Good Relationships Keep Us Happier and Healthier

Psychiatrist Robert Waldinger is the director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one of the longest and most complete studies of adult life ever conducted.  Waldinger described some of the secrets to happiness revealed by the study in a recent TED talk.

The study followed two cohorts of white men for 75 years, starting in 1938:

268 Harvard sophomores as part of the “Grant Study” led by Harvard psychiatrist George Vaillant

456 12-to-16 year-old boys who grew up in inner-city Boston as part of the “Glueck Study” led by Harvard Law School professor Sheldon Glueck

The researchers surveyed the men about their lives every two years and monitored their physical health every five years.

  1.  Close Relationships:  The men in both groups of the Harvard study who reported being closer to their family, friends, or community tended to be happier and healthier than their less social counterparts.  They also tended to live longer.  By comparison, people who said they were lonelier reported feeling less happy.  They also had worse physical and mental health, as defined above.
  2. Quality (not quantity) of relationships:  It’s not just being in a relationship that matters.  Married couples who said they argued constantly and had low affection for one another (which study authors defined as “high-conflict marriages”) were actually less happy than people who weren’t married at all, the Harvard study found.  However, the effect of relationship quality seems to depend somewhat on age.  A 2015 study published in the journal Psychology and Aging that followed people for 30 years found that the number of relationships people had was, in fact, more important for people in their 20’s, but the quality of relationships had a bigger effect on social and psychological well being when people were in their 30’s.
  3. Stable, supportive marriages:  Being socially connected to others isn’t just good for our physical health.  It also helps stave off mental decline.  People who were married without having divorced, separating, or having “serious problems” until age 50 performed better on memory tests later in life than those who weren’t, the Harvard study found.

All of this suggests that strong relationships are critical to our health.

 

More later………

Eight Marriage Ruts: Are You In One?………

#1.  Watching TV during dinner.

Why it’s bad:  Having dinner together offers valuable face time with your partner.  Turning on the tube competes for attention and cuts in on your time to catch up and connect after so many hours spent apart.

How to stop:  Set aside 30 to 45 minutes of one-on-one talk time with the TV off every night.  This shows your spouse that when you’re not at work, you’re devoted to your home and family.  During this time, ignore your phone and leave the BlackBerry in another room.  You’ll feel closer within days.

#2.  Going too long without sex.

Why it’s bad:  If the amount of sex you’re used to having starts to slide, your body and brain can get used to the decreased intimacy, causing you to go even longer without wanting that closeness.

How to stop:  Don’t wait until you feel like doing it.  Initiate sex when you’re open to doing it, rather than when you have the desire.  This will jump-start your feelings so you’ll crave it more often.

#3.  Going a whole workday without talking to your sweetheart.

Why it’s bad:  You’ll start growing apart emotionally after subconsciously feeling like the other person doesn’t think about you (and your needs) during the day.

How to stop:  Initiate daily contact by sending a quick “How’s your day?” email.  And make the effort to do something nice every day (pick up his fave dessert, call from the store to see if she needs something).  It shows forethought and consideration for your partner’s needs.

#4.  Tuning each other out.

Why it’s bad:  You’re disengaging from each other.

How to stop:  Make an effort to do small things such as kissing before saying good-bye, making eye contact when talking, and complimenting each other frequently throughout the week.  Does he not seem to hear you talking during certain times (ahem, when ESPN is on)?  Don’t try to make conversation while the TV is on.  If it’s important, press mute; otherwise, save conversations for dinner or your bedroom, where you’re less likely to be interrupted.

#5.  Not fighting.

Why it’s bad:  Disagreements are good in a marriage because you’re expressing your individuality.  Talking about issues when they first happen makes them easier to fix than if you wait until after they’ve festered.

How to stop:  Bring up what’s on your mind in a way that shows your admiration and respect or each other’s thoughts and feelings.  Like, “It hurts my feelings when ______ .  I was hoping we could figure out a new way to handle the situation together.”  This will set the tone of the conversation as loving and calm, but you both have to compromise to keep it that way.

#6.  Going out more with friends than with your spouse.

Why it’s bad:  It sends the message that your friends are more worthy of your time.

