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Cuffing Season

February is the end of what my friends call “cuffing season.” It’s the time of year that you lock down or “cuff” a relationship in the Fall so that you don’t have to go through the holidays alone. The holidays can be difficult when you’re single, sure, but there are tons of great reasons to not settle for someone just to avoid being alone. Yes, friends and family members can sometimes be “all in your business” about why you’re not married, but don’t let them get you down. Riding solo around the holidays can be a great opportunity to reframe your thinking and really take care of yourself.


First, don’t focus on being alone. Instead, this can be a time to do what you want when you want--You can be the focus! You don’t have to meet anyone’s needs but your own; no in-laws to entertain, no family schedules to coordinate, and no unwanted obligations. That’s one of the best things about being single. Go to a museum, have a spa day, indulge your culinary cravings with dinner at Post and Beam or The District. Don’t like to go out alone? Invite a friend to join you. Or push yourself to accept an invitation to a party on your own. It might feel scary at first, but I bet you’ll start having fun once you get there. Besides, people are more likely to approach you if you’re by yourself.


Second, remember that your goals are important. Pamper and take good care of yourself, but also make plans and set goals. Do things you enjoy that are meaningful to you. You can use this time to be productive; put together a vision board for 2017, create a timeline to meet your goals for the year. Maybe you need some down-time to relax. Perhaps your body’s yearning for a new workout regimen. Take this time to dream about the future and put the steps in place to make them come to fruition.  


Finally, don’t be a negative Nelly. It can be difficult to stay positive, especially when we keep hearing, “When are you going to settle down?” or “When do you think you’ll have a family of your own?” It’s common to have a little post holiday blues. But if you feel yourself getting dragged down, consider volunteering. Distracting yourself with something positive and productive is a great tool.  There are plenty of charities and good causes that could use a little extra help. Doing positive things for others who are in need can bring you joy, help you stop focusing on what’s wrong, and instead focus on what’s right. Once you’re focused on the positive, I bet you’ll notice your mood is lifted -- just-like-that.

No matter how you decide to deal with being single over the holidays, don’t forget that you don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to be happy. It might seem obvious, but sometimes it’s nice to repeat that to yourself when you’re stuck “in your feelings” and things get tough. Besides, just because you aren’t romantically involved doesn’t mean you aren’t important to other people. You have friends, family, and other loved ones who care about you, and that means you’re never really alone. So keep that in mind and carve out some time to focus on you! You’ll be glad you did.

Relationship Status: It’s Complicated

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, you might be excited to share a romantic evening with your partner. Or maybe some recent relationship drama has you skipping Valentine’s Day celebrations and wondering if your partner is a keeper? If your relationship feels complicated, it might not be healthy.

Part of any relationship is working to make sure it’s healthy and happy, and it’s normal to question that from time to time. But do you think about it more than just occasionally? Are you waiting until he’s in the shower to scroll through his phone contacts? Is the bad starting to outweigh the good? If so here are some things to consider to figure out the kind of relationship you’re in:


1. You can’t be your true self around your partner. It seems like it would be obvious if you couldn’t be yourself with your partner, right? Sometimes it’s really subtle. Do you notice that you can’t be honest about what you want? Maybe you are really into video games, or you want to try a new sex position. But you’re embarrassed to admit it for fear that you’ll be harshly criticized, rejected or shamed. Perhaps you hope to get married and have kids someday, but you’re afraid to tell your partner, because you don’t want to scare her away. Pay attention to what you’re comfortable sharing and what you keep to yourself--you might be surprised to realize you aren’t being yourself. If you won’t share because you’re afraid s/he won’t accept you, you might be in an unhealthy relationship.


