A Healthy Relationship is FUNCTIONAL

A healthy relationship is functional and gives people a soft place to land. There are mutual respect and acceptance. The following is a list of attributes of a healthy, functional relationship:

F eeling like two whole people

U nwavering commitment to each other and the relationship

N o game playing, saying what you mean and meaning what you say

C ommunication is open, honest and assertive

T ime together and time apart are balanced

I ntimacy without the need for chemicals

O pinions are validated and respected

N urturing individual and couple friendships are encouraged

A ccepting and respectful of differences

L ooking for the best in each other



An unhealthy relationship is dysfunctional and can leave people feeling smothered or neglected or like they are walking on eggshells. The following is a list of attributes of an unhealthy, dysfunctional relationship:

D ependency or feeling incomplete without your partner

Y ou rely on your partner to make you feel happy, safe, beautiful, etc.

S elfishness, manipulation and game playing

F ull of blaming and shaming

U sing chemicals to help achieve a sense of intimacy

N egative focus; focused on what is wrong rather than what is great

C lingy and unable to let go

T oo much time together or too much time apart

I nability to allow the relationship to grow and change

O verly jealous or possessive

N ot able to express what is wanted or needed

A ggressive or passive-aggressive approach to problem-solving or avoidance thereof

L ack of friendships and healthy relationships with others

Take a few minutes to evaluate your relationship. Does it have more attributes of a functional or dysfunctional relationship? Ask your self, What is one thing, that if I did it consistently, would improve the quality of my relationship? Make a commitment to do that one thing consistently for at least thirty days. By then it will have become a habit and you can choose the next one thing you can work on to improve your relationship.

Gift Giving for Couples

Giving gifts is one way to demonstrate love for your partner. Gift giving has the potential to bring joy or hurt, disappointment and friction in your relationship. Whether it is gifts of love or material gifts, putting some thought into the gift can result in enjoyment rather than disappointment.

The following are some thoughts that may be helpful:

1. Spending more on a gift does not necessarily make it more appreciated or memorable in a positive way. An example comes to mind of a client who was furious that her husband had purchased a big-ticket item for her birthday because the cost was not within their budget and would put additional financial strain on an already dire situation.


2. Gift giving may not be the best way to make up for bad behavior. Apologizing and changing your attitude and behavior would probably go further. Be aware that the gift will be an ongoing reminder of the misdeed. Our mind tends to fuse things together and each time your partner sees, uses or thinks about the present, the memory of the hurt will also be there.

3. Give what your partner wants rather than what you want to give. Just because you would like to receive something does not mean that your partner will be excited about receiving it. Practical gifts like winter tires for the car or a new appliance may be treasured by some, but to many people, these kinds of gifts do not have the personal touch that makes a gift special. Your choice of gifts says a lot about how well you know your partner, how closely you have listened to them and whether you are aware of their preferences.

4. It is okay to ask for what you want. Some people are resistant to this idea and think a gift does not count if you have to ask for it; however, the best way to get your needs met is to make them known. If there is something specific that you want, let your partner know. Help them learn how to be a good gift giver for you.

5. If your partner does request a specific gift and it is within your means to give it, then do so. I remember the year I requested a specific perfume as a gift (it was the only thing that I requested that year) and my husband instead purchased the perfume recommended by his office staff. We can laugh about this now, but it was disappointing, to say the least. Sometimes we can avoid unnecessary disappointment by giving our partner what they have requested.

6. Consider giving the gift of an experience rather than material gifts, especially if the receiver is someone who already has too much stuff. In this way, gifts can become a way to build memories. I still remember many years ago, looking out the kitchen window to see that my husband had rototilled “I love you.” in the garden. The only cost for this gift was his time, but it was a pleasant surprise and left a lasting impression. Perhaps your partner would love to go to a concert, on a road trip or take a cooking or dancing class together.

7. It is also vital to practice graciously receiving gifts from your partner. I remember my mother receiving a rather hideous looking wrist watch from my father one year. She smiled and wore that watch for years because he had given it to her. We can be generous to our partner by being good gift receivers as well as good gift givers.

You have probably heard that it is the thought that counts in gift giving. But, if you cannot remember what you gave your partner for their birthday or other gifts throughout the year, perhaps you did not put enough thought into the process. When you give a gift that demonstrates that you know what your partner likes, you are more likely to get a positive response from your partner.

Overreacting? Pause and Consider

We are all guilty of occasionally overreacting in anger or having moments or days when we are more irritable than usual. At times our partner may take the brunt our foul mood. Whether we are cranky or triggered, it would be most helpful to pause before acting in these situations. Remembering to pause and consider could prevent us from saying something that we can never take back. Before tearing into your partner, I suggest you pause. Check in with yourself:

Am I hungry?
Am I tired?
Am I upset with someone or something else?


We may also be able to help our partner do the same thing. Especially if we first bring it to their attention when they are not snapping at us.

The, “You’re not you when you’re hungry” slogan for Snickers Candy Bars makes a valid point. Low blood sugar may make us crankier. Hangry is the term used to describe anger that shows up when we are hungry.

Being tired can also make it more difficult to manage our emotions and to handle stressful situations. It is amazing how a good night's sleep can make a problem seem more manageable. Perhaps it has something to do with being able to think more clearly when we are well rested.

Bad moods tend to be contagious. All too often our partner makes a convenient target for our frustration with a co-worker, boss or situation. When we are stressed or overwhelmed, hurt or upset, we will be less tolerant of our partner’s requests or actions.

Before you say something to your partner that you may regret, PAUSE to consider if you are hungry, tired or upset with someone or something else.

Keep the following in mind:

Pick the time. Choosing a time when you are both well rested will improve the chances of a positive outcome.

Make sure you have both eaten. Starting the discussion on an empty stomach could lead to increased conflict.

Allow each other time to decompress. If either of you is dealing with stress at work or from another source, take some time to validate and support the other, before diving into your issue.

Strategies For Better Communication

At times in relationships, we let our feelings get the best of us. Some people allow their anger to cover hurt, sadness or fear and then attack their partner by unloading a dump truck full of venom and frustration on them. This venting type of communication is completely aggressive. Others tend to stuff their feelings and upset, making cryptic comments or saying nothing at all. 

