eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online
Existential GPS

How Healthy Is Your Relationship?

By Don Laird, NCC, LPC, DCC

As a therapist and relationship coach, I all too often watch couples fighting against their relationship instead of for it. The reality is we often fall short when trying to communicate our needs and wants to others. Instead, couples waste energy and time focused on each other’s flaws rather than ways they can repair or foster their relationship. Indeed, if you are waiting for the other person to change then you better pull up a chair, grab a snack and settle in for a very long wait. Rather than giving up on your relationship, why not focus your time and energy on getting it back on track by trying something different?

If you don’t take some new and different approach on your own behalf, no one else will. For example, instead of pointing out your significant other’s flaws, why not try some positive reinforcement? Highlight your partner’s positive qualities and things you appreciate about them. It’s not a way to avoid issues in your relationship, but an effective way of starting the healing process. Keep this thought in mind, “Change begins with me.

Here a few key items to try when working on your relationship:       

  1. Remain present and focused: Don’t allow your emotions to steer the ship. Above all, avoid name-calling and personal attacks. Remember anger is a symptom of hurt, fear, and frustration. It’s never about the dishes or trash or being late. It’s about being heard and understood. Do healthy things to deal with your anger such as physical exercise, yoga, creative endeavors, or meditation.
  2. Don’t blame your partner: Concern is fine, but criticism is damaging to a relationship. It’s okay to express a specific complaint such as, “I was worried when I couldn’t reach you by phone and it was getting so late. We had agreed to contact each other if one of us was running late.”  Verses “You never call or text me, you’re always so selfish and uncaring.”  Also, using the word “I” is much more effective than using the word “You.” It’s about communicating what you need versus what you don’t need in your relationship. This is a great first step toward a healthier partnership.
  3. Unplug: Look at your partner, not your phone or other devices. The table and bed should always be device free areas. In fact, your bedroom is designed for two things: sleep and sex. So check your devices at the door. Try new activities that you both find interesting and pleasurable. You fell in love with this person without the device, why allow it to divide you when you could be using that time to strengthen your bond?
  4. Increase touch: Studies show that physical contact always helps in a relationship. Holding hands, hugging and touching can release chemicals in the body that cause us to be calmer, connected, and more attentive. Whether through touching or the act of sex, physical affection also reduces stress hormones – such as cortisol.
  5. Compliment your partner: Express your positive feelings out loud every day and say something kind about your partner. Don’t reserve these niceties exclusively for birthdays, anniversaries or holidays. Practice flirting with your partner. Let them know that you desire them through both your words and actions.
  6. Be vulnerable: In other words, don’t hold your hurt inside. Be open about your thoughts, feelings, and wishes in a respectful and constructive way. Resentment and frustration build when couples avoid communicating, so don’t bury those negative feelings. Make sure to use those “I” statements and not the “You” word.
  7. Take responsibility:  The old saying holds true, real change starts with you. Own your feelings without pointing out your partner’s flaws or going on the attack. To be ready for love you must become the person you want your partner to be.

Most importantly, do your best to remember why you fell in love with your partner. Instead of focusing on her or his flaws when you have an argument, examine your own words; check your own body language. Focus on repairing hurt feelings and creating a relationship worth being in. Breaking the cycle of an unhappy relationship requires you to make a shift in your mindset. It starts with you.

If you would like to continue the conversation about your relationship or marriage contact me to schedule an appointment or free phone consultation today.

In Good Health,
Don

eTalkTherapy online counseling and coaching | nutrition and wellness
Hello Universe

The 10 Month Challenge

by Aurora Starr

They’re out there. You just haven’t been lucky or blessed or mindful enough to find her or him. Ms. or Mr. Right is waiting out there  – a kindred spirit so forged in your mind that only their heart and soul could ever possibly fit with yours. Then there’s reality – good old-fashioned, hard-knocks, buzz-kill reality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a real sucker when it comes to romance, trashy novels, dating shows, Hallmark Channel, RomComs and the belief that he will call for a second date when he says he will. You meet someone new and the air on Mt. Olympus turns stale faster than the magic of a one night stand at 4 am.

A few months in and you realize that this mere mortal who sits like a clueless slug on the sofa next to you is fallible, not as attractive as they once were, and not quite as emotionally mature or balanced as everyone – including you – thought. Well someone lied and, dammit, you bought into it, and even helped facilitate the façade.

