Counselling and Psychotherapy for
Body, Mind and Spirit

Ina Stockhausen, MTC

info@positivelifechanges.ca
778-558-8207

Ina Stockhausen R.P.C. offers spiritual counselling and body psychotherapy or somatic counseling in Burnaby and North Vancouver.

Joy

resolve conflict with marriage counselling in Burnaby /North VancouverAre you familiar with the frustrating and discouraging feeling of getting stuck in a negative cycle or downward spiral together?

After a while, you don’t know how to shift the pattern to recreate positive energy between each other.

Sometimes you have an internal narrative which sounds something like this: ”If only my spouse would do X then I could / would do Y.” Both of you are waiting for the other to change and most likely have a score card pattern. As you point the finger at each other, your levels of willingness go down as defensiveness and frustration goes up.

Let’s use this metaphor:
Imagine your doctor told you that you needed fresh air and exercise to improve your health. Time Love coaching and relationship therapy Burnaby / Vancouverpasses and you’re not walking or jogging because of the weather. Every time you look outside you think, if only it would stop raining, then I could go for a walk. If it rains for a long time, you have to start figuring out how you can get moving outdoors despite the rain, otherwise you never improve your health.

Once you change your expectation around the weather conditions, you can start to enjoy the benefits of exercise. By the time the rain gives way to sunshine, your health has improved and you can enjoy being outdoors even more.

In my marriage counselling and relationship coaching work, I offer couples the following useful exercise to help identify a starting point for change.

The magic wand exercise aims to help you shift your thoughts from “If only…” to embodying the change you want to see in your relationship.

Here is how it works:recapture the magic with Relationship Coaching and EFT Therapy Burnaby

Write down your answer to the following two questions on a piece of paper:
1) Imagine you had a magic wand and you could change one thing about your partner that would improve your experience of the relationship, what would that be?
2) Imagine with that same magic wand you could change one thing about yourself that would improve your marriage – what would you change?

Once you’ve written down your “magical changes”, swap papers. Now you get to read what would make a big difference for your partner and what they consider they could do to contribute to a positive change in the relationship.
When you approach change from the perspective of being the change you want to experience, three powerful things happen:

  1. You stop judging your partner
  2. You shift from complaining about the other person to reflecting how you are co-creating or contributing to the current situation
  3. You stop feeling powerless and start creating movement in the only area of the relationship that you have control over, namely yourself.

Can you imagine how your willingness to connect with each other is going to increase when you don’t feel criticized all the time? And then you both start noticing how the other person is doing some things differently? Things that make you feel good or please you? Actions or behaviours that indicate to you that your partner is assuming responsibility for how they contribute to conflict and disappointments?

Here is a potential scenario: You have swapped papers and read the following. “If I had a magic wand I would make my partner be a more tidy a person. And I would make myself be more appreciative of the things that my partner does do.”
“If I had a magic wand I would make my partner of more patient and have them stop interrupting me when I talk. And I would be less negative and grumpy in the morning’s.”

Love Coaching and premarital counselling BurnabyOf course you don’t have to limit the things you believe you could change in how you show up in your marriage to one item 🙂 That being said, you need to start somewhere. And as you rekindle good will and remember that you are not each other’s enemy the momentum of an upward spiral creates more willingness and desire to be loving and kind with each other…. and before you know it you can focus on actively nurturing the magic of the love you share and co-creating your dream relationship.

80% of the couples that come to see me for relationship therapy or marriage counselling want to get back to their happy place. Once we dive a little bit into the couple’s history, I usually hear that things started out well. I’m sure you can relate to that.

Be happy together again with Couples counselling and marriage therapy Burnaby Most likely when you met your partner you were pretty happy with him or her. If you take a moment and think back to that time, would you agree that you also thought good thoughts about him or her? That you told yourself positive stories and that you focused on the things you liked about this person?

Most likely you also noticed things that you didn’t like or that triggered you, but there was enough momentum in the relationship and in your desire to be happy, that it was easy enough to  ignore those things that annoyed  or disappointed you.

My hunch is when something “displeasing or challenging” occurred,  you told yourself that it wasn’t really that important, or that it might change in the future.

Fast-forward a few years. The momentum in the relationship has changed. Enough things have happened where you have felt misunderstood, disappointed, hurt or let down.

It may be your experience that you have discussed certain issues over and over again, you’ve tried to explain how you feel and asked your partner to change but they haven’t. So now you feel discouraged and hurt.