2. You don’t feel you can trust your partner. This one comes down to one thing: your gut. What does your gut say? Sure, it’s normal to get a little jealous sometimes, but do you have a nagging feeling that says something just isn’t right? He looks at ladies a little too long, or she’s just a little too friendly with other men? Healthy relationships don’t make us so insecure that we blow-up our partner’s phone until  they pick up, or turn us into detectives who stalk our mates’ social media pages to see if they “liked” that certain someone’s new picture. Think of how much energy it takes to worry about whether your partner is cheating. That’s time and energy you could be spending on a partner who loves and trusts you in return.


3. You make excuses for his bad behavior. Do you find yourself having to lie to your friends or family about your partner’s behavior? For example, did your partner curse you out, or call you names in front of your loved ones, and now you have to make excuses? Have you found yourself saying, “No, it’s my fault, I didn’t have dinner ready when she got home,” or “He didn’t mean it, he’s just angry because he’s been struggling at work lately.”  Or has it gone further, to the point where you have begun to isolate from your friends or family because they question you about how badly she treats you? If multiple people are telling you something is wrong with the way he treats you, most likely  there is. So, you at least have to consider it. Like they say, if one person says you’re drunk, you might not be drunk. If two people tell you you’re drunk, you might be drunk. If three people say it, you are certainly drunk. If your loved ones are all questioning your partner, that could be proof that your relationship is not healthy.


4. You can’t tell whether or not you’re in an unhealthy relationship. Yes, it’s normal to wonder if the person you’re with is your soulmate or a good partner for you. If you’re not sure how to tell, however, the answer might be clearer than you realize. If you constantly ask yourself whether your relationship is healthy, that could be a red flag that it is not. Relationships take work, but it should not feel like you’re constantly rolling a boulder uphill. And it certainly shouldn’t feel  like you’re always running from the boulder so it doesn’t crush you.  It should be easy a lot of the time, and work part of the time. If you find that you’re stressing about your relationship more often than not, then there could be a much healthier match out there for you.

Take a little time this month to reflect on your relationship--do you spend too much time worrying about whether you’re with someone who is healthy for you? Does your relationship make you feel good or stressed out most of the time? This Valentine’s Day, don’t just love your partner, love yourself! Be kind to yourself, and if you see that you’re involved in an unhealthy relationship, consider moving on and finding a partner who loves you the way you deserve to be loved.

How to Keep Your Relationship Hot and Healthy

Now that the holidays are over, our lives are slowly going back to the normal. Folks are slowing down, looking at the year ahead and considering changes or improvements. ‘Gonna ask the boss for that promotion? Thinkin’ of volunteering?  Or maybe you need a little something to spice up your relationship.

It’s so easy to take our loved ones for granted, especially long term romantic partners who we see day-in-and-day-out. We have so many responsibilities to prioritize--kids, work, housework and finances. Between paying bills and taxiing the kids around town, it seems impossible to add one more thing to your list of To Dos. Sure, kids and work are important, but they can’t always be your numero uno priority. If you’re relationship doesn’t get nurtured,  it’s likely to become boring or even worse, unbearable. By now you’re probably wondering “what can I do to keep my relationship hot and healthy when time is tight?  Here are five ways to get you started:


1. Don’t Find Time MAKE Time: Nurturing any relationship, whether it is personal or professional, takes time. Even though life’s responsibilities can get in the way, it’s crucial to keep your relationship on top of your list. Often people say they just can’t find the time. The key is you don’t find time, you make time. Make time for a date night once a week.  Set aside 30 minutes before bedtime to talk about your hopes and dreams instead of your kids and bills. Make that time together count. Whether it’s a night out dancing, a relaxing walk, or a fun-loving conversation every Monday night, focus on each other. This kind of quality time can re-center your relationship and keep you on course.


2. Try Something New Together: Maybe you’ve been wanting to try a cooking class, or take salsa lessons. Why not schedule a date to try that out together? Experiencing something new and challenging provides the excitement of learning something new, and also strengthens your ability to work as a team. Think about it--when you have a shared goal, even if it’s something as small as learning to bake a cake, it requires you to work together and connect. It’s simple and a great thing to practice.


