Why the Holidays Can Drive You Crazy (& What to Do about It): Part 1

For many, the holidays truly are the most wonderful time of the year—a time of gathering with family, being close with loved ones, revisiting old memories, and making new ones. The title of this post and my post last year notwithstanding, I love the holidays, as I have many fond memories of being with my family around our Christmas tree as a boy. Being with family and friends is still deeply meaningful to me and to most of us.

 

However, starting a few weeks before Thanksgiving and throughout December, I frequently hear of anxiety, frustration, and even dread this time of year, because just as it’s a time of gathering with family and being close with loved ones, it’s also a time of gathering with family and being close with loved ones. Visiting family can be wonderful indeed, but if we’re honest, the holidays can you drive you crazy. Why is this, and what can you do to make your family time merry and bright?

Minding the Present Moment

Happy Labor Day, everyone! For most of us, a holiday like this one is a wonderful chance to be with family and friends, but I wonder how often we pause to truly live such moments. If the pandemic of iPhone-induced poor posture is any indication, many of us find minding the present moment challenging sometimes. We find ways of detaching ourselves from our thoughts, feelings, and experiences—our subjectivity, often without even knowing it. We are sometimes unwitting accomplices in our own lives passing us by, which is unfortunate because being aware of one’s own subjectivity is crucial to emotional well-being. How can we live more fully, then, by minding the present moment?

Creating Magic in Your Relationship, Part 3: The Magic of Surprise

We began considering how to create more magic in intimate relationships by looking at the rhythm that’s created in relationships when two partners are managing their feelings together. Next, we talked about what happens when that rhythm gets disrupted and how to repair these unavoidable disruptions. Today, I invite you to think about with me how surprise can pave a path toward greater intimacy with your partner. What do I mean when I say “surprise,” though? Before we go there, we need to talk about what every relationship needs—romance.

Creating Magic in Your Relationship, Part 2: Repairing Disruptions in the Rhythm

Last time, with a little help from Coldplay, we explored the “magic” that can occur between partners in a committed relationship when they feel close and intimately connected with one another. When both partners really “get” each other, even though the couple may be having a difficult conversation, each one feels known, valued, recognized, and understood. When they’re in their rhythm, each partner feels completely safe, so much so that together they can co-manage even the most difficult feelings that inevitably come up in a long-term relationship.

Creating Magic in Your Relationship, Part 1: Your Relationship’s Rhythm

At long last, Coldplay released their new single “Magic” earlier this month, and as a longtime fan, I’ve been listening to the soulful, intimate tune a lot in recent weeks. The song takes its name from the “magic” that the singer experiences when he’s with his beloved partner. Even if you’re not a Coldplay fan, chances are you’ve felt the magic that happens when you’re really connected to another person, when you feel known and understood, recognized and cherished. As much as we want this magic, though, it’s not as easy as pulling a rabbit out of a hat. So how does it happen?

Protective Patterns in Couple Relationships, Part 3: The Angry Couple

It was my first session with Lauren and Jim (not their real names), and from the moment I welcomed them, they were hell-bent on continuing the argument that had begun on the way to my office. They angrily interrupted, talked over, and screamed at each other. The couple had come to therapy because they were fighting like this so frequently, but here in my office, they were far from interested in anything I had to say.

 

For couples like Lauren and Jim, anger and the accompanying escalating conflict is a way of life.

3 Ways You Can Validate Your Partner’s Feelings

validate your partnerValidating one’s partner is an artful skill that is essential to creating and maintaining intimacy in committed relationships. When I discuss how partners can validate one another in my office, however, I have found that much of the time couples aren’t sure what it is or how to do it. Today, I’d like to take a break from exploring protective patterns in couple relationships and consider how couples can validate each other’s feelings.

Protective Patterns in Couple Relationships, Part 2: That Old, Familiar Tune in Your Marriage

Last week, we saw that as when two partners begin a new couple relationship, their deepest needs for love, understanding, and recognition fulfilled come to the fore. This period of “young love” is called the honeymoon phase, and during this time the couple can’t seem to get enough of each other. Notably, there is little to no conflict during this phase. Alas, a phase is, by definition, temporary. When the arguments finally come, each partner will use the defenses they learned in childhood to protect themselves and minimize their own pain.

Protective Patterns in Couple Relationships, Part 1: The Defensive Self

If you’re married or in a long-term, committed couple relationship, your relationship probably began like many others. You couldn’t wait to see each other and share your experiences. As you exchanged your  hopes and disappointments, your partner was just as excited or sad about them as you were. He or she seemed to understand you perfectly. Your stomach fluttered as you imbibed the intoxicating elixir of love. But then . . . something shifted, didn’t it? Over time, a different pattern of relating set in, one marked by conflict, avoidance, or both. It’s not what you or your partner want, so how did it happen?