Possibly you have come to the conclusion that you need to adjust  the expectations you had for the relationship and from your partner. What this also means is that your thoughts and your narrative about  your partner has changed. Now you most likely think more negative thoughts or when something negative happens it is more difficult to reach for a positive thought and to focus on the good things.

You might recognize some of your current challenges in the relationship of Victor and Janet
(name and story changed to protect  confidentiality).

Victor and Jane got married eight years ago. When they decided to join their lives together they had similar goals and values of how they wanted to live their life. Today they still feel that they have similar goals and values but life’s demands and how they are navigating and communicating about the challenges of those demands make them feel disconnected from each other and their goals.
2 years into their marriage, Victor inherited  a struggling family business and  Janet became pregnant with twins. Due to a difficult pregnancy she was soon on bed rest and could no longer work. Victor’s father died and he started working 12 hour days seven days a week to try and create a  solid financial foundation for the family that they were going to be soon.

In the last five years that’s pretty much all Victor has done. He has worked very hard to provide for the family. He feels misunderstood and hurt when Janet complains that is he doesn’t help enough with household chores or the twins. He doesn’t share many of his worries with her because he doesn’t want to burden her. As a result he feels like a lone soldier whose wife doesn’t seem to appreciate his efforts. Somehow it is never enough.

Janet feels that Victor doesn’t understand what it’s like to have been the mother of premature twins. She feels like he doesn’t understand her reality and how  exhausted she is and how hard she works to keep the house clean and their children happy.  He doesn’t seem to notice the things she does in the house. Sometimes all she wishes for is to be able to go back to work. She doesn’t feel appreciated or courted by Victor anymore.

V+J haven’t had a date night in years. They both feel disappointed and hurt because the other  doesn’t seem to understand them. When one of them makes a request the other one feels attacked and criticized and gets defensive.

We’re sitting in our second couple session and they are both gridlocked. Janet wants Victor to initiate romantic outings. Victor would like Janet to plan the romantic outings. He is happy to show up but feels like he simply doesn’t have the mental time or energy to come up with ideas because the business currently understaffed. Both make statements that start with “why can’t you…”

I talk to them about “being the change you want to see.” They both acknowledge that they have Sex Therapy and Intimacy counselling Burnaby will help you rekindle intimacybecome  stuck in their negative stories and thoughts about each other and are continuing to co-create more misery and disappointment together.

Their willingness to respond to their partner’s request is hindered by their pain. It’s as if both are sitting there saying “Me, me first. When you can acknowledge and see my pain, then I can respond to your request.”

What kind of thoughts and what kind of stories do you tell yourself about your partner? Do you remember that this is the person who loves you – this is your beloved and not the enemy? Or do you take the things that go wrong personally? Do you feel misunderstood and hurt and struggle to remember that this person you are choosing to spend your life with thinks you are special.

What would happen if you changed your story and your thoughts? I know it may be difficult in the beginning. And most likely you both need to clear up some misunderstandings and soothe some pain.

Learn to appreciate your spouse again with positive psychology

But what would it be like if you started to look for the good stuff again? If you focused on all the things that DO work, that DO make you happy? 

If you find yourself resisting this idea then you need to ask yourself: Why? What do you need from yourself and/or your partner in order to contribute to the happiness that you can build together rather than deducting from it. You are in charge of choosing the thoughts you think and the narrative about your relationship. If shifting gears feels overwhelming or confusing, consider sitting down with a skilled relationship therapist, intimacy counsellor and couples counsellor.

Here are 3 ways to rebuild positive momentum:

Take a trip down memory lane. What did you love doing together that made you laugh and have fun that has been replaced with life stress. Schedule a date and pick up some of these early activities.

Make a point of sharing an appreciation with your partner every day. Consider it a gift to them. Put some thought into what makes them special and let them know why and how it makes you feel.

Be available and fully present when your partner wants to connect. Take a screen break – don’t check your cell phone while you’re having dinner. Stop multitasking when your partner is sharing.

Finally – it’s not about having the perfect relationship – it’s about how quickly you make a repair attempt. If, after a joint discussion, negative habits creep back in – apologize – make amends, shift gears quickly.

Whether you’re feeling the loss of a not-too-distant breakup or you’re sitting in the longing of meeting that special someone,  you might be wishing that Valentine’s Day would have  come and gone already.