A far better approach would be to give ourselves a timeout when we are full of anger or feeling overly emotional. Breathe deeply. And consider how we might deliver the whole message. The idea of delivering a whole message provides a template for communicating important, especially emotionally charged, concerns. 


Instead of saying something like: Where were you? I can’t believe that you didn’t call. You never consider my feelings. You are so selfish; only ever do exactly what you want (aggressive approach). Or sulking in silence (passive-aggressive approach).

Delivering a whole message would go something like: You said that you would be home by 9:00. When it was 10:00 and I hadn’t heard from you, I started to feel worried and scared. I assumed that either you were hurt or you didn’t care enough about me to let me know you were going to be late. When you walked through the door at 11:00 and were fine, I jumped to the conclusion that you did not care about me. Next time, could you please call or text if you are going to be late?

The whole message type of communication is assertive, rather than aggressive or passive-aggressive. It allows you to stand up for yourself in a constructive way. A whole message includes: 

Just the facts. Avoid using judgmental language. Leave out the “you always (never)” or “as usual” comments. Avoid labeling your partner. 

Be honest about how you feel or how you felt. Instead of just saying I was angry, dig deeper, there is something underneath that anger. Try to identify what you felt before you were angry. That feeling might have been sadness, disappointment, fear, hurt, embarrassment, humiliation or something else. 

Consider the assumptions that you made or conclusions to which you may have jumped. What was the story that you were telling yourself about the situation? 

What would you prefer instead? Start looking toward possible solutions. Phrase this as a request—could you please. Or express it as a preference—what I would prefer is for you to please do this instead. 

Pausing to breathe when we are upset, taking time to consider the facts, acknowledge our feelings, own our assumptions, think about possible solutions, and then deliver whole messages give us a template to effectively address difficult situations. Using these communication strategies makes it easier for our partner to hear what we have to say and much more likely that they will respond positively. They are simple, but extremely valuable communication tools. 

Goal Setting For Couples

Setting goals as a couple may help you revitalize and increase your relationship satisfaction. Standing water stagnates where moving water remains fresh and the only difference between standing water and running water is motion. Setting and working towards goals helps you add motion to your relationship as you consciously work toward and create the life you want for yourselves.

Goal setting for couples:

Relationship Goals copy.jpg

When setting your couple goals, you may want to consider these areas: mental, emotional, physical, family, social and spiritual. You can have goals for personal and couple growth, finances, vacations, and a myriad of other things. Your couple goals need to align with both of your values and they should be something that you can both get excited about working together to accomplish.

Having a sense of purpose in life tends to increase your happiness. Making and working toward goals can increase that sense of purpose. Make goals that are attainable, but not too easy. You want to aim for something that will make you stretch. Remember to celebrate the little successes along the way and celebrate achieving your goal.

10 Steps To Achieving Your Couple Goals:

1. Brainstorm ideas—at this point there is no judgment or poo pooing allowed. Write down every suggestion.

2. Talk about your ideas—look at this as a way to get to know your partner better. Spend an evening talking, replace the inclination to judge or discourage with curiosity.

3. You each choose your top three goals. If you happen to have overlapping goals, great, you have a place to start. If you don't have overlapping goals then you each choose one goal from your partner's list of top three goals to work on as a couple. Record the overlapping goals for future consideration.

4. Review your goals frequently. You may want to post them somewhere you will see them often.

5. Decide on the first step that will move you toward reaching your goal and proceed to work on it. Remember couple goals means working together.

6. Choose a time to sit down together to evaluate your progress.

7. Decide on the next step toward reaching your couple goal and do it.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until your have accomplished your goal.

9. Celebrate! Don't forget to enjoy the process.

10. Choose new goals and repeat the process from step 1 (you could use your original brainstorming list or you could create a new list).

Achieving goals is great, but remember the process of working together is equally or more important than the results. The process of willingly and cheerfully setting and working together to achieve common goals will strengthen your bond to each other and make your relationship a more vibrant and satisfying place to be.

Relationship Buyer’s Remorse Phase

It may be sad or comforting to know that all relationships at some point reach the buyer’s remorse phase. At this point, one or both start to wonder or question. Couples start to think things like, "this is not what I signed up for" or "why should this be so hard?" They have probably bumped up against issues and problems and been unwilling or unable to resolve them. They have inevitably been hurt and may have developed patterns of reacting to each other that make things worse rather than better.

Couples frequently get stuck in negative patterns of arguing and fighting or withdrawing and withholding. For things to improve, they need to break these patterns. They need to choose to do something different.

A hopeful finding from marriage research is that many people who reported being unhappy in their marriage but chose to stay together, later report being very happy in that same marriage. Suggesting that it may pay to be patient and to see the buyer’s remorse phase as a signal to choose to grow and develop as a person and as a couple. Couples who allow their commitment to their relationship and to each other carry them through the rough times may find that their relationship is more resilient than they thought and be rewarded with a stronger bond.

Four strategies to help you get unstuck and moving in the right direction:

1. Stop talking about your relationship

I recognize that ignoring problems is not the way to solve them. But I have found that couples in the buyer’s remorse phase of their relationship are not able to have a conversation about their relationship without it escalating to unpleasantness and much worse. So for the first while stop talking about your relationship.

2. Put positive energy back in your relationship

Smile at each other. Find reasons to feel grateful and to compliment each other. Pretend that you like each other if that is what it takes.

3. Get helpful help

Avoid simply venting to your friends and family, especially if this turns into relationship or partner bashing. Helpful help is the kind that supports and validates you and at the same time helps you consider how you might be contributing to the problems. Talk to someone you can trust to not blame you or your partner.

4. Talk with each other

Once you have put some positive energy back in your relationship and you feel you can talk to each other without falling into the same old negative patterns of reacting, create some regular time to talk through your issues. You may need some help with this step. It can be advantageous to have a neutral third party present; you may want to consider a counsellor, mediator or ecclesiastical leader. As you start this process remember that you need to listen twice as much as you talk. Always take time to validate and acknowledge what you partner has said before you jump into making your point.