How to stop:  Schedule nights out with your crew a few times a month, but make sure to let your partner know in advance.  It’s important to have these friendships as long as they don’t make your married time sparse.  And it’s always best that these friends are people your partner knows and trusts, so there’s less reason to worry.

#7.  Being too close.

Why it’s bad:  As much as you think burping, scratching, picking, or farting is funny or cute, it can backfire and cross the line.  It may be a reflection of your closeness, but there should be a limit.  Otherwise, you’re leaving your partner with a very unsexy image of you.

How to stop:  Start a new rule.  If you wouldn’t do it in front of your work friends, don’t do it in front of your honey.  To get your mate to refrain, say: “I know we’re close, and we can share everything, but I’d really appreciate it if you’d leave the room, or leave me out, when you do that.  It’s not very sexy, and I don’t want anything that makes you less sexy to me.”

#8.  Sharing too much with your parents or in-laws.

Why it’s bad:  This shows a lack of loyalty to your spouse.  Your parents shouldn’t have any information that your spouse doesn’t have.  And they shouldn’t know anything he wouldn’t want them to know.

How to stop:  Be loyal to your spouse even when she’s not present.  If you wouldn’t say something in front of her, don’t say it at all.  You would want the same in return.

(Dr. Susan Fletcher is a licensed psychologist in private practice and the author of “Parenting in the Smart Zone”.)

 

 

Divorced Parents…..don’t do this….continued

7.  Making kids feel guilty for spending time with their other parent.  If you and your ex have joint custody, then your kids inevitably will be spending time with their other parent on a regular basis as well as during some holidays.  Galamba says that parents need to remember that although they divorced their spouses, their children didn’t.  “Don’t tell the kids how lonely you’ll be when they’re with the other parent or that you’re sorry they have to spend time with him,” she says.  “Instead, tell them to have fun and consider their time away as ‘court-ordered’ relaxation.”

8.  Justifying your bad behavior.  P.J. whose parents divorced when she was a kid, says that her dad’s defense of his affair made the split harder on her and her sister, “I asked him years later if he was sorry for what he did and he defiantly said, ‘No, and I’d do it again,'” she says.  “Where was the father who taught me right from wrong?  He damaged his credibility with me.”  Pescolido says that affairs are strictly parents’ business – knowing the truth can damage your relationship with your children and cause them to have trust issues within their future relationships, she says.

9.  Putting your kids in the middle.  Jessa recalls delivering child support checks from her father to her mother until she was 20 years old, which she says was humiliating.  Kids simply shouldn’t be a go-between, Dr. Orbuch says.  “If their mother or father wants a message relayed to the other parent, or they need to make a decision together, they should talk to each other,” she says.  “And, this should go without saying, but never grill your child for details on the other parent’s life.”

10.  Making everyone feel your unhappiness.  The pain of divorce can last a long time, but don’t transfer it onto your children.  Lindsay’s mother still vocalizes her bitterness about her split.  “It hurts me when she says, ‘The past 30 years have been a waste,'” she admits.  “I feel like I’ve been a hassle.”  Galamba says that no child constantly wants to hear how her parent was wronged.  “The ‘woe is me’ game can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Many adult children start showing a preference for the parent who was portrayed as ‘blameworthy.'”

Guys, the Holidays Really are Different for Her

When we, (guys, in general) think of holiday meals with family, we think of watching TV, over-eating, drinking (perhaps a little too much), and teasing siblings.  Have you ever stopped and considered what it’s like for her, your wife or girlfriend?  Consider the following:

  • If she brings a dish, she fears/knows it will be judged on what it looks like, how it was cooked, if people like it/eat it.
  • She’ll be judged on what she is wearing, how her hair looks, and/or what her weight is.
  • She’ll be judged on what she says, how she responds to people who disagree with her, and/or what her political positions are.
  • She’ll be judged by her mother, father, MOTHER-IN-LAW, father-in-law, siblings, sibling’s spouses, her kids, her kid’s kids, her sibling’s kids, sibling’s kid’s kids, aunts and uncles, cousins…..even the dog.
  • She looks out for that lecherous uncle that tends to grope when he hugs “hello” and “goodbye”.
  • She’s judged if she doesn’t help cook and clean up, and how she cooks and cleans up.
  • She is expected to be nice to the neice that complains about her gift (after she agonized over getting the right item).
  • She is expected to be nice to the aunt that is critical of her working full time, the mother-in-law that she never seems to please, and her own sibilings who always insist their child be first.
  • She is expected to be nice to the in-law that is “perfect” in everything including her weight, style of dress, profession, parenting, and religion. (Who, by the way, the mother-in-law loves.)
  • She is expected to be nice to the cousin that is always the center of attention, her father-in-law that goes on and on about small engine repair for hours, and the various “mistakes” people jokingly accuse her of that happened years ago which are brought up at every family meal.

Do you get the picture?

What to do:

  • Ask her what she is most concerned about with holidays at your parents.
  • Listen to her.  Reflect back so she knows you are listening.
  • DON’T minimize her concerns.
  • Ask what she wants you to do to help to prepare for the visit.
  • Check in with her during the visit to see how she’s doing and what you could do to help.

More later……..

Divorced Parents…don’t do this!

My internet homepage is MSN and like yours, everyday, MSN has a number of different circulating front-page stories.  I give these stories a quick glance as I run through them and rarely actually click on and read through them.  A few weeks ago, a story entitled, “10 Things Children of Divorce Wish Their Parents Wouldn’t Do”.  I read it and was pleasantly surprised. Right on the mark. So, I decided to share.

“Marriages come and go but divorce is forever, to quote the late, great Nora Ephron.  While you may be able to move on to another man/woman, your children will always be tied to you and your ex-and any drama from that relationship.  With this in mind, adult children of divorce share what bothered them as kids and still irks them today about their parents’ post-split behavior.  Plus, experts weigh in on what divorced parents should do instead.

1. Bad mouthing the other parent. Stacey’s parents divorced when she was 18 and they disparaged each other for years.  The destruction of the family was painful enough without being involved in the parents’ marital strife,” she says. Negative  talk damages children’s self-esteem, adds Susan Saper Galamba, a divorce and family attorney in Overland Park, KS. “Whether it’s genetics or environment, a child’s bound to have attributes of both parents.  When one parent repeatedly speaks negatively about the other, and then tells a child that she sounds just like the other parent, the child receives the message that she’s bad. too.”

2. Discouraging kids from talking about their other parent. “Kids want to talk about their lives, including their other parent, without feeling,” says Dominique, whose parents divorced when she was younger.  Psychologist Terri Orbuch, PhD, a relationsip expert for OurTime.com adds, “Even if an adult child speaks negatively about the other parent, she doesn’t want the parent who’s listening to add to that negativity.”  Instead, help her identify solutions to the problem at hand.

3. Divulging the dirty details of the divorce. Stacey began to resent her father after her mother offered uncomfortable information about the split.  Sparing kids details makes divorce easier on them, says Allison Pescosolido, founder of the Dibvorce Detox Program.  “When you need consoling about how horribly their dad treated you, get actionable advice from a professional; don’t look to your kids she adds.  Also, avoid mentionaing particulars like child support says Sheila Blagg, CEO of Divorce Dating.com, an online network for separated and divorced individuals.  A child should never know if a particular parent isn’t paying,” she says.  “It may make her feel that her dad or mom doesn’t love her enough to support her.

4. Keeping kids completely in the dark. Still, some key information is worth sharing, depending on the situation and your children’s ages, say Pescosolido. For instance, Anna felt deceived after her parents kept the reason for their divorce secret from her for a year.  “My parents split because my dad’s gay,” she says. “It’s better to be open then trying to ignore an issue because you’re embarrassed.”

5. Skipping family events because your ex will be there.  Unless there are extenuating circumstances, like abuse, you’ll likely need to attend some of the same events.  Salamoa says that adult children of divorce often dread coordinating special occasions with their parents. “Blending families when someone remarries is hard enough, but dealing with one or both parents refusing to attend gatherings can be near impossible,” she says.  “If parents aren’t careful, they may not get invited at all.”.