Love and Dating Advice from Relationship Therapist BurnabyWho needs a reminder of romantic couple love everywhere when it just brings back painful memories or makes you wonder what’s wrong with you… Why can’t you seem to meet a truly nice guy or gal who wants you?

As a couples counselor and relationship therapist I often work with singles who want to break unhealthy and dysfunctional patterns of relationships past.    As we deconstruct familiar relationship dynamics and old hurts, we most often discover that things would shift greatly if there was an increased focus on loving the self rather than trying to please the other.

quotes_beyonceEspecially as women we are still hearing the old echoes of the female’s job description as being someone who is nurturing, in service, helpful, kind, loving and caring. Of course there is nothing wrong with being a nurturing, kind and loving individual – on the contrary – but it needs to start with YOU.

Because Valentine’s day isn’t all chocolate and roses for many, there are more and more messages in the media about using this day to love yourself. It’s an excellent idea.

Let this Valentine’s day

mark a shift in the most important love relationship in your life – the relationship you have with yourself.

If you had a partner who was the love of your life and infinitely special to you – how would you treat him or her?

Would you:

  • force them to do things because you thought they SHOULD? Because it made you happy?
  • make them feel guilty if they said no because they were honouring their own truth?
  • tell them that they should put themselves last and everyone else’s needs first?
  • tell them that they would be more lovable if they lost 10 pounds, had a smaller belly or bigger chest?
  • think they should feel responsible for other people’s happiness?
  • suggest they do everything in order to avoid disappointing others?

I can’t imagine you would!!

I am imagining that you would treat this special someone with great respect and care. If they felt discouraged you wouldn’t criticize them but encourage them. You would remind them that not only were they allowed to say no, but that they should say NO to anything that creates a cost of self.

Perhaps you would encourage them to trust that other’s can take care of themselves, that it wasn’t their job to fix everything.

Finally you might remind them that it was who they are that you loved and not what they accomplished or managed to produce.

Heal low self esteem and co dependency with relationship therapy North Vancouver

“Loving yourself…does not mean being self-absorbed or narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart, a guest worthy of respect, a lovable companion.” Margo Anand

 

How would your life shift if you realized that the biggest love of your life needs to be YOU?

What would happen if you let go of all the SHOULDs and all the inner conflict and allowed life to love you? How would you feel during the day if you could shift your focus on the things you do have and opened yourself to receiving more of what you wanted rather than worrying about yet again not having your needs met?

Remember:

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship that you have.”

Here is to setting the intention of loving yourself and accepting yourself just the way you are on Valentine’s day and EVERY DAY.

 

“Your task is not to seek for Love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” – Rumi, thirteenth century Sufi poet

As a marriage therapist and couples counselor, I regularly listen to couples share the pain they experience when they don’t get the love they want. Often, especially in the beginning of couples counselling, there can be a fair amount of focus  on how the pain is the other person’s fault, i.e. the result of what the other person is doing “wrong” or failing to do.

Similar to J.F. Kennedy’s famous quote “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country” I sometimes like to offer couples these questions:

“ How can you love more in this relationship?Increase love in your marriage with Burnaby Marriage Therapy

How can you give yourself more love?”

It’s easy to get stuck in feeling disappointed, hurt and discouraged based on your spouse’s actions or lack thereof.

Would you agree that when you are marinating in pain, you forget or have doubts whether your partner actually loves you? Would you also agree that sometimes a simple apology is not enough for you to fully let go of your hurt feelings?

When somewhere inside your heart you’re still harbouring resentment, it’s going to impact how much love you’re willing to give.

North Vancouver couples counselling help you create an upward love spiralIn order for love to grow in relationship, both you and your partner have to be willing to give and receive love. Loving and feeling loved creates an upward spiralling “love circuit”.  If one of you struggles with giving or receiving the “love circuit” gets interrupted or reversed.

I’m sure you have experienced this firsthand. Remember a  time when you wanted to give your partner a hug and they didn’t  participate – they weren’t willing or able to  receive you?Most likely your emotional response  ranged from mild disappointment to feeling rejected.

Perhaps you can also remember an occasion where the opposite was true. You weren’t  feeling very generous and giving. No hugs being initiated by you. Your partner’s response most likely landed somewhere in between disappointment and feeling unwanted.

If you’re ready for more love in your relationship I invite you to consider the idea of forgiveness. The degree with which you have either forgiven your partner or yourself can have  a direct impact on your willingness to give and receive love. 