As you choose to interrupt your negative patterns of reacting, focus on the good in your relationship, feel and express gratitude and actively listen to your partner, your relationship will likely start to feel a more comfortable. Give yourselves time for healing and growth. Be gentle and patient with yourselves and with each other.

The next phase of your relationship, if you work through the buyer's remorse phase, is mature love. In the mature love phase, you are perfectly aware that your partner is going to at times drive you absolutely crazy and you choose to love them anyway. You continue each day to focus on loving thoughts, to express gratitude, to speak respectfully and kindly to one another and to behave in loving ways toward each other. By consistently making these choices, you will continue to feel in love with each other.


Please note the exception to the above advice is in cases of abuse. Call the police or go to a shelter. If you are in danger in your relationship, find a way to get out.  

Relationship: Can You Have Too Much of a Good Thing?

Have you wondered why the very traits that attracted you to your partner in the first place, can become the traits that later drive you crazy? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that often our biggest strengths are also our biggest weaknesses. Without balance, our strength may become our downfall.

I have a fondness for good quality chocolate. I thought that I would greatly enjoy an all you can eat chocolate buffet. What I discovered was that after the third delicious chocolate dessert, chocolate became less and less appealing. Soon I was searching for anything that was not chocolate. Having too much of a good thing is possible. Too much of even something wonderful can become off-putting.

In relationships, the wonderful quirkiness that drew your partner to you can become the irritant that drives you apart. Strengths pushed too far can become weaknesses as the attractive qualities morph into grating or irritating qualities.  

Having high standards and striving for excellence can start to feel like perfectionism and faultfinding. Your partner may feel that no matter what they will never get it right. The bar is set so high in your relationship that they are constantly disappointing you. To balance your amazing quality of striving for excellence, try being a little more accepting of your partner.

Being easy going may end up looking like an abdication of responsibility. Your partner may feel that you are unwilling to express your preferences. They may get tired of making all the decisions. To balance your accepting and agreeable nature, try adding a little assertiveness to your interactions in your relationship.

The desire to keep things fair may turn into obsessive scorekeeping. Your partner may feel your relationship is more a competition than a love affair. Try balancing the desire for fairness with being more collaborative.

A strong desire to be a team player may end up feeling like dependence and clinginess. Your partner may feel smothered or start pushing for time to themselves. Try balancing the desire for collaboration with time for independent thought and activities.

An independent nature may begin to feel like aloofness and distancing. Your partner may feel excluded and unappreciated. Try sharing more, including your partner more and allowing your partner to be generous to you. 

Being the life of the party, fun and talkative, may end up feeling impulsive and erratic. Your partner may have a difficult time feeling heard. Try pausing to make eye contact and listen to your partner more often.

Being quiet and thoughtful could begin to look like withdrawal and secrecy. Your partner may feel left out and that you take life too seriously. Try consciously choosing to share your thoughts and feelings with your partner.

To make the best of your strengths and keep them from turning into weaknesses requires courage. The courage to choose to stretch and grow. You can recognize where your strengths begin to work against rather than for you. Think in terms of moderation in your relationship. Just like sensible portions of chocolate each day, taste so much better than overdoing it at the all you can eat chocolate buffet. Balancing your strengths so that they do not become irritating will make your relationship healthier.

Open Your Eyes in Your Relationship

The wisdom of Benjamin Franklin says, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterwards.” When you apply this insight to noticing each other’s faults, it works well. However, too many people approach their relationship in a semi-trance state, unaware of their partner’s thoughts and feeling. Sometimes they are not even aware of their own thoughts and feelings.

Do you know what your partner is wearing today? Do you know what their concerns are for this week? I have heard things like, “It has been two weeks and s/he has not noticed that I cut my hair.” It seems that complacency can set in and partners stop paying attention to each other.

My advice is to open your eyes in your relationship. I agree with Benjamin Franklin that after marriage you need to worry less about, “Are we compatible” and more about, “How can we make this work.” But my focus here is the importance of eye contact and presence or attentiveness.

Think back to the last couple of interactions that you had with your partner. Were your eyes on theirs or were they on your phone, iPad, the mirror or whatever distraction it may be. In the memory do you see their face, their expression, their response? Or is the memory more about the message you were giving them.

Focused positive attention is amazingly powerful in any relationship. Eye contact is what helps your partner feel heard, appreciated and that you care. Eye contact encourages your partner to talk and share their thoughts feelings and opinions. Loving eye contact can be one of the most intimate experiences you will share.

If your memories of talking with your partner do not include looking into their eyes, watching their facial expression, and an awareness of their feelings and opinions, then it is time to open your eyes in your relationship.  

Why We Push Those We Love Away

There’s one sad truth in life I’ve found
While journeying east and west –
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow,
To those who love us best.
— Unknown

There is unfortunately too much true in this little rhyme. My observations, both of myself and my clients, have led me to conclude that we are not always great at negotiating to have our needs met. We also have these insecurities that seem to get triggered more easily by those we love. Once our insecurities are triggered our behavior can become less than stellar.

Why do we respond the way we do? Our behavior does little to help us get our needs met. We get sucked into the drama, rather than finding solutions. The answer is that we do what we do because it takes incredible courage to choose to be vulnerable rather than defensive. And our default position is to protect ourselves.

None of us make it out of childhood without some emotional scars. We all, in varying ways, have self-doubts and insecurities. We all have trigger points or buttons that can get pushed. And the fascinating thing is that we seem to pick a partner who is an expert at pushing our buttons and bringing out our defensiveness.

In Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, Brene Brown states, “When I talk to couples, I can see how shame creates one of the dynamics most lethal to a relationship. Women, who feel shame when they don’t feel heard or validated, often resort to pushing and provoking with criticism (“Why don’t you ever do enough?” or “You never get it right.”) Men, in turn, who feel shame when they feel criticized for being inadequate, either shut down (leading women to poke and provoke more) or come back with anger.”

This shame and fear that we are somehow defective or inadequate can lead us to respond in unhealthy ways to each other. It also makes it difficult for us to feel the love when our partner is offering it.