6. Making the situation all about you. If you agree to go somewhere your ex will be, handle the encounter gracefully.  Frankee, whose parents have been divorced since she was eight, says her mother’s anguish over being near her father ruined big moments.  When I graduated from college, my mom wouldn’t hug me until I’d said goodbye to my dad,” she says.  Blagg recommends ex-spouses ignore each other, rather than cause a scene, which only mortifies children.  “Choose your seats wisely,” she advises. “You don’t have to greet one another but remember that your going to be dealing with this individual for years to come.”

 

More to come…..

Agelessness, by Susanna Schrobsdorff

This is a re-print of an article in Time Magazine, August 31, 2015, authored by Susanna Schrobsdorff.  While I don’t endorse the opinions of Time, I have read and posted a number of Ms. Schrobsdorff’s articles.

In this article, she has a number of interesting comments about aging, how are popular media is against this and the connection between aging and the development of wisdom.  Worth a read.

“According to her birth certificate, Sandra Bullock turned 51 last month.  But because she looks exactly the same as she did in Miss Congeniality, a movie filmed back in the 20th century, BuzzFeed deemed her “immortal” and everyone else routinely calls her “ageless”.  Bullock is just one of a number of celebrities in their 40s and 50s who’ve had birthdays recently but have not gotten older, unlike the rest of us in their age bracket.  Take Halle Berry.  One website put a photo of her 20 years ago next to one of the newly 49-year-old Berry and dared us to choose which was which. “This Is What 49 Looks Like,” it said.  If that’s what 49 looks like, I must be 71.

And how about Tom Cruise? You can click through slide after slide of him looking identical decade after decade, in Mission Impossible film after Mission Impossible film. It’s like Groundhog Day, but some of us are waking up older, while our cultural signposts don’t change.  The other day, I walked out the door to find a totally nude 57-year-old Sharon Stone on the front page of the New York Post.  Even accounting for Photoshop and Stone’s exceptional genetics, her body looks disconcertingly the way it did in Basic Instinct in 1992. My elder daughter wasn’t even a thought when that movie came out.  This month she’s going to college, and she and Stone look a little like sisters.

This endless agelessness is particularly unnerving because middle age is a time of such change in your body, in your identity, in the way people see you.  It actually feels a lot like another adolescence-a period when you’re hyperconscious of how you compare to your peers and how they’re aging.  Like a teen, you even have a bit of an obsessions with photos because you’re not sure exactly what you look like in the world.  Is that really my neck-or is it just the light?  Who is that woman? And yes, you look at the stars you grew up with, the one you saw in films and on TV when you were all young.  They they don’t seem to change, even as you do, it adds to the dissonance, the clanging disparity between your mind’s view of yourself and your new physical reality.

Of course, we know that the rich and well known have always looked more “rested” than the rest of us.  Stylists of every kind, nutritionists, personal trainers and retouching can do that.  But even a generation ago, famous faces evolved.  Look at a picture of Grace Kelly at age 52 in the early 1980’s.  She looks like a beautiful, well-tended-middle-aged woman.  Today, she’d look old for her age.

The goal now is to ward off aging while you are still young, using all the magical nonsurgical options medicine has to offer, like preventive Botox that starts in your 20’s or micro-needling, in which tiny sterile needles pierce the skim and trick the body into initiating skin repair.  Or how about the process whereby your own plasma is injected inot your face, the “vampire facial”.  Celebrities like Kim Kardashian, who is just 34, are already talking openly about using some of these techniques.  Kardashian even went on camera while getting a vampire facial.  It’s easy to imagine her and her famous friends looking the way they do now right into their late 50’s.

Eventually these procedures will become less expensive and ordinary people my daughter’s age will have these options and the delimmas that go with them.  Already anti-aging is starting to be considered maintenance, like coloring your hair.  And it’s partly a survival tactic.  In an era when 20-somethings start billion-dollar companies, youth is prized and looking older can have an economic cost.  My friends and I find ourselves openly debating tactics that we used to make fun of. Is it too late for Botox: Does fat-freezing work? And how much time do you have to spend in the gym to keep the body of a 35-year-old after 50? It’s all so exhausting.  But members of the next generation have it tougher. They’ll have to ask, Do I want to spend my youth trying not to get old? And when do we stop?  I was kind of looking forward to getting off the maintenance treadmill someday. For my girls, that day might be never. I’ve already seen “Sexy at 70″ headlines.  Will everyone be expected to go to their graves looking hot?

