Us Control: Blaming the other person gives us a momentary feeling of control over our stress. However, chronically assigning blame and expressing disappointment can mortally wound a marriage over time.

Marital Accountant: Destructive scorekeeping draws the marital battle lines and each partner becomes a marital “accountant.”

So, how does scorekeeping affect a marriage over time?

Anger is Normal: We know that negative emotions in marriage are normal. If you feel criticized, you’ll respond in anger and visa versa. Score keeping gets a foothold in the marriage when couples remain resentful and fail to truly patch things up after conflict. Telling your partner they need to do better all the time is a contemptuous thing to do.

Partner is the Problem: When there is tension in a marriage, we tend to perceive our partner’s personality as the problem. Scorekeeping begins when you are tense and angry with a partner who is perceived as either taking advantage or neglecting the marriage.

Are there times in the marriage when couples are more likely to score keep?

Dramatic Change: Usually there is a huge change that has taken place in the marriage, like a new job, a new baby, or a relocation. Change that reshuffles schedules is especially likely to lead to score keeping. Time and energy become resources that are fought over.

Baby Makes Three: Prior to children, most couples seem to divide things up pretty easily and without a lot of conflict. If they have huge conflict over the division of labor early in the marriage, the relationship often ends by the five-year mark. However, two thirds of new parents experience a significant drop in marital satisfaction within the first year. Most of the conflict is around score keeping.

Women and Housework: With eighty percent of women now working full-time, the pace of work is relentless! But fifty eight percent of American women are convinced that the division of labor at home is unfair to them. Only eleven percent of men feel similarly. This is when score keeping becomes really prominent. Exhausted, overworked, financially stressed partners love to keep score and point the finger at her spouse.

Here's what you can do to stop score keeping today.

Ask for a Truce: Approach your partner by saying, “we can do better as a team.” Ask him to join with you in solving a problem and avoid blaming.

Be Accountable: Recognize you’re scorekeeping. Avoid sarcasm, labels and contemptuous body language.

Talk it Out: Share What You are Seeing as Objectively as you can. Air your complaints without criticizing or making your spouse the problem.

Set Reasonable Expectations and Plan: Scorekeeping will disappear when we begin to work as a team. Prioritize the tasks, follow through, and remember that changing a bad habit takes at least thirty days!

Survival of the Kindest - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why Women Commit Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 18, 2011

How To Prevent Female Committed Domestic Violence - By Chris Gearing

Friday, April 15, 2011

The Developmental Cost of Emotional Abuse - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Is Humiliation A Proper Punishment? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eating Disorders In Older Women - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Eating disorders affect up to 70 million people worldwide with 24 million Americans suffering from this disorder according to the National Institute of Health. While current studies indicate that 95% of eating disorders affect girls between the ages of 11 and 25, new research reports that record numbers of older women are now affected by eating disorders.

So, why would an older woman develop an eating disorder at this time of life?

There are four principle reasons that women develop a midlife eating disorder:

Control and Eating Disorders: Control is the common denominator between all eating disorders. A current trauma or dramatic change in her life that makes her feel vulnerable and helpless can precipitate an eating disorder. Husbands leave, parents die and friends move away leaving her without the support system she has known for years. An eating disorder can become a comfortable, familiar “friend” during these dark times. Micromanaging your food intake either through restricting food or binging with food can leave you flush with a momentary exhilaration in an anxious life.

Social Pressure: Women are subjected to continued pressure to look young and being super thin is associated with being young. The $40 billion dollar diet industry is all too willing to help her strive for the ideal body type found in only 5% of American females. Most eating disorders begin with body dissatisfaction and shedding pounds gains her enormous social approval.

Undiagnosed Depression or Anxiety: Depressive and anxiety disorders commonly co occur with eating disorders. Eating disorders are cruel masters and the constant striving for perfection can wear any woman out. If binging is the disorder of choice, the extra weight causes increased self-loathing and depression.

Previous Eating Disorder Returning: Eating disorders are complex, chronic mental health illnesses that can lie dormant during the childrearing years to return at midlife when there are fewer distractions and less applause.

Why are these disorders so difficult to detect in older women?

We associate eating disorders with a young girl’s struggle. By midlife, most people think you should be over those vain concerns about your body. But tragically, highly negative beliefs about your body never leave most women. We develop a self loathing toward our bodies early in life (78% of 17 year olds despise their bodies according to one study), we never consider if we are logical or rational in our self appraisal and we reinforce our negative self appraisal constantly by comparing ourselves to all the celebrities that have obvious eating disorders!

Most midlife women tend to escape notice from medical professionals since we are so adaptive in so many other areas of our lives. We often do not realize that we even have a problem. In addition, our friends and colleagues praise us when we are razor thin. No one ever stops to ask if all that exercising, food restriction or binging are really healthy for us.

Do the same eating disorders affect both young and older women and what are the signs?

Both age groups seem to develop similar disorders. However, the older woman may evolve quicker to the binge eating disorder than her younger peer. But there are important facts to keep in mind about eating disorders in any age category:

Deadly Disorders: Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Twenty percent of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder. These disorders can be deadly since the malnourishment strikes at the very metabolic and cardiac systems that are foundational for good health.

Three Distinct Disorders:

Anorexia Nervosa: No one sets out to develop an eating disorder. We “back into them” usually in response to a growing dislike for our bodies. This disorder usually begins at age 17 just as she is headed out into the world. Symptoms include a relentless pursuit of being thin, obsession with being perfect, an obsessive fear of gaining any weight and a denial of emaciation.

Bulimia Nervosa: The woman engages in binge eating and then inappropriate methods of preventing weight gain including purging or excessive exercising.

Symptoms Include:

  • Rituals built around eating large amounts of food within a 2 hour period
  • Feels out of control with the eating.

Binge Eating Disorder affects about 3 percent of Americans. Some experts believe that the disorder is rising faster than anorexia and bulimia. Women who binge hide their disorder and ask for help much later in life.

What should we do if we are worried about a woman we love?

  • Educate yourself about eating disorders first and acknowledge that they are dangerous. Remember that these disorders gradually build and are much easier to treat the earlier they are diagnosed.
  • Approach her with compassion and support when you express how concerned you are for her. Lead with empathy before you give advice.
  • Remind her of her lifetime of accomplishments—the children she has reared, the career she has built and tell her that this is a surmountable challenge.
  • Encourage her to get a professional evaluation with a psychologist specializing in eating disorders.

Is There Really A Seven Year Itch? - By Chris Gearing

Monday, April 04, 2011

Why People Lose Interest After Getting Married - By Chris Gearing

Friday, April 01, 2011

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