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Relationship Stress Can Affect Health - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Watch the story on CBS by clicking here.


The health benefits of a good marriage are undeniable with married people making more money, enjoying better health and living longer. But new research reports that some marriages can be bad for your health, especially over the long haul.

This study reveals something entirely new about how marriage can affect our health. Here's what they found:

One of the strongest findings in psychology is the link between our relationships and our mental and physical health. The bottom line is that conflict with your partner can affect your physical and emotional well being over time. It’s not just a “today” thing since your mental and emotional health can be severely impacted by a challenging relationship. Your mood the day after a fight will fall especially if you are already uncomfortable with being emotionally close with your partner. The more anxious the relationship makes you, the more emotionally expensive it becomes. The real take away from this study is that being in a stressful relationship leads to longer-term health risks.

But what about the age old question -- are women affected more than men by a bad relationship?

They absolutely are and there are several reasons why this occurs:

More Sensitive: Women’s minds and bodies are more sensitive to hostile comments and behaviors from a male partner. Especially when men are verbally contemptuous, the female partner not only internalizes the label, but her body remains anxious for up to 24 hours longer while he is just fine.

Emotional Memory: We have unpleasant capacity for remembering every detail of a fight and we dwell on it over time. Women just have a hard time letting things go.

Women Are Highly Observant: We are also excellent at picking up those little meta messages in nonverbal behavior—how he looks at us, whether he seemed interested, did he look at her—and if the relationship is framed in negativity, we tend to assemble the worst case interpretation.

Quietly Suffering: Women are excellent assessors of the relationship and are more willing to face it when things aren’t going well. The downside is that women are more willing to adapt to a failing marriage than men are. We tend to become quietly miserable.

So, what happens when one partner becomes more negative about the relationship than the other partner?

Negative Emotions are Contagious: First of all we know that just like a virus, emotions are contagious. Negative emotions can penetrate a relationship and undermine the basic regard we have for one another. We share a home, bills and feelings on a daily basis. The good thing is that positive emotions are much more powerful than negative emotions.

Negative Perspective: Disappointment can become habitual and the entire relationship is framed within disappointment.

Emotional Disengagement: A dying relationship descends into emotional disengagement. The silent killer of marriages, it is often invisible even to the person experiencing it. They are aware that they are withdrawing and that they feel more helpless to effect real change. But their hearts often close up before they really understand how powerful a change this can be. They withdraw to protect themselves from further hurt and pain.

Here's what you can do today to stop negativity from harming your relationship:

Communication breakdowns are a part of loving someone else. But when arguments become gridlocked, the relationship over time will falter.

Stay Present and Remain Calm: As the conflict escalates, remind yourself that you are going into a negative downward spiral and that you have a choice to stay present and calm. Use these tips:

  • Be Concise (don’t whine)
  • Complain but Don’t Blame
  • Start with the Positives
  • Start your Sentences with “I”, not with “you.”
  • Describe what is happening respectfully
  • Talk clearly about what you need and hope for
  • Don’t Store things up—remain focused on a specific item or items
  • Be Vulnerable—express your pain and disappointment
  • Work for Compromise
  • Remain polite and appreciative

Sources:

The Marriage Clinic by John Gottman, Ph.D.

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!

Regretting Lost Loves - By Chris Gearing

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ever wish you could have a “do over?” Many of us wish we had made better decisions in life but a new study reveals that Americans have the greatest number of regrets about romance.

So, what exactly is regret and why do we have so many regrets about our love life?

Regrets are those beliefs that we could and should have done better in a certain situation. We torture ourselves endlessly with recalling, reviewing and criticizing ourselves for not making a better play. We beat ourselves up for not getting it right the first time.

I’m not surprised that most Americans cite their love life as the biggest area of regret since relationships often only seem clear when we are out of them! That twenty twenty hindsight is often hard won and without it, we often make disastrous mistakes in love that costs us in profound ways—time, money, sleep, our dignity and shear suffering when we’re with the wrong person. Most of us make decisions about partners with our emotional brains and not with our analytical minds leaving us vulnerable to the partner who is adorable but terrible for us. Once the charm wears off, it is easy to see our bad choices.

Do men and women regret different things?

They both flag relationships as their top area of regret but I do believe that women are more likely to ruminate about their lives then men are. We love picking ourselves to death over our bad choices. Forty four percent of us regret a past relationship decision with only 19% of men sharing the same sentiment. A woman has twice the emotional memory in her brain as a man and she remembers every detail of the relationship or encounter. Women are built for relating, remembering and regretting!

On the other hand, a man is more likely to define himself through status and power. Work is where most men direct their regret with thirty four percent of men regretting their career decisions. Twenty seven percent of women reported similar regrets.

Are we more likely to regret things we’ve done or haven’t done?

We tend to regret both the things we’ve done and the things we didn’t do. But our missed opportunities are the ones that stay with us. We are haunted for many years by what might have been, whom we might have loved and what kindnesses we might have extended to another person.

When people regret their past relationship decisions, they are often haunted by the relationship that never completely came together or that ended prematurely—for whatever reason. Especially when there is lost potential, many people, especially men, seem to hold on to the dreams of what might have been. In fact, they may have gained a new appreciation for that person and how they felt when they were with them. That silent regret may never be shared with another person but they often feel that they should have fought harder to keep the relationship or to tell her how he felt.

Here's how you can avoid feeling regret?

In every decision, you need to consider what you will regret in the long run. I call it the ten-year rule.

Here are three points to keep in mind:

Years from Now: Will you be proud of the decision you made ten years from now or will you regard your decision as immature, ill advised or even self-indulgent?

Value Based Decisions: Decisions we make reflect our goals. Make sure that you keep your goals in mind when you make a major decision. For example, is being a great dad more important than that promotion?

Avoid Temporary Temptations: Yielding to short-term temptations that are bad for you can lead to a lifetime of regret. The bottom line is to make the best choice at the time and to make each experience count.

What can we do if we have a regret we can’t get over?

Practice Self-Compassion: Remember to practice self-compassion when you review your life’s decisions. Part of being effective is remembering that the right decision is often unclear at the time we are making it. All you can do is to make the best decision with what you know to be true or accurate at the time. Everyone falls short and everyone makes an occasional bad call. But the true measure of a life is how you handle your failures, not how you handle the applause when you win at life.

Forgive Yourself: Forgiving yourself is the key to overcoming regret. Seventy percent of us walk around with guilt and regret our entire lives. Be honest with yourself, learn from your misfires, forgive yourself for your shortcomings and move on. Life is to be lived in the moment, not in the thousand regrets that rob us of today.

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 Dangers of Texting In A New Relationship - By Chris Gearing

Friday, April 08, 2011

Sex Comes Faster For Couples Who Text - By Chris Gearing

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

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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