Test this out for a moment. Think of a time when you felt hurt by your partner’s actions. On a scale of 1 – 10, how much have you actually forgiven them? Please go with the first number that popped into your head rather than the number your think you “should” come up with.

Let’s say you came up with a 6. How and when does this impact your willingness and ability to love more? 

Now think of a time when you did something that created pain in your relationship. Perhaps you lied, suffered a relapse from recovery, broke a promise. Perhaps you feel responsible for not being different, more or less. Perhaps you feel responsible for not being able to make your partner happy.  Again – on a scale from 1 – 10, how much have you forgiven yourself? How much have you been able to let go of shame, guilt, feeling inadequate? And how is this impacting your ability to receive love? To give yourself more love? 

If you are ready for more love in your relationship – practice forgiveness. Be curious and Relationship Therapy Burnaby helps you heal relationship painidentify what is holding you back from forgiving yourself and others.

Difficulty forgiving can be impacted by

  • judgement
  • fear
  • low self-esteem
  • guilt
  • shame
  • religious beliefs
  • old “stories” that you were told about yourself or others when you were growing up
  • your sense of deserving

Sometimes the first step to increasing forgiveness is compassion and remembering that you or your partner were doing the best you could at the time. Our best is not always the same. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It does mean surrendering and letting go of the past and showing up fully in the present moment. To the best of your ability.

Action step: take some time each day to journal about something that you still need to forgive. Identify what is holding you back. If you are feeling stuck or if you recognize a pattern, you might choose to enlist the support of  a trusted loving friend, psychotherapist / counsellor or life coach.

Are you familiar with the major reasons for betrayal in relationship? And do you know how to avoid them? When couples come to see me for affair recovery or marriage and relationship therapy, we usually start with an assessment to identify the strengths of their relationship and where they need support.

Check out this list of the six most common causes that have been identified to put your marriage at risk for an affair. Do you experience any of these in your relationship right now?

Relationship Therapist North Vancouver: how to recover from an affair1) Do you feel lonely? Does your partner tend to be busy, preoccupied, not available when you ask for attention?

Antidote: make a point of scheduling time for each other. When your partner invites you to connect (he wants to share something with you, she wants to hear your opinion about something) be willing to set aside your media device, game control, social media activity etc. and give your loved one your full attention. If you aren’t fully available in the moment, communicate this with your partner and let them know when you will available.

2) Are you feeling disconnected because of a lack in communication? Have you and your partner stop discussing what is brewing under the surface, or what you have been sitting on emotionally because of time constraints or other reasons?

Antidote: be willing to dig deeper and go below the surface. Go beyond the usual question of “how was your day” and the standard answers of “pretty good” or “not too bad.” Use the daily connector to talk about what really matters to you and create a deeper level of communication.

3) Are you suffering from a love and attention deficit? Do you feel under-appreciated? Do you wish your partner was more affectionate and made an effort to acknowledge what you do or what he or she values about you?

Antidote: treat your partner with the love and care and attention that you would devote to something incredibly precious and valuable to you. (You probably spend some time taking care of your car, your special camera, your special media device, your bonsai collection etc.) Let them know that they are a priority in your life. Be generous in sharing praise and appreciation. If you’re not feeling generous, it’s time to find out why you’re feeling this way and talk about it together.

Couples counselling Burnaby: Relationship advice to prevent affairs4) Are you struggling with boredom? Have you and your spouse fallen into a rut of always doing the same thing, hanging out together but not really connecting…like watching TV every night because you’re both so tired? Are you experiencing a level of emotional distance?

Antidote: be creative and think outside the box. Are you really too tired to do something at the end of the day? Consider agreeing on a media free week once a month or one media free evening a week. Play games, identify or develop a common or shared interest and build excitement in connecting and enjoying this activity together.

 

5) Are you experiencing sexual disconnection? Have you stopped being affectionate with each other? Do you touch each other less frequently these days?

Antidote: start to bring mindfulness into your physical connection. Take the time and remember to have a ritual of greeting each other when you leave in the morning and when you come back together in the evening. Make it more than a quick peck on the cheek. Practice hugging each other once a day for three minutes and see if you can stay present or if your mind starts to wander.  Plan an erotic surprise for each other

6) Is there a lack of intimacy in your relationship? Do you sometimes wonder whether your partner really knows who you are? Do you feel emotionally safe to be completely authentic with the one you love?

