Give Yourself a Little Love This Valentine’s Day

Featured

The new year can bring regrets and resolutions to do better in the future.  Yet, reminding yourself about these regrets can stop you from giving yourself the love you need to have a happy future.

Many psychologists, including Erich Fromm, have asserted that you can’t fully love another person until you fill love yourself.  So how do you do this? You have to stop judging yourself. And stop seeking others’ approval of you.

You Are Unique

Instead of judging parts of yourself as good or bad, you can see yourself as just a unique human with weaknesses and strengths. You are lovable because you are this unique individual, this whole and real person.

Negatively Judging Yourself

What is it specifically that you don’t accept about yourself? Try this short assessment by filling in the rest of each sentence.

I failed to…

I shouldn’t have…

I wish I were…

I need…

People would say I am…

I am…

I am proud of…

If only…

Do some of your responses indicate that you regard yourself as only conditionally acceptable? Are you starting to realize how harshly you judge yourself and how much you rely on the approval of others? Can you change your negatively biased self-referencing beliefs to more helpful ones?

Change the Negative to Neutral

For example, can you tell yourself you did the best you could do at the time and forgive your mistakes? You probably let the mistakes other people make slide so why not do that for yourself?

Focus on the Present

Instead of dwelling on the past, can you pull your mind back into the present? When you let your mind go back into the past, you see yourself as you were in the past and discount who you are now, in the present. Staying in the present gives you a fresh start to be all that you are.

Love Your Uniqueness

Can you accept that you do have some weaknesses, but those are what make you a unique person, so you don’t have to hide or become defensive about them? You are a unique individual, with your own set of strengths and weaknesses. That does not make you better than or less than another person—just different—and you are usually loved for that difference. You no longer need to seek approval from others because you have given yourself approval of both your strengths and weaknesses.

Accept Yourself

Can you accept yourself just as you are now—unconditionally—free of any qualifications? If you catch yourself judging your appearance, personality, or actions, let that judgment go.  Replace the judgment with a loving kindness towards yourself.  Judging one’s self is the opposite of loving one’s self.

Now that you have given yourself this unconditional love you can begin to give it to others.

Anger Triggers and What to Do about Them

Angry Brain

In relationships, some people are quicker to feel anger than others. Yes, not having your expectations fulfilled or not getting your needs met can cause frustration. But some people seem to have shorter fuses when these situations occur. And some people allow anger to propel them into using strategies that hurt the ones they love and hurt the relationship.

Judgments Trigger Anger
Judgments about what your partner is saying and judgments about yourself can lead to anger. Instead of simply seeing the situation as it is, you put your own spin on it. For example, your partner is scrolling through the messages on his phone while you are talking to him. You judge his actions as showing he does not really care about what you have to say. You might even go a step further in your mind to think, “He never really listens to me because he doesn’t think anything I have to say is worthwhile.” Now you have fueled your anger with that interpretation.


Or you may interpret your partner’s request to take out the trash as a demand that you do it immediately, which causes you to feel controlled and angry. Your judgments can then lead to an angry outburst or even a turning inward with troublesome ruminations.


Sometimes it is the judgments you make about yourself that are behind your anger. For example, you might judge yourself as inadequate or defective. Then you base your self-esteem on your perception of the way others feel about you.


Notice it is your perception of the other person’s words or actions, not what they actually said or did. Your feelings of being inadequate are aroused by interpreting what was said as criticism. Feeling criticized triggers your anger.


Then again, you might actually be in a relationship where your partner often complains about you. If you are also self-critical, this combination can lead not only to anger but also to depression.


Sensitivity to Rejection Triggers Anger
Some people are extremely sensitive to rejection. They have an anxious expectation of rejection. Even when there is little possibility of it, they still readily perceive social threats. This sensitivity motivates them to react with anger, hostility, or withdrawal.

There’s the skittish wife who, at the first sign of trouble, flies out of the house, leaving behind only the admonition, “You won’t be able to find me.”

And then there’s the fortified husband who, when threatened, marshals all his defenses in readiness for a fight. It is the mere anticipation of potential hurt that triggers their reactions. They are so vulnerable and insecure that they don’t have to be actually hurt to feel wounded; the threat is enough.

