Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year’s Resolutions

Christmas is over and the New Year is just around the corner. Thinking of resolutions?
This week is a great time to prioritize that list.

#1: Start with the one you love.

For more insight and resources, visit and click on the “classes” link. The new year will bring a host of great resources ranging from our upcoming webinar on the Power of Listening to our Valentine’s Day retreat celebration: “LOVE Language”– featuring psychologist Dr. Jennifer Thomas, co-author of the book The Five Languages of Apology, written with Dr. Gary Chapman, New York Times best-selling author of The Five Love Languages.

Below are five time-honored suggestions from a recent feature on

What would you add to the list?

Get Closer to Your Mate

By Sherry Rauh, WebMD Feature; Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD

Whether you're nurturing a budding romance or you've been married since the first lunar landing, you can have a more committed, loving, and fulfilling relationship -- if you're willing to do a little work. Not sure where to start? WebMD consulted with top relationship experts to bring you this set of intimacy-building tips.

L-I-S-T-E-N…just listen.

All of our experts agree on this point -- listening, truly listening, can reduce conflict, boost trust, and lead to a more satisfying partnership. Listening may sound simple, but it requires more than being in the same room while your better half is speaking. Signal that you care by turning off the television, offering your undivided attention and making eye contact. And don't forget to follow up on what you hear.

This is particularly important when your partner is upset. If you listen carefully, you are more likely to understand the problem and find a way to help. This can take practice, according to Steve Brody, PhD, author of Renew Your Marriage at Midlife. "Practice listening in less-loaded relationships, like with customers at work or friends on the phone," Brody suggests. "After building up listening muscle in those less-challenging relationships, the weight of your partner becoming unglued won't be as overwhelming."

Focus on the Relationship Positives

"When you first meet someone, you pay attention to all the things you like," says Kate Wachs, PhD, a Chicago psychologist and author of Relationships for Dummies. "As time goes on, you start to take that for granted and instead you focus on what bothers you. If the relationship becomes more negative than positive, you break up."

The solution is to make a conscious effort to focus on the things you like about your partner. "Your partner has many good qualities, as well as things that drive you crazy," Brody says. "Look for [the positives] and drink those in. Jot them down to remember them."

Stop Nagging

Nagging not only creates tension, it usually gets you nowhere. "If you're nagging, your partner will tune you out," Wachs tells WebMD. "If someone isn't giving you what you want, think about what you are doing. It's not working. What can you do instead? Have a dialogue ... Instead of saying what you don't like, say what you would prefer. Give alternatives."

When making a request that could be seen as nagging, take the edge off by expressing appreciation for your partner's good qualities. "Give 20 positives whenever you want to ask for a change," Wachs says. Your partner will be more motivated to please you if he or she feels appreciated.

Spend More Time Together

You've probably heard the idea before -- make dates and keep them. Putting couple time on your calendar reinforces your sense of dedication to each other. "Couples benefit when they feel commitment," Peter A. Wish, PhD, clinical psychologist and author of Don't Stop at Green Lights: Every Woman's Guide to Taking Charge of Her Life and Fulfilling Her Dreams, tells WebMD. "Make these private times special by not including others."

But don't make the mistake of limiting your interaction to designated couple time. Try to enjoy each other's company for at least a few minutes every day, especially first thing in the morning, at the end of the workday and right before bed. "At those times talk about positive things," Wachs says. "It makes a big impression." Make a special point of greeting each other at the end of the workday. If you're home first, stop what you're doing when your partner arrives and spend a moment together. "Act like [he or she] is important," Wachs advises, "not just the postman stopping by with the mail."

Touch More Often

Physical communication is as important as emotional communication in a relationship. It relieves tension and shows your partner that you care. "Physically being in contact with your partner breaks through a lot of ice," Wachs says. "Go out of your way to kiss and hug during the day. Always sleep together in the same bed. Just assume you're going to have sex every night. It's hard to fight if you're having great sex."

Thursday, December 09, 2010

12 Ways to Celebrate Your Relationships this Holiday Season

Remember to laugh, love and reconnect

By Susan Dutton Freund,

For most of us, the holiday season is about spending time with friends and family and enjoying the spirit of the season. In reality, however, this often comes after we finish the shopping, cleaning, decorating, baking, wrapping, and all of the other obligations that compete for our time. It is easy to find that even our most special relationships have been relegated to the “back burner,” in order to get everything done. 

It doesn’t take a lot of time or money to unplug the holiday machine for a moment and reconnect with the one you love. For our own Twelve Days of Christmas, we have come up with 12 ideas to help you deliberately invest in the health of your relationship this holiday season. These are simple and cost effective ideas that are designed to create positive interaction and help you experience the true spirit of the season. Add your own favorites and enjoy!

  1. Write a love letter. It’s not just for Valentine’s Day and your spouse will appreciate the time you took to share your feelings. Love letters often become treasured heirlooms that are saved for a lifetime. Put your love into words and give a very special gift.

  2. Hold hands for five minutes or more. Sometimes something as simple as physical touch can reconnect a couple. After you hold hands, take time to embrace for at least seven seconds. Focus on feeling the energy of your spouse or partner. Afterwards, look deeply into each other’s eyes and say a sincere “I love you.”

  3. Get home from work early and make your spouse’s favorite dinner. He or she will appreciate your efforts and will love to find a home-cooked meal waiting after a hectic day at work. You can spend the extra time talking about your day. While your mate is talking, focus on using active listening skills to reflect back his or her thoughts and emotions.

  4. Tackle the pile of gifts that need to be wrapped. It will be very much appreciated! Better yet, tackle it together. As you wrap, talk about how each person you are wrapping a gift for enriches your life as a couple.

  5. Finish this sentence: “I appreciate…” For example: “I appreciate you bringing me a cup of coffee this morning. You do that a lot, and it really helps me to start the day feeling loved.” Do this five times today. It doesn’t have to be recognition of a great big thing, just a recognition given with great appreciation.

  6. Have a date night. With all of the holiday parties to attend, it’s easy to let this one slip. But having a date night (where it is just the two of you, not the two of you in a crowd of all your friends) will give you the time to focus just on each other. Spend the date talking about your dreams for your future together.

  7. Watch a classic holiday movie together. Then talk about what you liked after the movie is over. Highlight any positive aspects of your relationship you saw reflected in the movie.

  8. Share your favorite holiday traditions you had while growing up with your spouse. Talk about what traditions you two have built together and how it has enriched your family. If you don’t have any, talk about what traditions you might like to build and how you imagine they might enrich your family. Even doing something different every year can be a tradition.

  9. Go for a walk right after a light snowfall. Even a walk around the block is an opportunity to connect after a long day. During the walk focus on feeling the energy of your spouse or partner. Think of reasons you are grateful to be together. Talk about what you experienced when you get home.

  10. Meet for lunch during a work day. Commitments increase during the holidays. Meeting for lunch guarantees some time together when you just can’t fit one more thing into the day. Deliberately flirt across the table with each other. See if you can make other people smile as they watch you interacting.

  11. Bake holiday cookies together. It’s a great activity that can become a holiday tradition for the two of you. Pretend you just met recently and you are having a first date. Compliment each other on the baking and decorating skills you are showing. Go overboard making a “special” cookie for each other. Feed the special cookies to each other the way the bride and groom do with a wedding cake.

  12. Volunteer. Helping a worthy cause is a great way to remember what the holidays are about. Find a cause you both would feel good contributing to, and work out how you will contribute together as a couple. Afterwards talk about how your marriage can or does enrich the lives of people around you.