A Valentine Gift

By Ann Klein based on imagery of Hedy Schiefler and Imago Couple’s therapy

The couple sat face to face
Holding hands
Looking into each other’s eyes
Studying the landscape of the other’s face
With new discoveries
In the ‘sacred space’ between them

Taking long, deep breaths
Thinking of the kindnesses each has received from the other
Filling the ‘sacred space’ with positive, nurturing energy

The host inviting their partner to visit
The visitor accepting with curiosity
Crossing the bridge to where their partner lives
Listening with understanding and compassion
Keeping safe the ‘sacred space’

And so the visits continue back and forth
To open up to new ideas
To see each other in new ways
Honoring each other’s differences
The miracle of ‘connection’
In the ‘sacred space’ between them

Giving gifts of kindness
Sharing words of love
Each helping the other to grow
In the ‘sacred space’ between them.


Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.

Long Term Relationships: Eight Essential Tips to Keep Your Relationship Vibrant Over The Years

In long-term relationships (25+ years), it is natural for couples to find each other annoying at times, and even worse take each other for granted. Furthermore, relationships go in cycles when you are closer to each other and other times more distant. How can you keep your relationship fresh and vibrant over the years?

  1. Tell your partner one thing you appreciate that she/he has done over the week. Be a spy and look for those ‘caring behaviors’ your partner does, especially for you, instead of focusing on what you didn’t get.
  2. Ask each other what ‘little things’ you can do to show your love. Write them down and then do 2-3 a week. Be on the lookout to find surprise gifts (you may notice your partner is looking at a magazine or a book).
  3. Have your own interests and also share common interests. Be curious and excited about your partner’s hobbies and achievements. Watching your partner change and grow can be a real turn on.
  4. There is no room for criticism (attacking your partner’s character, such as, saying ‘you’re a slob’). However, you can make an appointment to discuss a complaint (‘I hate when towels are left on the floor’). Choose your complaints carefully on a scale of 1-10.  If it’s below a 5, let it go. You are trying to keep putting positive energy into your relationship. It’s difficult to reverse years of criticism and negativity.
  5. Listen to what your partner is saying without putting in your own opinions and judgments. Find out if your partner wants to vent to or wants you to give a solution.  Be there, work on understanding where your partner is coming from and show empathy for her/his situation.  Read more about this subject by clicking this link: Couple’s Difficulty In Communicating.
  6. When you fight, see if you can take a time out so you can get out of your ‘reactive selves’ and will be able to listen to each other.  Get rid of the words ‘always.’ ‘never, ’’right, ‘ and ‘wrong.’ You don’t want to put your partner down.
  7. Have regular sex dates. Having orgasms releases the hormones oxytocin and vesapressin which help couples bond.  Being a long-term couple, variety is needed to spice up lovemaking. Some ideas include where and when you make love. You can plan on going to different kind of hotels dressed for the occasion and pretend you’re meeting for the first time (this includes ‘flirting’ and coming on to each other).  Another idea is going shopping together for sexy lingerie. You can share fantasies and make love at different times of the day in different places. Get rid of the ‘performance’ expectation of your youth.
  8. Laugh, have fun, and tell your story over and over again of how you met, what you valued about each other, and all the good memories.


Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.

Practical Tips for Managing Money as a Couple

I recently met with Lisa Berlin, MBA, Daily Money Manager (www.tcbinc.us) and we came up with some recommendations:

  •  Make sure you are discussing money concerns, not underlying issues of control, security, or love.
  • For married couples, consider having a joint account for shared obligations with each partner having own separate account. The separate accounts can hold discretionary money to be spend on extras (one partner may spend it on eating out; while another will save it up for a special hobby)
  • Commit to a financial dialogue on a regular basis. Some of the topics could be agreeing on short and long term goals; prioritizing spending; deciding whether you need or desire an item and what will happen if you delay getting it; and determining whether your obligations are being met, and if not, what changes you as a couple need to make.
  • Many of the couples I see find it helpful to use my ‘Money Decision Making Chart.’

There are 5 choices:

  1. Decisions made by one partner without consulting the other (for example, food shopping, getting basic sets of clothes for the family, use of discretionary funds).
  2. Decisions made by the same partner after consulting with the other (getting advice on kind of car to buy, which school to go to, etc.)
  3. Joint decisions made together, such as, buying a home, a car, vacations, amount for savings, amount in the discretionary funds, etc.
  4. Decisions made by the other with consultation.
  5. Decisions made by the other partner without consultation.

When money issues come up, you as a couple can decide where it belongs on the chart.

Money Decision Making Chart

Click on link above to open a larger version of the chart.

Click on link above to open larger version of the chart.

Let me know what other tips you find helpful.


Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.

 

What Should Parents Tell Their Children?

Following the Tragedy at Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut
on December 14, 2012

It is so difficult to know the right thing to say. It depends on your child’s age, previous experiences, and temperament (some children are more sensitive than others),

Even though many of our children live far away from Newtown, they may have feelings of fear, anxiety, and confusion. They may ask questions, such as, “Why were the children killed and will this happen in our school?”

  • Answer questions honestly and directly based on your child’s age.
  • Don’t overwhelm young children with too much information.
  • You can assure them that they are safe. The killer is no longer alive.
  • Invite them to speak to you whenever they need to.

With reassurance and love, they should be able to get on with their lives. If not, you may want to seek professional help. At this time, it is also recommended that parents limit  exposure to watching the event on TV and seeing violent movies, and even video games.

Some children may have already experienced violence in their schools through bullying or may have been exposed to violence on their streets or in their homes. Some of these children may experience traumatic symptoms. For younger children, there may be more temper tantrums and nightmares. For older children, there might be sleep disturbances, appetite changes, and lack of participation at home and in school. They may need professional help. You can start with the guidance counselor, social worker, or school psychologist.

Don’t forget yourselves. You too, as parents, have been affected by this horrific crime and may worry about your child’s safety in school. Be sure to share your feelings and concerns with others. You need to take care of yourselves so you can help your children.


Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.

 

Money Talk For Couples Part 2: The Conversation

A model, that brings both safety and respect for both partners in communicating about money, is the Couple’s Dialogue from Imago Relationship Therapy (see Blog entitled Couples’ Difficulties in Communication).

You are not solving problems about finances at this point. The purpose is for both of you to listen to each other without judgment or blame. The most important thing is having empathy for your partner (putting yourself in your partner’s place). Later on, once both are heard and understood, solutions can be proposed.

Some topics to talk about:

  1. When I think about money, what comes up for me is . . .
  2. My greatest concern about money is . . .
  3. The messages I received about money growing up (you can use your     multigenerational family tree from Part 1) are . . . How I think these have affected my view about money personally and in our relationship is . . .
  4. I mainly identify with the ‘money personality type’ (see Part 1) . . . How I think this affects you and our relationship is . . .
  5. What I like about myself in handling money is . . . What I would like to change is . . .
  6. What I admire in the way you, my partner, handles money is . . .
  7. One thing that bothers me about how you handle money is . . . What this says about me is . . . My greatest fear about this is . . .
  8. One thing that I think bothers you about how I handle money is . . . What I say to myself about your fears or concerns around this are . . .

Notice how important it is to stay as the ‘compassionate visitor’ as you give your partner the ‘gift’ of expressing her/himself fully, being listened to even if you disagree. Money is a very delicate, highly charged issue. Please do not think your partner does not ‘love’ you because it is hard to change. This is more about your partner than about you. You are learning about each other’s views and struggles around money.

In my next Blog, I will share with you some practical tips for handling money as a couple. Please let me know what other couple’s issues you would like me to write about.

Ann Klein – Columbia Marriage and Relationship Counseling teaching couples effective communication skills to resolve conflicts, reestablish intimacy, and restore caring and connection in their relationships.