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Will you love me anyway?

There is this song by Pink and Chris Stapleton called “Love me anyway?”. Every time I hear this song, I think about how so many people feel in their relationships. Not just relationships that are romantic, all relationships, parent/child, friendships, etc. As we walk through life, many people are worried about or searching for that external validation from others. We want to know that others like what we are doing, saying, wearing, how we look, etc. Social media has become a place for us to advertise the best of ourselves, to show the world what we are up to and for some, the number of likes or comments they get can determine how they feel about themselves.

In our society, this message of, “you aren’t enough” is everywhere we look. We aren’t thin enough because there is someone thinner, we aren’t happy enough because someone else looks happier, we aren’t rich enough because we don’t have all that someone else has. But imagine how good it would feel to believe that you are enough and to feel that support from others that you are enough. We want to know that we are enough, that we are safe in the relationships that we have with others, that they are going to be there for us, that they will love us anyway.

In relationships, sometimes we don’t share the deepest darkest parts of ourselves out of fear that we won’t be accepted or worse, that the person will no longer like or want to be with you. That fear or belief that we will not be accepted keeps us from sharing those deep connections that let others know our lived selves, the experiences that have shaped who we are, and explain why we react or behave in certain ways. It keeps us from truly connecting in a deep and meaningful way and feeling safe in the relationship.

I get it, its hard, its scary, you’re afraid. But you aren’t alone. If you’d like to work on having more meaningful and connected relationships, to feel safe and supported by those that are lucky enough to be called your partner, friend, parent, child…., then I’m here to help you do the work to get there.

Amanda Samuels
314-472-8180
amanda@lifeinbalancestl.com
www.lifeinbalancestl.com

Put the Phone Down!

It’s an exciting time, the world is opening back up, we are able to go out and have a meal at a restaurant with family and friends. Yet while we have been longing for social interaction with other, somehow we are still unable to disconnect with our electronics. We see it all the time, or maybe we do it ourselves, people at a restaurant sitting across from one another and both are on their phones. It takes away from the conversations they could be having, the connections they could be making.

With the invention of technology and the strong presence of social media, we are losing our connection with the ones we are with because we are too busy connecting with others or other content. It’s become so common that most aren’t even offended by it anymore. But we are losing that connection with those that we want it with the most, the ones we spend the most time with. We need to start thinking about how it is affecting our relationships, how we would feel if we were mid conversation and the person talking just stopped talking (often mid-sentence, yes- this has happened to me) to check their text/phone. Imagine how unimportant the person listening must feel.

This goes for the kids too. So often we see kids at a table on the parents phone or tablets, tuned out from what is going on around them. I challenge you to make meal times an electronic free time and model having conversations with your children. This will help them to make connections with others in a more present way. You are their example- so model it by doing it yourself and showing them that there isn’t anything that can’t wait until after dinner.

There are so many ways that we can be more intentional about the time that we are spending with others and the attention that we are giving them. One of these ways is to reduce our use of electronics while with others. This isn’t always possible, but if you try these tips- it may improve the quality of the relationships that you have.

Put the Phone Down
If you are out somewhere, doing something social, with someone- just put the phone down. This can be hard, you may want to look up things to do or something you are talking about- if this is the case, look it up together, sharing the information while sitting next to one another vs. across the table.

Change your notifications
We are so used to getting notifications and are no longer delaying gratification and waiting until we are alone or sometimes even done with a sentence! If you change your settings so that you aren’t notified every time you get a text, message, email, etc.- it will cut down on the time you spend looking at your phone. Bonus: If you wear a watch that notifies you- you will get less dings there too!

Silence your phone
Have you ever turned the ringer to your phone off and forgotten to turn it back on? It’s amazing the time you have to enjoy things or the things you can get done when you aren’t always hearing it ring, ding, buzz.

Making these little changes can free up a lot of time in your life and also let those that you are with know that you have held that time and space for them, that they are important to you and your value the time they are sharing with you.

If you want to strengthen the connections you have with others, I’d love to help you!

Amanda Samuels
314-472-8180
amanda@lifeinbalancestl.com

Communication…It’s not just talking

“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating”- Jim Carey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

This is one of my favorite movies and one of my favorite quotes from it. It’s a love story that shows the exhilaration you feel when you first meet someone, the problems that you go through as a couple, the frustrations you may feel with your partner, the words you wish you never said, the hurt that you can feel at the loss of a relationship, and the longing for the person even after the relationship is over.

