Good Relationships Lead to Personal Growth

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Good Relationships Lead to Personal Growth

Positive relationships are good for our health. That’s no surprise. We’ve been hearing that for a long time. Happily married people live longer, are healthier and wealthier. In fact, a person’s relationship is the single most important factor in determining mortality. Two researchers, Brooke C. Feeney of Carnegie Mellon University and Nancy L. Collins of the University of California, have discovered some ways that good relationships can also lead to personal growth. The two most important factors are helping use to cope with adversity and helping us to pursue our goals, and other opportunities that cause growth. Good, healthy, strong relationships help those that inhabit them reach their objectives and pursue their dreams. The first person we usually turn to for comfort, and perhaps seek advice from would be our spouse, or significant other. Feeney and Collins liken this process to a home knocked over by a violent storm. The next house erected in its place should be far sturdier. If one person is having a problem establishing themselves for instance their partner may help them to feel more confident. This confidence will help them interact with others, their social networks will become more vibrant and more opportunities will arrive.

Our partner can help us to see what our strengths are. They can help us relieve stress and put things in perspective. Our partner can also help us learn new skills that can help you survive and even thrive at work, school or one’s life passion. Those who are supportive can become a “launching function.” They help their partner pursue their goals. They show them the positive aspects, help them to see opportunities, prepare them to face new challenges, and help them to celebrate victory or to cope with defeat. Feeney and Collins found eight specific ways in which a supportive relationship helps.  Our emotional state improves. Acceptance of one’s self increases and resilience expands. We are better able to perceive and interpret events. Our supportive partners help motivate us toward goals, help us to cope, adapt to new situations and improve our psychological and immune functioning. Positive relationships steer us away from unhealthy lifestyles that may sap our strength, hurt our bodies or minds, not to mention our reputation and mood. Lastly, supportive relationships help people to learn how to trust, feel close to someone and feel loved, positive vibes that carry over in other types of relationships.

So how can you make your relationship more supportive? The best way to do that is to become more supportive yourself. Learn how to listen carefully, be able to accept and understand your partner’s perspective, control your emotions and provide the type of support that will help your partner, and make them feel good. Use your resources. These can be tangible resources like money to say buy your lover a new outfit for an interview. Or they can be intangible ones like compassion, patience and understanding, providing emotional support. Being able to understand your lover’s needs and meet them will motivate them to do the same for you. At the same time, you will want to make sure that you will be able to make your own needs known. Clear communication is pivotal. Reciprocate to show you support them and appreciate the support they give. Then a virtuous cycle can commence, where you both constantly initiate and receive support. Don’t overtax your lover however. If they have many demands at this time, you could be a catalyst in them spreading themselves too thin. You need someone you can rely on. But a strong social network to draw from is important too. To build a supportive relationship, you must first know how to effectively communicate. This is in many cases the hardest skill for couples to develop. If you and your partner need to work on this, pick up a copy of the book, Communication in a Relationship: Top tips on how to improve your communication skills to build a long lasting, loving relationship by Lyn Hunt.

What Content should Online Co-parenting Classes Have?

Custody

What Content should Online Co-parenting Classes Have?

Some states now require divorcing couples with children to take classes online in co-parenting. Experts believe that these classes are beneficial as they teach parents how to position themselves in order to take care of the child’s needs given the new family dynamic. The trouble is that each divorce and family situation is unique. Since divorces aren’t uniform, what content should these classes have? Experts say it should have many different tracks. One section should be for parents to mitigate their own emotions. A parent’s emotional state will inevitably affect the children and the divorce process, which affects them as well. The better a parent can cope, the better the child will do as well. University of Illinois researcher Jill Bowers who specializes in human and community development says there should also be sections for specific problems such as alcoholism and violence.  “There is no cookie-cutter divorcing couple, and with online programming, educators are able to supply content that applies to diverse family situations,” said Bowers. She began evaluating online courses in divorce education in 2011. Bowers continued saying, “Program developers could create a two-hour core component that would apply to many divorcing or separating couples with children; then parents could have the option of choosing other topics based on their interests, or results of a pre-test could direct parents to further hours of programming based on their unique needs.”