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching. Unless it’s your first Valentine’s Day with someone new, then you know what that means. Once you’ve hit three or four years of a Hallmark Holiday you begin to search for gifts and cards that reflect your true sentiments, “I love you more today than yesterday, but less than last week when you ate my last double-fudge brownie.”

Move passed all the clichéd metaphors about romance and you suddenly realize that love is less like a delicate flower and more like a nicely designed chore list with some occasional fun stickers and perks. The time and space where you used to swoon over your better half is now spent thinking about pushing that same person into the snow.

Yet, you punch the clock every morning, slap on your best game face, and head into the relationship factory with a smile and a wave until you realize that your soul mate failed to replace the toilet paper roll…again. Months will go by and you will find that you are intrigued and attracted to new people. You will tell yourself that it’s a betrayal and you need to stay in your familiar little rut, but betrayal also includes intent. So unless your intent is to cheat or shop around, then finding others attractive or fun is not such a negative thing. As long as there are clear boundaries, it could even strengthen your stagnant relationship at home.

A toxic mix of guessing and projecting as to why your significant other thought this and not that or why they did this and not that thing turns you into some half-assed psychic. Mind reading to outwit and outlast the other becomes the only way to win an argument. Because, let’s face it, you’ve convinced yourself that you know the inside of their head better than they ever could.

You watch couples argue and fight in movies and on TV and then they make up with hot sex. Then there’s your fights. Instead of mind-blowing orgasms you’re left with resentment and an empty wine glass until cooler minds prevail. You don’t fight because of housework or missed moments, you fight because this person just doesn’t hear or understand you anymore. Somewhere in the depths of your heart there’s this hope that this wouldn’t always happen if love were just real…like it used to be.

And so, I guess this is my stop, where I momentarily dismount my soapbox and say that love is real. It’s there; it just stays hidden sometimes by our unrealistic expectations and confusion over the ideas of love and romance. If I’ve learned one thing from Alison Sweeney or Candace Cameron or any of the other staples in the Hallmark Channel canon is that hope and love make for strange bedfellows. So, now I am going to eat the double-fudge brownie I have so masterfully hidden and think about how this Valentine’s Day might just be different this year.

Shine brightly,
Aurora

Please note: The opinions expressed in this blog are not necessarily the views of eTalkTherapy. Aurora Starr is a freelance writer, NOT a therapist, and her views, thoughts and opinions are her own.

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online
Existential GPS

Boosting self esteem and body image in boys

By Don Laird, NCC, LPC, DCC

The phrase “poor body image” is typically thought to be a term exclusive to women or adolescent girls. However, in recent years we have seen a growing number of adolescent boys and even adult men reporting poor body image. How can you help teenage boys develop a positive outlook with the way they feel about their physical appearance?

Talk about it. Don’t pretend as though he’s just “going through a phase.”

The effects of poor body image among boys tend to be internal and are usually associated with reduced confidence and low self-esteem. Poor body image is often much more difficult to identify in boys than in girls. Teenage boys’ issues are usually not physically apparent or outwardly excessive, although some may engage in extreme exercise and/or develop an eating disorder.

If you suspect a problem, ask questions. Then be patient and listen without judgment, criticism or using minimizing statements such as, “You just need to stop always comparing yourself to other people,” or worse “Be a man and suck it up.”

Indicators of a poor body image in adolescent boys are often subtle and may include:

  • Unrealistic expectations for body type.
  • Excessively conforming to others expectations.
  • Having low energy.
  • Poor diet.
  • Becoming withdrawn or demonstrating a low mood for an extended period of time.

Model healthy behaviors. We’re all in this together.

Kids and teens gain knowledge from their surroundings. They observe much more than we give them credit. Consequently, make every attempt to model healthy behavior by eating a balanced diet and making those foods available to your kids. They may not want or like them, but you are setting the bar for how they forge their relationship with food and themselves. In addition to focusing on his nutrition and physical activity, pay attention to his exposure to media.

Just like girls and women, the media exposes boys to continuous messages about an ideal body image. During the teenage years, this can be damaging because teen boys are undergoing dramatic body changes. They are vulnerable to holding themselves to unrealistic standards and often feel bad about who they are because of what they look like. Obviously there is no way to escape all media influence, but you can engage your children by teaching critical thinking skills without passing judgment on them or others.

Talk with your son’s doctor or a professional counselor.

If in doubt, or if you notice your son is growing more obsessed with body image, talk with your teen’s doctor about your concerns. He or she can discuss these issues with your son, such as what is the meaning of body image, proper nutrition and skin care, and what should his expectations be for himself.

In Good Health,
Don

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5
eTalkTherapy

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 5. Photo by Alexander Stanishev at UnsplashRead the Winter 2018/19 edition of The Accidental Existentialist, eTalkTherapy‘s quarterly online magazine now or download the PDF to read later. In this issue you will find great articles and new works by Point Park University journalism student Derek Malush, mental health professionals Támara Hill, Morgan Roberts, and Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk. Leave a comment to let us know what you think – Enjoy!

The winter sunset looms. The darkness gathers quickly, and the cold winds blow, but there kindles inside us a hopeful side to the long winter months. A flame remains in spite of its obscured existence. So here is my challenge to you, Dear Reader, stoke the flame.
May you head into the New Year believing you can make it a great year. Most  importantly, may you head into 2019 with a plan.

Great things in life seldom happen without resolve, energy and a creative spirit. The good stuff is the result of vision, strategy, hard work, and patience.

There’s some truth to what naysayers spout about resolutions, but the concept of resolutions is a good one. Used well and with good intent, they can provide the focus needed to turn goals into that ever elusive “new normal.”

We all have answers to what we want out of life. The problem is that we ask ourselves the wrong questions. Instead of asking “How?” or “Why?” try “When?” or “Where?”
Many people who’ve lost weight were rarely successful on the first or second try. Yet, they persevered.

If a goal is worth dreaming, it’s worth relentless effort and passion. Perseverance and resolve are key. Little in life is accomplished without them. So rather than abandon your New Year’s resolutions, add this one: “I resolve to keep my New Year’s resolutions.” Create a life worth living. Navigate those uncharted waters and stop being your own worst critic. Commitment counts. Remind yourself frequently of what you hope to achieve, and pursue it with urgency. Life is indeed short, with no guarantees. When does it start for you?

Have a Healthy and Happy New Year.

Peace,
Don

In this issue:


King. Me.
by Derek Malush

eTalkTherapy - Talk with a counselor online

Life is habitually referred to as a game. Numerous pieces, various rules, and the board on which we play is the ground we tread on.

Take chess for example. An intellectual’s game, which entails limitless hours of
practice to mature one’s strategy. I often amused the thought of chess as just
being an old person’s game. That when you see chess being played, it is, as
sappy indie films tell us, usually two older folks trying to out-duel one another
using their ripened wit and arduous tactics as if the rusted gates had just
dropped down on the beach of Normandy…Read more


Managing Family During the Holidays: 5 Roles to Avoid
by Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC, Owner at Anchored Child & Family Counseling

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

How do you plan to spend the holiday this year? Are you dreading the family gatherings? If so, you are not alone.

Research suggests that the holidays are often a time of intense grief and feelings of loss, existential discomfort (discussed below), revisiting of traumatic experiences, overwhelm with materialism and commercialism, and the dispiriting conversations around the table…Read more


Midterm Elections 2018: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
by Morgan Roberts, MSPC

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

2018 saw a historic midterm election. Though, let us be honest, every election is historic. It shapes our government for years, and possibly generations. I am looking at you, Senate, for confirming known-assaulter Brett Kavanaugh.

However, what we saw was a glimmer of hope, the realities of a rigged system, and you know, white people just being themselves. You are probably reading this, hinting at my personal bias here…Read more


Navigating the Holidays & Associated Emotions with Awareness
by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

During the holiday season, images of a crisp snow covered lane, with the view into the frosted window of a warm and cozy home, the scene of a blazing fire, a long decorative table filled with scrumptious holiday delights, and loved one’s surrounding the table brings feelings of dissonance for many. The holidays absolutely have the potential to bring feelings of intimate experiences filled with belonging, exhilaration, sharing, and gathering with loved ones.

For many, however, there are increases in stress, anxiety, depression, feelings of loneliness, difficulties with grieving and loss, conflict, and contemplation…Read more


Do you have an idea for an article or would you like to contribute to our magazine?