One concern about the defensive reactions used in the face of rejection sensitivity is that these reactions can create a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the reaction itself causes the feared rejection. One member of a couple in a conflict situation can seek support but not receive it, or be on guard for any cues that might indicate rejection. If that person begins to defensively start losing their temper, insulting their partner, or swearing, it can incite the partner to do the same. Then the negative interaction causes the anger to remain and the conflict to become unresolved.


Research has demonstrated that the brains of these people are different from the brains of people who are not so sensitive to rejection and do not act so defensively.People low in rejection sensitivity have a more active prefrontal cortex, which allows them to be less emotionally reactive and more self-regulating.Yet there is hope for people high in rejection sensitivity. Emotional self-regulation can be taught, and a supportive romantic relationship itself can mitigate rejection sensitivity.     

 
Strategies to Defuse Anger
Why do you sometimes say hurtful things to your loved ones? It can be because you are too fused with them. When you and your partner are fused, what your partner says or does often feels like it has something to do with you. And then you react accordingly. You lash out or raise defensive walls. Or even worse, you blame yourself.


Your partner leaves the dirty dishes in the sink all day and night—again. You think, “If they really cared about my feelings, they would put the dishes in the dishwasher.” Or you criticize yourself with, “I am probably expecting too much.”

With these thoughts, you end up saying, “Must take too much of your energy to put the dishes in the dishwasher. How lazy can you get?” You know you’re not going to change your partner’s behavior with this criticism, but it slips out anyway.


Your partner’s behavior annoyed you, but it is the judgment you put on that behavior that caused you to lash out. More than likely your partner did not leave the dishes in the sink to purposely annoy you or as a lapse in caring for your feelings.


If you see your partner’s behavior as independent of your connection with them, you won’t be pressured to say something hurtful. Instead, you will find a way to let them know that you noticed without the hurtful words. You might even joke. “Maybe we could make the kitchen sink into a dishwasher.” Indeed, those partners who each have a sense of their own autonomy will be less defensive during a conflict and will be more satisfied with their relationship.


The time between a trigger and your angry reaction is generally only two to three seconds. So, try to cut the link between the trigger and your anger by taking a slow, deep breath the moment you notice that you are upset.This will help you to cool off the hothead feeling, not bite the bait, and take a moment to think about a way to express your needs in a helpful way.


After the deep breath, you can respond rather than react, and then you will remain in control. You can respond with an “I” statement that lets your partner know what you need at that moment. For example, if your partner forgets to pick up the dry cleaning that has your work uniform in it, you could take a deep breath and then say, “I really needed my uniform for work tomorrow.”

By just describing your needs, you are putting the issue on the table instead of blaming your partner. An angry retort has been taken out of the interaction. Then the two of you can work on finding a resolution to the issue.


Even if you are the recipient of your partner’s anger, you can still have some control over their angry reaction. When you see your partner starting to tense up, you can remind them to first just breathe. Or you can model the necessary action by taking a slow, deep breath yourself. Initiating the first step in calming the hot responses down will give both of you a chance to approach the situation in a more helpful manner. Instead of a fight, flight, or freeze reaction, you are using a calming strategy.


REFERENCES

Kross, E., T. Egner, K. Ochsner, J. Hirsch, & Downey, G. (2007). Neural dynamics of rejection sensitivity. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19 (6): 945–956.

Romero-Canyas, R., G. Downey, K. Berenson, O. Ayduk, & Kang, N.J. (2010). Rejection sensitivity and the rejection–hostility link in romantic relationships. Journal of Personality, 78(1), 119–148. Https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6494.2009.00611.

Hadden, B. W., Rodriguez, L., Knee, C.R., Porter, B. (2015). Relationship autonomy and support provision in romantic relationships. Motivation and Emotion, 39 (3), 359-373. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11031-014-9455-9.
 

Finding Real Love Online

Featured

You meet someone on line.  Then you text.  Then you Zoom or, if possible, meet for coffee.   But why, as the interaction increases, do so many of these possible lovers turn into duds?

Maybe it is because what is presented online is not who the person really is.  Or maybe it is because spending so much time with people online leaves no time to build relationship skills.

