Relationships

All aspects of relationships and solutions for common relationship problems.  Dating tips and advice and the Mother Distracted Problem Page.

Things People In A Relationship Should Never Be Too Casual About

Whether you’re in a serious relationship with commitments or you’re just occasional companions in a casual relationship, all relationships start from somewhere. It could be simply bumping into each other along the stairwell, getting stuck in the elevator, a simple wink at the bar, or even a “hey you” through a dating app. What matters most is how you agree (or not) to move things forward after the first date or physical encounter. However, regardless of the kind of relationship you’re in, there are some things that you just can’t afford to be overly casual about.

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In this post, we explore several things people should never be too casual about as far as relationships are concerned

Sex with An EX

No matter how painful they are at times, breakups are perfectly normal in many relationships. However, it’s not unusual to miss your ex so much that you’re lusting to get into bed with them. Perhaps you just miss the intimate encounters the two of you had back in the day or you are dying to get them back. The guys at https://getherbackguide.com/sex-with-your-ex/ say that as much as sleeping with your ex can be a great experience; it’s also an area to tread carefully. It can be the right or wrong move depending on various factors, including whether you’re in another relationship, why you want to have sex with her, how your relationship looked like, whether she’s interested, and whether the of you are after the same thing. Sleeping with an ex is not something to be too casual about. It requires you to consider a few things before making a pursuit.

Spending Time Together 

Nothing is more important in a relationship than spending quality time together whenever you get the chance to. It allows the two of you to make your bond stronger, understand each other better and explore each other’s deepest fantasies. While the lack of time for each other can weaken a healthy relationship, spending too much time together can shift a casual relationship into something serious, which may also cause problems. Simply put, time together is something you’ll want to avoid being too casual about.

Respect

No matter the type of relationship you have, it’s important to note that everyone deserves being treated with respect and dignity. Even if the relationship involves sexual experiences such as BDSM, each partner deserves being treated with the kindness they deserve beyond the bedroom. Without mutual respect, complex problems that may be difficult to solve may crop up in the relationship, including abuse and problems with the law.

Future Plans

One of the things that characterize a serious relationship is having plans for the future together. For a casual fling, on the other hand, it may not be practical to make plans for a few months from now. However, you’ll still want to plan at least 2 or 3 days before if you want to hang out over the weekend so each of you can avoid disappointments or inconveniences. All in all, it’s not wise to assume that your partner or date will always accommodate your plans without discussing it with them first.

Ending a Relationship

As earlier pointed out, relationships reach a point where they hit a deadlock and you have to part ways. If you’ve been in a casual fling, you may meet someone special that you’d want to take things to the next level with. If you’re the one that needs to end it, it’s only noble for you to do it like a grown-up. You can just set a date and meet up in a restaurant, have a nice dinner and let the other person know that you just don’t feel it anymore. Ghosting the other person or ending it over a text has been just too mean and cowardly.

Feelings

With time, it is not unusual to develop feelings for the other person when in a casual relationship. As much as you don’t want to spoil the fun, the other person might have started falling for you as well. This means that while it might be tempting to express your feelings and make your intentions known, it’s an area that requires you to tread carefully. You may need to take it slow and give it patience, perhaps let it take its course naturally. Nonetheless, it’s wise not to be too casual with your feelings.

As long as you’re with the right person for the right reasons, relationships are a beautiful thing. Being in a healthy relationship makes you feel wanted, fulfilled, and appreciated, but despite the kind of relationship you’re in, some things need to be carried with some weight. The above are a few things you should avoid taking too casually.

How To Increase Kindness In Your Life

Now, more than ever before, we are aware of the kindness, and lack of it, around us.  Here’s how to act kinder, be kinder and encourage the flow of kindness into your life.

Photo by Siora Photography on Unsplash

Be a Person of Your Word

You will never be a people person if you aren’t truthful and deliver on what you say you will. People will start to avoid you when this happens. You need to make sure that if you promise something, you will do whatever it takes to make sure you get it done.

Of course, don’t promise things if you feel you cannot get them done. You see this happen with companies all the time. They agree to anything customers ask for and then are unable to give them what they want. That is never a good situation to be in. People will react negatively when this happens. The company won’t get more business, and their reputation will be tarnished as a result.

Don’t let this happen on a personal level. Be confident in knowing what people are asking you to do. Don’t agree just because you don’t want them to become upset with you. They will be more upset if you aren’t able to produce what you told them.

If you agree to meet with someone, be sure to keep the appointment. There are certain circumstances where you have to cancel, once in a while. That’s okay, but don’t make a habit of this. Being a people person means being dependable.

It’s also okay to expect the same standards of others. If you find someone who is not dependable, you may have to cut ties with them. This may seem counterintuitive to the whole idea of being a people person, but it’s not. You are expected to be reliable, and you should expect the same from everyone you deal with.

Of course, there are going to be occasions where people have to break appointments. This is normal and should be expected. Don’t be too hard on people when it happens. But, here too, they shouldn’t be repeat offenders. It’s important to be understanding, but there is a point where some people will take advantage of this.

When you are known as a person of your word, others will have no problem recommending you. In fact, they will start referring you even without you asking for it. This is one of the foundations of being a people person.

Being a people person is mostly about common sense. It’s about interacting with others and having some expectations for everyone you deal with. It’s about developing friendships as well as work relationships. As you increase the number of people, you will discover what works best for you and those people.

Simple Ways to Be Kinder to Someone Today

Being kind isn’t difficult. Once you set your mindset to ‘Kind,’ you’ll notice all sorts of opportunities throughout your day to reach out and be kind to someone.

As a bonus, once you’re in the kindness loop, you’ll notice you feel happier and more fulfilled. Scientists call this ‘the helper’s high’ as altruistic acts trigger the same endorphins as a ‘runner’s high’!

Here are some simple everyday ways of including kindness in your day. Some of them may no longer be possible while we are under COVID-19 lockdown but many are still possible – albeit digitally!

  1. Stop to let a pedestrian cross the street or to allow another driver into the traffic.
  2. Say please and thank you.
  3. Say good morning and good night to your colleagues.
  4. Smile at a stranger.
  5. Hold the door for the next person.
  6. Hold the elevator.
  7. Let someone with only a few items go in front of you in the grocery store.
  8. Do a coffee run for your colleagues.
  9. Hug your loved ones.
  10. Push the trash bins out for your neighbours.
  11. Mow your elderly neighbour’s lawn.
  12. If you’re going to the store, ask your neighbour if you can pick anything up for them.
  13. Try volunteering at your local soup kitchen or shelter.
  14. Be the bigger person and let the other guy have the coveted parking space.
  15. Stand up for someone on the bus or subway.
  16. Ask a stressed-out co-worker if you can help.
  17. Help wash the cups after a meeting.
  18. If the photocopier is running on empty, replace the toner and fill the paper bin.
  19. Buy surprise flowers for your partner.
  20. Give some coins to a street entertainer.
  21. Pledge to stop grousing for a week.
  22. Join your company’s mentor or buddy program.
  23. Leave a book or magazine on the subway or in a bus station.
  24. Donate your excess art supplies or craft materials to an elementary school.
  25. Encourage your kids to sort through their stuff and donate items in good condition to charity.
  26. Donate money to your favourite charity or non-government organization.
  27. Notice what your partner or colleagues are wearing and pay a few compliments.
  28. Ask friend or colleagues how they are, and listen to the answers.
  29. Reach out to family members or friends, send a text message, or call them to see how they are.
  30. Clean up your neighbourhood. If you see trash in the street, pick it up and put it in the bin.

Eliminate Negativity by Developing a Positive Attitude

The best way to eliminate negativity is to develop a positive attitude. Your thoughts and outlook on life have a profound effect on how you live your life. They are also contagious and affect those around you. You can’t have both positive and negative in the same space. So why not focus on turning the negativity into something more positive?

You will find you have more energy and enthusiasm when you have a more positive attitude. People will want to be around you more and will be more positive as well, leading to a cascade effect. Negativity tends to bring you down and steal away your energy. It can also cause health issues over time. Some ways you can develop a more positive attitude are:

Read Books about Positive Thinking

There are many books out there that can teach you about how to develop a positive mindset and eliminate the negativity in your life. Reading is not only a great way to learn, but it helps your brain build more connections which keep it healthy for a longer time. You can even find many very good books on this subject in your local library and read them for free.

Affirmations

Affirmations are a way of reprogramming the negative thoughts you tell yourself – and in many cases, you may not even be aware that you have them. By doing affirmations, you can change these negative thoughts into positive ones. You can start thinking better of yourself.

Meditation

Meditation is a great way to help eliminate negativity and turn it into positive thinking. It also reduces stress. Because you get past the conscious level, you can really help reprogram your mindset with meditation. If you combine this with the affirmations, you can increase the results.

Spend time with positive people

Try to eliminate or limit contact with people who tend to have a negative mindset. Sometimes you can’t completely break off contact with them, especially if they are family or people you work with, but as much as possible try to spend time with positive people. Not only will you find it easier to be positive around them, but you may learn new ways to help yourself be more positive.

You can eliminate negativity if you set your mind to it and use tools and techniques to make it happen. You will not only feel better about yourself and have more energy and zest for life, but you will be physically healthier. Negative people drain their mental and physical well-being with their mindset. So, learn to have a positive attitude.

Forgiveness: Another Way to Eliminate Negativity

When people treat you wrong, it is very easy to hold a grudge. You may not understand how it could be possible to forgive someone for a slight, especially if the action was especially hurtful. Maybe you think forgiveness is about the other person and somehow, they benefit from you forgiving them. Forgiveness is not about the other person; it is about you.

Forgiving another person does not always mean they stay in your life. Sometimes you do not even let them know you are forgiving them. You do not even need to trust them again. Just forgive them to eliminate the negativity in your life.

Even horrific crimes can sometimes be forgiven. For safety reasons, you may want to use an indirect way of forgiving them instead of contacting them directly. Write a letter as if you plan on sending it to the other person. Talk about how what they did made you feel, and about how it made you think about yourself. Write about how you are no longer going to allow them space in your head and how you forgive them for what they did to you.

When you finish writing, seal up the letter in an envelope and put their name on the front. Then either throw it away (shred it first!) or burn the letter. It does not have to actually be read by the person you are forgiving, this exercise is to help you get past the negativity and the chains that are holding you back as a person.

