All posts in Taming Stress

Stop the Holiday Stress Express Train!

iStock_000018646392Small“We don’t have an unscheduled minute between now and January 1.” I overheard this in the grocery store a few days before Thanksgiving. It made my stomach clench. For one thing, it didn’t sound like the speaker was looking forward to the next five weeks. For another, I know as a marriage counselor observing families at the holidays for lo these many years, that families need more time, not less right now. Why? They need relationship repair time.

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Why I’m Taking A Vacation from the News

6638837_s The first question you ask about a vacation of course is, Where are you going to go? The second question for 21st century vacationers, is Are you going to stay in contact with the office? So many professionals these days have to go to great lengths, literally, to unplug, such as getting out of cell phone reach or even out of the country. I did take a vacation from email on my recent vacation and breaking from the digital haze was very restful. But I did something that turned out to be even more refreshing—I took a vacation from the news. My usual routine is to read the morning paper like clockwork. If I can’t, it throws me off.

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Car Trouble

A loving hand “Why is this happening to us?” Kristina moaned, as only a teenager can. “We’re good people. We haven’t done anything wrong!” We’d all been carpooling together for a week while our other car was in the shop getting a couple thousand dollars worth of rehab. Then we found out that this car was also needed work and it was going to cost the same if not more. I laughed. “It doesn’t have anything to do with being good people, Honey. Cars need repairs every so often. Sometimes big repairs.” “I know,” she said, “I was really just joking.” I was trying to take a parent-with-broad-shoulders tone.

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The Housework Battle of the Sexes

6375587_s “It’s such a downer,” sighed Donna. “When I pictured being married, I didn’t picture arguing with Kyle about chores all the time.” Donna’s disillusionment is far from unusual. The historian Stephanie Coontz, who has written several books on marriage and the family, says that a husband’s willingness to share housework and child care is the second most important factor in how happily married she is. (The first is being tuned into her emotionally.) But your average couple is still not splitting the housework fairly. According to a recent study at Ohio State University, today’s young men are not doing more much more housework than their fathers did. Given that 47% of women are now working outside the home, what we have is a recipe for resentful, unhappy wives. No wonder so many couples argue about chores.

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Is Life Stress Testing Your Marriage?

3601275_s "All I need is a little attention," cried Carol. "Is that so hard?" Instead of the warmth and caring she wanted to see in Kevin's face, she just saw a sort of blank look. It made her feel panicky. Was she dealing with this all alone? Carol's mother was in a nursing home recovering from a fall. Thank goodness she didn't break a hip, always the big fear, but still it was a wake up call. It was time to do what they all had been avoiding: arrange a safer living situation for her. We all know the kind of feeling that is. You're dealing with more than your share. You really need a look of understanding, a word of support, a hug, ANYTHING that reassures you your spouse is right there beside you. When you don't get it, it's really easy to go to the dark side: "He just doesn't care." Was Carol right? Was Kevin really just checked out?

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Is Your Partner Unhappy with You? Stay in the Game

What are the hardest moments for you in your relationship? Is it when your husband seems more in love with his devices than with you? Or when your wife seems to take all your long, hard hours at the office for granted? For me, it would have to be when my husband is unhappy with me, for whatever reason. I like to feel wrapped in a nice, warm blanket of approval and admiration. Would adoration be asking too much? And when I look in his eyes and see something very different, it can be painful. When would that be? When he thinks I’m not really listening to him talk about his work, that’s a big one. We have a ‘mixed marriage,’ remember—software programmer/therapist. I have been accused of organizing my calendar or my grocery shopping in my mind while he tells me about his day. Which is not true. I am trying. The truth is I really like having a partner who works in a completely different field. It broadens my world. But when it comes to operating systems, devices, and the cloud, listening and understanding are not always synonymous. So, I’m sure I do look a little glazed sometimes.

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Bring Back Home Ec!

6369493_s I see so many young couples who are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running a household. Could one reason be that they don't get the preparation past generations did? Maybe Home Ec is not a joke, but a valuable tool for handling life with more ease-for both sexes.

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When Your Marriage Drives You Insane

Now, whenever I do something the slightest bit annoying, John will rush at me with a crazed expression and roar, "YOU DRIVE ME INSANE!" Okay, I overreacted. It was kind of embarrassing, actually. Clearly, I needed a way to find a little more patience when John does those things.

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When Marriage Problems Build Up, Here’s How to Break the Ice

Does this problem ring a bell? You’re nursing a grievance. You didn’t bring it up at the moment because there was too much going on. Or you were afraid things would go south. Or you thought maybe it was one of those times in a marriage when you should just cut your partner slack and move on. Except this time you just can’t and it’s still eating away at you.

You know you need to clear the air, but how? If it’s been more than a week or so, you feel awkward going back and saying, “By the way, there’s this thing you did that you probably don’t even remember, but it still bothers me.”

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Relationship Communication Secret — No Ghost Stories Allowed

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Did you know half your relationship communication problems are products of your imagination? It’s true! Under stress, your brain actually invents stories about how your partner’s up to no good. In our family, we call them “ghost stories.” You can end arguments with your partner faster—and with a lot less pain—if you learn to nip your storytelling in the bud.

When my stepdaughter Kristina was invited to her first slumber party, the first graders buzzed for a week about what it would be like to sleep away from family for first time. Who would be able to handle it? Who might crack under the pressure?

The morning after, my husband and I asked Kristina, “Well? Did anyone get scared? Or call their parents?”

“The only one who got scared was Diane.”

“At her own party? Why?”

“She told us ghost stories. And then SHE was awake all night.” Kristina rolled her eyes. “She thinks ghosts are real.”

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