Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Best of Lovers, Best of Friends

How do you keep the music playing? How do you make it last? How do you keep a song from fading too fast? How do you lose yourself to someone and never lose your way? How do you not run out of new things to say? These lovely lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman and sung superbly by Tony Bennett, beg the question couples ask every day. In a world where lasting marriage is unique and the challenge of blended families the norm, one answer lies in how partners are chosen. Here are ten suggestions for finding a lover and friend.

What not to do:

Marry before you know yourself, much less the other person.
Listen to self doubt and limited thinking.
Wait for someone to find you while hiding out in front of the TV.
Let the chemistry of new love blind you to red flags.
Avoid looking at your relationship history and what you need to learn.
Keep all your bad habits and expect others to tolerate them.
Don’t bother gaining communications skills and self awareness.
Let your dog be your best friend and don’t get to know anyone else.
Avoid saying what you really think about things.
Stop all hobbies and interests while waiting for someone to show up.

What to do:

Know who you are and what you want. Look carefully below the surface and the obvious.
Learn how to get what you want.
Be the “chooser.”
Balance your heart with your head and know chemistry can lead you astray.
Be ready and available for commitment.
Be the kind of partner you are seeking.
Gain relationship knowledge and skills.
Create a support community.
Practice assertiveness.
Be a successful person by not putting life on hold while looking for someone.

These suggestions by David Steele take time and effort to evolve. When the ten steps are fulfilled, life is full and rich and meaningful, and the right person appears. We are more likely to find the perfect person when living purposefully and mindfully. And if you try every day to make it better as it grows, the music never ends.

Contact Pamela Simmons, Licensed Professional Counselor/Relationship Coach, at or

Monday, October 20, 2008

With the financial market plummeting and other societal pressures, it’s easy to find ourselves moody and upset. The way people manage disturbing situations starts quite early in life. When children are growing up, their relationships with their caregivers determine how they handle distress as adults. The connection and availability of parent nurturing is a huge component in a child’s ability to manage and communicate emotions. As a result of this significant relationship, they carry an attachment style into marriages and work relationships. It is helpful to know how human emotion functions and what the patterns are so relationships can be healthier.

Human emotion is normal and to be expected. When unpleasant emotions arrive they can appear in healthy or unhealthy ways. Healthy emotion is transient, progresses to completion, is activating and enlivening, is appropriate, based on accurate appraisal, and is recognized and experienced. Unhealthy emotion fixates and lingers, is unconcluded, feels draining or excessively tense, is inappropriate, and is unrecognized. When inappropriate it’s focused on the wrong target, expressed at a time and place harmful to the one expressing it, and stems from inaccurate appraisal as in feeling guilty when one has done nothing wrong.

Pleasant emotion should be frequent and easily accessible, should be able to be controlled in intensity and duration, and should be appropriate. Dysfunctional pleasant emotion either rarely occurs or is inappropriate for the time or place.
Our attachment patterns demonstrate our ability to express both pleasant and unpleasant emotion. Three kinds of situations activate attachment behaviors: frightening environmental events, illness or injury or fatigue, and separation or threat of separation from important relationships. Here is a description of 11 attachment styles.

Secure attachment people experience a brief emotional response to loss, are more social, willing to comply, positively outgoing, affectively positive and less easily frustrated in problem solving.

Avoidant people are typically unaware of emotion and speak about the logic of their experiences or just don’t know their experience.

Resistant/Ambivalent people express emotion excessively in intensity and duration, over react to non-emergencies, and create drama.

Disorganized people seek closeness then avoidance, have interrupted movements, freeze, are dazed, and shift from past to present in their narratives.

People who show no signs of attachment tend to be asocial, use few words, are unaware of their inner experience, and naïve. Some are highly charming while more focused on self image than bonding. Some have little empathy, relate poorly, and tend to exploit others.

Undifferentiated people are friendly to everyone without discernment, are rarely consolable, disclose too quickly, and are vulnerable to exploitation.

Exaggerated people are extremely loyal, tend to remain in destructive relationships, and may violate boundaries due to neediness.

Inhibited people are introverted and compliant, respond to demands immediately without protest, express feelings freely to strangers, may have social phobias or anxiety, may have high sensitivity to multiple stimuli, and may be uncomfortable with disclosure and nervous or shy.

Aggressive people have chronic hostility, respond by venting and aggressive or violent actions, and usually elicit negative reactions from others. They tend to see others as the cause and rarely see their own part in problems. The may have intermittent explosive moments and may be suspicious and anxious. Anger is the main response to crises, problems, or abandonment.

Role reversal describes those who spent most of growing up being the caretaker of the parent. They are likeable, tend to be overly helpful with an external locus of control, excessive responsibility, and prone to guilt.

People with psychosomatic symptoms usually have a long history of unresolved medical problems and may or may not appear emotionally expressive.

These patterns typically don’t appear in isolation. We can demonstrate more than one pattern in our lives or different patterns at different stages of life. The important component is being able to recognize when we are out of the norm for secure attachment and healthy emotional functioning and do something about it. We can change patterns that are interfering with healthy and rewarding relationships. It starts with awareness, then desire to change, and then getting to work on it.
Given the circumstances of our economy, the political scene, and war stress, we are all vulnerable to emotional upheavals. Let’s learn to manage it all constructively.

Contact Pamela Simmons, Licensed Professional Counselor, at or

Weekly seminar starts in January 2009: Finding the Perfect Partner

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joyful Relationships--How Envy Hurts Them

There’s a lot of talk about going green these days—a sense of social consciousness regarding our planet and how to take good care of it including energy resources. Another kind of green issue is that of resentment—a social consciousness that robs us of energy, thought, and time. It happens in families, at work, and at play. Resentment or envy is the negative feeling when we want something that belongs to someone else. A close relative of envy is jealousy -- the toxic sensation that someone might take something we already possess—usually a love interest. Envy is quite common and is also corrosive. Most of us deny that we’re doing it.

Coming from competitiveness, emotional insecurity, and situational dissatisfaction, resentment wreaks havoc on relationships. It can be mild and stated clearly as when we envy someone’s new painting while admiring its beauty. It can also be destructive as we make critical remarks about how someone received a promotion or attention. Envy flourishes in competitive settings, under weak leadership, with favoritism in our families, and with high levels of achievement.

We’re good at hiding our envy from ourselves. It’s embarrassing to admit we feel this way at times. According to Judith Sills, PhD, these are signs that green is driving us:

We avoid cooperation because we don’t want others to benefit.
We just don’t like something about a person, but can’t articulate it.
We’re critical of traits in a colleague that didn’t bother us before.
We hear ugly verbal remarks pop from our mouths about someone’s success.
We blame special privileges of others for their success.
We feel picked on or burdened since others get all the breaks.

The impact of envy can keep us stuck and unable to use our own creativity and skill. As soon as the negative thoughts enter our heads, we need to acknowledge them and do some healthy self-soothing. At a meeting recently someone announced a new program he would be offering this month. As I looked around the room I noticed skeptical expressions and mine was among them. I have to ask, “What is this about? Is this person doing and saying what I wish I could do or say? How am I sabotaging myself by not stepping up to the plate?”

We can use the energy of envy to transform ourselves to be more goal directed or more determined to succeed in our own unique way. We can change envy to ambition and tell ourselves to “stop whining and start acting.” It may be easier to pout about other’s successes, but it sure doesn’t move anything forward. Using some mental magic and initiative, green can change from greed and resentment to inspiration and aspiration. It’s a different kind of energy that warms the heart instead of freezing the spirit.

Instead of mean green, we can choose far-reaching red—the color of passion and drive to guide us to healthier and happier sense of self and accomplishment. We can learn to appreciate the success of others and tell them about it. Then we can tell them about our own successes.