Antidote: regularly update your knowledge about your partner’s world. Take time to share your innermost dreams, hopes and fears. Identify any hesitations or feelings of vulnerability and discuss them with your partner, letting him or her know what it is that you need from them so you can show up in a more authentic way.

I often like to compare a long-term relationship to a house. If you are a home owner, but even if you are renting, think about all Marriage counselling North Vancouver: creating long-lasting harmonythe things that need to be done regularly to maintain your property in good condition. What needs to be done regularly to ensure your investment is protected from external influences and increase or at least maintain its value?

Your relationship is a valuable investment. Would you agree that you have invested time, emotional energy and most likely money? Are you doing everything you can to take good care of this investment? If the answer is no, perhaps it is worthwhile to stop and think about why not.

As usual, I welcome your thoughts and feedback regarding this post 🙂

They use different aliases: marriage wreckers, divorce predictors, love erasers…but they all do the same thing. They are the termites that slowly eat away at your marriage.

I recently wrote an article on my website www.goddessrevealed.ca which focuses on counselling for anxiety and stress relief. The post is called “How to raise your Happiness Quotient” and discusses the effects of negativity on the brain as well as practical steps for moving from no to YES.

Negativity has not only a marked effect on the brain.

When the ratio between your positive and negative messages and expressions in relationship falls below 3:1 you are slowly erasing the love between you.

John Gottman ( The Gottman Method) researched communication between couples in the love lab for over 15 years and  identified 4 particularly harmful habits or divorce predictors that put couples at risk.

He has called them the 4 horsemen of the Apocalypse. I like to call them the love erasers. When couples come to see me for sex and marriage therapy, one of our first areas of focus is the elimination of love erasers.

Burnaby Couples counsellor can help you prevent divorceDoes your partner sometimes say things that you have heard a thousand times... things you find boring or have judgment about…so as s/he speaks you roll your eyes. Or perhaps you have gotten into the habit of mimicking your partner, repeating things they said in a way that is sarcastic or diminishing. Some couples get into the unfortunate habit of name calling in moments of heated anger. All these actions fall into the category of contempt. How do you feel if your partner treats you with contempt? Most likely you feel hurt, shamed, angry …certainly not loved or emotionally safe.

Contempt is love eraser number one.

Some couples get so frustrated when they get stuck in communication or they feel so hurt and misunderstood that they North Vancouver Marriage therapy can save your marriage from divorcestop talking. Most of the time however it is one partner in particular who adopts this negative habit. S/he will simply not answer when addressed after a fight or disagreement. S/he will treat the other partner as if they were invisible and clearly inaudible. This “silent treatment” can sometimes go on for days. I once worked with a couple where the wife was extremely jealous. Whenever she thought that her husband had behaved “inappropriately” she would give him the silent treatment or cold shoulder. Sometimes he hadn’t actually done anything but someone had smiled at him and perhaps he had smiled back. Often he wouldn’t know what was going on, except that his wife was treating him like air.
He – like anyone else who has ever been the recipient of this kind of behavior felt frustrated, powerless and hurt. The lack of willingness to communicate slowly erodes trust and emotional safety.

This behavior is also called “stonewalling” and is love eraser number two

.

Burnaby relationship therapist and marriage counsellor helps you stop arguingSometimes when I listen to spouses discuss an area that causes distress during a marriage counselling session, I don’t hear about a specific behavior. Instead I get a very critical description of the husband or wife. “She is just lazy.” “He is so selfish”, “She is so mean-spirited, she always throws me under the bus with her parents.” When you criticize your partner instead of the specific behavior, your partner tends to feel angry, ashamed or embarrassed, and frustrated. S/he will most likely not feel particularly motivated to change the behavior that you are unhappy with.

Criticism and complaining is love eraser number three

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Most often criticism leads directly to love eraser number four. Defensiveness. Instead of being able to hear what you are unhappy about, your spouse either comes up with a big explanation about how this is not his or her fault or s/he retaliates but telling you that this is really all your fault. If you didn’t do “A”, then they wouldn’t have to do “B.”

Love eraser number four – defensiveness is probably the most challenging negative habit to eradicate

.save your marriage with Burnaby intimacy and relationship counselling

You can develop a zero tolerance for contempt and stonewalling. You can practice how you approach your partner about issues that impact you negatively. But you have to develop strong boundaries to be able to simply hear your partner out while trying to understand what is going on for them, rather than launching into defensiveness.