I also have to wonder what else we are retarding along with age.  How do you move on if you’re working so hared to say the same?  And besides, if you’ve known the ache of watching a daughter pack up for college, you know you can’t stop the clock. Nor would I switch places with her. My girl’s options are endless; her beauty is effortless. But she’s not convinced of that. Dizzy on a buffet of possibility, she and her peers believe they have to be, and do, everything at once.  That’s the gift and the burden of youth. Like the rest of us, they’ll have to learn how to choose what’s worth hold on to and what to let go.”

 

More later.

 

When your parents need to stop driving.

This is one in s series of blogs taken from Men’s Health Magazine.  I don’t advocate all that is in Men’s Health but do read it.  Occasionally, I have found interesting articles or question/answer column entries.  This is one.

Question: I think it is time to take my dad’s care keys away.  What’s the safest way to approach the subject?

Answer: Start with three words: “I am worried.” This puts the focus on you, making it less likely that your pop will feel ambushed, says David Solie, M.S., P.A., author of How to Say It to Seniors: Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders. Mention that the fear he had when you first started driving is how you feel whenever he gets behind the wheel now.  Then gently point out any issues that may have put him and others at risk on the road.  Has his eye-hand coordination or reaction time slowed? Is his vision impaired? How’s his hearing? If he doesn’t take it well, ask him “How will you know when it is time to stop driving?” This may make him pause and consider the consequences, says Solie.  But if your opinions still collide, seek outside help.  Some state DMVs accept caregivers’ requests for retesting older adults’ driving skills.  Or ask his doctor to talk to him directly, suggests Solie.  No one likes a backseat driver, but your dad may take his physician’s advice more seriously than his own son’s.  Once he’s ready to hand over the keys, make a plan that will allow him to stay mobile via public transportation or a car service.

Men’s Health, June, 2015

How to Recognize Emotional Manipulators and Toxic Relationships

This material is taken from a workshop given by Jim Fogarty, Ed.D.

 

Emotional Manipulators (EMs) may begin relationships by being charming but they eventually become emotionally inaccessible.

You may sense that, in the beginning of the relationship, your every need is being fulfilled.

EMs deceive other in, at least, three ways:

Exaggeration.

Distorting the truth.

Lying by omission.

Guilt trips become more common in the relationship.

You notice you apologize more frequently.

You become tearful and fearful but you can’t walk away from the EM.

The EM persuades you to do things that you would not normally do:

Distance yourself from your family/friends.

Behave in ways that violate your values and/or morals.

Engage in risk-taking behaviors, i.e., take financial, sexual or other risks.

In the early moments of the relationship, the EM pretends to have a superior view of life compared to you and you feel privileged to be with him/her.

EMs may attempt to gradually gain more and more control of your life with the pretense of having a wonderful relationship with you.

Some EMs use constant anger to punish or to motivate their victims.

Gradually, over time, EMs receive all the benefits of the relationship and you receive few, if any.

EMs have a history of many failed relationships but they explain these failures as being victimized by the others involved.

Your opinions are never quite good enough, giving you a “second-class” status.

EMs present themselves one way in public and another way in private.  For example, when in public, they may present themselves as very Godly people. However, in private, they may treat you in very ungodly ways.

Most, if not all, of your friends may be very impressed with the EM while others may despise the EM.  They either love or hate him/her.

In personal relationships, EMs have “roaming eyes”.  In business relationships, they subtly suggest that they don’t need you and/or that they don’t need their job.

EMs over react to small irritations.

The EM will pressure you to violate your personal boundaries.

EMs may act in immoral ways but then attempt to make you responsible for their behaviors.

EMs have many grandiose plans for the future that never happen.

EMs give vague indications that something is bothering them.  You find yourself doing everything you can to figure out what it is.

Some EMs want you to have an attitude that it is “us against the world”.

The problems that EMs have are never their fault.

When trying to convince others to do something, the reasons that EMs offer are always emotional rather than logical.