3. Gratitude: Another way to keep your relationship hot and healthy is to show gratitude in small ways on a regular basis. You might make coffee for your husband in the morning, or wipe down the bathroom sink after you shave so your wife doesn’t have to do it. One sweet way to show gratitude is to leave a post-it note for your partner somewhere they’ll find it later. Maybe it just says, “thank you for working so hard,” or “I’m  lucky to have you.” Maybe it references an inside joke. The point is that you find small ways to express your gratitude for your partner, and that you are making efforts, no matter how small, to keep your relationship on point.


4. Fantasize:Try fantasizing with your partner, read a hot, steamy novel together or give each other a sensual massage. Check out 50 Shades of Grey, and then go home and make your own movie. Fantasizing is not limited to sex, you can fantasize about anything. Where would you go if you could travel anywhere? What job would you have if money was no object? What goals can you set together to help make those fantasies a reality? As you share or act out your fantasies, or reach your goals, you’ll feel a sense of connection and intimacy from working together to make something happen.


5. Reminisce: It might sound simple, but if you’re feeling like your relationship is getting cold, think about your first date or the first time your partner said “I love you.” Replay those moments in your head. You can even reminisce about these times together. What was it about your partner that excited you? That made you laugh? That made you all hot and bothered? Reminiscing this way can stir up positive feelings that can replace or outweigh the negative ones that creep up after a while. Try telling each other the story of your first date and watch how the memories of that magic come flooding back.


If you aren’t motivated to try all of these ideas, remember one small change can make a BIG difference. If that doesn’t work, it’s helpful and healthy to sit down with a  therapist and process the things that are holding you back, so consider calling K&S Therapeutic Services to schedule an appointment today!


P.S. Is it only me, or does Mary J. Blige’s song ‘Reminisce’ pop into your head every time you see or hear the word reminisce? :-)

Managing Holiday Expectations

As we settle into the the holiday season, one issue may come up for many of us: how do we go home and successfully deal with our families? How do we have disagreements without them turning into arguments. For example, maybe your mother yells and shuts you down when you stand-up for yourself. Or maybe your sister is a condescending know-it-all and believes her way is the only way. No matter what the struggle, how can we manage our relationships and expectations with family during holiday visits without xxx


This can be especially tough if you have moved away from your family and built your own life with your own set of values. Think for a moment about the differences between you and your loved ones—are you more liberal? More conservative? More or less religious? Do you lead a lifestyle of which they would not approve? Perhaps in the past you have struggled to make it through a family visit without feeling hurt or disrespected. Maybe it turned into a full blown screaming match. Just because you love your family doesn't mean you have to agree with them on everything, but it can be difficult to feel that love during conflict. Though it’s possible to love someone, disagree with them or even not like them, loving them does not mean you have to endure abuse from them. Let me repeat, loving someone, even a family member, does not mean you are required to endure their abuse.


Managing expectations of your family's behavior during your visit is key to having a loving and hopefully enjoyable visit. It's easy to fall into the fantasy that just because your family loves you they will accept you and your beliefs without question. Although it is fair to have expectations that your family will finally  accept and respect your beliefs, that it isn't always the way it works out. For example, you might visit your relatives and (especially this year) have a stark difference in your political beliefs. It is reasonable to believe that if politics come up in conversation, you’ll be able to have a rational debate about your position. It’s unreasonable however, to expect others to change their political beliefs based on the arguments you make. After all, your family members are people too, they have formed their own values that may not be swayed any more easily than yours.


This holiday season, before visiting with your family, take some quiet time to consider what your expectations of your family are and whether they are realistic. Expecting them to behave differently than they have their entire lives will set you up for frustration and disappointment. Expecting them to ‘be who they are’ and preparing for that by: limiting visit time, taking breaks, avoiding problem topics, will help you make through a potentially difficult time unscathed.


If it gets too tough, and you feel you’re being abused (e.g. feeling attacked, being yelled at, criticized, humiliated, etc.), you are not required to stay and endure. Round up your kids and spouse, politely excuse yourself and head out. You can reach out to your family later if that makes sense to you.  