This is your opportunity to submit educational and informative content that promotes growth in all aspects of mental health issues from an existential or humanistic perspective. Upon publication of your article, you will receive a $25 stipend.

Submit your queries at eTalkTherapy.com/submit.

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online
eTalkTherapy

The Accidental Existentialist Issue 4

Read the FALL 2018 edition of The Accidental Existentialist now or download it to read later. In this issue you will find great articles by mental health professionals Morgan Roberts, Christina Pettinato and Don Laird, as well as freelance writer Aurora Starr. We would love to hear from you, please leave a comment below – Enjoy!

Through autumn’s golden gown we used to kick our way. You always loved this time of year.
Those fallen leaves lie undisturbed now that you’re not here…”
~ Justin Hayward

The Accidental Existentialist Fall 2018 Issue 4

A crisp autumn sky, crackling bonfires and brilliant colors floating delicately toward the ground, inspire many people to gather and celebrate the season. Yet, as always, there is a twinge of bitter-sweetness and sorrow as the year takes one final and glorious bow before it fades into the darkness and isolation of winter. Logically, we know that with spring new life will emerge from death.

Still, autumn is a conscious (or perhaps unconscious) reminder of our own mortality. A time when in spite of the colors and all the pumpkin deserts and drinks, we must acknowledge the brightness of our days is framed by the vividness and wisdom of our nights. The youthfulness of spring and summer now give way to the remembrance of all things lost, but not forgotten. All things must pass, and we are fortunate enough to recognize this as we move forward to the end of the seasons and ultimately the splendid finality of this mortal coil.

Enjoy the season. Drink in its grace and grandeur. Winter is indeed coming, but life continues.

Peace,
Don

In this issue:


Alice
by Don Laird, MS, NCC, LPC, DCC

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor onlineAlice was dead. A client I had known for only a short time, but her words still drifted across my consultation room as if they were just spoken. A slight, yet radiant smile, matched by hands confidently holding a mug of tea as she imparted the bittersweet details of a lifetime, mere shadows; wistful ghosts conjured on cue. Somehow, Alice had it figured out. Centuries of philosophical thoughts, tomes of written conjecture, all debating the questions of life and their ultimate meanings, yet none of it seemed as authentic or grounded as a 68-year old woman’s journey from Point A to Point Z, and all stop in-between. Read more…


Q&A with Therapist Christina Pettinato

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

Christina (pictured above) adds her personal message to a “Before I Die…Wall in Cleveland, OH. This Wall is part of a series of interactive public art projects created by artist Candy Chang to encourage and inspire communities to share their stories and dreams in a public forum.

Through meaningful conversation and mindful discourse, you and I will embark on a journey toward change and purpose. Together we will navigate your issues in life through problem-solving techniques, self exploration and reflection. With you, my hope is to map out opportunities for growth, awareness, authenticity and mindfulness.” Read more…


Navigating the World in the #TimesUp Era
by Morgan Roberts, MSPC

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online
After The New Yorker and later The New York Times published bombshell reports of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment and assaults, we have been in the midst of a paradigm. A paradigm is a major shift in thought and behavior. Biological science was drastically changed by Darwin. Psychics was drastically changed by Hawking. Likewise, there are social shifts which have caused dramatic changes in society. We live in a different era with a different mindset than we did pre-Vietnam, pre-Columbine, pre-9/11, pre-Obama, pre-Trump. Yet, there has been no paradigm shift that has directly impacted me as the Weinstein allegations and the events which followed. Read more…


5 Films with an Existential Motif
by Aurora Starr

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

Existentialism is an analysis of human existence and the value and consequence of human choice. “Existence proceeds essence” with an aversion to any method designed to define humankind in a systematic or empirical way. In short, it is a philosophy concerned with finding meaning through free will, choice, and personal responsibility; a confrontation with existence by an exploration of death and meaning.

Hereafter, through the beauty of Netflix and Hulu, is a list of five films that highlight existential motifs in pure celluloid magic. Read more…


Do you have an idea for an article or would you like to contribute to our magazine?

This is your opportunity to submit educational and informative content that promotes growth in all aspects of mental health issues from an existential or humanistic perspective. Upon publication of your article, you will receive a $25 stipend.

Submit your queries at eTalkTherapy.com/submit.