It is helpful to consider what was it that you needed most as a child and were not able to get from your parents? Was it attention, space to be you, to feel loved, accepted, wanted, or needed? Whatever that unmet need was, chances are incredibly good that you are still looking for your partner to fill that need today. The problem is that although you want them to help you feel wanted, loved, or beautiful; at the same time you are brushing aside or rejecting their attempts to do so. All the time probably blaming them because you continue to feel unloved, stupid or not enough.

Choosing to be defensive and go to blame and shame leads to disconnection. Choosing to be open and vulnerable can lead to increased connection. We can make small choices each day to lead us to pull together rather than apart. It helps to understand that there has always been a good intention behind our pushing away behavior—that of protecting ourselves. Recognizing that our defensiveness probably has it’s root in unmet childhood needs can help us become better at meeting those needs ourselves and allowing our partner to help us.

Once we become aware that we are allowing shame to control us and we are choosing the defensive response we can start to consciously make new choices. We can greatly improve our ability to self-sooth. We can hang onto ourselves when we feel like being suspicious and distrustful when our partner is kind or generous to us. We can hang on even tighter when we feel the urge to be critical of our partner. We can choose to bring their compliments inside of us and breathe deep while we enjoy those warm feelings. We can decide to stop pushing away those who love us.

Mental Health by Design   

Mental health by design means that you take an active role in strengthening your resilience. Your emotional and psychological well-being influences all parts of your life—how you think, feel and act. Your mental health affects how well you cope with the daily struggles that may come your way. Creating healthy habits can have a positive impact on your mental health. Be more consistent in doing the following:

1.    Get enough sleep

Establish a wind-down routine—start about 30 minutes before sleep time. A guided meditation, calming music or sounds may help you relax. Aim for a cool, dark and quiet bedroom.

2.    Eat well

A diet low in sugar and rich in healthy fats (including foods rich in omega-3 fats) can help you feel more energetic when you are awake and help you sleep better. Pay attention to how you feel after eating to help you determine which foods best suit you. Some foods may taste good, but leave your body feeling sluggish or bloated. The less processed the food, the better your body may be able to handle it.

3.    Learn some relaxation techniques to help reduce stress

Mindfulness meditation, yoga, deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can all help you let go of building tension. These practices can help you bring your mind back to the present moment and help you feel more centered. Acknowledging and accepting your emotions can help you process and release them, greatly increasing your stress tolerance.

4.    Daily do something fun and active

Choosing something you enjoy to get your body moving makes it more likely that you will continue. Go for a walk with a friend or your dog, swim, cycle, dance. Tie something that you love to do, like watch a movie (in your home, walking in place in the aisle at the movie theater might be frowned upon) or listen to music, to moving your body.

5.    Reach out to friends or family, make eye contact, smile and talk

The best results will come from face-to-face interactions with others. Be a good listener, find a good listener. Make sure you put your screens down and built some real relationships.

6.    Find a cause, interest or passion

Having a sense of purpose gives you a reason to get out of bed. Some find meaning from involvement in religion, community or a cause. The important thing is that you are serving something outside of yourself. Find meaning in your work, volunteer, build relationships, care for a loved pet, or develop and share a talent.

7.    Focus on what you can control and let go of the rest

Work on controlling your thoughts, words and actions. Give up trying to control anyone else’s thoughts, words and actions. Listen respectfully to others, make requests or suggestions, set your boundaries and choose your behavior, and notice or focus in on what is working.

8.    Enjoy the present and express gratitude

Gratitude is an amazing antidote for toxic thoughts and feelings. When you choose to look around you for what is good and express gratitude, you will increase your happiness. Gratitude increases resilience and helps to protect your mental health.

Enjoying mental health does not mean that you will never have a bad day, or feel down or sad. Personal struggles are a normal part of life. Choosing to maintain your mental health will help you to be more resilient and better able to cope with and recover from difficulties. It will be easier to find the silver lining and rise above struggles.

When to seek professional help

If you have tried to improve your mental and emotional health and still find yourself struggling at home, work, or in your relationships, it may be time to seek professional help. The eight suggestions above are still beneficial. But a counsellor may help you move further along your healing journey than you can do alone.

Building Self-Esteem

Do you choose what you say or how you behave based on what you think others will think of you? Are you hard on yourself, often criticizing or berating yourself? If so, it may be helpful to strengthen your self-esteem.

Self-esteem is determined by how you feel and think about yourself. Being able to accept yourself warts and all in an indication of positive self-esteem. You are able to accept yourself in both success and failure and understand that both are part of learning and growing as an individual.


Rate your self-esteem. Answer the following questions with yes, no, or sometimes.  

  • How I feel about myself depends on how others treat me.
  • I don’t accept compliments easily.
  • I am extremely concerned about flaws in my appearance.
  • I’m not very intelligent.
  • I do not eat healthy or exercise.
  • I often make a fool of myself.
  • I am uncomfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings.
  • It is stressful to admit that I don’t know or understand something.
  • I envy others.

If you have some yes and sometimes answers, it is possible that your self-esteem could use a boost. 


1.     Take care of your appearance. Being clean and well groomed adds to feelings of confidence. Wear something that makes you feel wonderful. If you don’t own anything that fits that category, treat yourself to an item or outfit that lifts your spirits when you wear it.

2.     Give yourself three compliments a day. Record these compliment in a notebook or journal. Record anything that you are grateful for about yourself and those things that help you feel good about yourself. Complimenting yourself may feel awkward at first, but if you persist for at least 30 days, you will start to notice that you are feeling better about yourself.

Increasing your self-acceptance and improving your self-esteem involve changing the way you think about and talk to yourself.

The counsellors at Bridge Counseling are skilled in helping you understand yourself and creating the changes you want to see in your life. Your counsellor will meet with you to discuss your particular concerns. Together you can find options to help you increase self-acceptance and build self-esteem. 

Thoughts That Pump Up Your Anger

Although anger is a natural, useful and important emotion, it is vital that we find ways to respectfully express anger. Feeling anger is not a problem; problems arise when anger is expressed in aggressive or explosive ways. When this happens anger can be destructive to individuals and relationships.


