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Archive for January, 2013

Singles and Dating: Depression and Loneliness in the Winter

Monday, January 28th, 2013

Winter has come and I can’t help but notice a trend that repeats each year. In the less warm months, many younger people begin feverishly looking for “the one.” There seems to be the hope among single individuals that it is important to find someone to spend the cold, depressing winter months with while dealing with loneliness.

A study advised that being physically cold leads to a pining for psychological warmth. Volunteers were shown a love film in a cold setting. The warmer volunteers became, the less lonely they felt. As a consultant, I note many times that my clients enter relations in November or December under false hope, only to have the relationship end as fast as the spring heat hits the air.

Not only do I see this trend in my counseling sessions, I also see it in my group of pals. For instance, I had just went to the hair salon and my stylist’s telephone rang many times while I was sitting in her chair. With a deep sigh, she announced that she had been getting phone calls from exes or past flings for a couple of weeks. She rapidly decided that these were just fellows looking for someone to help their isolation and to keep them warm on these cold nights.

Studies are telling use we are more prone to loneliness and depression when we are cold. It looks to follow that it might be sensible to think a touch more before making decisions about entering into a relationship when we are cold. Put simply, when you’re cold, maybe you should not go home with that guy from the bar or cling to the casual relationship with the man you “kinda” like but do not truly see a future with.

As we enter the New Year, resolve to make better choices this winter so you aren’t spending spring recovering from a winter fling.

The Life Cycle: from Birth to Funerals

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Life cycle events between birth and death are specific to families and cultures. What happens on the first day of school? What do families do to celebrate weddings or graduations? These are good questions to ask as you observe the rituals that are an integral part of your life and perhaps take the opportunity to create meaningful ones that your family will cherish.

Starting with the birth of a baby, common birth rituals in some cultures to have baby showers, baptisms, christenings, etc. Some families insist the new child be named after a father, mother, grandparent, etc. While many couples consider it a family honor or tradition to carry on this naming process other couples pick trendy names for their children. The birth of the child can be looked upon as a private affair, or in some cultures, a family reunion. When we had our first child, only my husband and I were at the hospital, but in the adjoining room, a young woman of a different culture had at least 20 people with her.

Going all the way to the other end of the life cycle to funeral traditions we see how cultures deal with grief and death. Some cultures have expectations of stoicism while others do not hesitate to wail out loud. When my husband served in Vietnam, he took several pictures of Vietnamese funerals. In these pictures, all participants wore white or bright colors, and the body was placed on a wagon with bright objects on top of it. In the Jewish faith, the bodies are not viewed for long periods of time. In Jewish funerals the body is buried quickly.

There are as many differences of expressing birth and death, joy and grief, within cultures as there are between cultures. Examine your own family traditions and rituals and if you decide they are lacking, create a new one of your very own.

Infidelity in Elder Care

Monday, January 14th, 2013

When two nursing home residents Art and Frieda started to hold hands, kiss, and generally enjoy one another’s company, family members became livid. Why? Art and Frieda are married, however, not to each other.
When family members tried to intervene by contacting and asking the nursing home staff to prohibit contact between the two, the ethics governing body responded that the autonomy of the couple superseded the wishes of the family. Not only that, but when it came to taking care of the elderly, the staff had no right to keep the two apart nor administer medication to ‘dampen’ their desires. This case, reported from Sweden, reflects that infidelity is a growing problem for senior citizen homes, nursing home staff and nursing home patient family members. How should family members respond to this type of infidelity in marriage?
Family members can help each other by first assessing whether this attraction is due to who Dad really is (talkative, funny, gregarious) or if some personality change has taken place due to the dementia. After the initial shock, families who see Dad spending time with someone in the nursing home who is not his wife often report how happy he looks and how much joy they seem to share. If a personality change has occurred the attraction may be a reflection of this different personality and not a reflection of the dad they love and remember.
If a cognitive deficit has taken place (long term memory loss) then families must consider: if we cannot recall past promises are we morally bound by them? Many poignant movies have been written about an individual successfully wooing his partner who has forgotten her vows due to brain injury or dementia.
This is a romantic portrayal, however, and the reality is spouses of unfaithful dementia patients feel betrayed. Emotional distress increases if Dad has had a history of infidelity. Family members can respond to this by supporting Mom, one another, and getting outside help if needed.

Affair Recovery: How to Recover After an Affair

Monday, January 7th, 2013

In my years counseling, I have worked with several couples through the tragedy of sexual, emotional, and now the common financial cheating. I have seen some amazing recoveries. Couples who recover use affair recovery as an opportunity to create the best marriage they presumably can. The following is a summary of some “lessons learned” by couples have experienced after an affair (the pronouns “he” and “she” are swapped for simplicity).

First, sexual attraction and desire are normal, whereas acting on that behavior is where trouble starts. Accept the incontrovertible fact that you and your partner could be interested in people during your marriage, and target your energy on what is satisfactory to get on with next.

Second, life brings enticement and we really need to have plans to nip it in the bud if and when it strikes. Ask, “If my better half was feeling interested in somebody outside the relationship, could she trust me to handle those feelings and help her?” If the answer’s no, the plan should ideally include allowing anyone at any time to talk about feelings with a therapist or a reliable advisor.

3rd, take resposibility for your love language! Are you attracted to a certain appearance? Does the ability to make funny banter get your pulse racing? Does a particular talent or pursuit make your knees weak? Listen to these triggers, and ensure you don’t hire, go to lunch with alone, work out at the gymnasium, or Facebook with anyone who speaks your love language.

4th, Don’t put down or make excuses for your struggling spouse. Affairs require logistical back-flips and mental moral gymnastics that would put Cirque de Soleil to embarrassment. If you have the time to cheat, you have the time to prevent it. Eventually, if you have enough time to cheat, you have sufficient time to recover. Telling your other half you don’t have time for a wedding recovery activity like marriage advice, a church wedding retreat, or a once-per-week check-in breakfast with a trainer is a cop-out. The time after infidelity can seem just like predicting a cliff-dive; be brave and take the plunge not only for you but for your spouse.

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