If you find you can’t forgive on your own, you may want to talk with a professional. Therapy can really help you get past this hurdle. Especially if the person committed a serious crime. If you have been abused, particularly over a long period of time, you may need therapy to help you get past what was done to you. There is nothing wrong with seeking help.

Once you have forgiven the other person, you will feel like a weight has been lifted, or chains have been removed. Grudges are not healthy for you and they do not affect the other person. When you bottle up negative feelings, you can increase your risks of developing heart disease, and other health conditions. You tend to age faster as well. Not forgiving others can dim your overall outlook on life, so why put yourself through all of that?

Remember that forgiveness is not about the other person, it is about eliminating the negativity in your own life. So free yourself today by forgiving others for the wrongs they have done to you.

Making Other People Happy

When people themselves are happy, they experience positive feelings which they attribute as being something good. But when people make others happy, it elevates those positive feelings even further. There is no doubt that people love to make others happy. In fact, if you are ever feeling down yourself, one way to bring yourself up is to find ways to make others happy. This will give you the boost you need.

When you strive to make others happy, they notice. They will get a boost in their mood which you will see that reaction in their face immediately. It may even be returned to you in kind, either immediately, or sometime in the future.

The great part about making others happy is it is relatively easy to do. It can be as simple as paying someone a compliment. Or it can be helping out a colleague whose workload is overextended. Sometimes, simply thanking someone can lift up their spirits no matter how small the task that you are thanking them for is.

One really easy way to make people happy is to smile. Smiling is a warm and friendly act that most people will respond to positively by smiling back. A smile is a form of welcoming and shows that you are opening yourself up to those people. It gives people an invitation to approach you.

Another way to make someone happy is to simply listen to them. You would be amazed at how effective this is. People aren’t usually good listeners so if you stand out as someone who is, this too will get noticed by people and it will make them happy.

If you want to go a step further in making others happy, try to learn more about the people that you want to make happy. Be interested in what they do. Then, if you see something related to their interests, either bring it to their attention or give them something related that shows you were paying attention.

It’s important to be genuine when making others happy and not use it as a form of manipulation. People will pick right up on that tactic and it is sure to backfire on you. Since it doesn’t really work anyway, why bother even trying it? People will appreciate you much more and will respond positively to your efforts to make them happy instead of trying to get something out of it for yourself. They will also be more willing to make you happy when the effort is real.

Share Your Heart & Practice Empathy

We trust people around us who are open and honest with us. We like and trust people who aren’t afraid to share what they feel and what they are passionate about. In other words, we’re willing to be vulnerable around others who aren’t afraid to share their heart. Thus, it’s only logical that if you want to get closer to those around you, pull them in, and get them on your side so to speak, you should open your own heart and share what’s important to you.

It’s not always easy to make yourself vulnerable by sharing your passions and ideas, but it will pay off in the right context. If you’re trying to get your team on board with a big idea that will improve the company, the work environment, or how your department works, don’t be afraid to let your passion and excitement show. It can be quite contagious and if nothing else, it communicates how important this is to you and that you’re doing it to better the work environment or job security for everyone on the team.

This, like many other “people skills” will come easier to some than others. If you’re in the habit of keeping your feelings and important thoughts to yourself, it will take some conscious effort and practice to get in the habit of sharing your heart. Start small and among people like close friends or family that you feel relatively safe in doing so. As time goes by, keep practising and widening the circle of people you share your heart with until it becomes part of who you are.

Another important skill that’s worth developing is empathy. Empathy is being able to recognize what the other person feels and what motivates them. Here’s why this is important. At our core, we’re motivated by what’s in it for us. When you’re able to empathize, you’re able to see what will motivate the other person and what they could get out of whatever it is you want to accomplish. When you can communicate that well, it becomes easy to get people on your side and get them on board with what you want to do.

Some people are naturally empathic, while others have to work at it a little harder. Try to put yourself into the other person’s shoes. Think about how things affect them from their point of view. The better you get at viewing things from their side, and figuring out what motivates and drives them, the easier it will become to use the right words, acts, and motivators to win them over.

The Benefits & Problems of Being a Good Listener

How many times have you listened to someone and found that you have come away knowing them better for it? When a person speaks, they reveal a lot about themselves. So if you want to know a person better and understand their motives, dreams and desires, then it makes sense to listen more closely.

While most of us can hear, not all people have the ability to listen as attentively as others. This is why listening is often listed as a desired skill set.

When you start to listen to a person you gain more insights such as:

  • Understanding what they expect of themselves and you
  • Build better relationships with family, friends and your coworkers
  • You will be able to resolve issues more quickly
  • Have a better understanding of what people are trying to tell you
  • You will know how to respond properly
  • You will become a trusted and respected person

The moment you present yourself as someone who is not listening, your trust level drops substantially. There are actually physical and mental barriers that you need to overcome in order to become good at listening.  The most common ones include things like:

  • Prejudice
  • Language and accent barriers
  • Noise levels
  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Worry
  • Poor attention span
  • Hearing issues

Some of these barriers are going to prevent even the best listener to fully understand the issue. A great example of this is trying to listen to someone who is not speaking their native language. They may use the correct words, but the biggest handicap is their accent. No matter how hard they try to pronounce words correctly they are just not understood.

So what can you do if you are having a hard time understanding someone? A good active listener will often try to do the following things to improve their comprehension of the situation.

  • Move in a little closer
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Nod and smile to indicate that you are listening
  • Ask appropriate questions
  • Try to clarify the issue in your own words

By doing these things you are showing the person that you are doing your best to understand them. This can be very helpful and can put the person speaking at ease. Quite often they are feeling stressed out, nervous and anxious. By helping them to put their feelings behind them, they can often explain the situation better.

As you can see it is not that difficult to improve your listening skills. Just be aware that there are problems that can prevent you from fully understanding people sometimes.

Top Tips for Building Every Type of Relationship

There are some things we can do in all our relationships to build and maintain strong bonds. This is true because underneath all our differences, likes, dislikes, and biases, we are all human beings who desire social connections. The tips below should be used in all your relationships to form bonds that will stand the test of time.

Be appreciative

This might mean different things in different relationships, but the overarching sentiment is the same. When they do something kind for you or take the time to support you when you need it, be appreciative – acknowledge their care and concern.

Spend time together

It can be hard to find time to get together when we are all so busy, but it’s important for all relationships. If necessary, set up a standing appointment so that it just automatically happens. This makes sure it happens because you will get used to scheduling other things around it.

Communicate honestly

Sometimes you may be tempted to bend the truth to avoid conflict, but your relationships will be much healthier overall if honesty is held in high regard. It’s possible, to be honest without being brutal. Choose your words carefully and be as diplomatic as possible, while still sharing your feelings openly and honestly.

Forgive faults

Forgive them for their eccentricities and annoying habits, and also forgive yourself for any mistakes you make. We all have faults and shortcomings that we bring with us into any relationship. Sometimes to keep the relationship strong, we need to just come to the conclusion that their presence in our lives is more important than the little habits that drive us crazy.

Support them

Intermingled between all the good times, there will surely be times when the other person could use a helping hand. Whether it’s helping them move, taking them dinner when a loved one has passed or being a sounding board for a difficult decision, any relationship worth having requires some TLC. And the other person deserves it, just as you do when you need it from them.

Do unto others

It’s just a good idea to always live by the Golden Rule, but it’s especially true in relationships that are important to us. If you wonder if something you might do is likely to upset them, chances are it’s better to talk to them about it first. Wouldn’t you want them to do the same for you? It’s better to err on the side of caution.

4 Tips for Training Your Brain to Act with Kindness

Being kinder is not about making sacrifices or denying your own needs. Treating people kindly is not an imposition or another task on your checklist.

It’s the outward manifestation of living positively. Kindness is all about mindset, and you can train your brain to make kindness almost automatic. Ever notice that being kind to someone makes you feel good too? It’s because altruism promotes a chemical reaction in your brain, releasing serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. These chemicals not only make you feel good but also work to reinforce positive social behaviour. By laying down new neural pathways, you set yourself up for living a positive, kinder life.

Here are some scientifically proven tips for engineering kindness into your brain.

  1. Choose to be kind

In choosing to be kind, you are consciously resetting your mindset to treat people with compassion and empathy. Notice the effect of your kindness on others. When you smile, people’s natural reaction is to smile back. You set up a kindness loop that keeps on paying itself forward!

Choosing to be kind, regardless of your mood, can even turn a cranky day into a happier one. Your brain receives the message that all is well, and before you know it you’ll be feeling more cheerful.

  1. Do more random acts of kindness

Studies have shown that carrying out five random acts of kindness every week is the single most effective way of increasing your happiness. Anything from buying a pay it forwards coffee, to letting another driver into the traffic, or mowing your neighbour’s lawn will make you and the other guy feel good.

  1. Be kind to yourself.

Self-kindness starts with noticing your self-talk. Are you encouraging or judging? Do you start from a position of ‘yes you can’ or ‘you’ll never do it’? Pay attention to that voice in your head, and change the script to kindness.

Build little acts of self-care into your day. Reward successes, big and small. Take time to do the things that make you feel good. Make sure you get enough sleep, stay hydrated and have a nutritious diet.

  1. Practise gratitude

Make it a daily practice to count your blessings. Research has shown that people are happier when they notice the good things in their lives and practice gratitude. The outcome is so marked that it changes your brain structure! Brain scans have shown the effect of mindfulness and gratitude.  The parts of the brain associated with stress shrink, while the regions associated with self-awareness and compassion grow.

6 Painless Ways to Be Kind to Others

Being kind doesn’t have to be a big deal. You don’t have to be sacrificial or a martyr to be nice to other people. Remember when you learned about the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s that easy.

Being kind doesn’t have to cost you anything more than a smile or remembering your manners. And it’s easy to develop a kindness habit, once you get into the groove of being kind to people it just gets easier!

Here are some suggestions to help you get started.

  1. Smile

Smiling is easy, cheap and sustainable. It’s also contagious – smile at someone and their immediate reaction is to smile back. The act of smiling is relaxing and floods your brain with endorphins. As a bonus, smiling lowers your blood pressure and your stress levels.

By making eye contact and giving a genuine smile, you are showing respect and making connections.

  1. Reach out

Don’t wait for people to connect with you. Send a message, a card or flowers to someone you haven’t seen for a while. Chances are you’ll brighten their day. If you know someone has been having a rough time, check in with an ‘are you ok’ message.

If you have elderly neighbours, check in with them to see if they need anything.

  1. Offer some hugs (once COVID has gone!)

Offer your partner, kids or friends a random hug for no reason. So many people are starved of physical affection. And often as children grow up, they get hugged by their parents less and less. A warm hug lifts them and will make everyone feel good.

  1. Show up

If you’re routinely too busy for social occasions, or your kids’ school function or sport, step back for a minute and set some kinder priorities in your life. Give the gift of your time and your support.

  1. Be a kindness role model

Think back to the people who have shown your kindness, maybe a teacher or a boss or mentor. How did they affect your life? By including kindness in your life, you can be an excellent role model for your colleagues, friends, and family. Show them that being kind is a priority for you.

  1. Give some random compliments

Notice when someone does a good job or is looking great. You have the power to lift their day by noticing and acknowledging their efforts.

If you want more kindness in your life, it starts with you.  Why not give some of these tips a try?

Improve Your Communication Skills & Resolve Conflict

As an introvert, I would rather hide away than address festering conflicts – whether in my personal or work-life.  But, you know, life is far easier if you face the problem head on and take steps to sort things out in an amicable way.

In this post, I’m talking about how to improve your communication skills with some tips to help you resolve conflict and nip problems in the bud.  It’s not easy but practice makes perfect!

4 Tricks for Talking to Anyone

Why is it so hard to talk to people?

Oddly enough, we’re communicating all the time. But living in the era of direct messages, tweets, emails, and texts, it’s becoming harder and harder to just talk to each other. The sad thing is, conversation is an art that’s needed more than ever.

To truly get ahead in business or your personal life, at some point, you need to know how to talk to other people using something more than text on a screen. If making conversation is intimidating to you, then use these tips to master the art of being able to talk to anyone, anywhere.

Ask More Interesting Questions

Rather than asking questions that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ try asking questions requiring more complicated answers. For example, if you’re in a networking situation, learn something about the people you’re going to meet. Being able to ask specifically about a new project they’re developing leads to better and more interesting answers than a question along the lines of, “What’s new in your company” which is too broad to answer well.

Forget the Weather

The tendency of falling back on the weather as a topic of conversation is both tedious and a death knell to the interaction. Turn weather talks back around by asking a related question but also redirect the conversation at the same time, such as, “You’re right, it’s been pretty hot out. It makes me think of heading somewhere cooler. Tell me, where did you go on the best vacation you’ve ever had?”

Learn the Power of Adding On

This is a pretty simple technique where you take what someone else has said and add something to it, adding a question at the end. This helps keep things rolling even if someone else has stopped the conversation cold with a yes/no question or something about the weather. For example, if you’re asked if you saw the game last night, you might say, “Yes, that play at the end was really something.  It reminded me of a time when I went to see them play in person. Tell me, what’s the best game you ever saw?”

Pay Attention to the Details

Become the person who notices when the situation is going south. Be ready to jump in with a question or a new topic when you see people are getting uncomfortable with the situation. For a quick fix, pay a compliment. It puts the focus on someone else entirely and provides a handy distraction.

Becoming a great conversationalist will become more natural with practice. Remember, the important thing is to relax, and be your friendly, personable self. By paying attention to the discussion and taking some care in choosing your words, you’ll find yourself having great conversation in no time.

Are You a Hot Head?

While it’s important to express emotions, if you are constantly angry, this can be harmful to your health. You could be experiencing an abnormal amount of stress. It is a well-known fact that stress can rob people of their abilities to fend off diseases. If you don’t do anything about the stress, and by extension, the anger, you could likely wind up in the hospital or worse, it can kill you.

Overly angry people are not fun to be around, either. On the surface, these people may feel they don’t care if they are liked or not. But, if fundamentally something is going on that prevents them from being happy, they will excuse it as being part of their personality. That’s a shame because they are missing out on wonderful experiences and people in their lives.

There’s a reason why anger management seminars and counselling exist. Because of the health consequences, these specialists can help people deal with the issue and try to get back on track to a happy life. No one who is angry all the time is happy! If you find yourself constantly being angry with people, you could be a good candidate for this type of treatment. Don’t wait because the longer you let it go, the harder it will be for the treatment to work. They will have to break down the barriers to what is making you so angry.

Your family probably accepts you for who you are. But imagine if you can shed the angry persona. Think about how happy you could make your family. The time you spend with them when you do so is likely to be higher quality time. That alone is worth doing something about your anger issues.

All this is not to say that you don’t have the right to be angry once in a while. It happens to everyone, and small amounts are healthy for you. But, if you are angrier than you are happy, this is a clear indication that you may need to do something about it. You probably don’t get much response from people after being angry for so long. This may even make you more frustrated and angrier. It becomes a negative feedback loop and the cycle never breaks.

Only you can decide if your anger is an issue. Your spouse and your kids may hint at it, and you may have been told by your job that you need an attitude adjustment. However, unless you can recognize that there is a problem, be prepared to stay angry longer.

Dealing with Difficult People

 

When you are a people person, you’re going to often come across difficult people. These are people who won’t yield for any reason. They are unreasonable and will likely complain about everything. How can you deal with these people?

Some people become apathetic in their situations. They used to care but felt something or someone along the way just didn’t care. Their reasoning is why should they? When this is the case, you can usually break down the barriers by getting to the root of the problem. Ask questions of this person. Find out what it is that is causing them not to care anymore.

For others who simply have a bad attitude, you have to handle this situation more delicately. The one thing you don’t want to do is give in to them so readily. Sometimes, people will do this because they bark the loudest. But, you should only let them have their way if the solution is the correct one, not just because they are barking.

One of the main solutions in dealing with difficult people is to have alternative solutions. For instance, if someone complains that a particular solution won’t work, first ask why. If they come up with a valid reason, then offer alternatives. If they continue to shoot down every suggestion you produce, ask them to come up with a solution.

Dealing with difficult bosses is a tougher situation as the boss has the upper hand. Sometimes, it can be a temporary situation where the boss is dealing with personal problems. If you can get him or her to talk about it, you may be able to diffuse the situation.

Some bosses are unreasonable or incompetent. It is just their nature, and there’s not much you will be able to do or say to change that. In this case, hopefully, you have alternatives for your employment. Maybe you can get a transfer to a new department or look for a job at another company. If all else fails, you can try to start a business. With the internet, this is easier to do than ever before.

When dealing with difficult people, you have to try to get to the cause. It’s only then that you will be able to effectively determine whether you can help the person overcome some obstacle that is making him or her be difficult. It will also let you determine if you need to move on from that person or not.

How to Run a Meeting

If you are responsible for running meetings, there are some right ways and many wrong ways to do it. When you get it right, you will motivate others to participate in the meeting. You will also get them excited about attending your meetings. If they don’t get excited by them, they won’t dread them.

The first attribute of a good meeting is one that should be considered the golden rule of meetings. Don’t go over the time you advertise. You want to schedule your meetings to be no more than one hour unless there is an extenuating circumstance. If your company lost sales to a competitor, and you want to explore the reasons why this can be considered one of those circumstances. However, you still should limit the amount of time and advertise the meeting duration beforehand.

The next attribute of a good meeting is to motivate people to engage. If you are doing all the talking for an hour (or longer), you can be sure that most of the attendees will get bored. They will not remember what you said, and many of them will try to sneak some texts while you are talking. A better approach is to allocate time for each person to speak. Let them know about this ahead of time. You are the moderator and must stick to the schedule. If someone is going beyond the time, politely let them know. They may ask for more time. Remind them that you want to keep the meeting under the allocated time.

Create action items. Meetings should be used to align everyone’s understanding of a situation or project. If the attendees come out with a list of actions they need to complete, there won’t be any misunderstandings about the purpose or reason for the meeting.

Confirm via email the minutes of the meeting. It’s best to have someone who served as the writer of the minutes. You should assign someone before the meeting and don’t assume someone else took notes. Even people who took notes won’t necessarily write about everything discussed. Make the process formal by assigning someone to the task.

Arguments and heated discussions can happen during meetings. As the moderator, make sure people don’t shout and curse. It’s okay for arguments to occur if they are civil and don’t get personal. It’s your job to ensure they stay that way. If a discussion gets out of hand, take over the discussion and give people time to calm down.

Managing Your Emotions Will Help You in Negotiations

When you enter into a negotiation of any kind, one major ally will be keeping your emotions in check. It’s the one time when it makes a big difference. If your counterparty sees any signs of emotion, he or she will be sure to capitalize on it by using it against you.

Excitement is the first emotion to manage. Don’t let the counterparty know that you will do whatever it takes to make the deal. Do you want that beautiful new sports car in red? Show the dealer that you have no problems walking away if you don’t get the right deal.

An exception to the excitement rule is when you enter the negotiation with someone else with the intent of playing “good cop/bad cop.” In this instance, one of you should be overly emotional about making the deal, while the other puts a damper on the whole thing. The key is to get the counterparty as excited as you are and in turn, spend a lot of time in the process. The counterparty becomes shattered when the “bad cop” player says no to the deal. But the time has already been spent, and it is worth it for the counterparty to make a deal at that point.

Another great tactic when negotiating is to use silence to your advantage. People hate any uncomfortable amount of time passing with nothing spoken. The longer you wait it out in silence, the more you can get the counterparty to break. Being silent is not easy for anyone to master as most of us are used to quick exchanges when we converse with others.

If you find you are not good at negotiation, seek out someone who is. You may know someone who is great at it. If not, you can look for people who you can pay to negotiate on your behalf. Many times, these people will be willing to do it for a percentage of the amount saved in the negotiation. The savings will prove their skills. If they are unable to save you anything, they don’t get paid.

Using these tips can help you become a better negotiator. However, the best tip is to practice at it. Only through practice will you learn what works best for you and gives you the ability to experiment with new methods or techniques. If you have others negotiate on your behalf, be sure to pay attention to the methods they use.

What are Personal Boundaries and Why We Need Them

You’ve probably heard the phrase before, but maybe you’re unsure what it means. Just what ARE personal boundaries, and what difference do they make in your life?

To understand a personal boundary, you have to understand what a boundary is. Let’s start at the dictionary and go from there:

bound·a·ry (noun)

a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.

Most boundaries are pretty easy to see. The world is full of fences and dividers, clearly marking off space. A personal boundary does the same thing – only on a more invisible and internal level. Let’s look at this on a little closer.

What are boundaries?

  1. A boundary tells you what your responsibility is in a given situation. You already have some boundaries at work or school. These are the parameters of your job or your responsibility as a student and usually are marked out pretty clearly when you took the job or where enrolled. On a personal level, a boundary tells you who you’re responsible for (yourself of course, but you might also be a caregiver). But what about your other responsibilities such as paying your bills, or taking care of your pets?
  1. A boundary keeps you safe. Many of these should go without saying – such as abstaining from drinking and driving. But sometimes you have to set some such boundaries for yourself. Such as whether or not it’s healthy to be in a relationship with a certain individual.
  1. A boundary tells us who we are. Are you a good person? A bad person? A selfish person? A pious one? Our moral code becomes the boundary that defines us.
  1. A boundary clarifies your needs. What things need to be in place in your life for you to be happiest and healthiest? What protects you for overwork or abuse?
  1. A boundary defines your relationships. What are the parameters of your relationship? Is that healthy? What is your responsibility to that other person? How are they responsible for you?

With all that, it makes sense that having strong boundaries is a good idea. Especially when you take into consideration these facts:

Boundaries…

…give you a better idea of who you are

…help others to understand your needs

…give guidelines in your relationships

…make for healthy interactions with other people

And perhaps most important of all, they are an integral part of self-care.

As a side note remember this: Boundaries need to be revisited occasionally and re-evaluated. As we grow and change, our boundaries will change as well.

With all this at stake, it’s no wonder we give boundaries such a lot of attention. Boundaries can mean the difference between a happy and healthy life and a life of drudgery and resentment.

Is it time to learn where to draw the line?

Stop Interrupting – It’s Blocking Your Listening Abilities

When you interrupt others, it’s not only rude, but it shows the world you weren’t listening. People don’t appreciate being cut off when they are speaking. If you are someone who often interrupts others, there is no way you are listening to them.

We get into bad habits as kids that we carry into adulthood. Our parents likely got into the same bad habits and that is our first exposure to them. Interrupting is one of those habits and it’s a big one. You probably hung out with a few friends who did it. If your parents did it, it’s likely you have aunts and uncles who do it as well.

It takes a conscious effort to break the habit, especially when you are older. This is not to say you can’t break it. You just have been doing it for so long that it will take you more time to get out of the habit.

To start practising, put yourself in learning mode. Think back to the last time you were learning something. You had little prior knowledge on the subject so you tended to listen more. There were no preconceived notions. When someone else is talking, try to learn as much as you can about who they are and what they are saying. Let them speak completely before speaking.

There are occasions in many conversations when you think the other person is finished, but they are only taking a small pause. You will undoubtedly interrupt them at this point. This is not out of rudeness. It’s just a missed cue. Just excuse yourself and move on. This will happen less with people who you know than with strangers.

It may be that you aren’t aware that you interrupt people. That’s possible. When you get into a habit, it’s just something you start to do naturally. However, think back to instances of people saying, “Excuse me, but I wasn’t finished talking.” It could be a variation on this phrase. If this has happened to you on several occasions, it’s a good chance that you interrupt others.

When you make that discovery, don’t beat yourself up about it. This is one of those habits others will forget when you turn yourself around. They probably won’t even think about the fact that you interrupted them before. If they do, your change will be welcome to them. You may revert to interrupting on occasion. But, make a conscious effort to curb this activity.

The One Key Ingredient to Being a People Person

If you could boil down one key ingredient to being a people person, it would be to listen. This is the one skill that will serve you well. In general, people are too wrapped up in themselves and don’t listen. This is even more systemic with the proliferation of smartphones. You see people with their heads buried in these devices all the time.

When you become a good listener, you will stand out from the crowd and people will take notice of this personal trait. More people will approach you and in many cases, they won’t even know why. It’s not as you announce to the world, “I am a good listener. Come talk to me.” It will happen naturally because you are listening.

Many people mistake listening with giving advice. This is not always a good idea. In fact, unless you are a counsellor or you are an expert in the subject of the conversation, you want to avoid advice as much as possible. You don’t want to give people bad advice that if followed, will lead to a difficult situation.

Listening involves hearing what the other person has to say completely and then interpreting what is being said. If you need to respond, you can acknowledge what was said. Some people like to repeat what the other person says after he or she says it. This can be awkward for the person talking, but it is helpful to ensure you understand what was being said.

You can also follow up with words of encouragement or empathy, depending on how the conversation is going. This is different from offering advice. You are letting the other person know you heard what he or she said and respond accordingly.

In most conversations, one person will speak about himself or herself. When the person finishes, the other person will speak about himself or herself. This is a common form of conversation but neither party is truly listening to the other. Take an interest in the other parties and let the conversation be about them. You will have plenty of time in other conversations to make it about you. To further the conversation, ask questions about what was said. This shows you are interested. People love to talk about themselves. Let them do this.

Listening is a skill. Just like anything else, it takes practice. When you become a good listener you will become more of a people person by using this skill to its fullest.

Ways to Talk to Strangers Comfortably

 We spend our childhoods being told to never speak to strangers but then discover as we grow up, we need to do just that, repeatedly. Some strangers are more comfortable to talk to, such as shop clerks or servers in restaurants.

Others though, are often more complicated, such as the strangers you meet in social situations. These are the people who have the potential of being your future friends and coworkers. These are the strangers who matter. To some, meeting this type of stranger can be quite intimidating.

How do you get past the initial trepidation and talk to even strangers comfortably?

Throw Yourself into the Deep End

If you always have someone to fall back on, you’re never going to truly take the plunge. Go to new places alone, so you’re not tempted to stick with who you already know.

Make the First Move

If you’re going to wait around hoping to be noticed, you might have a very long wait. Be bold! Start a conversation! Get up and join the fun rather than waiting to be invited.

Learn the Give and Take of Conversation

Ask questions. Get the ball rolling by discovering new facts about the people you meet. But also, be prepared to talk about yourself (but not excessively). Good conversation should have an ebb and flow. Don’t let it get too heavy in any one direction.

Learn How to Be Friendly

While initiating conversation, know when to back off before you become too aggressive. Not everyone is going to want to talk. If this is the case, let them go. There’s plenty of other people to talk to. Move on to someone else.

Be You

There is nothing more compelling than someone who comes across as genuine. Being authentic is a hundred times better than any role you could ever play. This means being you without pretence. If you’re nervous, it’s ok. You can even say something about it or make it into a joke. You’d be amazed at how many people can identify with these feelings.

Know When – and How – to Quit

If the conversation has died out or the interaction isn’t going well, know how to escape. An “I need” comment is a big help (as in “Excuse me, I need to use the restroom” or “I need to talk to that man over there about something, please excuse me.” Or just simply thank them for the interaction and move on. “It was a pleasure talking to you about Hawaii. Thank you for the conversation.” If you really like the person you’re talking to, get their card, or make plans to get together again before you go.

William Butler Yeats perhaps said it best. “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.”

With that thought in mind, wouldn’t you say it’s time to set forth and make some new friends?

Why Do People Attack Personally When Arguing?

You have been in arguments before. There is nothing earth-shattering about that statement. Several of those arguments probably got heated. But, did you ever revert to using personal attacks during your arguments? Did others personally attack you?

There is a good chance that both used personal attacks. Why is it so easy for people to use these tactics? Part of the problem is that people don’t prepare for arguments. You may know something about the topic you are arguing. But, do you have expert-level knowledge? If you don’t, there will be a certain point where you run out of ammunition during your argument. You won’t have the knowledge you need to counter the statement of your opponent. At that point, you feel you need to save face. The only way to do this is to attack your opponent on a personal level.

You aren’t alone. Your opponent is likely not prepared for the argument either. Therefore, you can expect an affront on a personal level as well.  Once the feeding frenzy begins, it goes into a free-for-all. The discussions turn ugly, and those arguing are shouting and exchanging verbal insults.

Another reason for personal attacks is this has become the new standard in media. It seems it is open season on attacking people on a personal level. Just take a look at any political race, and you will see some nasty exchanges. It makes it seem as though nothing is the truth when this happens.

One way to stop this is to agree ahead of time that if the arguments get personal, it’s time to take a break. Your opponent should have no problem with this. However, if there is an issue, that can be an indication that the argument won’t go well right from the start. It’s best to avoid the confrontation if you can.

If you have ever watched two people attacking each other personally, you likely thought they were both being petty, and neither of them wins. Therefore, use this fact when you are arguing and try to ignore any personal attacks. Discuss the issues instead. That can be difficult because once the personal attack happens, the opponent can’t take it back. It’s already said. However, if you rise above it and be the better person, people will look to you as a leader. You will already have the advantage in the argument when that happens. The other person will be the one ending up looking petty.

So there you have it – lots of tips and tricks to help you to improve your communication skills and hopefully nip any disagreements in the bud.

What advice would you add?

Reasons Why Dating Your Spouse Could Save Your Marriage

Even though we’ve been together for 15 years and married for 8, we still make sure that we have ‘date nights’.  Cheesy?  Possibly.  Sanity-saving?  Definitely.  Expensive?  Depending on your childcare arrangements – but I still maintain it’s worth it.  Dating your spouse can be a marriage-enhancing activity that can bring you closer.

dating your spouse - man and woman on a date outside a cafe in France

It isn’t always easy to find the time (and sometimes the energy) to dress up, put your lippy on and make a reservation at a great restaurant (and lord knows in Cardiff we’re spoiled for choice) but here’s why I think dating your partner is very important and why date nights should regularly appear in your diary.

Reasons why dating your spouse is important

It maintains your connection and helps you to reconnect

Relationships are always in a state of flux and can be very complex. Make sure you understand and take an interest in what is going on in your significant other’s life by spending quality time with them.

Protect the intimacy you both shared in the early days by nurturing it with special time doing the things you both love – and those things that drew you together in the first place. Mat and I spent days exploring National Trust properties and finding cosy country pubs to dine at.

Going out just the two of you allows you both a brief break from your busy lives and gives you the chance to focus on each other and rekindle your romance.

Once that connection between you is lost there is a danger that your relationship will wither and you’ll be ‘just friends’ or worse, ‘ships that pass in the night’ – all too easy when you both have busy jobs.

It’s an investment in your future

As with anything in life, the more effort you put in, the more you are likely to get back – and it’s no different with relationships.  There are many sad stories of couples who, when the kids leave home, have nothing in common anymore and very little to say to one another.

That’s why prioritising adult time is as important as family time.  Everybody benefits.

It’s a chance to put any distractions aside

Every day, you and your partner may be pulled in many different directions – kids, chores, friends, work,  elderly parents – the list can be endless. Making time for a date night ensures your connection is kept at the top of the to-do pile and will give you a mini holiday from all that ‘noise’.

It’s a great opportunity to revisit happy memories

Why not take the opportunity to reminisce together about the things you did before you married? If things have been a bit rocky of late, it may help you remember why you fell for your partner and why you made that public commitment to spend the rest of your lives together.

It reassures family members

When you continue to date your spouse, it sends out a strong message to everybody around you. It shows them exactly how important your relationship is to you and also how much you value your partnership with your other half. This is a great way to show your kids how special a strong relationship can be.

If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll be slightly scandalised but happy to see you go out holding hands.  It’s good to model affectionate behaviour for them.

It can take time to find the right babysitter and yes, it can be an extra expense so you could compromise by finding some lower-priced venues to visit.

It reinforces the bond between you and keeps the spark alive

The more time you spend with each other, the stronger your bond is likely to become. Remember the days when you only had eyes for one another?

If currently, you are so overwhelmed by your daily commitments that, come nighttime, you just want to get into bed and sleep, it may well be time to find ways to bring the passion back to your relationship.

It helps to you destress

If you spend your days grouching and grumping at one another because you’re both tired and at the end of your tether, a date night can be a valuable opportunity to get some well-earned downtime.

Stress can be a big threat to a happy marriage or relationship, whether from parenting, finance or romantic issues.  It can change not only our behaviour but that of those around us as they struggle to deal with the more negative behaviours stress can cause.

Tension at home could affect not only the parents but the children too and studies into the health of children living in hostile households have shown them to have greatly raised levels of anxiety hormones.

It shows you are willing to make things work

When you date your spouse or partner you are openly demonstrating your commitment and devotion to them. It’s you and them against the world. Separation is certainly not on the agenda.

A date night is an opportunity for couples to discuss their hopes and dreams and what they want their future to look like.

It’s good to get your partner’s perspective on things and, if you are prepared to really listen to each other, you’ll find you can learn a lot.

Sometimes you might want to address things that have been bugging you, or a behaviour that you wish would change and it’s far easy to discuss these things in a relaxed setting where you can really hear your partner’s responses.

A caring partner can provide support that carries you through all sorts of personal challenges, even minor ones that are just enough to ruin your day.  They can give you the confidence to make vital changes and remind you that yes, you are an attractive, worthwhile person.

We don’t stop being a woman just because we’re a mother, do we?

Will You Be Blue This Blue Monday?

Monday 20th January 2020 is designated “Blue Monday” – no not a celebration of the now-classic song by New Order, but the day in the year when the combination of post-Christmas debt, dreadful weather and the lapse in our New Year’s resolutions combine to make us reach a peak of misery.

The first bank holiday is weeks away. The approach of Valentines’ Day is ramping up the pressure on singletons to find true love, whilst some married couples have thrown in the towel and are headed for the divorce courts.

The seasonal fun and frolics of Christmas seem a very distant memory indeed.

The concept of “Blue Monday” was apparently coined by a travel company some years ago to push us into booking our summer holidays.  Marketing has a lot to answer for, doesn’t it! Even Santa’s distinctive red robes were invented by Coca Cola.

Still, there is certainly some truth in the idea that having something like a holiday to look forward to is a great psychological tonic.

But, let’s be honest, shall we?

There’s a huge difference between feeling a bit down and ‘under the weather’ and truly suffering from depression, which some call the Black Dog.

Most of us, if we stop and think about it, can very quickly come up with a list of blessings, things to be grateful for, things that help us to celebrate living.

We can even, usually, come up with a list of solutions to those problems.

Spent too much?  Talk to your bank manager about your overdraft. Consider consolidating your credit.  Cut back on unnecessary expenditure.

Feeling bloated and unfit? You know what to do, don’t you?  Take more exercise, eat better. The old hoary chestnuts of advice stand the test of time, don’t they?

Some of us suffer badly from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The lack of sunlight sends us spiralling into a winter depression.

The symptoms often begin in the autumn as the days start getting shorter and are typically most severe during December, January and February.

Symptoms may include a persistent low mood, irritability and feeling lethargic and sleepy during the day.  Sufferers may find themselves sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning.  They may also crave carbohydrates and gain weight

But there are things you can do about this, for example, light therapy.  You can buy special lightboxes which replicate the effect of sunlight on the body.  You can find more information about Seasonal Affective Disorder and light therapy here.

The cure may obviously not be as simple or as instant as buying a lightbox. I am merely saying that, sometimes, if we take matters into our own hands, we feel better.  Having some control over our problems makes us feel more empowered.

Most of us can find a way to lift ourselves out of the ‘Blue Monday Slump’.  A little time out for reflection may help.  Why not try mindful meditation?  Calming your inner voice may help you recognise what is making you feel so discontented.  It will certainly reduce your stress and improve your focus.

A long, hot, calming bath may also help perhaps with a herbal bath oil or a natural treatment such as Bach’s Rescue Remedy.

An early night will help.  We are all guilty of TV channel surfing when we know we should be going to bed – or, my particular downfall, playing the ‘odd’ game of Candy Crush.  One hour’s sleep before midnight is said to be worth two hours of sleep after midnight.  Lack of sleep has been proven to have very real consequences to our health and mental wellbeing.

Make sure too, that your bed is as comfortable as possible so that you get a good night’s sleep.  If your mattress is over 8 years old, the advice is to change it, but this can be done quickly and at a reasonable cost by searching for mattresses online.

It is important to recognise though, that if you feel things are really getting on top of you, or that you just cannot cope no matter what simple adjustments you make to your lifestyle, then you should talk to your GP.

There are also many organisations you can talk to, day or night, who can help you.  You can find a list of some of them here.

So, if this Blue Monday you feel your outlook is less than sunny, take the opportunity to be a little bit kinder to yourself.

And a bit kinder to others.

We never know exactly what others are feeling.  But by offering a few kind words, everyone’s day suddenly becomes a whole lot brighter.

And spring will be here before we know it.

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Waiting For A Valentine’s Day Proposal? Questions To Ask YOURSELF

The Valentine’s Day proposal.  How many of us, I wonder, are waiting with bated breath to see if this might be the day they’ll propose.

Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, a January birthday have all gone by and nada.

Waiting for a Valentine's Day Proposal? 2 white roses

The problem is that you can rarely be entirely sure a proposal will be forthcoming particularly if you already live together.

Will you get a Valentine’s Day Proposal?

It’s bad enough wondering if they’ll remember to get you a Valentine’s Card but if you are expecting a marriage proposal then the whole day will be fraught with waiting and hoping and longing …. and potential disappointment.

So before you risk having to crawl miserably into bed nursing your dashed hopes of the dress, the ceremony, the doves, the champagne and the vintage car, it’s time for a little Valentine’s reality check.

Here’s what you need to ask yourself.

What is the real state of my relationship?

You can’t use Valentine’s Day or any other annual celebration as a sticking plaster for a relationship which just doesn’t work.

Receiving a bouquet of roses or a diamond may well signify intent but there’s many a step between popping into Interflora and writing your vows.

Have you been getting on?  Have there been arguments?  Are there fundamental things upon which you just don’t agree?

These are red flags for a long-term relationship.  Money, sex, children, religion, ambition, hobbies – all of these things can throw a spanner in the works of romantic happiness.

Check in with how you actually feel about your partner and ask yourself “if it wasn’t Valentine’s Day, how would I feel about my partner?”.  Do they make me happy?  Do I feel confident and loved when I’m with them? Do they boost my confidence and self esteem? Would they be the person I would turn to first in any emergency?

What do other people think about my relationship?

This probably matters more than you might think.  If your friends and family hate your partner then you really need to ask yourself why.  Obviously sometimes we are constrained by cultural or religious expectations to do the right thing but, generally, if everyone else hates your other half then it’s time to wonder if they might have a point.

Has marriage even been discussed?

In my weekly problem page, I often come across the issue of mismatched expectations.  The most memorable is a lady who had been with her man for 3 years and was asking how much longer she had to wait for a proposal. My question to her was “why have you waited so long to raise the subject with him”?!

This is still, I think, an enduring problem in long-term relationships where the couple live together.

There is no longer the impetus to marry for the sake of children or to conform to society’s expectations because the landscape of gender, sexuality and the way we relate and live have changed almost beyond recognition from our parents’ day.

I think marriage has to be firmly on the agenda pretty early on  – especially if you are both over 30 and want to have children.  I married at 41 and had my kids at 43 and 45 and wish I had done the whole lot at least 10 years’ earlier – but life’s not like that, is it?

You do need to be open and honest about what you want for your future, and clear about what commitment means to you.

Many of us want the big white wedding to have our ‘day’ but in lots of cases a ‘day’ is all it turns out to be, plus a debt of around £33,000 , the average cost of a UK wedding in 2017.

Making the wrong choice of partner could be very costly indeed – and that’s before the cost of divorce, not only in terms of money, but in terms of friendships and your social life.

Far easier to gently ask “do you see us getting married and having kids one day” than lugging stacks of bridal magazines home and sighing loudly every time a jewellery commercial comes on.

What if it’s not a “no” but a “not yet”?

This could leave you, like the lady from my problem page, in limbo for a very long time. You have to be clear in your own mind how long you are prepared to wait. If you do get a ‘not yet’, you have every right to ask what would need to happen for the time to be right.

Putting pressure on your partner will not work.  “When, then!” is not the right thing to ask.  You need to understand whether ‘not yet’ really means a future marriage or whether, frankly, you are being fobbed off.

There’s a big difference between “yeah, I suppose so at some point ” and “when I have finished studying my business course and we have saved up enough for a deposit on a flat”.

Most of us can tell when we are being fobbed off but acknowledging that means having to be honest with ourselves about whether this relationship is the one – and if you have had quite a few ‘the one’s’, it’s understandable that you may feel panicky at the thought of going back on the dating scene again.

What if your partner wants to propose in their own way, in their own time?

Lots of people hate being put under pressure.  Equally lots of men hate Valentine’s Day – the commercialism, the cost, the fakeness of many of those hearts and flowers.  If your partner is going to propose you can probably tell you know.  But you shouldn’t assume they’ll conform to your expectations and do the big Valentine’s proposal.

If they are talking about settling down with you, buying a home, having children, planning future holidays, commitment in general then that’s a good sign and a basis upon which to have a grown-up and honest conversation.

If they are muttering about Valentine’s being a load of crap, arriving home later and later and going out more often with their friends, then the signs aren’t good, are they?

If the big proposal doesn’t appear on Valentine’s Day, the worst thing you could do would be to have a major strop, start a row and end up splitting up because one of you said something unforgiveable and unleashed the floodgates of every little irritating thing they’ve ever done since you met them.

Which will just convince them, if there’s any doubt, that you weren’t the right person anyway.

Hold it together on Valentine’s Day

Your best strategy, if you’re hoping for a proposal, is to play it cool, calm and collected.  If you are going out make sure you look gorgeous.   Try to stay in the moment and enjoy your food, the location, the ambience.  Talk to your partner rather than scan the room for a lurking violinist!

If no proposal appears and you are hurt and upset then say you are feeling under the weather and have an early night – rather than start the relationship wrecking strop I mentioned earlier.

In the morning with a clear head you can then make plans to have the conversation you need to have with your partner.

There’s one last question you should ask yourself too.

Are my expectations realistic?

I often hear of people who after just a few short months are so overcome with love that they are ready to hear the “will you marry me” and run off into the sunset. For most of us that is much too short a time to decide whether someone is worth spending the rest of our life with.

For others, having enough money saved up and making sure that their friends and family like their other half really matter.

I suspect lots of engagements happen just to keep the other partner quiet after too much nagging about setting the date. And, as we all know, an engagement can be dragged out for years – anything to avoid actually setting the date.

Desperation isn’t attractive and even today, I think a bit of mystery and independence work wonders when you’re trying to snare the partner of your dreams.  What’s that antiquated expression?  “A man chases a woman until she catches him”.

If you haven’t been together long and haven’t even discussed marriage, then Valentine’s Day is most likely not going to be the day your big proposal happens.

But what if I’m asked and I don’t want to?

What if that proposal does turn up and you just don’t know how you feel?  Actually I think most of us have a very strong gut instinct which tells us exactly how we feel but we often ignore it.

It’s so tempting to put the ring on, accept the congratulations, start planning the big party but if it’s wrong, a wedding isn’t going to put it right.

If you are really not sure just say “that’s so lovely and I really care about you but I’d like a little more time for us to get to know each other (or spend time together) before we make such a big commitment”.

Be kind but above all – be honest!

I really hope you get the Valentine’s Day proposal you long for (if that’s what you truly want) but just remember, it’s how you partner treats you the other 364 days of the year that is the truest indicator of their love.

10 Easy Ways To Get You Moving Towards Your Dreams

Do you find that January is the month you decide to do something to get you moving towards your dreams?

Do you make endless New Year’s resolutions, spend a fortune on planners, write bucket lists, create vision boards and create a public commitment by telling all your Facebook friends that this will be your year?

woman about to start a crafting project surrounded by flowers - moving towards your dreams

Each new year gives us a blank canvas to create our dreams afresh – but where to start?

Yes – you will hike across Mexico and start an award winning travel blog.

Yes – you will give up sugar and practise impeccable nutrition (and share it on Instagram, obviously).

Yes – you will finally stick to a beauty routine that will give you glowing skin, much to the envy of Kim Kardashian.

Yes – you will be calm, centred, loving and gentle even to those idiots who jostle you on the train in the morning and take up two seats?

All too often we set the bar way too high and then berate ourselves for giving up in the first week of January.

We all want instant change – but here’s the thing.

Change takes time.  Results take time.

You have to learn new behaviours, new reactions, new thoughts and prepare yourself for the ways your changes will affect everyone in your life.

We’ve all heard stories about relationships dissolving when one partner loses the weight and regains their mojo – much to the displeasure of the other.

If your friendship group revolves around the habit you want to give up then you need to think about this.

In my many years working in an office, those who smoked would often have a tight-knit friendship circle born of many years freezing their butts off out in the cold with a rushed ciggie.

Those who gave up smoking were no longer part of that group.

Peer pressure has a huge part to play in our ability to say no, enough, time to stop.

Many self help tomes advise making a public commitment is a great way to get you moving towards your dreams because of the risk of the failure of embarrassment.

I’m not so sure.  I think silence is better.  Quietly move towards your goals without fanfare, seek help from the best people you can find – those who have achieved what you are setting out to do.  Not those who would quite like to do it too but have never got round to it – but are still complete experts.

The biggest challenge is just starting, let alone maintaining the impetus to stay the course long distance.  We’ll have that last drink tomorrow, eat that last cake tomorrow, go for our first run tomorrow.

So what can you do if your goal is really important – for example you need to lose weight for an operation, or you need to cut someone really toxic out of your life?

Here are 10 simple things you could try and they all revolve around changing what you say to yourself and taking baby steps.

Small changes can lead to massive improvements if they are manageable and don’t add to your stress levels.  It is utterly pointless taking up something you know you’ll give up sooner rather than later because you will only succeed in lowering your self esteem and self confidence.

Exercise

Instead of:  I will get up at 6 am and run 3 miles
Try:  I will jog on the spot for the length of Coronation Street (or your favourite soap)

Instead of: I will schedule at least 3 gym classes per week
Try: I will find the family some new swimsuits and go for a swim every Sunday with the kids

Food

Instead of:  I will give up all sugary foods
Try:  I will give up cake during the week and treat myself to a couple of slices at the weekend.

Instead of: I will sit down to a home cooked meal every night
Try: I will cook three times a week and add extra home-cooked vegetables to any shop bought meals.

Money

Instead of:  I will save every penny towards my summer holiday
Try:  I will start a savings account and put in £20 (or whatever) every month and use public transport instead of taxis.

Instead of: I will get rid of all my debt
Try: I will contact my local Citizens’ Advice Bureau and talk to them about creating a sensible savings plan to reduce my debts – ensuring the most important debts are paid off first (e.g mortgage and rent arrears).

Work

Instead of:  I will find the job of my dreams this year
Try:  I will talk to someone already doing my dream job to see how they got started and what qualifications and experience they think I should get.

Instead of: I will speak up in every meeting and share my ideas
Try: I will ask for my idea to be included in the meeting agenda beforehand and make sure I speak up if the question “any other business?” arises.

Relationships

Instead of: I will find the partner of my dreams

Try: I will smile and be more approachable, make sure I look my best whenever I leave the house and sign up to a reputable online dating site.

My point is that your dreams have to be broken down into actionable steps – and those steps should not be daunting or complicated.

Moving towards your dreams gradually means, I think, that you are far more likely to get there.  As the old saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.

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Want This Year To Be YOUR Year? Tell Yourself A Better Story.

Now we’re all re-emerging from the traditional post-festive slump, do you find your thoughts automatically drifting to those things you want to improve this new year? We have already probably read, by now, the myriad of pop psychology suggestions to transform our existence – from writing a letter to your future self and making gratitude lists to mindful meditation, seeking your guardian angel and rebalancing your chakras.

write a letter to your future self - woman outdoors sat on a log typing on a laptop

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Listen, I love this stuff and you won’t find any cynical sniffing from me if you tell me your goal next year is to explore your spirituality.  Too few of us are stuck in a kind of two-dimensional hell of work and shopping with very little actual human connection in between.

But here’s the thing I want to suggest you try.

If you stop and listen closely to the voice in your head, that incessant chatter which is you (probably) berating, criticising and scolding yourself, you might notice something.

You say the same stuff over and over and over and over ……

Basically, you are retelling your life as a story in which you may not necessarily be playing the role you want to play.  Is there someone else you have cast as the star whilst you have a mere walk-on part?

If you think about your history, your past, it is a collection of memories you’ve put together seen from just one perspective – yours.  We can never know exactly what someone else is feeling. Their behaviour may give clues, of course, but nevertheless, the only person we can truly begin to understand is ourselves.

Some of the people we find most inspiring, whether they are celebrities or members of our family, have the ability to make their own sunshine.  They put a positive spin on everything that happens. They are the ‘silver lining people’.

Hands up, on occasion, I find ‘silver lining people’ extremely annoying but in my more sanguine moments, I acknowledge that they are definitely on to something.

So, rather than retell yourself ghastly tales of past times when you were the fall guy, the stooge, the fool, where you let your light be eclipsed by someone with all the brightness of a 20-watt bulb, why not put a twist in the tale?

Ask yourself.  If I were to rewrite this, what would have happened?  And, in future, when you think of that time, tell yourself this new story.

If the old version of events has a terrible hold on you, see yourself writing it down then pick up the paper, scrunch it into a ball and chuck it over your shoulder.

Or pretend you have set it on fire and those horrid memories have literally gone up in smoke.

As you look to your future,  why not write yourself the story of the year now, complete with a list of what WILL happen. I don’t mean a bucket list.  I mean a list of glorious, golden outcomes.  Actually, writing a letter to your future self is a great idea because it will give you something to look back on to see how far you’ve come.

Faith and positive thinking may make your dreams happen.

We are adult and know that there are no guarantees in life but, equally, to live with an optimistic view where you let in the light has to be better than starting another year in a fug of gloomy despondency.

January is such a dark, dank month.  We miss the sun and the light both emotionally and physically. Those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) must feel this loss of light even more and, once the Christmas bonhomie has passed, there is a tendency for those of us who suffer from depression to sink into a deeper pit of our own hopelessness and melancholy.

But if we look around us, the best-loved stories are still there and are a testament to our eternal belief that good triumphs over evil, that light always wins out over darkness.

I am thinking not just of religion but of the Harry Potter stories and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

If we can let ourselves enter their worlds and believe so willingly,  why don’t we write our own sagas and recast ourselves as heroes and heroines?

Ultimately you know, we’ve all got the Force.

How Not To Wreck Your Love Life This Year

Valentine’s Day is around the corner and, if things aren’t entirely hunky dory in your love life, you may feel like hiding under the duvet and avoiding the whole damn thing.

But what if, to use that hoary old cliche, it really isn’t them and it is YOU?

Some of us have an absolute gift for trashing our relationships, don’t we?  Our happiness lies in understanding the reasons behind this self-sabotage.

So, buy yourself some chocolate and settle down with a pen and paper and really think about the patterns that seem to endlessly repeat themselves in your love life.

Because they will be there, trust me.

Whether you are always cheated on, or your relationships fizzle out, whether you get bored after the thrill of the chase is over or you seem to pick someone with the same annoying habits over and over again, understanding why will help you move forward in a more positive way.

It’s too trite to say that we repeat childhood patterns but, very often, we do tend to recreate the environment we grew up in or pick people who remind us of a parent or strong authority figure – for good or bad.

We are also great at putting ridiculous amounts of pressure on ourselves to ‘couple up’.  I answer lots of dating questions on Quora and a frequent one is “do I need to be in a relationship to be happy”?  Of course not.

But if you find you are avoiding being in one when you secretly would love a significant other, it’s time for a little soul searching.

I think a good mantra to have is “connection not perfection”.  By that, I mean that no relationship is perfect and if you tend to expect hearts, flowers and holidays in the Maldives and then strop off when they’re not forthcoming, you might be shooting yourself in the foot.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

This year, take a step back and chill a little.  These tips may help.

Accept the love life you currently have

It is what it is – as the husband annoyingly likes to remind me.  There’s a reason your love life is the way it is and that’s what you need to work on this year.  Whether you are in a relationship or single, it really doesn’t matter.  Your goal is your happiness and deciding what’s right for you.

Tell others to mind their own business

Teach yourself to not care what others think about your love life. It’s really none of their business. Do what makes you happy, even if it’s not the norm. You don’t want to end your life with regrets.

You don’t need someone else to make you happy

You might think you do, but that way misery lies if you are constantly seeking someone new.  It is easy to become addicted to the thrill of the chase – and then all too easy to become dreadfully disappointed when you realise that, yet again, this one isn’t ‘the one’ which leads me to…

The lie of the soul mate for life

Ever dated someone you just gelled with and yet it still didn’t work out?  There are some lucky individuals who meet their partner and that’s it till the end of their days but they are the exception rather than the norm.  If there was really one soul mate for all of us, the divorce rates would be a lot lower.

Very often couples who marry at a very young age find that they’re not compatible enough for a traditional relationship after five, ten, or twenty years.

Many couples in our parents’ generation stayed together because of the social stigma surrounding divorce in those days.  Who knows how many of those relationships would have lasted if things had been different?

Don’t believe all you read about celebrity relationships

The savvier among you will be able to spot a ‘showmance’ a mile off.  Yes, agents and PR companies will suggest to celebs that coupling up will increase their chances of work.  (Love Island, anyone?).  It’s all fake.

The airbrushed image these couples present to the world may belie what really goes on at home.

Career gone a bit flat? Let’s ‘split up’ and make sure everyone on social media knows about it then make up just in time for the launch of that new reality series.

What goes around, comes around

The late Helen Gurley Brown (the woman who created Cosmopolitan magazine), once said that she believed you don’t personally have to do the work of the gods.

By that she meant that if someone is an unreliable, unfaithful or unpleasant partner, sooner or later Karma will sort them out – without you having to do anything.

Now obviously this does not include any form of abuse or violence (for which you should seek help immediately), but in general life has a way of dealing with those who think they’re ‘all that’.

Lighten up and relax

There are loads of stories of people who met their partner when they weren’t looking and were concentrating on other things – like their own interests, goals and happiness.

Desperation is a huge turn off and confidence a huge turn on.

Make sure you have enough time to relax, rejuvenate, and become centered, whether it’s through meditation or other ways so that you present your best self to your partner or a new potential love interest.

Ultimately, you don’t need to rush to sort things out unless you are desperately unhappy and even then it is better to have a strategy rather than just throw the whole relationship away.

Once you have worked out what would make you happy then you can communicate that to your partner (existing or future) and set new ground rules.  It may take time to work this out, especially if you have just gone from one relationship to the next.

It all starts with you.  Not them.

The Introvert’s Christmas Survival Guide

The holiday season bustles with activity. Gift-shopping, decorating, to-do lists, cooking, baking, hosting and attending social events make this is the most active time of year for many. If you’re an introvert who craves peace and quiet and tends to be emotionally sensitive, you may find all of this overwhelming. Below, find a list of holiday headaches that stress out introverts, and some tips on how to put back the peace, love and joy in Christmas time.

Holiday Stress Factor 1: Shopping = sensory overload = stress.

Introverts tend to be overwhelmed by too much sensory input. Christmas is supposed to be a time of peace and joy. Yet these sentiments are often forgotten in the chaos of the shopping season.

Head to the mall or a big city with lots of stores, and you might find your senses assaulted with Christmas overkill – too much music, too many blinking lights. Competing TV ads play in stores, and crowds of noisy people hurry past. And let’s not forget traffic woes – delays on the roadways, accidents, sirens blaring, honking horns. All of this means stressed out feelings for introverts, who crave peace and quiet more than most.

How to cope if you’re an introvert:

The best way to not feel overwhelmed and overstimulated at Christmas is to avoid retail parks, big cities and of course, crowded events. Online shopping is an excellent option if you prefer to avoid stressful traffic situations and don’t care for crowds. If you do plan to catch the cyber sales while avoiding physical stores this year, just be sure to get a head start early – or you could be looking at some stressful situations related to mail-order gift delays, lost packages and such.

Another, even more introvert-friendly option is to give homemade gifts from the heart. Photo collages, hand-knit scarves, home-baked spice breads, and other items you make with your hands will likely be well received by friends and family. Taking the time to work on a handcrafted gift can also give you the peace and quiet you need to relax and unwind after a busy day.

Holiday Stress Factor 2: Big parties, big personalities.

Did you know that while extroverts typically feel happy and satisfied after a lively social event, introverted people feel drained and tired, or stressed and emotional? As an easily overwhelmed introvert, you may find yourself faced with big, loud, clashing personalities at Christmas time. Relatives with whom you prefer to maintain minimal contact typically surface at this time of year. Being in their presence can leave you feeling depleted.

Introverts also tend to mentally process things in greater detail than the average person. You may come home after a “fun” holiday party with the weight of the world on your shoulders as you mull over things like what people really meant by what they said, what emotions they were having, and how you fit into it all.

How to cope as an introvert:

One fun way to clear your mind after a too-lively holiday party is to journal it after you get home. Writing is great therapy for sensitive people, and if you’re an introvert you may already be a writer anyway. So make a fun exercise of analyzing the different personalities and conversations that played out at the party. You can put a humorous spin on it, you can employ sarcasm, or you can just ponder on paper what each person’s inner thoughts might have been.

Also, tipsy party guests say and do funny things (or not-so-funny things that we laugh about later) – so write down what you heard and saw, and don’t forget to find the humour! Just be sure to leave out names, shred any incriminating evidence or offensive portrayals, or keep it anonymous if, for instance, you write in a blog online.

Holiday Stress Factor 3: Social anxiety.

Some people may see introverted people as anti-social, but in fact, the opposite is typically the case. Introverts are not satisfied with surface chit-chat the way that many extroverts can be. Rather than talking about the weather, or always saying everything’s going great when maybe it isn’t, they seek deep connections and meaningful exchanges.

Another obvious problem for introverts is that they hesitate in social situations. Shyness can have an introvert wondering, “When is it my turn to talk? What if people think my story is weird or boring?” Because of this social anxiety, they may miss their chance to connect with others, which is what they really desire in the first place.

How to cope as an introvert:

If you feel unsatisfied while mingling at a party, ask yourself why and how you can deepen your connections while interacting. One skill introverted people seem to innately have is the ability to listen and observe. So while the more gregarious and outgoing partygoer might have spent the entire time storytelling, the quiet and pensive introvert might get more out of it by paying attention to others, including more subtle cues such as body language and facial expressions.

With this in mind, if you’re introverted but feel self-conscious at being in the social spotlight, you can warm up by asking other people questions. You might also seek out that other, shy introvert who is hovering on the sidelines and gently strike up a conversation with them.

Finally, make time to be with your tribe this holiday season. You likely have a few special friends with whom you have a soul connection. Being in the presence of these gentle souls lifts and support your spirit rather than crushes it. So if you can, ditch the big bash, and instead host that small, cosy gathering with your special people!

Holiday Stress Factor 4: Not Enough Time to Do It All

At Christmas, there never seems to be enough time to fit in all that you have to do. Married people and singles alike will find themselves busy from the early hours of the morning to nearly midnight, as they attempt to juggle all the oughts and shoulds of the holiday season.

If someone catches wind of an open day on your calendar, they quickly swoop in with plans. People also tend to be impulsive and excessive at this time of year. So a friend of yours might catch the giving fever, and next thing you know, you’re involved in a charitable effort that, while a noble idea indeed, is something you didn’t really have time for in the first place.

How to cope as an introvert:

Self-care and me-time is essential for an introvert to maintain their wellbeing – particularly if you’re a parent of tweens and teens! If you’re stressed, you’re more likely to wear yourself down physically and become susceptible to colds and flu – which is the last thing anyone needs during the holidays, introvert or not. So if you’re a quiet, sensitive and easily overwhelmed individual who does not thrive in chaos, then you’ll want to pencil in that downtime right on the calendar right along with the celebrating, shopping, visiting and sightseeing.

Also keep in mind that all the big plans everyone tends to make in December don’t have to die after New Year’s Day. So if someone suggests that you do something outside the realm of possibility this holiday season, remind them that the next two months of dreary winter leave tons of room for ideas to develop and bloom.

More tips for introverts looking to avoid stress at holiday time:

Always drive your own vehicle to parties. This way, if you start to feel socially overwhelmed or drained, you can make a polite yet swift solo exit without feeling like you’re cutting short someone else’s good time.

Try to reserve one “day of rest.” This doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything on, say, a Sunday in December. But making the conscious effort to leave a day open for whatever, can give you the freedom your introvert soul needs to go with your inner flow.

Self-care themed gifts are welcomed at this time! Imagine if family and friends started giving you introvert-friendly holiday gifts such as knitting needles and yarn, stationery and pens, paint sets, yoga books, herbal teas, essential oils, soft music, and all the things that quiet people love to make part of their self-care ritual?

If you’d like people to think of peace, quiet and cosy downtime when they think of you, then start by offering these things to others as holiday gifts.

 

Married Christmas: Coping with Spousal Stress This Holiday Season

Remember when you first got married? You had this vision of the perfect Christmas. Beautiful holiday table, smiling faces… two hearts aglow, two families joining in harmony. Turns out married life isn’t always like that, is it?

If your own family brought you troubles in the past, now you’ve got two of them to contend with. How to keep the peace, and your sanity in tact? Here are some tips for coping, so you can avoid spousal spats and family feuds this Christmas season.

“Married Christmas” Stress Factor 1: Arguments Over Gifts

One of the most common arguments of married people centres around gifts. Dilemmas like how much to spend, what to buy for the kids, whether or not to exchange with in-laws, and other awkward scenarios are a common fact of Married Christmas.

There’s also the awkward issue of not appreciating the gift that your husband or wife picked out for you. Or how about making gift returns without crushing egos, and other gift-related problems that present themselves at this time of year.

How to Keep It Merry:

Conversations with extended family about gifts should happen well in advance of Christmas shopping season. If they don’t, then we should just forget about having our wishes met, and just be happy that the ancient gift-giving tradition lives on in modern life.

One tactful policy that may avoid ruffling feathers at holiday time, is to thank everyone heartily for the gifts, then bring up the topic of returns at a later date. Quiet re-gifting, too, can be a good way to put those unwanted items to use. (Just be sure you’re not re-gifting to the person who gave you the present in the first place!) Also, many stores accept holiday returns without a physical receipt. So you don’t even have to address the topic of an unwanted gift with your husband, wife or his or her family if you don’t want to.

If clashes in family styles bring awkward gift-giving moments, you and your spouse can develop a “you handle your family, I’ll handle mine,” gift purchasing and presenting policy.

What about gifts between husband and wife, and the battles this can bring on? The keys to avoiding resentment around the topic of holiday gifts are: 1. lower your expectations, and 2. just be grateful, no matter what.

One of the biggest mistakes wives make is expecting that their partner magically knows what they’d like for Christmas. So you don’t tell him, then are visibly disappointed at whatever present he chooses for you. But then if you just admit the truth — that you don’t really like, can’t use, or already have the gift he got for you, now he’s feeling unappreciated. Resentment builds.

It helps to develop a thick skin around present exchange time. On the receiving end, express gratitude for anything you may be given, even if in your mind, it’s a dud. And as a giver also expect that some gifts, however thoughtfully chosen for your partner, may have to be returned to the store. Taking a practical, financially prudent attitude toward the giving or returning of gifts may be the right move for you and your hubby or wife. Anything that goes back to the store is a win for the family bank account.

“Married Christmas” Stress Factor 2: Too Much to Do, Not Enough Time

One common source of marital stress around the holidays is that your marriage goes neglected due to pressing obligations, timelines and to-do lists. You may save your very last, most weary moments for some quality time with the husband or wife, only to find that you’re too tired to talk. Or, maybe one of you is in a snuggly, sharing, or sentimental mood, but the other is snoring away on the sofa.

How to Keep It Merry:

There are a few ways to increase good feelings toward our married partners during this busy, pressure-filled season. One is to always assume that your husband or wife has the best intentions.

If he shows up late for dinner, hold your temper and curb your urge to scold. There might just be a secret surprise in store that had him stuck in traffic, or on line at a special store, which resulted in the lateness. If she spent money to get her hair done, don’t think of her as frivolous. Maybe she wants to make a positive impression on your boss and coworkers at the upcoming office party.

Here’s a fun way to keep holiday spousal stress at bay: turn togetherness time into an opportunity to care for each other. Support each other during times of need.

If you know your wife is working the holiday season late shift, why not make her night with a warmed-up plate of dinner and a glass of wine when she comes through the door? If one or both of you suffer aches and pains, a married massage will take the edge off and relax you to the point that all those holiday stressors won’t seem so bad anymore.

These are the best holiday gifts that don’t come with a price tag, and they really speak volumes about your love for each other.

“Married Christmas” Stress Factor 3: Whose Family Will We Celebrate With This Year?

A timeless, common Christmas conundrum for married couples is “will we celebrate with your family or mine this year?” In fact, you pretty much have no choice but to see the humour in this argument that surely has a permanent place in every married couple’s list of Totally Predictable to the Point of Utter Boredom, Yet Completely Unavoidable Holiday Disagreements.

How to Keep It Merry:

The approach to handling holiday plans with both sides of the family, however awkwardly this plays out, is to be as fair, tactful, and diplomatic as possible. Consider things like whose family did we see on Christmas Day last year? Also consider special circumstances, like a new baby in the family, that might make hosting or travelling a bit more challenging.

If your mother-in-law complains that she doesn’t get to see her son on Christmas Day because you always celebrate with your side of the family, then make arrangements to switch it up, and be with your folks on Boxing Day this year instead. If it’s your sister-in-law’s turn to host but she’s eight months’ pregnant, show empathy and ask if she’d prefer you have the party at your house.

Another good option when planning family holiday get-togethers is to be realistic and keep an open mind to alternative solutions. If your wife has a large family but yours is small, you can solve the problem of not being available to both sides at once by planning an alternate Christmas with your people, on an alternate date.

“Married Christmas” Stress Factor 4: Having Trouble Accepting Your Spouse’s Family Traditions, and Vice Versa

Another unexpected annoyance that happens at holiday time is that your own cherished family traditions may get downplayed, passed over or even dropped for new ones created by your family-by-marriage.

Perhaps your Polish husband is too enamoured with the thought of endless kielbasa and kraut to appreciate the Italian 7 fishes Christmas Eve tradition that you look forward to all year with great anticipation. Maybe you always go to Christmas Eve midnight mass, but your husband just can’t stay awake that long. You may feel disappointed at holiday time, as you struggle to find a balance between your partner’s priorities and your own.

How to Keep It Merry:

If you have something special that you like to cook, a particular game that you like to play on Christmas, or some other tradition that came from your family, it may take a few years of being married before your in-laws embrace this practice as well. Have patience, and gently persist.

Try to show enthusiasm for and interest in their own family traditions, as well as sharing with them the special holiday rituals that you hold dear. Some of your family’s holiday contributions may eventually take, while others, you may just have to keep among your own people.

Remember, too, that you and your husband can embrace “the best of the best” holiday traditions from both sides, and combine or modify them into something that works for you both. You might even come up with some new ideas to make a part of your yearly memory-making at holiday time.

“Married Christmas” Stress Factor 5: Holiday Mishaps and Miscommunication

Holiday parties with family bring out the best and worst in all of us. At this celebratory time of year, problematic relatives with whom we normally don’t have to deal tend to show up and wreak mild havoc. With alcohol flowing, remarks may be passed. When it’s your husband or wife’s family, it’s easy to find fault or become overly critical. After all, you’ve dealt with your own family for a lifetime. Now these other people have come along and forced you to develop new coping skills!

How to Keep It Merry:

One way marrieds can keep it merry when it comes time for holiday family parties is to swallow pride and leave the poor attitude at the door. The holiday season is a time to cherish loved ones, flaws and all. It’s also a time to open our minds to people who may do things differently than we do and to avoid dwelling on the things people may say that hurt our feelings, even if they weren’t meant to.

Often, a carelessly placed remark or gesture can get under our skin at stressful holiday time. If this happens, you can decide to raise a glass to family and all their funny quirks, and just let it go. Or, if whatever was said really has irked you, you can always let off some steam by venting privately to a good friend who won’t end up in the middle of the family conflict and will probably help you see the humour in it all.

If you find it difficult to get along with your in-laws at holiday time, whatever you do, avoid complaining about them to your husband or wife. Remember that this is his family, and just as you wouldn’t take kindly to him expressing negative things about your mum, dad, or siblings, neither would he. You can make an active choice whether to emphasize festivities or fights this holiday season. Showing respect and appreciation for your husband or wife’s family, especially at Christmas time, will set the tone for future happy holidays to come.

Finally, know that as your marriage becomes more seasoned, the things that may have bothered you initially about your husband or your in-laws may eventually resolve. And as the years go by, you might even grow to cherish the times you spend with them at Christmas.

You Don’t Need To Go Back To The Future To Change Your Life Today.

Today, 21 October is “Back To The Future Day”. In “Back To The Future II”, this is the day on which Marty McFly and Doc Brown return to the return to the future to save Marty’s future son from disaster, (at 4:29 pm to be precise). But what if you could change your life today?

Back To The Future Clock
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It’s got me thinking about those times in my life when I wish someone had interfered with the events unfolding in my life.

For a start, I can think of at least two ex-boyfriends who should have been jettisoned into the far reaches of outer space before I had the bad luck to meet them.

It would have been helpful if someone had made my path cross with that of The Husband at least 10 years earlier.

Somebody could have replaced the school careers officer with somebody who could think about something other than just blindly pushing pupils into the university system.

I actually wanted to study beauty therapy but was told I had “too many ‘O’ levels”.

Then there was the coven of dreadful bosses I had, each of whom did the minimum they could get away with whilst making the lives of their team members as unpleasant as possible.

There was one in particular who, every time you entered her office, would quickly slam her laptop shut to hide the fact she had been doing her weekly shop at Sainsbury’s.

But be a minute late with an assignment?  Woe betides you.

If only someone could have made me swerve away from those particular firms.

The more you stop and think about it, the more you realise that there are many, many occasions when had the hand of fate been given a shove in the right direction, your life may have turned out quite differently.

But here’s the thing.

It’s the old destiny versus free will conundrum.

Are we the product of an arbitrary fate?

A bit of inter-stellar flotsam being pushed here and there to experience the good, the bad and the mundane willy nilly?

Or are we a product of our own choices?

Our lives are really the sum total of all the choices we have ever made.

I’m not saying we were never pushed or coerced into making those choices.

Nor am I saying we have always been free to make the choice we wanted.

But when I think about my life, most of my choices have been mine.

And if Marty McFly and Doc Brown had turned up to change the course of events, I reckon I’d still be more or less exactly where I am right now.

We don’t need time travel.

We can change the course of our destiny by making different choices RIGHT NOW. You can change your life today.

We can choose to say sorry, to phone an old friend, to leave a relationship.

We can choose to stop smoking, drinking or eating junk.

We can choose to be happy no matter what life throws at us – and in that choice alter our entire destiny.

That has to be worth more than a flying car, doesn’t it?

Find all my relationship advice here.