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Relationship Tips
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Relationship Tips

Relationship Tips

by Dale Bailey, Th.D.

Some tips on how parents can cope with the pressures of work and career while still nurturing children and sustaining family relationships.

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Create "sacred times" for you as a couple -- a weekly date (even at home), a morning meditation time, a nightly "decompression" talk about the day's events (even if only ten to fifteen minutes, even if you're physically apart). Be creative about this, and be consistent.

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Some couples balk at the idea of scheduling intimacy. These couples suffer from the "myth of spontaneity" -- the notion that even when their lives are completely overscheduled, somehow, they will find the time to connect. Typically they don't, and then blame each other rather than acknowledging their busy lives and being proactive in making intimacy happen. Even if you're not spending as much time together as you'd ultimately prefer, knowing you can count on regular sacred times of intimacy can keep you connected while you work to change the balance of work and couple/family time.

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Try using Sixty Second Pleasure Points across the day - fun and even sensual activities that a couple can do that last only sixty seconds or less! A quick massage, sharing a piece of fruit, an embrace, dancing, and when apart, a quick phone call, or an affectionate, amusing email or fax.

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If one partner is shouldering more of the little details of family life, sit down together and see if the other partner can take over some of them. Sometimes small changes in who does what reap significant decreases in stress.

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Arrange sacred times with the kids as well - but remember, kids can't handle emotional shorthand as well as adults - they need more time! The quality of "quality time" greatly diminishes when it's too short. Think about doing some mindless chores with the kids while having a conversation -- it's a great way to teach them skills and responsibilities while connecting. Many kids don't like to have adult-like face-to- face conversations anyway!

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Try to arrange regular family time. Several studies show that families highly value having at least one meal together daily, and many pull it off. Schedule other times that everyone can count on for fun.

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For both the couple and family times, make sure you turn off the beepers and cell phones, and ignore the phone and fax. Nothing gets in the way of time together more than the erratic interruptions of work dispatches through modern technology!

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Ultimately, if you wish to have more time from work for family, you may need to think carefully about the financial and career goals you've set, and make difficult choices to pare down work. You may be surprised to find, after some initial grumbling and suspicious (maybe envious!) sidelong glances from your co-workers or boss as you leave only one hour past the supposed end of the workday, that you don't lose your job!

The key to all these tips is regularity -- creating a rhythm of family life that acknowledges realistic time pressures from work but that prioritizes and fits in time for all the relationships in the family.

And to enhance your relationship with your life partner:

Just one five minute connection a day can make for a happier marriage. So go ahead and spend five minutes.

Cuddle at the most important time of the day.

Most couples fit their cuddles in at the end of the day, but cuddling in the morning is even more rewarding. The physical contact will keep you feeling close to each other all day, so set the alarm five minutes early, then snuggle. You can talk, but you don't have to. The most important part is that you're holding each other. It'll help you both start the day feeling loved, and you'll feel that way all day long.

Ask each other one simple question before you head out the door.

What is it? "Anything special going on today?" Talking about the daily details of our lives is just as important to couples as sharing hopes, dreams, and fears with each other. The nitty-gritty details determine a lot of how we act and feel on any given day, so asking about them is a great way to build understanding and rapport. Then, when you're together again at the end of the day, ask how that special something -- that meeting, phone call to an important client, or lunch with a friend went. The results? You'll feel connected.

Share what you like about each other

When a conversation about cars sprang up at a gathering with friends, one woman gave her husband credit for making their old clunker last with his TLC. She later said, "He looked so happy, I realized I should tell him more often how much I appreciate the things he does. I didn't think I had to tell him. I assumed he knew how much I appreciate him." The moral? If there's something you appreciate about your partner, from his parenting skills to the way he painted the garage last month, speak up! If you start, you may enjoy the same treatment from your husband. How does praise work magic? It reminds your partner that you love them, and knowing they're loved makes them more willing to iron out differences.

Do small kindnesses for each other

The good we do for our partner tends to come back to us. When you're thoughtful to your partner, they're inclined to be thoughtful in return. And those acts of kindness make for a loving feeling between two people. So pick up each other's favorite dessert, or clip articles you think your spouse might like. The amount of love those small kindnesses will bring you is without limit.

Use this instant stress buster

One of the most important things we've discovered about happy couples is that they spend five minutes griping to each other about things that stressed them out during the day, taking turns talking. This lowers the amount of stress they feel and lets them enjoy the rest of their evening together.

Dr. Bailey is a clinical psychologist practicing in Northern California. You may visit his web site at: www.therapycorner.com

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