New Year 2021

Well, That Happened!

New Year’s Eve, 1999. We all stood around, a whole basement full of us, watching the TV and counting down along with all of America.

10…9…8….7…6…5…4…

We held those big red plastic party cups and our voices raised louder and louder as we got to the end.

3…2…1! Happy New Year!

All of us, as we were directed just minutes prior, simultaneously drained our cups and threw them, as hard as we could, toward the TV screen. They bounced off and we laughed and danced for hours afterward. It was a new millennium! Everything felt so brand new.

This New  Year’s Eve, if we were given the option for what to throw at the TV, I think most of us would choose a brick. This year has been that difficult.

It’s kind of like this great line from a movie I saw recently, which came out right around the year 2000: “State and Main.” Have you ever seen it? It’s a fun, light-hearted film about making a film – a really funny movie that is a great antidote to today’s difficult times. It’s a fish-out-of-water type film, sort of “Hollywood meets Mayberry,” and sports a lot of famous faces, from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman and Charles Durning to Julia Stiles, William H. Macy, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

One of the main characters, an actor portrayed by Alec Baldwin, gets into a car accident in the middle of the one-horse town. He steps out from the car, dazed and vaguely hurt; and when he’s pressed about how he’s feeling, smiles uneasily and says, “Well, that happened!”

Kind of how we’re all feeling right now looking back at 2020, huh?

It certainly did happen. And you know what? You’re still here! It wasn’t easy, and it still may not be in many ways going forward, but you made it through. What kind of person did you become? Have you become more resilient? Have you become more flexible, more patient? Or maybe you’ve become more judgmental, more easily stressed, or less enthusiastic.

What things would you change about yourself for 2021? Which things would you keep? Just something to think about in these last waning days of a truly historic year.

I, for my part, am glad you’re still around! I’m hopeful that good things are around the corner for us and I hope most of all that 2021 is a year of joy, love, and peace for you.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Grow in Silence

One a scale of 1 to 10, how well can you handle silence? I’m only asking because I’m one of those people who can’t handle it well at all. If we were having a conversation and all of a sudden there was a peaceable lull, and we were having a sip of coffee or looking around at the sky, that would probably last me all of fifteen seconds. Before you knew it, I’d start bringing up the weather, or about birds – especially the cassowary, which I just learned can actually be quite terrible and has earned the notorious title of “world’s most dangerous bird.” I attended a Catholic university that had a convent just off campus (its Mother Superior used to serve at the school), and I attended a discernment retreat weekend there to decide if the religious life was an ideal one for me. Every evening at eight o’clock there was what was called The Great Silence until eight the following morning – during The Great Silence we were not supposed to talk at all, just spend time in quiet reflection. I made it about an hour before I found a copy of St. Francis’ biography and read it aloud, whispering into the quiet of my room just to myself, because I just needed there to be noise. Silence, it seemed to me, was just plain unattainable.

The thing is, though, I want to be a person who can sometimes be quiet. I want to be able to think about the answer to a question, or to plan ahead, or to give serious time to considering things before I do them, but it’s a skill that I really haven’t honed yet. And with my phone (which, like everyone’s, is pretty much a little computer), I have 24/7 access to not only physical noise (like podcasts and videos) but also visual noise, pictures and articles and posts just like this one.

It gets to be a lot, and to be honest, it’s a very hard habit to break. But luckily for me, the next few weeks can really be the ideal time to practice the art of silence a little bit more each day.  The sun rises a bit later, it goes down much earlier, and the night stretches out and allows for that quiet time. I find that watching the snow fall can help, too.

It’s often said that children grow the most while they’re sleeping, and Mother Teresa once noted something similar. “See how nature grows,” she said. “Trees, flowers, grass – grow in silence.  See the stars, the sun and the moon, how they move in silence.”