We all communicate in different ways- the spoken word isn’t the only way to communicate and just because you are talking, doesn’t mean that you are getting your message across. Just as most people try to express their love for others in the way they would like their partner to show they love, we often try to communicate in the way we would like our partner to communicate with us.
Think of all the ways that your partners communicates with you, a touch of your shoulder to show that they are there for you, a look from across the room to express interest, curiosity, romance, or even saying nothing and turning away from you or leaving the room when they are upset. You understand what your partner is saying and this gives you clues of how they communicate, how we all communicate in different ways.

Often we get so wrapped up in the conversation that we are having with someone and getting our message across that we forget to listen and hear the message our partner is trying to express, in the method that works best for them. Listen and look for clues of what your partner is trying to tell you, to repeat back what you heard them say. This shows your partner that you are listening and want to understand their message.

If your partner is asking for time or a pause, it may be because they are feeling overwhelmed by the conversation, want to take time to think about it more before coming to the conversation, or don’t have the time and attention to give at that time. Try to be patient with your partner, if they ask for time before discussing it, it is okay to ask to discuss it at a later time. The only condition is that a time to come back to it needs to be decided, preferably within a 24 hour time frame so that your partner knows you are coming back to finish the discussion.

If you are having trouble communicating with your partner, listening and hearing one another- I can help. Contact me to set up your appointment today.

Amanda Samuels

Can we expect everything from one person?

Esther Perel talks about how the expectations of marriage are different today then they were in the past. In the past, marriage was an economic decision, children were created so that they could help the family, and the needs of the family were met through the community, the village. Today, we marry for love, children are an addition to the family that create meaning, and we are more isolated as a family unit. This isolation has caused us to want our partners to be our everything- our partner/spouse, lover, best friend, parent to our children, confidant, provider, etc. All of these things can add to the stress of a relationship and shows how much we can’t depend on one person for everything.

She also talks about the need for us to keep the mystery in our relationship, that we need space in order for us to keep the erotic in our relationship. This allows us to miss the other person, not know everything so we can continue to learn something new even after being together for long periods of time. Think about how you feel when your partner leaves to go out of town, you have a chance to miss them, to realize what its like without them, how they are such a big part of your life. Sometimes, especially now, we are with someone so much that the appreciation of all that they do or how important they are to us can get lost. Those breaks in time together gives us that reminder that we need to make a reach to reconnect which then leads us to feel that the other views the relationship as meaningful. This space or time to do their own thing lets each partner have pieces of themselves that are just for them, which encourages individuality and having others that can be a support to them. Yet, while we need this individuality, we also need to know that our partner is going to be there for us.

Which brings us to what most are questioning in their relationships. The messages I hear as I listen to couples talk are: “Do you want to be with me?”, “Am I enough?”, “Will you be here for me?”, “Can I trust you to be here for me?”, “Can I show you who I am, will you accept me?” These are questions that come from many different places in a person (we all have our own lived experiences), that they often aren’t even aware of, and are often not even an indication of things that have occurred in the relationship. We want to know that we are connected to the person we are with and that they will be there for us.

So the next time your partner appears to be questioning you or seems to be saying something that indicates a lack of trust- instead of getting upset and defensive, get curious as to why. Ask them to tell you what’s going on, be compassionate to where they may be coming from- your interest and concern will show how much you care, that you are there for and with them and will help form a deeper connection in the relationship.

If you’re interested in reconnecting and forming a deeper connection with your partner, reach out, I’d love to help you on your journey of rediscovering and rebuilding your relationship.

A Tale of a Misunderstanding…

I recently took a continuing education on self-regulation for children and was surprised at how it improved my communication with my son. I hadn’t realized that his reactions to things could be due to his perception and interpretation of the situation. I’ll give you an example so that you can see how powerful this can be, not just in communications with children, but with anyone…a partner, co-worker, friend, family member, etc.

So, after taking this class, I was so excited to give it a try. It talked about how we often don’t hear the message that someone is trying to send us, or misinterpret actions. Another way to think about this is that often a perception that someone’s reaction is crazy or out of line/control is because we don’t know how what is going on is impacting them. Most reactions or behaviors are completely understandable once you hear how the other person viewed it and how it affected them.