EMs use phony exaggerations, i.e., “You are THE BEST thing that has ever happened to me.”

EMs believe that you need to be fixed.

EMs generalize about others, i.e., “All women are emotional.”

In the beginning, you may feel euphoric when you are with the EM.  Eventually, however, you feel judged and you begin to believe that something is wrong with you.

Physically abusive EMs may begin by hitting or throwing things in the midst of a temper tantrum.

 

 

If you see these in your partner, contact me or talk to someone who is mature, can hold your confidence and will be honest with you.  Typically, trying to discuss with an EM his/her characteristics, standing up to an EM or leaving an EM is difficult to do. Most need the assistance of a third-party to do such.

 

More later…..

 

What to Say to a Friend Who is Ill, part 3

This is the third and final installment of a blog on….what to say to a friend who is ill.  It is derived from an article I read in More magazine, April 2014.  Today, I will address what NOT to say to a sick friend.

“…Often we rush into a friend’s home or hospital room and without taking time to think, offer up boilerplate platitudes to fill the awkward silence.  Here are some you should really try to avoid, according to several experts.

‘I know how you feel.‘  The truth is, you probably don’t, says New York University psychologist Irene S. Levine, author of Best Friends Forever.  This sort of remark makes it clear, she explains, that ‘you haven’t bothered to reach deeper, toward real empathy; you aren’t seeing the patient for who she really is right now.’

‘But you don’t look sick!’ This isn’t what a patient likes to hear.  She may think that means you believe she’s not really sick and may end up feeling that she hasn’t been heard.  How much nicer to hear a simple, “It is so good to see you” or “How are you feelings today?” says Rosalind Joffe, a career coach who has MS.

‘You have to think positive’ It is frustrating to hear platitudes such as ‘It’s all about attitude!’ – comments that sound as if the sick friend simply lacks the willpower to get well.  Instead, says Elizabeth Kaplan, pho has helped several ill friends, ‘you can acknowledge to a friend that her disease really sucks, that it is unfair.'”

 

More later……

What to Say to a Friend who is Ill, part 2.

This is a continuation of a blog I started last week.

I read a very good article in More Magazine, What to Say to a Friend who is Ill, by Donna Jackson Nakazawa, April, 2014.  It gives a lot of practical advice.  I decided to share some of it in my blog.

Accept that you are in uncharted territory: “…Irene Levine…author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup., ‘Some people become less talkative when they fall sick, others more communicative.  Some go into super-coping mode, while others may catastrophize. A friend who is ill may express herself with a harshness or candor or emotionality that you’ve never seen her display before,’ says Levine.  “We have to remind ourselves that it may well be because she can’t demonstrate those raw feelings to any other friend, perhaps not even to her family.’

Cultivate honesty: “I may not be able to read you well when you’re feeling sick, so I may not know what you want.  But I want to know.  Tell me what to bring and what not to bring and when you do and don’t want company.  Several women who have had illness told me they were most moved by offers of specific, proactive assistance. ‘I am going to do something for you, and I’d rather you tell me what it should be.  If you want lamb chops or a foot rub, say the word.’ ‘…To find out what someone needs most, you often have to ask, ‘What are you most concerned about?’…It can be greatly appreciated when friends offer to combine your errands with theirs, ‘I am headed to the dry cleaners. What can I drop off for you?, or I’m going to the groomer and thought I’d pick up your dog too.'”

Know your limits: “A likely factor in how much energy you’re willing to commit is whether your friend’s condition will continue over many weeks or years….but often, the prognosis is unclear…’Be honest; says Levine’. ‘Ask yourself, Can I really do this? If you are hesitating to visit your friend, Levine suggests telling her why rather than letting her guess.  You might say, ‘Your illness stirs up memories of my mother that make it difficult for me to see you in the hospital.  So I want to find other ways to support you.”

Maintain some normalcy: “Even those facing (illness) need their circle to know they haven’t totally checked out on what’s happening around them.  When a friend is ill, you make sure to keep sharing your life, appropriately….Hey, would you like to hear the funny thing that happened to Paul yesterday when he went to the grocery store?’ Occasional distraction can be beneficial.”

 

More later….