Bowers authored a recent study evaluating such a program. 1,543 participants took part in these online courses. The creator of the program asked the researcher to provide feedback. 46 states now require parents to take online co-parenting classes when divorcing. The length of time varies depending upon the state. From two to six hours of programming is generally required before a divorce can be granted. Bowers said, “Divorcing parents must pay for these classes, which used to involve classroom instruction. In the past decade, however, course selection has expanded to include many online offerings, and that’s created a market for online program developers and educators.” Bowers checks to see whether or not programs are based on actual research. She says, “An online search for parenting after divorce generates millions of results, but that doesn’t mean the answers you’ll find are from credible or reliable sources. I believe it’s important for online educators to cite their courses and explicitly talk about their conceptual foundations so audiences can distinguish credible sources from self-proclaimed experts. Then judges and parents should look for programs that are scientifically grounded in divorce, child development, relationships, and communication literature.”

Most programs focus on child-parent communication and interaction. Bowers says they do a good job in helping parents communicate what is happening in the divorce to children at different ages and stages. There are lots of strategies to help children deal with their new family dynamic and for handling a situation where one parent is bad-mouthing the other. “But adult-focused content could be enhanced. For example, research shows that parents who have not had time to grieve the loss of the relationship may experience emotional issues, and because of their grief or anger, they may be unable to help their children cope. Programs could be improved by adding content that helps parents address their emotional needs so they would be better equipped to help their children through the transition period. We’d also like to see strategies that parents can use when conflict is escalating,” Bowers said. Some adult lessons would include topics such as sex, cohabitation, introducing a child to a new partner and blended families. What’s more, the legal system parents enter into is complex and confusing according to Bower. Online programs could enlighten parents on items including mediation, legal terms and processes, financial obligations—including child support and more. Bowers said, “The companies that have developed these programs appear to be very committed to helping families. The ones we have worked with have been especially responsive to our evaluations. We know that divorce is a really tough time for families, and we hope that these suggestions for adapting course content and design of mandated co-parenting classes can not only make a difficult and often traumatic experience easier but that it can also optimize outcomes for parents and children going through this process.” To learn more about divorce as a process and how to come out of it in a good position read, The Divorce Survival Guide: The Roadmap for Everything from Divorce Finance to Child Custody by Calistoga Press.

Sexless Marriages Can Lead to Divorce

SEXLESS-MARRIAGE

Sexless Marriages Can Lead to Divorce

Most psychologists agree that sex is very important in a marriage. It helps create physical and emotional intimacy, human needs. But when a couple goes for a time without having sex, the longer they go the more ambivalent they feel about it and about one another. Distancing, a lack of trust and awkwardness can build up. When both partners ignore the problem or when the two fail to talk about it, and there is no exploration on pathways to become intimate, more stress is endured by the relationship. A sexless marriage therefore can lead to divorce. But it certainly doesn’t have to. If you have found yourself in a sexless marriage, try to employ some of these strategies in order to jumpstart your love life and rev things up, and get things humming in the bedroom. Many people are embarrassed about sexual issues. But the truth is if you attack the problem logically, like any other marital problem it can be observed, the phenomenon can be studied and the way forward will suddenly become clear. The first thing to do is to rule out any medical issues. A side effect for many common medications like heart medication or antidepressants is low libido. You or your spouse should talk to a doctor if you think that the issue may have something to do with the medication. Check with your pharmacist as well. What’s more, illness, side effects from a previous illness, and age-related problems can also sap sex drive. If none of these are the problem, and the issue isn’t physiological, then perhaps see if it may be psychological.

Consider counseling. A sexless marriage can be a symptom of a much deeper problem. Resentment, misplaced anger, infidelity, lack of trust or having one foot in and one foot out emotionally of the marriage can all cause a lack of intimacy. When arguments go nowhere the bond between the two is strained and sex is impossible. Seek out a licensed marriage counselor that you both trust. Therapy can definitely help you work out your issues if you are both committed to it, committed to the marriage and will take the advice the therapist gives. Now it’s time to look at how compatible your goals are. Those include goals within the boudoir and outside of it. Both partners should feel free enough with one another to talk about their wants and needs. Outside of the bedroom, what are your goals in life? What are your partner’s goals? Are you moving in the same direction or instead sailing apart? When a couple is moving in two different directions a sexless marriage may just be a warning sign of what is to come. If it’s just a matter of awkwardness, or lack of interest due to a lack of novelty, there are definitely some things you can do to rekindle that spark. Psychologists note that novel experiences taken together, such as doing something exciting like bungee jumping or white water rafting, traveling to a different place or a different country, something that gets your pulses alight and your hearts racing, can reignite that spark, both in and outside the bedroom. You’ll feel like newlyweds again.

If you want to reignite the spark inside the bedroom, try novel approaches to sex. Have a romantic dinner followed by wine or a few cocktails and enjoy your time together. Start talking about different fantasies. It’s a great way to reconnect, show trust, work together on common goals, and reconnect physically and emotionally. Get a list going and start to make plans to fulfill those goals. Do you or does your partner enjoy role play? What about elements of bondage or BDSM? In fact, a recent study found that couples who take part in BDSM have better communication, were closer and weathered storms in their relationship better. So taking part in such practices with your spouse in the comfort of your own home, or perhaps a hotel can really spice up the relationship, and let you see a side of your spouse that you perhaps never knew existed. There are books in your local bookstore. There are plenty of books online along with how-to videos, websites and more. If you can’t work it out but love each other and want to stay together, perhaps visit a sex therapist. A quick Google search can help you find licensed, reputable sex therapists in your area. You don’t have to stay in a sexless marriage. Get to the bottom of it and with some patience and lots of elbow grease, soon you won’t be able to get enough of each other. For more on this topic, pick up a copy of The Sex-Starved Marriage: Boosting Your Marriage Libido: A Couple’s Guide by Michele Weiner Davis.

Will we See Online Marriage Counseling to Stop Divorce?

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Will we See Online Marriage Counseling to Stop Divorce?

We see all kinds of online options today. There’s online shopping, music, videos, social media, apps that do just about everything, even online dating. In fact, one study showed that those marriages where the people met online suffered less divorce than their offline counterparts. Today lots of people looking for a therapist seek out Google rather than asking their physician as was done in the olden days. So if we see all kinds of communications and commerce happening online, will we see online marriage counseling to stop divorce? The problem is that doing counseling over the phone, via Skype, Google Hangouts or Facetime is illegal. Though practitioners say that the breakthroughs one experiences in therapy can be had via electronic media and have just as much impact as those that occur face-to-face, it’s the law that’s getting in the way for this to happen. Many state laws prohibit therapy treatment to occur across state lines. Each psychologist’s license is issued by the state where they reside. The legal consequences of practicing therapy across state lines bar most if not all therapists from doing so. Even within some states, administering therapy via Skype or some other electronic media is illegal unless the client had an in-person offline professional relationship with the therapist previous to the use of Skype.

However we may see online therapy and marriage counseling in the near future. Recently in New York a proposed change in the law would extend the ability to use tele-health as a legal option for healthcare providers. The Federation of State Medical Boards would make electronic media such as Skype available for medical health treatment. The technology has come so far and communication technology’s cost cutting would also greatly benefit the healthcare industry. But what psychologists are hoping is that this will set up a precedent where someday therapy may be available over the internet as well. There is one healthcare establishment currently in America that is offering therapy over the phone and online, the Veteran’s Administration, commonly known as the VA. A lot of veterans come from rural areas where few mental health resources are available. These veterans, now returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have serious issues that they need to work through, including many reported to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Colorado based therapist Susan Heitler, Ph.D. recently wrote in Psychology Today, “To their credit, the Veterans Administration has launched forth to become a leader in tele-mental Health.” Former undersecretary of health for the US Department of Veterans Affairs Robert Petzel, MD testified that the VA has administered to almost 500,000 veterans tele-health and tele-mental health services, distributed through 750 out-patient clinics and 150 medical centers nationwide.

NPR recently did a story about the benefits of tele-health and tele-mental health. CBS’s New York affiliate also did a piece on online help for couples. Still, beware. If you do find a counselor or online therapist, do not use their services. They are not operating legally and are minimally trained, if at all. Still, online therapy can certainly help couples just as any other therapy would. What’s more, couples could punch in together, say through Google Hangouts, with the therapist while at lunch at work, and don’t have to miss an appointment when they are on a business trip, in the hospital for something minor and so on. When looking for a marriage counselor, make sure to seek out a licensed, reputable professional that both of you feel comfortable opening up to. Make sure they have experience dealing with the problems with which you and your spouse are facing. Marriage education is one inexpensive way to deal with typical marriage problems. Resources can be found online or in your local library or bookstore. Marriage counseling, however, is dealing with a couple’s particular issues and so varies greatly. Though marriage counseling via Skype and other methods continues to be illegal, initial thoughts from both the VA and counselors show that it will be a very effective method in addressing couple’s issues. Online marriage counseling and coaching should be here in the near future. But if you can’t wait that long, in the meantime pick up a copy of The Power of Two by Susan Heitler, Ph.D.

Ray Rice Video Inadvertently Spreads Domestic Violence Awareness

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Ray Rice Video Inadvertently Spreads Domestic Violence Awareness

Soon after the leak of the Ray Rice video, where the former NFL player knocked out and dragged the body of his then fiancée, now wife, out of an Atlantic City hotel elevator, The National Domestic Violence Hotline reported a phone call increase of 84%. The video inadvertently ended a promising career for a disturbed young man. But it also spread awareness and started a national dialogue about domestic violence. Hotline CEO Katie Ray-Jones recently told the Huffington Post that her normal volume is 500-600 calls per day, from victims and concerned friends and family members. On the Monday the video got out, 1,000 calls came in. Even more came in the Tuesday afterward. Ray-Jones said, “We had an outpouring of women saying, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t realize this happened to other people.’ They thought they were living a life that was very unique to them.” She went on, “One woman called in who is married to a [mixed martial arts] fighter. She said, ‘I just saw that video, and I know my husband could do worse, and I need help.” Calls came in throughout the night and the staff at the hotline soon became overwhelmed. 15 to 18 staff members normally are on the day shift, and 7 to 8 work at night.

A “relief staff pool,” does exist for the hotline, but they don’t have enough resources currently to call them in. Ray-Jones said, “Last year, we didn’t answer over 77,000 calls due to lack of resources.” What’s more, “Our advocates were really busy before, so they’re definitely feeling the impact of the video now. This is a situation where women are holding longer on the lines and waiting for an advocate to be free. But we don’t have the financial resources to bring in more staff, so we’re at a place where we’re just encouraging advocates to do the best they can.” A large portion of their funding comes from the federal government. But sequestration, or automatic spending cuts that took effect last year, affected the nonprofit’s budget. Next year, the hotline will get a boost from Washington, but that won’t come into effect until October 1. More women are aware of what domestic violence looks like today because of this incident, and that’s a good thing. Ray-Jones says that the phenomenon is also encouraging more women to seek help. The CEO hopes that an increase in funding for programs and a larger focus on issues from Congress will also arise out of this incident. She also hopes that more legislation, such as one bill soon up for a vote which would take guns away from abusers, will get more attention now that the public is attuned to the problem.

Ray-Jones said, “We need to take the survivors’ voices to the Hill.” She went on, “This is real. This issue has a face. And people saw a face with Ray Rice and the imagery of what people are experiencing.” As of Monday, the former running back for the Baltimore Ravens is suspended indefinitely. Originally, Rice only received a two game suspension. Many were horrified at this lax punishment. Another NFL player was suspended for four games for using marijuana, and Americans wondered if the NFL thought that pot usage was worse than domestic violence. There have been players that were forced to sit out entire seasons for smoking marijuana, something that is rumored to be widespread among the NFL anyway, particularly among those who suffer from chronic pain. Josh Gordon was one such player who was suspended for an entire season for smoking pot. Rice’s first punishment was supposed to be a three game suspension but it was suddenly and quizzically whittled down to two, before public outrage caused the national sports organization to suspend Rice indefinitely. The running back was also fined $25,000. Yet, another player was fined $30,000 for using his phone to announce a touchdown.  Some say the NFL has been lenient in the past with domestic violence cases regarding their players. With the heat the NFL got over the original punishment of Rice, perhaps now they have finally woken up and realize that they have been sending the wrong message about violence against women. The Head of human resources at the NFL, Robert Gulliver told a reporter a short while ago, “We just simply don’t tolerate instances of domestic violence.” This case has inadvertently made women refuse to tolerate it anymore either. For a serious and interesting look as this horrifying phenomenon, read Domestic Violence in America by V. Michael McKenzie.