I’m going to break this down for you so that you have a clear example. It was a Tuesday evening. I had picked my boys up from school, they did their homework, then had Hebrew, then we had to quickly get dinner in before hockey practice. Stressful, right?! So, I’m getting their dinner together, I have a picky eater, so I making him his usual cheese tortellini, with butter and parmesan cheese. He has told me before that he likes to put the parmesan cheese on his pasta but I was in a rush, so I did it for him. He comes to the table, looks down at his food, huffs and gets up and goes to the refrigerator. I’m still in the kitchen, so I ask him what he needs. He tells me the parmesan cheese and I hand it too him. He eats but I can tell he is frustrated. Unfortunately, we have to eat and get out the door. I feel bad that I can’t address it in the moment but know we will have time to talk during my other son’s hockey practice. It ends up being a good move, it gave him time to calm down. He was overwhelmed and frustrated in that moment and needed time to come back down to a place where he could express himself.

Once I dropped off my hockey player, I was able to ask my younger son if we could talk about what happened at dinner and explained that I wanted to understand it so that if there was something I was doing that frustrated him that I could change that behavior and do better. I did two things there: I asked his permission to talk about it and I let him know that it wasn’t my intention to upset him and wanted to understand his reaction. This made him more receptive to the talk because he could hear that

I wanted to understand so that I could make changes and wasn’t accusing him of “acting crazy”.
He told me that he had already told me before that he likes to put the parmesan cheese on his pasta himself. I explained that I know that but was in a hurry. I asked him to explain why it is important that he put the parmesan cheese on his pasta. It could have been: I’m old enough to do it myself, you put too much/too little on, I just like to do it myself- these were all thoughts I had. But it was none of those. He explained that if I put the parmesan cheese on and it sits then in sinks into the pasta and butter and then its not “fluffy”, and he likes it “fluffy”- think pillows of parmesan cheese sitting on top of the pasta- he likes a lot. I never would have figured this out without getting curious about his reactions (the huffing, getting up and getting more parmesan cheese, etc.).

I could take this two different ways and it would get me two different results. The first way is to say, “well, I was in a rush and have to do it myself sometimes and you need to get over it”. This tells him I’m not listening to him or his message hasn’t been heard, that his feelings aren’t important, and that I don’t care and will do things my way because I’m the adult and I’m in charge. I didn’t take this route. Instead, I let him reset so he could be open, I asked him if we could talk instead of telling him we needed to talk, I asked him why it was important to him (because why I did it doesn’t matter and invalidates his feelings), and then I said I was sorry and that I could understand and would do my best to do better. I asked him if he could be patient with me if I make a mistake and let me know that I’ve made the mistake so that I can keep trying and let him know that I am always trying to do my best just like I know he is always trying to do his best.

This same misunderstanding could happen with anyone, and its important to realize that often when we think that someone has done something to wrong us or isn’t listening, that it isn’t because they don’t want to hear our words but that there was just a miss in the message received.

If you are finding yourself having trouble in your relationships, I’d like to help you learn to work through these misses so that you can have happier, healthier relationships with others.

Exploring your own sexuality

I recently participated in an Esther Perel Forbidden Conversations Webinar on Sex. It really made me think about how we view sexuality and how those views or beliefs affect our relationships.

We often look at sexuality as what someone does to us, putting it on the other person. I’d instead ask you to look within and ask yourself the questions you need answers to, that will help guide your partner (or yourself during self exploration) to meet your sexual needs.

Here are some of the questions/thoughts that she talks about as a framework for sexuality:
1. What does sexuality mean to you?
2. Tell me who you are erotically?
3. Tell me about who you are sexually? This question speaks to who you are- quiet, aggressive, adventurous…fill in the blank_____.
This is confusing because we think of erotic and sexual as the same thing- they are not. Erotic is our imagination, the exploration in your mind, fantasies. Sex is just sex- it could be for stress release, procreation, intimacy, pleasure, you get the idea).
4. Tell me how you were loved and I’ll tell you how you make love
If you were taught that sex is only to make children, not for pleasure- you may treat it more like a job, something to just get through, so you are not an active participant in the act.
5. Love and desire- relate and conflict
Love is to have; Desire is to want. We have our partners, the relationship, the routines of the life with share together. We want (adventure, passion, excitement, mystery…
-Is sex something you do (your duty to your partner) or a place you go?

