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April 2011



Recent Posts


Five Top Skills Proven to Entice Your Mate to Love and Respect You

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

The science of intimate relationships has identified specific behaviors of partners that succeed in creating mutually enriching marriages.

Partners who think and act in certain ways nearly guarantee themselves love relationships in which they feel fulfilled, loved and appreciated.

First, the good news is both you and your partner are wired for love, your body’s health depends on it. Second, you are wired to release of a certain love hormone, Oxytocin, the chemical known as the “cuddle hormone,”  in response to certain behaviors.

Feeling loved and secure has everything to do with knowing how to create an Oxytocin response that makes you and your partner feel loved and secure.

What about couples that don’t currently have Oxytocin response patterns in place?

“No, problem,” says neuroscience. Because of the brain’s neural “plasticity,” a lifelong ability to grow and develop new neural circuitry, partners can learn to rewire their own and their partner’s love patterns, even late in life.

In a groundbreaking book on the subject of healing marriage relationships, “Emotional Intelligence in Couples Therapy, Dr. Brent J. Atkinson presents a tour of some of the most revolutionary findings from neuroscience and the science of intimate relationships, such as the work of Dr. Antonio Damasio on emotion and behavior and the groundbreaking work of Dr. John Gottman on “Why Marriages Succeed or Fail.”

According to Dr. Atkinson, he sums it up with five “prerequisite” groups of skills that predict relationship success. The five skill sets are as follows:

1. Partners use a ‘soft start-up’ when bringing up an issue.

A ‘soft startup’ refers to how partners communicate verbally and nonverbally, when they bring up issues, share a frustration, or express their dissatisfaction. In contrast to a ‘harsh startup,” a soft startup takes an approach that is firm yet tactful and gentle. It allows partners to express any dislikes or upsets without attacking the other’s character.

They do not sugarcoat or beat around the bush, yet avoid talking down, or making disapproving or judgmental comments, like the plague. Here are examples of a ‘soft’ and ‘harsh” startup:

Read More … http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/03/five-top-skills-proven-to-make-your-mate-love-and-respect-you/

What Defensiveness Means in a Couple Relationship – And the Formula to Create a Safe Haven For Your Love

By Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Recent research on the brain reminds us that all communications, regardless how they are delivered, are attempts to emotionally connect. As it turns out, we are wired for love and empathic connection.

What does it mean when you or your partner react defensively? For one, it means your brains are working the way they’re designed to work.

In Hold Me Tight, research expert on intimacy, Dr. Susan Johnson, states it makes sense scientifically that couples fight over silly things. Beneath the content of what partners say to one another in fights, each wants to be assured of their value in relation to the other.

Partners are asking three core questions that connect to both our deepest yearnings and our deepest fears as human beings:

Are you accessible when I try to reach out to you?

Will you be responsive to my needs?

Are you engaged in this relationship?

In other words, beneath the content of words spoken in fights, partners are looking for answers to questions of: Are you there for me? Are you emotionally present? Do you see, value and love me?

Read in Full: http://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationships/2011/04/what-defensiveness-means-in-your-couple-relationship/

Serotonin Seems to Skew View of Others’ Intimacy

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 14, 2011

A new finding suggests our view of the intimacy of other couples’ relationships is influenced by the brain chemical serotonin.

University of Oxford scientists studied healthy adult volunteers and discovered that when the activity of serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with mood, is low then the adult rated couples in photos as being less “intimate” and less “romantic’” than those with normal serotonin activity.

The results raise the possibility that lower serotonin activity in people with depression and other psychiatric conditions could contribute to changes in the way they perceive personal relationships.

The Medical Research Council-funded study is published in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

“Serotonin is important in social behavior, and also plays a significant role in psychological disorders such as depression,” said Professor Robert Rogers of the Department of Psychiatry at Oxford University, who led the research.

“We wanted to see whether serotonin activity influences the judgments we make about peoples’ close personal relationships.”

Problems with social relationships, and a feeling of social isolation, are a feature of depression in some people. It is possible that alterations in brain systems — such as serotonin — contribute to these difficulties by changing the way people think about relationships with partners.

Such understanding is important as supportive close relationships are known to protect against the development of mental illnesses and to promote recovery in those affected by psychiatric conditions.

The opposite is also true: dysfunctional relationships can be triggers for those at risk of these conditions.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/03/14/serotonin-seems-to-skew-view-of-others-intimacy/24381.html

Learning to Trust: Opening to Your Life

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Mar 12th 2011

For the most part I would say many of us suffer from a massive lack of self-trust. Trust is born while we’re in the womb and during our early years of life. The more our parents attuned to us, listened to and validated how we were feeling, the more we cultivated the ability to trust ourselves and the people around us. The opposite of this may have been growing up with parents who seemed indifferent, neglecting or abandoning. When this happens it becomes difficult to trust ourselves and others. Even if you think you had a “great childhood” you may still have difficulty trusting yourself, so how do we cultivate trust?

This is where I am a big believer in learning how to cultivate a welcoming and caring relationship to the difficult parts of ourselves. For many people, it may be easy to go with the flow when we’re feeling well, but when shame, anger, sadness, or fear arises, forget about it. We’ll do all that we can to get away from it because we don’t trust that we can tolerate it.

The more we run, the more that feeling sticks around.

David Richo wrote a book called Daring to Trust and part of the book speaks to using mindfulness as a path toward learning how to Trust and believe in ourselves.  He says:

“All of us have been lied to, deceived, or let down in some way. Yet we can remain heart-centered while proceeding with caution, and we can develop the greater resilience in the face of life’s inevitable rejections and disappointments.”

Richie Davidson, PhD says resilience is the maintenance of high level of affect in the face of adversity. This means not getting swept up the in the storms of the unpleasant events of our lives.

How do we cultivate the ability to trust ourselves to do this?

Read in Full: http://www.mentalhelp.net/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=42319&cn=5

Couples May Not Communicate Better Than Strangers

By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on March 16, 2011

Closeness or familiarity with others is not necessarily linked to strong communication skills.

In fact, married people may think they communicate well with their partners, but psychologists have found that they don’t always convey messages to their loved ones as well as they think.

And, in some cases, the couples communicate no better than strangers.

The same communication problem also is true with close friends, a recent study has found.

“People commonly believe that they communicate better with close friends than with strangers. That closeness can lead people to overestimate how well they communicate, a phenomenon we term the ‘closeness-communication bias,’” said Boaz Keysar, Ph.D., a professor in psychology at the University of Chicago.

Keysar’s colleague Kenneth Savitsky, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Williams College, devised an experiment resembling a parlor game to study the issue. In it, two sets of couples sat in chairs with their backs to each other and tried to discern the meaning of each other’s ambiguous phrases. In all, 24 married couples participated.

The researchers used phrases common in everyday conversations to see if the spouses were better at understanding phrases from their partners than from people they did not know. The spouses consistently overestimated their ability to communicate, and did so more with their partners than with strangers.

“A wife who says to her husband, ‘it’s getting hot in here,’ as a hint for her husband to turn up the air conditioning a notch, may be surprised when he interprets her statement as a coy, amorous advance instead,” said Savitsky, who is lead author of the paper, published in the January issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

“Although speakers expected their spouse to understand them better than strangers, accuracy rates for spouses and strangers were statistically identical. This result is striking because speakers were more confident that they were understood by their spouse,” Savitsky said.

Read in Full: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/03/16/couples-may-not-communicate-better-than-strangers/24414.html

Are Facebook Friends Real Friends?

By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor

I don’t think I realized just how insecure I was until I joined Facebook two years ago. I thought the 12 or so years of therapy would have resulted in a more evolved woman. But here’s the truth: every time I lose a friend on Facebook I take it personally.

Yes, that is ridiculous. I know. But I still feel the blow.

I try not to remember the number of friends I have when I go to bed at night, but somehow it sticks—unlike every phone number I’ve tried to memorize. So, upon logging on to Facebook every morning, I immediately notice that I lost two friends overnight. While I was sleeping!

What especially irks me is when I lose three friends right after I post something. Now I know that it probably has nothing to do with the content of my post, but it’s the same punch in the gut that I feel when I read an unkind comment on one of my posts: “You are the most self-absorbed, clueless, bad writer I’ve ever come across…”

Maybe a stage-four people-pleaser who wants to be liked by everyone in this world should not live her life out loud for everyone to comment on or to vote as friend-worthy or not. Maybe I should become an accountant and live a secret life and stay away from all kinds of social network sites. However, I think the easier thing for me to do is to grow a thicker skin. Because I did attempt to change my career earlier this year and, while it was admittedly nice to be free from the public criticism, I felt as though I was missing out on the fun. I missed blogging. I missed Facebook. I even missed Twitter!

Clearly most people are more selective than I am when they friend folks on Facebook. A friend of mine won’t allow anyone from her high school, because she just doesn’t want to go back there. Others keep their circle of friends to only those people that they are still in touch with today, the same group that would receive a Christmas card.


I have John Paul II and Jesus among my friends!

Read More … http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2011/04/05/are-facebook-friends-real-friends/

Does the Internet Promote or Damage Marriage?

April 1, 2011

By Therese J. Borchard

Does Facebook lead to infidelity? Some statistics say so. I will be participating in a webinar on April 4 at 5 p.m. hosted by PBS/This Emotional Life that explores this topic. To prepare, and to get your feedback, I recently posted a blog on Psych Central about marriage and the internet. I have excerpted a few paragraphs here. You can read the whole post here.

Here’s my honest opinion, after reading hundreds of comments and emails from people who have been involved in online relationships or emotional affairs as well as the responses on the discussion boards of the Emotional Affairs support group on Beliefnet’s community site:

Although the internet and social media can foster intimacy in a marriage, it seems to do more harm than good. Of all the comments I’ve read, 90 percent of the opposite-sex relationships that were damaging to the marriage happened online.

Now I am no relationship expert. If I were I’d be able to sustain a dozen or so friendships with men online. But the only male friendships that I’ve been able to continue through the years–ones that are actually strengthened by our online dialogue–are those where there is at least 30 years difference between us. Their average age is 75. One is a priest, one an ex-priest, and one a deacon. See a pattern?

In the 15 years that I have been married, I have met a handful of men that I liked and admired, with whom I shared interests and a sense of humor. Had one or two been women, I’m sure they would have become my best friends. However, on some level, I knew that a closer bond was somehow inappropriate, or disrespectful to my marriage. It’s a source of frustration for me. Because the correspondence gave me great joy, like it does with my female friends.

But there is no getting around the opposite-sex thing … the “When Harry Met Sally” problem.

I can say that having read more than 500 descriptions of emotional affairs, both on the comboxes of my posts and on the discussion boards of the Emotional Affair support group. Most of the these relationships start out benign: an email from a guy you knew in college, friending an ex-boyfriend on Facebook (as suggested by Facebook: “people you might know!”), getting to know a co-worker better online. But the relationship can take a dangerous turn very quickly if you’re not careful, and even more easily if you are doing most of the talking behind a computer. Because you don’t have any non-verbals with which to interpret statements. What a person could very easily say over coffee comes off way wrong in an email. And what she would never say over coffee, she does in an email because she gets to hide behind her computer.

I’m not saying it’s impossible to talk to someone of the opposite sex online. I have many male acquaintances and co-workers. But I think only a minority of folks can handle an intense, intimate relationship with a person of the opposite sex without it getting in the way of marriage. And maybe the failure rate is so high among my readers because most of them suffer from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or addictions. For those guys, it’s even harder.


Read More … http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue/2011/04/does-the-internet-promote-or-damage-marriage.html

Sexual Monogamy Does Not “Lead” to Happiness

There is no solid proof that sexual promiscuity leads to unhappiness.

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