A lot of good things can be the fruit of a period of silence, or many small periods throughout the day. If it’s something you struggle with, I would suggest a break from social media to start. I always feel so much better when I step away from those kinds of things. Maybe try some reading, or maybe some old-fashioned letter writing. Journaling, just plain thinking, all of those count too.

I hope this little bit of silence adds some well-deserved peace to the end of a hectic year.  Who knows? Maybe it’ll help make 2021 much better, too!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

A Different Gratitude

Well, there’s no way around it: gratitude will look different this year. I don’t think it’s too much of a surprise – I mean, everything has looked different this year – but gratitude will, too. It may look so much smaller than it once did. For example: before, where you may have been thankful for getting to experience traveling to a faraway country as part of that really cool conference, maybe now you’re thankful for not needing to travel so there’s less chance of being sick. Before, you were thankful your son or daughter was the best athlete on the team; maybe now you’re thankful they’re home with you, because practices every night meant no family dinners during the week and now you actually get to spend time with your kids and get to really know them. Or maybe even harder: before, where you may have been thankful for your job, it may be gone now; and so your gratitude may be for the people who are keeping you afloat.

It all looks very different now, and that’s normal. That’s okay. You know what is also okay? Recognizing that the times are still very, very hard. It’s okay to acknowledge that things are looking pretty bleak in a lot of ways. The point, though, is that there are still reasons to be thankful. Pain, anger, disappointment – they can all exist alongside thankfulness and gratitude. Indeed, they ought to: because gratitude is the means to find hope – and as long as you can find hope, all is not lost.

It’s been over a year since I’ve seen my extended family, and it’s not looking like I’ll be able to in the upcoming months. It’s hard for me. I miss them, but I still cling to the text chains we send back and forth, and for the video calls we have every now and then. This Thanksgiving, because we’re all in our various states of quarantine, we’re trying to arrange one of my favorite traditions: the playing of a board game after dinner. I’m sure it’ll be chaos: there might be Internet struggles because the whole country will be reaching out virtually at the same time; the kids may be out of control and coming down off of a pumpkin pie sugar high; everyone may be sad because this is just not the way we do things. But we’re going to try anyway, and I hope you try too, in whatever way makes you happy.

I’m thankful for you, for the chance to reach out and encourage you every now and then. I’m thankful for all of the great things you do for others, even if they’re little things, and even if no one thinks they’re a big deal. And I’m thankful, like so many, that this year is almost over! Can’t wait for the next one!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

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About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Opening the Door

Opening the Door

In our home, the wood sometimes swells up when it gets humid outside, so it’s not unusual that our doors stick and won’t open if they’re shut pretty hard. One easy way to tell that it’s getting to autumn and winter in our home is to see if the doors close all the way; another is to note that our bread (which we make at home) doesn’t fall apart as easily like it does in the summertime.

Earlier this year, during the door-swelling season, it happened that my son was pretty angry. We had taken something away from him as a punishment for his behavior, and as retaliation, he ran into his room and slammed his door as hard as he could. After a few long minutes of the kind of full-throated screaming that most kids save for the angriest of days, he calmed down and decided to leave his room.

Except he couldn’t: he was stuck.

He pulled and pulled at his door, but the top of the doorjamb was swollen and wouldn’t budge. This, of course, led to more screaming, this time out of a mixture of anger and panic; and after we opened it (after a lot of banging at the top of the door), he needed a spoonful of honey to soothe his sore throat. He had calmed down from his initial anger, but he still found himself trapped.

I thought about that, and about how we can all be trapped by anger too. Do you ever feel that way? You’re angry about something, even furious; and even when you calm down, you find that you’re still not very far away from the fury at all. And over time, your perspective on life becomes informed by your anger, to the point when you feel angry all of the time.