I hope that this has given you something to think about.
If you are having issues with your own sexuality and want to talk, I’d love to explore this with you.

“I assumed”…Communication Problems in Relationships

I’m always amazed when I hear someone say, “I assumed” as a response to any human interaction. I was recently talking with a friend and asked about the communication that her and one of her friends had about how the friendship would continue on as her friend moved away to a different state. The assumption is that we are good enough friends, that we will put the effort into maintaining the friendship, but that it might not continue as it has when they lived in the same state. This isn’t communication, its one person feeling that it will go one way and assuming that the other person is on the same page.

I use this example because when we assume that we know what someone else is thinking or is going to do, we are often let down when that doesn’t happen. I see this with my clients, when they believe that their partner or friend “should know”, “knows how I feel”, or “has the same beliefs as I do”. There is such a disconnect from what is and what we think is in our relationships and it ends up causing a lot of unnecessary hurts.

We need to talk with our partners and friends about our views/beliefs/values and express why we feel that way so that they have a clear understanding of these things and hopefully it encourages a conversation about their own views/beliefs/values. This does not mean that we have to agree, there may be things that we are not okay with and in these situations there may either need to be compromises made or a decision that while we don’t support these ideals, that we still support the person. This isn’t an option if these things are not discussed.

In having these conversations; we are hearing the other person, how they feel/beliefs, and why it is important to them which will lead to a greater understanding of that person. And what I find most whether it’s my friends, family, or clients is that we all want to know that we are being heard, that we are supported by those we have in our lives, and that our feelings are important to them.

If you are having communication issues with people you are in relationships with, I’d like to help you work through this to create healthier, more supportive relationships.

5 Warning Signs It’s Time to Try Couples Counseling

When you first fell in love, you could never imagine that someday the sound of your partner chewing could make you want to scream. It’s inevitable that once we are out of our honeymoon phase and reality sets in, we realize that all relationships take work and compromise. But while some couples may hit bumps in the road every so often, other couples find themselves in bigger trouble, with neither party knowing exactly how to fix things.

If you are in a relationship that is no longer feeling healthy, here are 5 warning signs that it may be time to try couples counseling:

1. There is No Longer Healthy Communication

Once you have a communication breakdown, you are unable to rationally share thoughts, feelings, and concerns with each other. Beyond this, unhealthy communication tends to leave one or both partners feeling depressed, angry and hopeless.

2. Trust Has Been Broken

When there has been infidelity, it is very difficult for the couple to rebuild trust and repair the damage. While there is no magic pill to recover from an affair, a therapist can offer tools and strategies to rebuild trust.

3. You’re More Like Roommates

If you and your partner act more like roommates than romantic partners, this indicates a lack of intimacy and a potential need for professional help.

4. One or Both of You Has Begun Acting Out

You try to mask your real feelings for as long as possible, but then you start to act out the hurt and resentment you may be feeling. For instance, if your partner has been unfaithful and you have agreed to stay in the relationship and work things out. But over time you find yourself lashing out, acting rude and trying to make them believe you are having an affair so they will feel the same kind of hurt. This acting out is unhealthy for both people and is a BIG indicator you need to seek some help.

5. When the Only “Solution” Seems to be Separation/Divorce

A break from negative energy can be very helpful to the relationship. But when a temporary break leads to more and more time away from home and someone renting their own apartment, this indicates a need for counseling. Spending time away from home usually doesn’t lead to any real resolution, just more distance.

 

If you and your partner are interested in exploring treatment options, please be in touch with me. I would be more than happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

Tips for Coping with Social Isolation

Humans are social creatures and we don’t do well in isolation. That’s exactly why state penitentiaries punish prisoners by putting them into solitary confinement. It causes them great mental anguish.

Many of us have felt like prisoners in solitary confinement over the last couple of months because of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. And many of us have been feeling our own mental anguish from this extended isolation.

Who knows how long this may go on? While none of us have control over what our governments do, we do have control over ourselves and our perceptions of the world. With this in mind, here are some tips for coping with social isolation, for however long it goes on.