So, what should you look for online in a possible partner?  And how do you best present yourself online?

To find the partner you really want, make a list of the qualities of that person that you feel are important for a good relationship.  Consider whether you are looking for a short-term or a long-term relationship because, in one study, both men and women focused on sexual desirability when evaluating a prospective short-term relationship.  They cited qualities such as physical attractiveness and athleticism.  Yet, when a long-term relationship is desired, honesty, warmth, kindness, and intelligence were cited.

Next, prioritize these qualities.  The first three priorities will then become what you will look for in online descriptions.  A person who really has those qualities will list them rather than just presenting superficial desirable qualities.

If only one of the qualities you desire is listed, you can use later interactions to ask questions that might elicit the other qualities or even some surprising other desirable qualities.  For example, you could ask what qualities the online prospect is looking for.  Then you will know whether there is a mismatch in what you both are seeking. Or you could ask about a time when the person told a lie and how they felt about it. 

What you often do not see immediately online are some qualities that are red flags.  Everyone is initially trying to present an ideal self. And you might be so enamored at the beginning that you are blind to the subtle cues that indicate that person is not a keeper. Often, it isn’t until you are much deeper into the relationship that these red flags begin to show.  For example, does the person want others to do things their way; blow hot and cold; get highly threatened by differences of opinion?  (More of these red flags can be found in Beverly Palmer’s Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life).  We all show some of these characteristics some of the time but it is the insistence and persistence of them that create problems in relationships. 

How do you find out about characteristics that do not bode well for a long-term relationship when you are just interacting online?  One strategy is to ask how they would react in a given situation.  Ask, “If someone interrupted you when you were trying to tell them something important, what would you feel and what would you do?” Or, “Tell me about a time when you were disappointed because someone didn’t think or act the way you expected them to.”

Now focus on yourself. How are you presenting yourself online?  There is not a long list of qualities you have to have in order to be loveable.  There is only one main thing you have to do: listen to the other person.  Online communication or texting can present some impediments to getting the full message that is being communicated.  But, if you pause before shooting off your reply, you can pick up the essence of the message and you can let your partner know what that essence is.

Everyone wants to be listened to and acknowledged that they were heard.  Showing you have listened to others makes them feel appreciated and valued.  They then love you because you make them feel this way.

To listen closely enough to the other person to understand what they are trying to communicate is not easy.  First you have to de-center and focus on the other.  You have to let go of any anxiety or concern about how you should respond.  Focus entirely on the other person instead of what you are thinking or feeling.   After you have heard what was said, do not give your instant reaction.  Instead, repeat back the essence of what you heard.  After you have acknowledged that you understood what was communicated, you can say what is important to you.  Throughout your conversation you have to let the other person know you have listened before stating your point of view.

You might also want to assess how good of a listener the other person is.  Since two people showing they are really listening to each other could be the start of a loving relationship.

Regan, P.C., Levin, L., Sprecher, S., Christopher, F.S. & Gate, R. (2000). Partner preferences: What characteristics do men and women desire in their short-term sexual and long-term romantic partners?. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality. 12 (3), 1-21. https:// doi.org/10.1300/J056v12n03_0

How to Stay Connected on Valentine’s Day

With Valentine’s Day Approaching, Try These Tips To Make This Day A Special One.

Does Valentine’s Day make you wish you had someone to love (and to love you)? Don’t despair—there are ways to dispel loneliness during the Valentine’s Day hype, and help get you out doing something you enjoy. When you are deeply involved in an activity with other people you have a common goal and interests that connect you. Frequent exposure to others increases their liking of you, so besides having an enjoyable time, you might find a new love by engaging in some of the following suggestions from Beverly B. Palmer, Ph.D., professor and clinical psychologist.

  • Volunteer

Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping.  Would it be children, the homeless, migrants, senior citizens?  Then, search online for where you might be most needed. VolunteerMatch.organd CreateTheGood.org are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your community. Not only would you be making a positive change, you would be meeting others with similar values.