I invite you to stop for a moment and consider all the conversations you and your partner or even you and your children have in the course of a day or a week. What would you say is the ratio between positive and “negative” interactions? For every criticism or complaint, do you share at least 3 or 4 appreciations? Do you take the time to hug, touch and connect with each other in a loving a positive way consistently? Or does life sometimes get too busy, so that all that is left is a long list of frustrations?

If the love erasers are at work in your marriage or family, I urge you to make a pact with your spouse and children. Eliminate the love erasers from your relationships and replace them with mindful, loving communication. Infuse your connections with positivity. Find a balance between discussing the challenges and celebrating the good things in your lives together.

Have you stopped feeling special in your relationship? As a marriage therapist, I often hear one half of a couple who has come for couple’s counselling, share his or her sadness and disappointment about not feeling special anymore in the relationship.
This can prompt the other spouse to exclaim “What do you mean, you don’t feel special? Of course you’re special to me.”

Often  the partner replies with something similar to “but you never pay attention to me.”
Can you relate to the above scenario at all? While men and women feel special in response to different types of appreciation, both desire their partner to take notice of what they are doing or how they might be feeling.

Giving your partner attention is the one of the three keys to creating real love. When you’re in the honeymoon stage of your relationship, or you’re dating someone, you tend to shower them with attention. You notice everything about them. You express your appreciation for this person in word and deed.
Then, when you’ve been together for a while, and you’ve become a functioning team, it’s easy to start falling into the habit of taking each other for granted. You still love this person, but you are less focused. While this is a natural development, the key to relationship thrival lies in finding the balance that works for your relationship.

Kate had tears well up while she vented about her husband’s lack of attention. “Here I was, approaching the car with my arms full of shopping bags, balancing on high heels because we were going out to dinner. Do you think Jeff would notice and open the trunk for me? No, he was too busy on his Blackberry texting his buddy.”

Paying attention and being fully present with your partner doesn’t mean you can’t use your Blackberry anymore while you’re with your beloved.
It does mean, making an effort to notice and give voice to the little things: The expression on her face, the fact that he folded the laundry without you asking, the hours of overtime worked to create abundance, the note tucked into your lunch….
It means cultivating the habit of fully connecting with your partner when he or she engages you, i.e. putting the TV on mute, or momentarily setting aside what you’re doing.

Why don’t we pay more attention to our loved ones? Sometimes, we feel hurt, unseen or misunderstood. We carry around a bag full of unresolved or unnamed issues. I always know when couples have pain tucked away somewhere, when I hear one or both parties say:”Why should I do X? He / she never does Y for me. How many times have I asked for… “ and so on.

This brings us to another vital key for creating joy and connection in your love relationship. It is called willingness. Nothing happens without willingness. In order to be fully present with your partner you have to want to be present. 
Take a moment to reflect. Are you “sitting on something” that is affecting your willingness to make your partner feel special? Are you waiting for your partner to see and hear you before you’re willing to send them some positive attention?

Remember that if you’re hoping to receive your partner’s undivided attention, (perhaps you want to discuss something specific) it helps to let him/her know by making a specific request. Feeling hurt because your spouse isn’t reading your mind is a set up you co-create.

Learning to ask for what you want in a way that your partner can hear you, will go a long way towards creating willingness and receiving attention. To quote Harville Hendrix, founder of Imago Therapy, “focus on the positive.” That means rather than complaining or asking rhetorical “negative questions” such as “ Why can’t you cook once in a while?” or “Why do you always have to be late when we go somewhere?” make a positive request. “I would love it if you could take care of dinner on Wednesdays.”

The third key to creating real love and possibly the most precious gift you can offer your spouse is self-love; i.e. cultivating your ability to being willing to pay attention to and be present with your self.
Self-love often gets confused with self-care. Self-love doesn’t mean taking more bubble baths or treating yourself to a pedicure. Self-love means taking care of your own needs rather than expecting your partner to fix you. Developing an ability to self-soothe your anxiety would be an act of self-love for example. How would your partner and your relationship benefit? Imagine the following scenario:

Suzanne texts Rob all day long. She is constantly asking him when he is coming home, what he is doing and where he is because she is incapable of soothing her anxiety. She also phones him at work to find out whether he remembered to pick up the dry cleaning and to tell him about the phone call she had with her mother. When Rob comes home, and is texting on his phone, she wants to know who he is texting. Rob is Suzanne’s life line, problem solver and crisis soother. While Rob initially enjoyed feeling important, he now often wishes Suzanne could stop pestering him about his whereabouts. He feels curtailed in his freedom and weighed down by the feeling of responsibility of Suzanne relying on him to calm her down and reassure her all day long. Often he gets impatient. Then Suzanne feels hurt or gets angry.