Some Aspects of Anger

       Stress shortens our fuse.

       Often there is more contributing to our anger than we are aware.

       Anger often shows up when we see something in others that we don’t like about ourselves.

       Anger can simmer under the surface powered by old hurts and wounds.

       We may respond in anger when we feel hurt or disappointed.

       Anger is often the response when what is happening now triggers unresolved hurts from the past.

       Anger may at times overwhelm us when we hear words or feel feelings that have negatively impacted us before.

       Anger is a natural response to perceived injustice or unfairness.

       Anger can motivate us to push past our fears and take needed action.


Beware Of Negative Thoughts That Pump Up Your Anger

It may be tempting to think that the actions or word of others have made you angry. It seems reasonable that if people would not be so rude or frustrating that you would not feel angry. It is an amazing discovery to find that others do not have to have that kind of power and control over you. You have the ability to choose your response. How you think about the incident will either pump up your anger or help you to react in a more assertive and respectful way.

Common Negative Thought Patterns That Increase Anger:

       Overgeneralization. Thinking or saying things like, “You always interrupt me. You NEVER listen to me. EVERYONE disregards what I have to say. I NEVER get the respect I deserve.”

       Blaming throwing. Constantly looking for someone to blame when there are problems. Sidestepping responsibility for your own words and actions by blaming others.

       Overly rigid “shoulds” and “musts.” Being obsessive about the way things should be can pump up anger when others do not comply.

       Assuming. Thinking that you know why someone did or said something. Jumping to the conclusion that they purposefully ignored or disrespected you.

       Stuffing feelings. Storing little resentful thoughts away until the pressure builds up and explodes in a huge over-reaction to the next frustration. 


Ideas For Replacing Negative Thought Patterns:

       Overgeneralization – Stay with what is happening now. Try saying things like, “I am not feeling heard, could you please tell me what you just heard me say?”

       Blaming throwing – Pause to consider how you might be contributing to the problem.  Take responsibility for your own words and actions. Think I am choosing; rather than s/he made me (angry).

       Overly rigid “shoulds” and “musts” – Be open and willing to accept what is. Remember you cannot control others, so choose to control your response to them.

       Assuming – Clarifying. Try saying something like, “It sounds to me like you are saying… ; is that what you mean ?” Try staying curious rather than going to anger.

       Stuffing feelings – Speak up. Try being just 5% more assertive and speaking up, rather than stuffing resentments away. If you can really let it go then let it go. If it is going to continue to bother you, speak up. 

Anger is a helpful emotion when expressed respectfully. Being aware of negative thought patterns that pump up your anger gives you the opportunity to choose to replace those thought patterns with thought patterns that help you feel more in control of you. 





Live Your Best Day Every Day

A week or so ago my husband and I decided to try out the 36 Questions To Fall In Love on our drive home from the lake. It turned out to be a revitalizing interaction of sharing and connecting. One of the questions asked us to describe our perfect day.

As I listened to myself describe my perfect day, I started wondering if there was a way for me to make every day a perfect day, or at least more perfect than not. I realized that what makes a day seem perfect has a lot to do with how we feel in that day. The activities of the perfect day will be unique for each individual. But I am confident that the feelings that accompany a perfect day for you probably run along the lines of contentment, connection, contribution, satisfaction, gratitude, exhilaration, excitement, joy, and delight. My perfect day includes moments where I feel or verbalize, “This is glorious.” For me it includes a feeling of awe and appreciation.

  "Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain." Joseph Campbell

"Find a place inside where there's joy, and the joy will burn out the pain." Joseph Campbell

I would like to challenge you to consider your perfect day. Start watching for experiences that bring you those feelings that make a day seem perfect. Once you have some clarity about your perfect day you are in a position to start doing more of what helps you to feel content, connected, grateful, important, energized, exhilarated, excited, and joyful.

On a side note, some people may think that their perfect day would be either doing nothing on a sunlit beach or experiencing constant entertainment or adventure. Although these types of days are great and fun and needed especially for those who are feeling stressed and overworked. I think it is also helpful to consider the concept of sustainability and the law of diminishing returns when you are contemplating the elements of your perfect day. If you are going to live your perfect day, day after day, you want to make sure you include elements that allow you to learn and grow, as well as to contribute beyond yourself. Since these are the types of experiences that lead to lasting satisfaction and joy.

Living the perfect day also means being more present in each moment. Being open and aware of the beauty and opportunities around you. Think back on memories of days that most closely match your ideal of the perfect day. I bet that you can clearly remember many specific moments from those days, indicating that you were actually fully present at those times. You were not simply going through the motions on the treadmill of life. But you were actually awake and alive in your life. We always have the ability to choose to be more awake and alive each day.

Getting clear about what matters most to you, sets the pattern for creating your perfect day. Choosing to live your best day every day involves making decisions about how you spend your time and where you focus your attention.

The more you can tip your everyday life toward your ideal of the perfect day the more glorious, or whatever word you choose, your life will feel. 

Laughter Really Is The Best Medicine

Laughter is powerful medicine. It can help dissolve stress. Notice how your whole body feels more relaxed after laughing. It also triggers the release of dopamine, the feel-good chemical, in the brain. It may help reduce pain and boost your immune system. And a good belly laugh may help protect your heart. Laughing out loud gets your diaphragm moving which improves blood flow. Paul McGhee, Ph.D. said, “Your sense of humor is one the most powerful tools you have to make certain that your daily mood and emotional state support good health.” Your sense of humor can help you to be resilient—help you bounce back from physical and emotional challenges.

Your sense of humor may also be a helpful prescription for your relationship. Finding the humor in stressful situations may help you to feel less threatened and more open to working together to find solutions. Humor and playfulness produce positive feelings and help build emotional connections. When you laugh together and smile at each other you will feel more bonded to each other. Humorous positive interactions may help protect your relationship in the inevitable difficult times.

Suggestions to add a dose of laughter to your day:

       Smile. Smiling is like a warm up for laughing. Try choosing to smile, even if you have to start when you do not feel like smiling. Your mood will improve and you will be more open to laughing.