There’s been times in my life when I’ve felt that way. I’ve felt that my anger was “right,” and that because I was “correct” and no one else seemed to be, that made it even worse. I became trapped in my anger until I realized that it was just another form of control. I was trying to control those around me, and when they didn’t act how I wanted them to – even if I was angry about the “right things” – I would get upset. It took me so long (and I still forget sometimes) that in general, people are going to be how they are until they change – if they ever do – and it was better for everyone involved if I lived my life the best I could and let others do that too.

Anger and control can be friends. They can be the door and that which swells it. But maybe there’s a way we can help keep it manageable. In our home, we learned that we didn’t need to wait for cooler temperatures to calm things down – we bought a dehumidifier and that helped so much. If you struggle with anger, how can you “dehumidify” it? What are some things we can do  – things we CAN control – to help soothe our spirits?

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Where is the Wonder

Now that the school year has started, our chaotic pandemic summer is now settling firmly into a routine again. It’s not exactly my favorite way of doing things, but with time, everyone in my family is adjusting and finding their way. Surprisingly, it’s not too different from the routine we had before the pandemic. Then, it was pretty standard: kids to school, things to do, kids home from school, playtime, homework, dinnertime, bedtime, rinse and repeat. The things I was able to get done when the kids were in school varied, but I was busy enough to miss them once my kids were sent home last March and the rest of the year stretched out in front of us like one long, dark tunnel.

Now, it’s similar: kids to school, things to do, kids home from school (or out of their rooms during the school days at home) playtime, homework, dinnertime, bedtime, rinse and repeat. I’m not so busy in between if the kids are home (they always need one form of help or another), but I am too busy for a lot more than I thought I’d be; and now it’s autumn.

The leaves are starting to fall from the trees, we’ve had to run our furnace a few times, and the sweaters I’ve been longing to wear are now shaken out and ready to go. The squirrels in our yard are getting fatter, and our family is planning out what our “Pandemic Halloween” festivities will be instead of the usual trick-or-treating. (We’re still planning on loads of candy being present.)

But even so, I’m not fully present for any of it. There’s so much that I’m missing. It was a feeling that was difficult to articulate, but I figured it out the other day: I was missing wonder. Don’t misunderstand: I’m thankful to have a routine again, but that routine has now taken the space in my mind where all of the marveling used to be. Instead of taking a few extra minutes to notice how slowly the oak leaves outside are changing (by gradients, little by little, instead of a mad rush), I’m worried about whether my daughter can find her Kindergarten paperwork before she logs on to the computer to join her class virtually. Instead of taking a deep breath of the downright chilly morning air, I’m gulping down coffee and checking to make sure multiplication facts are memorized.

There is a beauty to that, too, honestly. There is a comfort in coffee, in the times tables, in needing to be somewhere at a certain time (even if it’s on a screen). There may be comfort, but…that doesn’t mean there’s wonder.

In Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a young girl named Clarisse, raised in a stressed and chaotic world that moves a million miles an hour lives a countercultural life: she allows herself time to slow down and look at the world around her:

“I sometimes think drivers don’t know what grass is, or flowers, because they never see them slowly,” she said. “If you showed a driver a green blur, Oh yes! He’d say, that’s grass! A pink blur? That’s a rose garden! White blurs are houses. Brown blurs are cows.”

Like the world Bradury paints for his readers, our lives also move incredibly quickly.  Information, whether it’s the news, a new schedule, an uprooted routine, is thrown at us, and before we have any time to process it, we’re forced to leave it aside and keep going until it’s all different color blurs. We don’t stop to wonder about anything anymore.

But Clarisse does, mentioning something beautiful to the novel’s protagonist:

“Bet I know something else you don’t.  There’s dew on the grass in the morning.”

What do you see in the morning? In all-of-the hullabaloo of your current pandemic routine, what are the things you notice – really notice – first? Is there room for an extra 30 seconds as you start your day to notice something you normally don’t, or room for taking in an awesome sight, even if it would seem ordinary to someone else? I am going to try to make a real effort over the next few weeks to try to give myself some time for wondering. I’m hoping it will bring some much-needed peace and calm to these very hectic days. Maybe you’ll give it a try, too!