Self-love means honouring your truth, discovering your needs and wants and taking care of your own well-being. While you want to contribute to the well-being of your partner, doing so at cost of self is actually a disservice to you both. It goes back to the principle of putting your own oxygen mask on first before assisting others. The consequences of lack of self-love have a ripple effect on your relationship. Not attending to your health, not dealing with your depression, anxiety or addiction can have serious consequences for your relationship.

Take a moment to reflect…where do you neglect your self-love and why? What pulls you off center and away from being the best partner and spouse you can be?
Consistently monitoring your willingness, level of attention and quality of self-care will create a positive LOVE change in your relationship.

As a somatic psychotherapist and marriage counsellor I offer intimacy coaching to couples who would like to deepen their intimate connection and want to share a more satisfying sex life.

The number one practice and first, very simple step towards a more fulfilling sex life is body mind awareness.

In a world that is incredibly fast-paced and almost everybody’s day is tightly structured and governed by a schedule, most individuals spend a lot of  time “in their head.” And while eroticism and desire are governed by the mind and by willingness, without body mind awareness your sex life risks being limited to a quick orgasm rather than the enjoyment of a full body release.

There is often an erroneous belief that a bigger trigger creates a “bigger bang”, i.e. increasing stimulation of the genital area results in a bigger orgasm. It’s like driving a low horsepower vehicle and thinking that if you push the gas pedal hard enough it’s going to go faster, forgetting that maximum output is determined by horsepower.

If we transfer this analogy to the body, the amount of energy in your body is the equivalent of the vehicle horsepower. You need more horsepower, i.e. energy for a more complete orgasmic experience. How can you increase and build energy, specifically sexual energy? Since you can only change something if you have an awareness of the starting point and the desired outcome, body mind awareness is your gateway to building energy.

Exercising and maintaining a certain fitness level can contribute but don’t guarantee that you have body mind awareness. If you tend to exercise and multitask, i.e. watch TV, work on your computer or read while you’re running on the treadmill, you’re often distracting yourself from your body.

Cultivating a “breathing practice” is the simplest way and first step to increase body mind consciousness while learning how to move/raise energy in your body.

 When you bring your awareness to your breath and increase its volume, a number of beneficial physiological mechanisms are set into motion. More breath means more oxygen which is a key element in your body’s ability to produce energy. The website “The Healer within” is an excellent resource for variety of simple breathing practices that you can integrate into your daily routine.

Practicing to regularly tune into your body is the second step in mastering body mind awareness. How often in your busy day do you ignore the signals your body sends you?

Perhaps you’re familiar with these examples:

  • You have to go to the washroom but decide that you don’t have time right now and continue on with your day ignoring your discomfort
  • You skip lunch even though you’re hungry because you’re too busy
  • You overeat even though you feel full
  • You don’t drink water even though you’re dehydrated
  •  You have a cup of coffee rather than a brief nap when you’re tired

Learning to listen to and honor your body signals, slowing down and doing a body scan to bring awareness to your body,  practicing mindfulness, all these are simple ways that can enhance your body mind awareness.

Imagine lying in bed with your partner fully present in your body, acutely aware of the sensations touch is producing. Imagine engaging all your senses, smelling, touching, seeing yourself and your partner. Imagine breathing and deliberately changing your breath to increase and raise your sexual energy.

Now compare that image with lying in bed with your partner a part of you giving and receiving touch while another part of you is thinking about what you have to do tomorrow. As you go through the motions of “pushing all the right buttons” a part of your mind keeps wandering off.

Which intimate experience would you rather have?

 

 

How do you feel about ageing? If you are reading this and you haven’t hit your 40s yet, you might not spend any time thinking about ageing at this point in your life.

But if you have passed the 40 or 50 mark then you might have spent some time reviewing your life:

  • Where has it led you so far?
  • Are you being the woman or man you want to be?
  • Are you living the life you have always wanted to live?

For many of us, change or transition is part of the “mid-life” period. Children grow up and leave the nest, parents age and caregiving roles become reversed, marriages fall apart due to “mid-life crisis.

It is natural to re-evaluate goals, dreams and challenges when you are faced with transitions in your life. Life-transition counselling can help you navigate this exciting period which is often overshadowed with “heavier” feelings such as loss or grief.

We live in an era that cultivates and approaches life with a very different mindset compared to the beliefs our grandparents grew up with. Many of us, particularly if we have the privilege of living in a civilized, peaceful and affluent part of the globe have started to embrace the notion that we create our own reality.

In our consumer and industry driven part of the world, what that reality looks like is heavily influenced by the media and ultimately by politics.

Ageing or better said “preserving youthfulness” is a multi-billion industry that encompasses everything from cosmetics to supplements. While different messages about the benefits or drawbacks of ageing compete for our attention, our cultural heritage and family values continue to have a large impact on our attitudes and beliefs.

Hence, your mindset and your internalized beliefs will influence the ease with which you might navigate life transition periods or why you might seek life transition counselling.

This is good news! Why? Because you can choose the thoughts you think.

Fascinating studies from people like Ellen Langer at Harvard, show that the belief system someone has by the age of nine determines what they believe about aging. Those who believe that as you age you become wise and that there are positive things associated with aging, add seven years to their life.

If you didn’t grow up with a positive belief system about aging, it’s not too late to shift your way of  thinking. Dr. Christian Northrup’s response to the question of how women can overcome guilt and other self-perpetuating abuse, is to switch focus.

Switch your focus from everything that can go wrong to everything that can go right.

Therefore, when you are navigating a transition period in your life connected to mid-life change and the prospects of aging, think positive thoughts, think about the things you love and focus on living the life of your dreams… it might just extend your life span and will certainly help you make positive life changes.

That would be a logical conclusion to come to if you happen to watch the latest Nabisco Cookie commercial for the “Chips Ahoy Chewy Gooey Cookies”  because… “they are crammed with joy.”

low serotonin levels can lead to sugar cravingsIn these times of stress many individuals struggle with increased depression and anxiety. As you may know, when you’re depressed, your serotonin levels are low. Low serotonin levels in turn trigger cravings for refined carbohydrates like cookies or chocolate.

When advertising helps instill the belief that a cookie is “crammed with joy” is it any wonder that the rate of emotional eating related weight gain is also on the rise?

Let’s not forget that children watch TV as well.
(The cookie commercial is geared towards children)  Between the age of 4 to 10, children develop  their ability to think. How many of us think to point out to a 6 year old that a cookie is actually not crammed with joy? To the average adult it is just advertising that we tune out. But somewhere in our brain and somewhere in the developing brain of our children this message gets logged.

So let me repeat my earlier question. Is it any wonder that emotional eating, Food Addiction and obesity are on the rise?

If we take another look at the connection between serotonin levels and cravings we also need to remember that low serotonin levels affect how you feel about yourself. Anyone who has ever felt depressed will recall that they weren’t exactly bursting with self-esteem at the time.

One of the most common grievances accompanying low self-esteem that clients share with me is their fear of weight gain and feeling too fat.

It is a dilemma. Sugar does raise serotonin levels momentarily, so it would appear that the Chips Ahoy Chewy Gooey cookies are indeed “crammed with joy”.

Personally I think I would like the ad better if it ended with one of those rapid monotonous voices we recognize from drug commercials which could say “Some side effects may apply. Eat with caution when depressed. The intense flavor may trigger binge eating, overeating or continuous grazing until the box is empty. After effects may include and are not restricted to weight gain, self-loathing, feelings of powerlessness”.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with Chewy Gooey cookies. As I always say to my clients:
There are no forbidden foods as long as you eat mindfully. So the next time you have a cookie, do enjoy and savor the smooth creamy fudge in the middle.

Then consciously take a breath, connect with your body and check in to see if you really want another cookie. Perhaps you do. If you find yourself eating  more than a whole handful, ask yourself what you are really hungry for in this moment.

animals can help with depressionIt may well be that you are looking for a little bit of joy. And that is ok. But remember that you can make a choice. You can eat more cookies, or take another breath, put down the cookies and take a moment to remember what else gives you joy. Maybe you like to hug your pet, kiss your child, play a game, do some gardening…

Now check in again with your body. What is truly going to meet your need for joy in this moment?

No matter what choice you end up making, be present with yourself and give yourself permission to truly savor the moment and your chosen activity.