Don't be too hard on yourself if you are struggling—it can be difficult to determine what is and is not reasonable to expect from family members. If you are struggling, consider processing it with a therapist, or even better, one of the process groups at K&S.


Process groups allow you to share experiences, expectations and family disappointments in a safe, confidential non-judgemental environment. This can be invaluable when trying to gain some perspective. Give us a call if you’re interested. It's a great support to have during a stressful holiday season.

Keep Calm and Carry On

Let’s face it: holidays can feel like a whirlwind. Between chores like cooking and cleaning, trying to get all the shopping done, and hosting guests, feeling overwhelmed this time of year is common. This coupled with the struggle to keep up with all the children’s activities, and feeling guilty about not being able to get every gift on the list can cause the holiday blues.  


The easiest way to avoid feeling overwhelmed is to make time for yourself to regroup and recharge. It can be difficult to put ourselves first with so much to do, but sometimes even taking five minutes out of your day for yourself can keep you refreshed. Five minutes of quieting your mind, of prioritizing yourself, can make a big difference in your ability to handle difficult or stressful moments with family.


Even if you end up in a house full of feuding relatives, find a moment to step into the backyard, the garage, even the closet if it comes to that. Take those precious five minutes, plant both feet firmly on the ground, and pay attention to your breathing. Count your breaths if you are having trouble concentrating. How does your breath feel? Do you breathe in through your nose or mouth? Use visualization; imagine a butterfly flying gracefully from flower to flower in a garden. No matter the challenge: You can ride this out. You’ve got this. Your feet are still on the ground. Breathe.


If you’re concerned you’ll lose track of time, set your phone alarm so you can have a full five minutes to meditate and breathe. If you’re concerned that you’ll be missed or the ‘show can’t go on’ without you, remember you are no good to anyone if you are depleted. Once your alarm goes off, take ten more seconds and imagine a great memory with your family. Did you spend the day at the beach, or at a block party? Did someone cut up in the soul train line? Did you ride a roller coaster or play cards? Hold onto that memory throughout the day. It’s a great way to keep you calm and remind you to be kind to your family, even when they get on your last nerve.  Remember--they’re your family, and although some of your memories of them may be unpleasant, there are good ones too. You can love them despite the fact that they drive you crazy.

The holidays will be over soon, but you are equipped to handle them! Remember to be kind to yourself, breathe, and hold on to happy memories when you feel stressed out. There’s a lot to take care of during the this time of year, but you can’t take care of anything if you don’t take care of you first. Happy holidays!

Navigating Difficult Times with Family Members

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of managing expectations of your family members during the holiday season, let’s figure out ways to successfully navigate difficulties that may come your way.


You’ve done your job, you have reasonable expectations of your family members in mind. That doesn’t mean problems won’t surface. After all, going back home for the holidays can bring up old family dynamics that you escaped when you moved away or left your parents’ home. So how do you maintain your boundaries, manage your feelings, and strive to behave differently within that dynamic?


One thing that helps immensely is to remember what took place during your last family visit. Did it go well, did you have a ball? Or did your visit end with anger, resentment and hurt feelings? If it went well, keep doing what you’re doing. If not, it’s time to try something new.


First tap into the any new skills you’ve developed since the last family visit. Maybe you’ve tried therapy, or added a process group to your routine. Perhaps you’re going to church more often, or you’ve tried meditation. You undoubtedly have grown and gained strengths you did not have the last time you saw your family. Use them! There’s no time better to practice than now.