Wishing you a peaceful autumn season filled with hope, joy, and a refreshed sense of wonder!

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

There Be Dragons

I have friends with honest-to-goodness magical powers: they are parents who can read books without falling asleep! I am still working hard on mastering that particular skill; and in an effort to get better with it, I made a goal for myself: to read 20 books in the year 2020. I have friends for whom this would seem a ridiculously easy goal – they would read 20 books in just a few months! But thankfully, because the world is a rich tapestry, we are not all alike and so I can set the goals that work for me.

And I’ve found some good reads this year, ranging from short story collections to non-fiction work, and have particularly been drawn to classical works for children. Books written a hundred years ago – and even earlier – were written so differently for them, and it’s no wonder – kids went through many difficult trials that little ones today are rarely exposed to. It’s not uncommon for children in classic books to deal with heartache, deep loss, and tough physical work before they become teenagers; and even then, from there it’s pretty much a straight shot to adulthood and all that entails.

I wish I had read so many more of these books when I was younger, because I know I would have liked them then. Anne of Green Gables, for example; if I had read it as a kid, I know I would have loved this spunky, bright, lovable little girl; but I read it as an adult, so the first thought I had when I was introduced to her character was: “Well, there’s no way she’s not going right back to the orphanage!”

But one series I picked up this year that I really fell in love with was The Chronicles of Narnia. Have you read them? I’m about halfway through the series, and I’m convinced it’s the perfect series for anyone – kids and adults – especially in a year that is so fraught with difficulty. It’s escapism at its finest: recognizing difficulty and trouble, but not succumbing to it.  There’s pain, and many battles; but there’s also hope and strength. The books were written by C.S. Lewis, but another author, G.K. Chesterton, once wrote:

“Fairytales don’t tell children that dragons exist.  Children already know dragons exist. Fairytales tell children that dragons can be killed.”

We know in our lives today that dragons exist, if you don’t see them right outside your door, you can easily find them on your phone or computer. But dragons can be beaten. It was an important lesson then, and it’s an important one to remember now. For a little extra encouragement, maybe pick up a classic children’s book to share that with your kids – or even yourself, if you need to remember it.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

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eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Hello Autumn

Hello Autumn

Are you one of the millions of people who love Fall? I am (growing up in South Florida, I didn’t really get the same experience of Fall that others in the North did. I had one sweater we used to wear for that one day a year when the temperature fell to about 67 degrees), and I was commenting to my husband just the other day about what a cultural phenomenon that Fall seems to be these days.

Have you noticed it too? How once late August hits, all of the country was just awash in a wide palette of burnt sienna and orange colors, and the pumpkin-flavored everything started popping up, even though outside it was still in the mid-80s and you had to order your pumpkin latte over ice because the weather hadn’t gotten the memo yet?

There are a lot of things to love about Fall, for sure. I love feeling cozy, and I could live in sweaters all year round. I love that the sun goes down earlier and is slow to come up in the mornings. Bare trees, hearty vegetables, I love it all – but I was so curious about why we as an entire nation decided to embrace fall as our new favorite time of year. It used to be summertime, didn’t it? You thought America, and you thought of apple pie, flags flapping over hot dog picnics, and baseball games. You thought of the beach, and fishing, and running through the grass. Curiously, we’ve shifted over to the next season, and I think it’s for a real reason, something we’ve been craving for years now: comfort.

We need comfort, and we fall in love with Fall because it means more than just cooler temps. It means school days, so we’re back to a routine. It means we seek warmth, and the community of family and friends over a harvest table. It means togetherness in a way the warmer months just didn’t provide. It also could mean hope: falling leaves means more will eventually grow back. Decaying grasses make way for new growth after Winter’s end. In the Fall, change is here and more change is coming, just as it does every year and has since the beginning of time.