  • Foster or Adopt a Pet

You may find a pet to be a loving companion. A cat can give you comfort as it curls up on your lap, while a dog will get you out of your house on a daily basis where you will meet neighbors and other doggie lovers at the park. You then instantly have something in common with those around you and something to talk about. Petting a dog or cat releases the “love hormone”, oxytocin, in both the person’s and pet’s brains, according to a group of Swedish researchers.  Oxytocin creates a feeling of being loved and insures a strong bond, so your pet can help you feel less lonely.  Contact your local pet adoption group or borrow a friend’s pet before taking the plunge.

  • Join a Special Interest Group

If you have a hobby you could join a group of people who share that interest. Every city has an abundance of special interest groups, professional association functions, alumni events, and civic organization meetings. Find group activities on websites such as meetup.com. These may involve hiking, cooking, developing a new skill, discussing a topic, or participating in a sport.

  • Sign up for a Course or Fitness Center’s Program

If you have a regularly scheduled event where you are with other people, you already have a way not to be lonely during the upcoming Valentine’s Day.  Seek out adult classes that interest you at your local university, or join a gym.  Both men and women are attracted to the other’s sweat, reports a Swiss study, which explains why health clubs are such popular hunting grounds! Don’t forget to reach out and connect to others by asking for advice or noticing when someone needs help.  Don’t wait for someone to find you—smile and start talking with someone who is engaged in the activity with you.

  • Read a Good Book

Visit your library or bookstore. Selecting a book from browsing the shelves gives you an opportunity to interact with others before going home to read. Escape to another world through an engrossing fiction.  Learn something new through a helpful nonfiction book, such as Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life, which will give you even more suggestions on how to avoid the Valentine’s Day blues.

The Science Behind Why We Find Certain People Attractive

Give Love This Christmas

christmas-gift-ideas-2.jpgNeed a unique Christmas gift for the young adult on your list?  Help them have a successful love life with Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.

No matter where on the road to love someone is, this book will help them to avoid or work through the inevitable bumps along the way.  This book gives tips on each stage of a relationship, from finding a partner and making sure it is the right “one”, to creating a lasting love.

Instead of opinionated advice one might get on the internet or from their social media, this book gives them tips and techniques based on the science of what actually works.  The gift keeps giving because they will refer to it both now and throughout the years, because as their love life evolves new chapters will become relevant.

Available as a paperback or e-book at Amazon.com (amzn.to/2Kft05b or amzn.to/2YvQJls).

Oh, and if you are a young adult who is reading this, buy a copy of Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life for yourself (and maybe even one for a friend).

A (Short) Guide To Better Boundaries

I was honored to contribute to this article which appeared on Page 5 of the Wellness Section in the Sunday New York Times on October 30th. boundriesblog

Love in the Age of Social Media

picture1

You meet someone on line.  Then you text.  Then you meet for coffee.  But why do so many of these possible lovers turn into duds?

Maybe it is because what is presented online is not who the person really is.  Or maybe it is because spending so much time with people online leaves no time to build relationship skills.

So, what should you look for offline in a possible partner?  And how do you best present yourself offline?

Online

To find the partner you really want, make a list of the qualities of that person that you feel are important for a good relationship.  Then prioritize these qualities.  The first three priorities will then become what you will look for in online descriptions and what you will try to ascertain during your first offline visit.  If one or more of your first three priorities are not listed in that person’s online description, move on.  A person who really has those qualities will list them rather than just presenting superficial desirable qualities.

Offline

Or, if it seems that none of the online descriptions contains your priorities, you need to move offline.  Offline places to meet possible partners are: meetup groups (meetup.com), volunteering sites, universities.

Now you are having that first meeting with a potential partner.  How do you present yourself?  Do you have the relationship skills to succeed?

Everyone wants someone who is a good listener.  Instead of focusing on the anxiety you feel about this first meeting, focus on the other person.  Listen to what that person is saying and show you listened by repeating back a snippet of what was said.  All you really need to do during the first meeting is listen because listening is the number one relationship skill.

You might also want to assess how good of a listener the other person is.  Since two people showing they are really listening to each other could be the start of a loving relationship.

(To find out more ways to meet a potential partner read Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life by Beverly B. Palmer, Ph.D.)