       Look for humor. Watch for things to smile or laugh about. If you cannot find any in your life at the moment YouTube has lots of examples.

       Feel and Express Gratitude. Record what you are grateful for; make the list specific and varied. Re-reading this list will help bring a smile to your face. Gratitude can help you move away from negative thoughts that may block your sense of humor.  

       Play with a child or a pet. Laughter typically is easy for children and laughter tends to be contagious. Playing with a pet can also get you out of your head and you may find yourself smiling and laughing.   

       Choose to be around fun and playful people. Some people seem to smile effortlessly; they easily find the humor in life. Spending time with them may help you to laugh and their way of looking at things may start to rub off on you.

       Read fun stuff. Check out Laughter the Best Medicine and other humorous books.

There are definitely times when laughter is not appropriate, but it is also possible that you may be taking yourself too seriously. Most of the time with a little effort you can choose to smile and laugh rather than catastrophize. Taking things too personally and too seriously stresses your body and your mind.

There is incredible power to heal, refresh and renew in laughter. The ability to laugh easily and often will help you as you face challenges. It will strengthen your relationships and support you emotionally and physically. 

5 - 3 - 1 Formula for Successful Relationships

Two main things contribute to those feelings of being in love with your partner. First your loving feelings are affected by how you feel about yourself when you are interacting with your partner. And secondly your loving feelings are amplified or diminished by your thoughts, words and behavior toward and about your partner. If your thoughts, words and actions are negative, your loving feelings will be diminished. If your thoughts, words and actions are loving, chances are your heart will be warmed toward your partner.

The 5 – 3 - 1 formula was developed to help you uplift each other. If followed it will help you feel great about yourselves when you are interacting as a couple. It will also help you behave in ways that amplify your loving feelings toward each other.

If you want the simplified version just do the daily 5 – 3 - 1 formula. Each day repeat the following:


Give each other 5 sincere positive messages.


Wrap your arms around each other for 3 hugs lasting a minimum of 20 seconds.


At least once a day make sustained eye contact and smile (with your eyes as well as your mouth).


For more in depth results use the entire 5 – 3 - 1 formula for successful relationships:

Once a year repeat the following:


Learn or review 5 relationship-enhancing skills (read five articles or watch five videos or attend 5 coaching sessions that help you learn healthy relationship skills)


Set 3 relationship goals. Choose three goals to work on as a couple. Perhaps you want to practice a relationship-enhancing skill. Make your goals SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound. You can work on these one at a time if you prefer.


Go on 1 couple’s get away. Make it at least over night, preferably for a week. To count as a couple’s get away it must be just the two of you.

Once a month repeat the following:


Each of you share 5 happy memories from the past month. Reminiscing can help you bond and strengthen those positive moments.


Create a safe space for each of you to have 3 check in’s. This is an opportunity for each of you to clarify issues or concerns that you may have. Remember to use active listening. Carefully listen and validate before answering your partner’s concerns. Avoid accusatory language and avoid defensiveness.


Share 1 fun time together. If you don’t agree on how to have fun together take turns cheerfully participating with your partner doing their suggested activity.

Once a week repeat the following:


Each of you list 5 wins. Name five things that the two of you have done well together, enjoyed together, learned together etc. These can even be difficult experiences as long as the two of you pulled together rather than apart.


Notice and mention 3 strengths in your partner. Describe three wonderful qualities that your partner has or describe something about your partner that you appreciate, use specific examples of something they have done well in the past week.


Each of you make 1 request of the other that you feel may improve your relationship. Make your request specific and doable.

Each day repeat the following:


Give each other 5 sincere positive messages


Wrap your arms around each other for 3 hugs lasting a minimum of 20 seconds


At least once a day make sustained eye contact and smile (with your eyes as well as your mouth).

The simple 5 – 3 - 1 formula for successful relationships will help you bond as a couple. It will help you continue to amplify your love over time. You will be much more likely to avoid the common pit fall of taking each other for granted. So consider how your thoughts, words and actions may affect your partner’s image of him or herself. And consider how your thoughts, words and action affect your feelings toward your partner. And adjust accordingly.

Overwhelmed And Struggling? Questions To Ask Before Giving Up

When you are overwhelmed and struggling, it is possible to slip into feeling hopeless and wonder if it would be easier to just give up. Before you give into that dark thought, please consider the following questions and suggestions. As stress has increased in your life, you may have start to feel frazzled and self-care may be one of the last things on your mind. Everything seems worse when you are feeling frazzled. Take heart there may be some simple things that you can do to give yourself some relief. The following questions point to simple things that may have a bigger impact on how you are feeling than you would imagine.

Are you sleep-deprived?

Lack of sleep will definite affect your mood and ability to cope with even the simplest things. It is also one of those cyclical things where your mood affects your ability to sleep. To get your sleep back on track you might try a guided meditation intended to induce sleep, arrange for some respite, establish a healthy sleep routine and see your doctor if necessary.


Are you hangry (angry because you are hungry)? When did you last eat?

If it has been more than three hours since you last ate, pause and give your body something nourishing—protein, fruits, vegetables. You may find your mood improving.

Are you well hydrated?

Even mild dehydration can affect your mood, your energy level and your ability to think clearly. Thirst may be a factor if you are experiencing unexplained mood swings.

Have you moved your body recently?

Exercise releases endorphin and exercising regularly helps to boost your mood. Go for a walk, go to the gym or turn on some music and dance. Walking daily in sunlight is one of the best defenses against depression.

Are you showered and groomed?

A shower or soak in the tub may do more than clean your body. It may also help release tension and sooth you emotionally. Feeling clean and put together tends to be a mood booster.

Are you eating too much sugar and or processed foods like white breads, pastas, rice, or chips?

Eating more whole foods may significantly improve your mood and reduce your risk for depression. Experiment by eating some protein with each meal and eating a balanced diet including whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Have you smiled at someone today (including yourself)?

Especially if you do not feel like smiling; choosing to smile can boost your mood. Not only does your expression reflect your mood but the reverse is also true. When you choose to smile the feel good chemicals endorphins, serotonin and dopamine are released in your brain, naturally boosting your mood.

Have you hugged someone today? Or spent time with your pet?

If you do have someone to hug—hug them for at least 20 seconds. If you do not have a pet or someone to hug, consider visiting a local pet store or animal shelter. Somewhere that allows you to pet and spend time with an animal. Positive physical touch can increase your serotonin levels and elevate your mood.

Have you accomplished something today?

Sometimes it can be difficult to find the motivation to put one foot in front of the other. Do it anyway. Stop right now and complete one small task. Focus only on the next 5 minutes. Clear off your desk or kitchen table, organize your sock drawer or clean the bathroom mirror. A sense of accomplishment, even for small things can help boost your mood.

Has your medication changed? Or have you missed a dose?

If you do not feel more settled in a couple of days see your doctor or psychiatrist. Be open with them about how you are feeling and any changes in medication, especially if what you have been doing varies from what was prescribed.

Do you have a counsellor? Have you seen your counsellor recently?

If you don’t have an appointment, make one. If you do have an appointment, hang on until you can talk things through with your therapist.

Your Partner Has A Low Libido

If your partner has a low libido you may have tried to persuade, cajole or guilt them into showing more interest. These methods may not have gotten the results that you desire. This post offers 8 tips for ways to approach your partner to help restore the passion in your intimate relationship.

1. Be aware and respectful of your partner’s conditions for sex. Everyone has conditions for sex. Your conditions may simply be that your partner is willing, but your partner’s conditions may be more complex. Pay attention and talk to your partner. Find out what conditions help them feel more amorous. Conditions for sex are unique to each individual. For some it may be a clean and quiet house, for others it may be candle light and romantic music, for others it may be spending the day together doing something fun. Once you identify your partner’s conditions for sex, choosing to respect those conditions makes it more likely that you will hear yes rather than no.

2. Make good use of non-sexual touching. Consistently reaching out to your partner with non-sexual touching will help the two of you feel connected. Hug, cuddle, and kiss. Be affectionate, but not sexual. Remember touching a woman’s breast or genitals before she is aroused, often produces a feeling of revulsion rather than excitement.

3. Do more of what works. Think of the last time that you enjoyed passionate lovemaking with your partner. Think about the times when they have been more willing and when things were good. What was going on prior to those experiences? How were you treating and relating to your partner at the time? What was different? How can you introduce more of those elements into your current life?

4. Be generous. Women need to feel loved before they want to make love. Men on the other hand often want to make love to show their love for their partner. If your partner is rejecting your advances it may be because she is not feeling loved. It may be difficult for you, when you are feeling rejected, to choose to be kind and thoughtful. But by choosing to help her out more, to listen and make eye contact when she is talking to you, to call her or text her, to give her compliments, you may help her warm up to the idea of being intimate.

5. Be a little more feminine or a little more masculine. If you are a woman, step into your feminine energy and give your partner the opportunity to feel masculine. Does your partner feel respected and valued? If you are a man, step into your masculine energy and give your partner the opportunity to feel feminine. Does your partner feel loved and pampered?

6. Do something different. It is likely that you are feeling frustrated and that your partner is feeling pressured. Repeating the same patterns has not worked, so perhaps it is time to try something different. You may want to try talking it through. Not in the way you have in the past—not with the goal of getting your partner into bed, rather with the goal of learning more about your partner’s needs, first out of the bedroom and later perhaps you can get to talking about more intimate topics. It may also be helpful to stop focusing on sex for a while (weeks not minutes). There are no guarantees, but sometimes it can be helpful to let your partner’s libido build.

7. Do not take no as rejection. In order to be fully able to say yes to your advances, your partner must actually have the choice of saying no. If your response to no is to pout, get angry or punish your partner in some way, then you have not made it safe for them to say no and you also have made it more difficult for them to truly say yes. Obligatory sex is likely to decrease your partner’s interest in lovemaking.

8. Be honest with your partner. Being in a relationship where your needs for intimacy are not being met may make you more vulnerable to attention from outside of your relationship. You may also find that a sexless relationship is a deal breaker for you. If you are finding that your attention is wandering or that you have considered leaving, please be honest with your partner. This honesty will have less effect if it is offered in anger or in the heat of an argument. Talk calmly with your partner, use “I” statement rather than criticism, let them know that you do not want to stray or leave, but that you are feeling tempted. This is not to threaten or coerce your partner to sleep with you, but it is important to let them know how serious this need is for you while there is still an opportunity to resolve the issue.

When your partner has a low libido being patient, creative, understanding and communicative is perhaps a better choice that opting out of your relationship or having an affair. Efforts made to improve your relationship, reduce resentment and build connections may pay huge dividends in increased passion.

Facing Your Fear Of Being Alone

Fear of being alone can lead to unhealthy relationship decisions. I have heard many client say things like, “I know that this relationship is bad for me, but . . .” The “buts” include: I cannot be alone, I have never not been in a relationship, I am tired of trying to find someone, I am afraid I will never find anyone and so on. People, men or women, who are afraid of being alone, will often choose an unhealthy relationship over the possibility of having no relationship. They see the red flags, but choose to ignore them because they feel a desperate need to be in a relationship regardless of the cost. Facing your fear of being alone can be difficult. Having connections with other people represents a basic human need. We all need to feel loved and that we matter to someone. Sometimes people will settle for a negative connection rather than face the void of no connection.

The fear of being alone is extremely real for some. Here are some things to think about that may help calm that fear:

  • What if you are missing the opportunity to meet someone who will love and respect you? It can be difficult to stick to doing what you know is best for you. Try putting the thought, “There is someone better coming,” in the back of your mind.
  • Fear-based decisions are seldom good decision. If you were to act free from any fear, what choice would you make?
  • You are already alone. Feeling alone and unloved when you are in a relationship may be worse that being alone.
  • Being single for a time may give you an opportunity to get to know yourself, to stretch and grow and help prepare you to find a much healthier relationship.

Before you decide to leave carefully evaluate your contribution to the relationship. Are you behaving respectfully, acceptingly and lovingly? Have you made your expectations clear and have you set boundaries with your partner? Have you done all that you can to try to create a healthy relationship?

If you really are in a bad relationship, perhaps it would be helpful to accept is that it is better to be single than in an unhealthy relationship. Next it is vital to accept that you are worth it. You deserve to be loved, accepted and respected. Starting with you. Learning to matter to yourself is an important step. Practice loving, accepting and respecting yourself. Work on being comfortable with you.

Be patient and compassionate toward yourself. It may take time for you to build up the courage that you need to do what is best for you. Begin by changing how you think about your situation. Stop saying anything like, I am stuck, I cannot be alone, or I cannot leave. Focus instead on seeing yourself as strong and independent. See yourself in a healthy loving relationship. Facing your fear of being alone may begin you on the path of making better relationship decisions. Leaving is not always the solution, but you do have to do something different if you are going to see different results.

Become An Adult In Your Parents' Eyes

Frequently our relationship with our parents, especially the lack of mature boundaries, has a negative impact on our relationship with our partner. This is especially true if you have not yet become an adult in your parents’ eyes. If you have not taken this stand with your parents, it is extremely likely that you feel as if you are still a child in your parents’ home. You find yourself feeling and behaving like a child in the presence of your parents. From this position of feeling like a child, it is almost impossible to defend your partner from the behavior of your parents. Instead you may end up asking your partner to accept that Mom is just like that, or that’s just the way Dad is, expecting your partner to suck it up and not make waves. Taking this stance will tend to build resentment in your partner and erode your relationship. If you find yourself making excuses for your parent’s behavior, rather than setting mature boundaries, it is probably time to take the necessary steps to become an adult in your parents’ eyes.

There are some steps that move you toward a more equal relationship with your parents:

  1. Accept that your parents were and are imperfect and that is okay.
  2. Forgive your parents. Not because they deserve to be forgiven, but because you deserve to be free from the resentment and bitterness.
  3. Let the guilt drop on the floor. If your parents attempt to offer you guilt because you are setting boundaries and moving into an adult role; do not take it in and carry it around with you, simply let it drop on the floor.
  4. Recognize that you are responsible for your thoughts, feeling, words and behavior. Your parents are not to blame for making you feel like a child. That is something that you are choosing when you cave, run away, rebel or hide, feel small or behave like a victim. When you were a child, you had little to no power in the relationship. That is no longer true, unless you continue to behave as if it is true.
  5. Take responsibility for your life. Accept your accomplishments and own up to your mistakes. Adopt the attitude of ‘there is no failure, only feedback’ and consider ‘how might I do this differently in the future’.
  6. Be open to influence. Behaving like a child in your parents’ eyes can take two forms (and a range in between) being obedient and trying to please your parents or being rebellious and refusing to hear them no matter what. As you become an adult in your parents’ eyes you will find yourself able to hear your parents’ thoughts and suggestions and then choose for yourself which suggestions work for you. Know that it can be a sign of maturity to ask for your parents’ advice.
  7. Find the gratitude. No matter how awful your parents were or are, there are very likely some gifts (of character, experience, example) that you received from them. Even if these gifts were simply examples of what not to do. You are who you are today because of the choices and decision that you made as you lived with or without your parents. Find ways that you can feel grateful for the gifts you received from your parents.
  8. Set boundaries. Expect to be treated respectfully and to have your partner be treated respectfully. Remember for boundaries to be effective there must be consequences. If your boundaries are not respected, lovingly remove yourself from the situation. For example, if your boundary is that you are unwilling to listen to a litany of complaints from Dad, when Dad starts in on his list of complaints say, “have to run, love you, talk to you soon,” and then hang up the phone or walk out the door.
  9. Recognize and respect your limits. For many there is a limit to the amount of time they can spend with their parents and maintain their sense of equilibrium. You may find that as you form a new and more equal relationship with your parents that your tolerance increases, but it is important to be aware of and respect your limits.

This is a simple, but challenging process. In some ways becoming an adult in your parents’ eyes may be one of the most difficult things you do in your life. As you grow and mature in this way, you may notice a positive ripple effect in your relationship.

The Art Of Conversation In Marriage

Communication is key in relationships. But you may have reached a point where you are beginning to feel that you have said it all. You may not be sure what to talk about after how to get the kids to where they need to go or what needs to be done around the house. There may also be taboo subjects like in-laws or sex. You may like the idea of a date night, but the thought of sitting in awkward silence is not overly appealing. Improving your communication skills may be just what is needed to feel more excited about spending time together. Becoming aware of the attitudes and behaviors that help or kill conversation is a place to begin.

Conversation Killers

Right Fighting

Having to be right is a conversation killer. Trying to manipulate or force your partner to agree with you will not encourage continued conversation. It is extremely important to always be respectful of each other’s opinions.

Negative Focus

Ongoing complaints and criticism are also conversation killers. Having a negative focus may make one or both of you avoid talking to each other.

Being Flippant

Being dismissive or making light of your partner’s feelings or thoughts will make it difficult for them to continue to share their thoughts with you.

Unbridled Anger

Verbal assault is a conversation and relationship killer. Unleashing a poison tongue on your partner may help you vent your anger, but it will build resentment in your partner and create a divide between the two of you.

Conversation Aids

Being Curious

Curiosity encourages quality conversations. Ask your partner questions. Remaining curious about your partner will help you grow closer to them. It feels good to be known and to know about each other.


A willingness to share—to be honest and vulnerable with each other will increase the depth of your conversations. It will help you feel more connected. Remember that you need to create safety for each of you to be open and vulnerable.

Choosing Compassion and Kindness

Strive to understand each other’s opinions, thoughts and feelings. Always be respectful, especially when you disagree. Learn to disagree agreeably.

 Showing Interest

Make what is important to your partner, important to you. Show interest in your partner’s interests. Make an effort to learn more about those things that fascinate your partner. But be aware that there are going to be some topics that will never be of interest to one or the other of you. Work on finding topics that you can both enjoy talking about.

With a little effort you can hone your skills in the art of conversation and become the couple that looks forward to date night and talking with each other. There are certain attitudes and behaviors that are conversation aids and others that are conversation killers. The more you can avoid the conversation killers and make use of the conversation aids the more pleasant your time together will be.