Isolate Yourself from the Media

If you’re paying attention, it almost seems as if the media is trying to confuse us and cause panic more than report on actual news. Watching too much news doesn’t help anyone’s anxiety levels, so stay informed as best you can but don’t binge-watch.

Get Creative

Being isolated can get very boring very quickly so it’s important that you try and get creative with your time. This could mean painting the living room and rearranging the furniture or getting your husband and kids to learn a new language with you. It could mean experimenting with an old recipe or making up a game with your kids. Just have fun and think outside the box!

Reconnect

Now is a great time to reconnect with friends and loved ones you haven’t spoken to in a while. And technology like Skype and Facetime makes it incredibly easy to chat with someone no matter where in the world they are.

Stay Active

A lot of the anxiety we may feel comes from the fact we aren’t moving our bodies as much as we usually do. It’s important to stay physically active during this time. So get outside and get some sun. Go for a walk or ride your bike. Not only is exercise good for us physically, but physical activity releases endorphins that make us feel good mentally and emotionally as well.

Meditate

The world is a chaotic place right now and it seems we are being hit with noise and negativity from all sides. It’s important to make time each day for some quiet meditation.

If you’ve never meditated before, that’s okay. Just try it.

One of the easiest ways to meditate is through a listening meditation. Find a space in your house where you can be alone and get into a comfortable position. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in and out… and simply listen to the ambient sounds.

What do you hear? The buzzing of a light? A fly? Your dog’s collar rattling down the hall as he scratches. Expand your hearing to see what else can you hear outside your house. Birds? Lawnmowers? Traffic?

Simply breathe and listen intently for 5-10 minutes. When you listen, you can’t think at the same time, and so you will notice finally your thoughts go quiet. This is paradise!

If you find that the social isolation is really beginning to trouble you and you’d like to speak with someone, please get in touch. I would be happy to discuss how I may be able to help.

 

SOURCES:

How to Cope with the Stress and Anxiety Caused by COVID-19

If you’re like most people, you are doing your best to stay calm during COVID-19 pandemic. But that can feel incredibly difficult at times. When not worrying about friends and loved one’s health, there’s also the conflicting information provided by the media and the economic ramifications of the virus that have people on edge.

Signs of Emotional Distress and 6 Ways to Cope

Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations, but most will exhibit some of the following signs:

  • Changes in sleep or eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Worsening of chronic health problems
  • Increased use of alcohol, tobacco or other drugs

If you are experiencing significant stress right now, here are some ways you can cope:

1. Limit Media Consumption

Hearing the media constantly spread panic isn’t good for anyone. It’s important to stay rational and do your own research to uncover facts from fiction as well as stay positive.

2. Nurture Your Body and Spirit

Be sure to get outside for some fresh air and go for a walk. Eat right and make sure to stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep. Avoid consuming too much alcohol and try and find fun ways to reconnect with your family.

3. Tap into Your Sense of Fun

If you have kids, look to them for some good old-fashioned playtime. Play hide and seek in the house. Create an obstacle course in the back yard. Watch some of your favorite funny movies. Laughter really is the best medicine so get plenty of it!

4. Support Your Local Community

Many local businesses are hurting right now. If you’re still getting a paycheck, consider buying a gift card from a local restaurant, gym, hair salon, etc. to give them revenue now and you can use the card later. This will make you feel great at the same time.

5. Be a Role Model

Remember, your kids will ALWAYS look to you first to see how they should be thinking and feeling about something. So move about each day calmly and confidently and reassure your kids everything will be okay because it will be.

6. Use Your Time Constructively

For many of us, there is a silver lining in this situation in the form of extra time. What can you do with the extra time that isn’t being used to drive an hour or more each day in commuting? Focus on using this time wisely. Maybe you have an ever-growing list of home projects that you just never have time to tackle. Tackle them now, you’ll feel great about it later.

 

If you find yourself becoming too stressed or depressed during this time, I encourage you to connect with me. Speaking with a therapist can help you cope with the situation and navigate the days ahead. I am currently able to conduct sessions over the phone or via Skype, so you won’t even have to leave your home if your state is in lockdown.


SOURCES:

https://www.ucihealth.org/news/2020/03/covid-19-anxiety

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/ep/behavioral/stress_covid19.pdf