Five Ways Not to Be Lonely on Valentine’s Day

teddy-bear-loneliness-800x567

 

Does the upcoming Valentine’s Day make you wish you had someone to love (and to love you)?  Do you miss a loved one?  Or do you just feel lonely?

Don’t despair—there are ways to feel less lonely during all the Valentine’s Day hype. 

Perhaps you have tried interacting with others on your smartphone or even with an online group. But recent studies have shown that we become even lonelier during screen time because it does not provide the meaningful, deep connection with others that we long for. 

To dispel loneliness get out of your house and get involved with an activity you like.  Besides having an enjoyable time, you might even find a new acquaintance, friend, lover.  Don’t wait for someone to find you—smile and start talking with someone nearby while engaged in the following activities.

Volunteer

               Think about who you would get the most satisfaction from helping.  Would it be children, teenagers, adults in special circumstances, senior citizens?  Then do an online search for where you might be most needed.  The search terms would be the name of your city and the word, “volunteer”.  Or, you can make the search more specific, by adding the name of the group you would like to help (e.g. homeless, migrants, special needs, hospitalized). VolunteerMatch.com and CreateTheGood.com are two sites that list volunteer opportunities in your local community.  Not only would you be making a positive change in your community, you would be meeting people who are also volunteering.

Foster or Adopt a Pet

                You may find a loving pet to be a loving companion.  A cat can give you warm, soft comfort as it curls up on your lap. A dog might even get you out of your house on a daily basis, where you might meet some of your neighbors.  Or you and your dog might meet other doggie lovers at a doggie park. Contact your local pet adoption group to foster or adopt a pet.

Join a Special Interest Group

                If you have a hobby or special area of interest, you could join a group of people who share that interest. Every city has an abundance of special interest groups.  Find one at meetup.com.  Some of the meetups in your city involve hiking, cooking, developing a new skill, discussing a topic, and participating in a sport.

Sign up for a Course or a Fitness Center’s Program

                If you have a regularly scheduled event where you are with other people, you already have a way not to be lonely during the upcoming Valentine’s Day.  Find classes at your local adult schools or universities that might interest you.  Join a fitness center.  And don’t forget to reach out to others by maybe asking for help with something.

Read a Good Book

                Visit your local library or bookstore. Selecting a book from browsing the shelves will give you an opportunity to interact with others before going home to read that book.  Escape to another world through an engrossing fiction book.  Learn something new through a helpful nonfiction book. One nonfiction book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life, will give you even more suggestions on how to dispel the Valentine’s Day blues.

Want More Intimacy in Your Relationship?

wedding-1770860_640

“I want us to be more intimate,“ she says.  “Intimate,” he thinks, “that must mean she wants more sex.”

Men and women often mean very different things when they think about intimacy.  Women often are asking for more emotional closeness when they ask for more intimacy.  Men, on the other hand, sometimes confuse sexual and emotional closeness.  Some men might even admit that they have no clue what a woman is asking for when she asks for more intimacy.  And some men and women can use sexual intimacy as a substitute for emotional closeness.

What, then, is intimacy?

 Intimacy is the ability to engage in close and reciprocal relationships, to engage in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit, and to flexibly respond to the range of others’ ideas, emotions, and behaviors.  Engaging in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit is a good description of sexual intimacy as well as emotional intimacy. 

Intimacy strengthens close relationships and fosters mutual growth.  Intimacy is needed even in platonic relationships because it promotes positive interactions in dyads and teams working towards a mutual goal.

What interferes with creating intimacy?

Intimacy involves giving and receiving understanding and support.  Some people tend to receive but not give.  What can hold you back from giving fully of yourself in a relationship is a need to defend against hurt.  Or you may be so judgmental and defensive that you do not respond flexibly to other’s ideas.

How does a couple create emotional intimacy?

In order to create emotional intimacy, you have to let go of your defensiveness.  You need to listen to the other person with a non-judgmental ear.  And you need to be willing to be non-defensively open in what you share with the other person.  When you are together, talking and listening with these attitudes increases emotional intimacy. 

Intimacy is an essential skill in loving relationships and Dr. Beverly Palmer shows how intimacy can be developed in her recently released book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.

%d bloggers like this: