Monday, March 31, 2008

Retirement Planning ... What Do I Do With My Time?

I am a 64 year-old man … looking toward retirement. I am looking forward to it … playing lots of golf, seeing more of the grandchildren, working in the yard. My wife will also be retiring about the same time. We do not have much in common any more and I worry that we may end up fighting a lot as she seems to want me to be with her a lot more than I want to be with her. I am also used to being very busy with my job and I am not sure that I can find enough things to keep me interested. Do you have * ideas for me?

Very smart of you to be thinking ahead about how to spend your time in retirement. Many people do not seriously think about it and then, while excited about not having to punch that time clock, they also find themselves bored at the prospects of a lot of unfilled time. Often people have many of their social needs met in the work environment as well as their identity … who they “are”, what they think of themselves and how they explain to people what they do in life is based on their work. This drastic change affects all of that.

We will offer some beginning ideas to think about … and would love to have comments from others who are reading this about what they have found that works.

* Do plan to take some time to just relax. Play some golf, see old friends, travel a little … or a lot.

* Look for ways to provide some structure to your week. Set up regular golf games, lunch with friends, pick one day of the week just to spend with one of your grandchildren … or all of them and keep to that schedule as much as you can. Have coffee and read the paper with your wife every morning and then take a walk together.
Make some plans that you can count on without scheduling too much of your life.

* Nurture your friendship with your spouse. You once enjoyed time together and had things in common … look for that opportunity again. Consider taking classes together … bridge, dancing, cooking, something in the adult education department with your local schools. Many of the universities have senior-focused classes and Elderhostel trips that can be very interesting, enjoyable and provide more social outlets.

* Stay active. Have a regular exercise plan … walking, golfing, swimming, whatever interests you. Find ways to incorporate your wife and friends when you can.

* Learn something new to keep your brain active. While classes like bridge, a new language or dancing help … so do crossword puzzles, sudoku and other word games. Read, keep abreast of the current events.

* Volunteer your time for others. Look for opportunities … on a regular basis … to share your time and talent with others. Give back. There is research that shows that people who give to others have happier lives as they focus more on others and less on themselves.

What has worked for you? What questions do you have about retirement?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Tip of the week of March 31, 2008

Look for 3 times today to connect with your partner for just 60 seconds. Give him a long kiss, send her a sweet text message, give him a hug, make a quick phone call, fix her a cup of tea … just 60 seconds, 3 times today.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tip of the Week, March 24, 2008

A recent research study showed that partners who respond with celebration and excitement to their spouses’ good news enhance their relationship even better than spouses who empathize and support each other when there is bad news. In a study at the University of California Santa Barbara, researcher Shelly Gable, PhD determined that praise boosted a relationship more than empathy. Furthermore, passive responses to good news led to dissatisfaction in the relationship. So, the next time that you hear good news from your partner, find a way to celebrate!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Tip of the Week, March 17, 2008

Disagreement can be a good thing in a marriage. When couples don’t disagree, sometimes it might mean that they don’t care enough to talk with each other. Other times, it might mean that one or both of them doesn’t feel safe to truly express an opinion, disagree or stand up for him/herself. It is also possible that they never learned how to disagree while growing up ... either never seeing parents successfully handle conflict or being so volatile that it was frightening. Honor your differences and learn ways to talk about them in respectful ways.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stop the Pursuit!

A common response to feeling distance from your partner is to try to get them to reconnect. Some suggest dates, push for conversation and affection, cry because they feel hurt, complain about loneliness, nag about intervening “culprits” such as work, friends, sports, family, etc. Even though this may be done with the best of intentions and from a sad rather than angry place, it often engenders feelings of being trapped or pursued and this then can lead to even more distance.

Some people in relationships find that they have a need for space more than others. It might be indicative of a problem … or might be just a need for more autonomy and alone time. While it certainly can feel scary for one who is waiting and wanting connection, trying to make it happen is the last thing that you want to do.

Think of this concept sort of like the game you played as a child … the person who was “it” chased after you … and every time that they did, you ran away. That is the same thing that happens in relationships … when you chase after someone, the tendency is to run away.

Instead of a pursuit, think of this as a time to focus on yourself. Look for ways to improve your own goals in life. At the same time, be sure that you are very positive with your partner, talking a lot about what you like and enjoy about him/her and the relationship as well as being available for the invitations offered to you. When you notice positive steps toward you, be sure to share appreciation … and then be quiet.

Please share your thoughts about this idea.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stand By Her Man?

Why does she stay with him?
How can she do that?

These are the questions that we are hearing often as yet another public figure is in the media for infidelity. From Bill and Hillary Clinton through Eliot and Silda Spitzer, many public figures have been filmed making public statements with their wives by their sides. We see many other couples who really stand together, with a great deal of pain, but with love and commitment and find ways to survive … often thrive, in spite of tremendous betrayal and hurt.

Jim Cramer, the economics guru, was being interviewed this morning by Meredith Viera on the Today Show about the 416 point stock surge on the stock market yesterday. She then asked him about his close friends, Eliot and Silda Spitzer. They have been friends since Harvard Law School. Cramer’s eyes teared up and his voice was clearly in great pain as he then talked for several minutes about how much he loves this man … and his wife … and 2 days after the announcement, he still has trouble believing it.

We can not go inside the heads, hearts or marriages of others. Many people will say with clear conviction, “If he (or she) betrays me, then the marriage is over.” and yet, when faced with that problem, their thoughts and feelings are rarely that certain. Spouses stick together for many different reasons, love not being the only one. Often there are many other factors: children, time together, history of the relationship, money, family, religion, political futures are just some of those reasons.

Many marriages do come out significantly better … we have been privileged to be witnesses to these spouses as they courageously work through these incredible difficulties. Not all of these marriages can be saved; however, … and yet we respect a great deal, these women who chose not to give up so quickly.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Couples Can Recover From Affairs

Learning that your partner has been unfaithful, sexually or emotionally, feels like a punch in the stomach. Often the first reaction is to kick out the cheating spouse, tell everyone about how “wronged” you have been and see an attorney about a divorce.

Our advice to you … step back, cry, be angry, talk things over with a “safe” person like a therapist, a person in a helping profession … or someone that might be “for” your marriage. Let a little time pass before making any kind of decision.

Many of the couples that we see have actually called the revelation of the affair a “gift” to their marriage. Generally, affairs do not happen in strong marriages, although that can sometimes be the case. Often couples have grown apart because their attention has been turned elsewhere … to work, children, alcohol, activities … or one or the other has not been able to talk out loud about things that bother them. When someone is not allowed … or does not give themselves permission to talk out loud about things that bother them, they can build up walls of anger, hurt and resentment that turn them away from their spouse and toward another person.

After the initial aftermath of the disclosure, and if this is not a relationship where there have been multiple affairs, couples can then look at the issues that brought them to the space in their relationship that “eased the way” for the affair to develop. This “wake-up call” often helps couples then learn how to talk more openly with each other about what they want and need in their relationship, discover ways to handle conflict effectively, turn more to each other and away from other interests, renew their sex life and develop more positivity in their relationship.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Affair-Proof Your Marriage

There are things that couples can do together to make sure that they each remain faithful in the marriage.

* First and foremost, maintain open and honest communication in your relationship. Find ways to keep it interesting and nurturing. (Yes, that can happen … although there are times that it may take some effort.)
* Keep your sex life active.
* Limit the amount of time that you spend with people of the opposite sex or those who might be potential romantic partners. Don’t go to lunch alone, have personal e-mail or phone conversations with someone of the opposite sex.
* Invite your spouse to join you for social opportunities and talk over those social opportunities that may be work or professionally related that would not include your spouse so that you can decide together about attending.
* Clearly, in work settings, there will be times that you may need to be with others that you might find interesting or attractive. Work hard to keep the conversations about business and limit personal information. Some affairs develop very innocently and just “sneak up”.
* If/when you find yourself attracted to someone of the opposite sex … and that occurs for most people … let your spouse know. This may be a hard conversation … but put it out on the table so that it is not a secret. Do whatever you can to stop contact with this other person. Then step up your positive thinking about your spouse as well as visible signs of affection.
* If you find yourself unhappy in the relationship and tempted to go somewhere else, talk it over with your spouse. If that does not help, ask for couples counseling. If your spouse will not join you, go alone … but try hard to engage them first.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Emotional Infidelity

Affairs that damage or destroy marriages do not have to involve sexual relations. Emotional attachments and infidelity can be as destructive. An emotional affair involves a mutual friendship with another person that is kept a secret from a spouse. It is not the same thing as a platonic friendship because it involves sharing personal information in a way that leads to stronger feelings with the friend than with a spouse or partner and has some element of sexual chemistry. There may not be a feeling of guilt at having done something wrong since there has not been sexual involvement

Emotional affairs develop from friendships with another person that deepen as knowledge and intimate information is exchanged. There often is no plan to develop feelings for someone else … they just happen with time and connection and may grow in even the most unlikely friendships. Most of the damage from the emotional affair occurs because of the secrecy, lies and the distance that grows as feelings of attraction and love are transferred from the spouse to this new person.

Some of the signs that might be evidence of an emotional affair are:

* Thinking more about “the friend” than your spouse.
* Noticing a change in feelings about your spouse as the friendship with the new person develops.
* Keeping secrets about this friendship from your spouse.
* Becoming defensive when this friend’s name is mentioned or lying about your connection.
* Having sexual thoughts or fantasies about this other person.
* Sharing personal secrets with this other person.
* Talking negatively about your marriage with “the friend”.
* Believing that your friend “gets you” in a way that your spouse does not.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How A Cheating Spouse Can Regain Trust

Often there are problems in a marriage before an affair begins; however, in order for trust to rebuild, it is important to address the infidelity before spending a great deal of time on the marital problems. There are several reasons for this, the most important being that the “hurting” partner will not be in any shape to hear about their mistakes until they can believe that their spouse has heard them and understands how painful this “solution” was to them and to the relationship. This is sort of like the idea that, if you injure your body, you have to stop the bleeding before you can treat the wound.

The affair, and contact with the other person, has to also end. This may be easier said than done as many affairs involve emotional connection and ending the affair brings about a process of grieving. When the affair has come from a work situation … or somewhere that contact cannot be completely cut off, it is best to find ways to make the break as clean as possible and immediately inform the spouse if contact does occur.

The spouse who has had the affair must also find ways to apologize sincerely for the affair without linking it to the problems in the marriage. An affair is not a good solution for marital problems so the apology has to be clean and simple.

It is best for the cheating spouse to find ways to allow his or her partner to check up and verify that he is where he said he will be … or she is not having contact with her lover. This may include things like giving out the password to an email account, handing over your cell phone every night so that he can scroll through the numbers, engaging someone to be a “lookout buddy”. This would be a co-worker or friend who has regular contact with the spouse and may know the affaire’. Any time that the hurt spouse worries about on-going contact, she can talk with this trusted friend to assure that her spouse is being faithful. After the cheating spouse takes charge of ”verifying” her fidelity, it can change the inquisitor/prisoner pattern so that the hurt spouse can let go of some of the checking.

Conversations about the affair should be held to a minimum amount of time during a couple’s week and the cheating spouse should try to answer the questions openly and honestly. It is also good if the person who had the affair can check in with their partner on occasion to find out if there remain any other questions.

As trust begins to develop and within the first few weeks after disclosure, work on the marriage can proceed and each person will have the chance to speak and be heard about their needs, desires, complaints, hopes and wishes for the marriage. Full recovery cannot be expected for a period of one to two years. It is only then that both will be able to say … “We are okay” … so settle in and know that this process takes time.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Telling the Story of the Affair

Couples often ask us how much information needs to be revealed; and how can the hurt person find out the information without feeling like a detective with a prisoner. The person who had the affair usually does not want to talk about it, often out of embarrassment and guilt. They also are often sad or hurt by problems in the marriage and want to find a way for a quick healing process. On-going questioning might hurt any possibility that the couple may have for renewing the friendship that initially got them together and greased the way for them to fall in love with each other.

It is important to remember that one of the hardest parts of the affair is the secrecy. The secret provides distance and a wall between the couple that may seem hard to penetrate … and it is only with openness and sharing that true intimacy can occur. While it is often hard for the one who has had an affair to be open about it … opening up can also feel good since it is very hard to carry such a secret around and try to live two lives. For the one who has been hurt, there is no way to truly have trust again if secrets remain. How can someone be trusted if he or she continues to hold secrets?

Initially, it is important to just stick with basic facts: who was the affairee, when did it begin and end, where did they meet, is the affair over and what, if any, contact are they currently having. As time goes on and the couple develops deeper intimacy, it will be important to reveal more information about the affair, the motivation for the affair, the emotional connection and how the spouse opened him- or herself up to this event.

These difficult questions are truly best answered in a calm and neutral setting and with the help of a competent therapist. Developing trust after such a significant breach takes time, motivation, commitment and a lot of hard work. It is not a smooth path with clear guidelines and markers, rather it is more like a roller coaster with highs and lows and lots of scares. We strongly recommend that you get some professional help with this journey. If your spouse will not join you … explore it alone.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Tip of the Week, March 3, 2008

Do something that your partner really wants you to do, even if you find it to be boring or silly. Do it in a way that your partner believes that you are enjoying it … because it means that you get to spend time together and makes him or her happy. Your partner will know that you do not really enjoy that activity … but the fact that you are doing it willingly and cheerfully, especially when it is sincere, will score big points for the relationship.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

You CAN Change Your Spouse

Some of the research shows that couples do adapt to each other over time and, in healthy relationships, they each have influence over the other.

So … what are the secrets that these couples have that help them to change each other? What do they do? What do they know about how to get their partner to change?

One of the first things that these couples realize is that you have to choose your battles wisely … and let go of the rest. What are the things that are most important to you? A neat house? Being on time? Helping with housework? Keeping you apprised of his or her schedule?

What can you let go of … The way that he chews his food? Interrupting you when you are telling a story? Her need to collect shoes? Make a conscious decision to let go of those behaviors and every time that you notice your spouse doing one of those things, find a way to just let it go. Think of a positive habit or attribute.

When you have decided what behavior that you would like for your partner to change, begin to notice when he or she is doing something different … when he puts his cup in the dishwasher, when she is ready on time …and make sure that you find a way to let your partner know that you notice those efforts.

Think about requesting small specific changes. You might not ask your wife to always be on time; however, you might ask her to find a way to be ready in time to leave for a certain event. You might not ask your husband to be neater all of the time; however, you might ask him to hang up his towel in the bathroom. Be sure to compliment and offer appreciation for those changes. You may not be thinking that you are asking for a lot … but for some this may be a very big change in habit.

Ask in a positive way. Use “I” statements like … “I would really appreciate it if you would just put your towels back on the rack after you shower, it would make my life easier and help me to feel appreciated.” Or “I know that you do not want to feel like you always have to check in with me; however, when you let me know about your plans after work … and an approximate time for when you would be home, then I did not worry … or call you a lot. I would really appreciate it if you would do that again.”