Let’s look at an example: you go home and even though you’re an adult, your father treats you like a child, as though you never know what you’re talking about, and need to be told exactly what to do and how to live your life. When he starts to challenge your knowledge and question you, take five slow breaths before your respond. While you breathe, remind yourself that you are not a child, and you do know what you’re talking about. Taking slow breaths can force you to acknowledge the intensity of the moment. It helps you to respond clearly and calmly, instead reacting irrationally with anger or frustration. Once you’ve taken a beat you can say (in a neutral tone), “Dad I know you really care about me, I’ve got some ideas of my own, but I’ll definitely think about what you said.”  If he continues, or becomes upset it’s time to separate yourself from the problem. Engaging in an argument will prove nothing and get your nowhere.


We all have that one relative that has to argue with you on Every. Single. Little. Point. He feel as if he knows everything because he read a few books and religiously watches Dr. Drew and/or Iyanla Fix My Life. When that person tries to drag you into yet another argument, remember: You don’t have to RSVP to an argument just because you’re invited. If you feel you're close to taking the bait, pause; tense and release your hand muscles for a few seconds. This helps to release aggravation. Pay attention to the relaxed feeling you get. Then in a neutral tone, say something like, “Sounds like you know a lot about ____, that’s impressive.” Then keep it movin’.


As you sit down to a celebratory meal with your family this holiday season, think about the progress you’ve made this year. Think about the work you’ve put in on bettering yourself, on feeling healthier and finding more balance.  Use that positivity to find ways to recognize what you love about your family despite their flaws.


If your sister tries to argue with you, remember and let her know that you love the way she comforts you when you’re upset, or can joke with you about your parents no matter what. If your father belittles you, remember how he made you feel safe as a little kid. Whatever loving memories you have hold on to them, they can help you navigate the difficult times. And remember, after the holidays are over, you can always discuss with your therapist or your process group about how great, or how challenging family time during the holidays was.


That’s the beautiful thing about going to therapy--you always have a safe space to sort out the stuff you aren’t able to work through on your own, or share with your family.


Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, and Happy New Year!


Fear: What Scares You?

Happy October! In honor of this spooky month, we at K&S Therapeutic Services are focusing on fear. Take a moment to consider what scares you. What's the monster hiding under your bed? Is it fear of commitment? Intimacy or abandonment? Fear of failure, or maybe even fear of success? No matter what scares you, do you ever notice that you allow yourself to be controlled by that fear? It can be easy to slip into making choices rooted in fear in order to avoid whatever it is that scares you.

The truth is, fear can be useful, and sometimes we are right to be afraid. As human beings, we have certain instincts for a reason. Fear, anxiety, panic; these feelings can indicate that we are in a dangerous situation and need to escape. But sometimes, certain experiences or traumas can alter our instincts and therefore get in the way of us being able to use fear effectively. But how can you use fear to your benefit instead of allowing it to rule your life?

To use an example, let's look at how some of us behave when we experience a fear of intimacy. Have you ever entered a new relationship and suddenly felt like you wanted to run away from that person? Not due to any concrete reason, but just an instinct to run? As we become closer with another person, our vulnerability increases, which for many can incite fear. Choosing to leave that new relationship is an example of how we can let fear dictate our behavior. True, it might be emotionally safer in the short term to leave that relationship and avoid the possibility of being hurt. But think of all the loving, wonderful experiences you would miss if you choose to run away instead of being brave in the face of possible heartbreak.

None of us want to miss out on some of the best parts of life just because we are afraid. Why don't you use the month of October to build some mindfulness around your fears and how they influence your decisions? Take ten minutes today—put down your phone, turn off your television, put both feet on the floor, pay attention to your breath, and ask yourself, “What scares me the most? What have I avoided because of this fear? What am I missing out on because I am too afraid to go for it?” If you struggle to find an answer at first, try again tomorrow, or reach out for help. Talking with a therapist is a great way to explore your fears, and K&S Therapeutic Services can provide a safe space in which to do so.  

With a little practice, you can quiet your mind and begin to listen to yourself. You might be surprised with how much you learn, and once you can identify what scares you, you can begin challenging yourself to make different decisions and stop avoiding! Don't forget—it's impossible to be brave if you don't feel some fear, so accept your fears and push forward. I bet you'll be glad you did.