It’s tricky, thinking of change because I struggle the most with the things I cannot change. There are so many things I wish were different, and people who I wish would act differently, and there’s nothing that I can do or say that will make them change their directions; yet, I try anyway. And what happens? All of the energy and time that I spend doing those futile things are wasted – time I could have spent changing the things in my life that I can change.

When those things don’t get done, what ends up happening is that nothing seems like it works out: the things I can’t change haven’t changed; and the things I haven’t changed haven’t changed, and so I’m left at the beginning again, completely discouraged and even on the verge of despair, sometimes. So what should I do next? I know it seems so simple on paper, and you’re right: work on the things I can change.

We all have those things in our lives that we can change. I know sometimes it’s easy to mix up the things we can and the things we can’t. I think all the things in our lives can use some thought and some inspection. So a good exercise might be to list all of the things in your life that are holding you back. Look at your list – really look at it – and see what you can really change and what you can’t. If you can’t, you can’t. But if you can, even if you start slowly, even if you do the tiniest action – do it. And more change will come.

I know it may seem impossible, but hey it gets down to 67 degrees in South Florida at least one day a year. Here’s hoping your fall is as wonderful as you are, which is to say, really, really wonderful.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Woman sewing cloth cotton face mask to protect against the corona virus at home. Homemade handicraft protective mask against covid 19 virus. Reusable face mask.

Making Masks

It’s looking like my kids will be starting school in person this year, and while I am 1) nervous about it and 2) even more nervous about it, I’m trying to be proactive and turn my anxiety into actual work. I’m tempted to just go out and buy a bunch of masks (and let’s be honest, I most likely will), but before the school year begins, I’ve set the goal for myself of making at least five masks per child.

As much as I hate the idea of having to keep track of where their masks are every day: Did they leave it on the bus? Did they leave it at school? In their locker? In the gym? Where???  I hate the idea of having to wash them and dry them each day even more.

But making masks from scratch actually necessitates making a mask from scratch. It means cutting and sewing and measuring and, for me, a lot of failure. But I have time! And the desire to not have to do laundry is pretty overpowering, everyone.

Here’s how the first try went:

  • Okay. Got the fabric. Cute! The kids will like this print. I’ll take a yard of each, please.
  • …A yard is way too much fabric. Oh well.
  • All right. Just gotta cut it. That’s not very even, is it? Well, I’ll just cut some more here, and maybe make this end even…oh wait, now it’s an inch shorter than what I need. Re-cut!
  • I have to cut TWO pieces??
  • Okay, got my pieces. That only took 45 minutes.
  • Sew the short ends together. Oh wait, I have to thread the machine? How do I do that?
  • Okay, short ends done. Now the long ends. Done.
  • Print sides facing each other? Where’s the seam ripper?
  • Short sides together…
  • Oh, it’s only been 90 minutes.
  • I need a break.

Two Days Later…

  • I think pleats scared me even before I ever thought about making a mask.

I have, since I began this lofty goal several days ago, completed one fully functional mask. Only nine more to go, and I have six weeks until school starts. I’ll totally get it done!

But seriously, folks: all of this is to say that no matter what you try to accomplish, especially in a time where things you need might not be readily available, or if you just want to stop halfway and scream into the void about how unfair all of this is, it can get done. You can do hard things! Like making masks! Because, really…if I can do it, you can definitely do it.

Until next time, be well!
Christy

***

eTalkTherapy - talk with a counselor online

About the author: Christy Gualtieri is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, religion, and motherhood. She lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and two children. Christy also blogs at asinglehour.wordpress.com and tweets @agapeflower117. You can  follow her here on eTalkTherapy for inspirational articles and different perspectives as they relate to good mental health.

Friendship

Part 6: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC, NCC

 A Series of Articles: 6 of 6 – The ‘You’ Factor in Developing Quality Relationships

This series is focused on developing quality relationships. Article 6 of 6 focuses on you, your identity, and your role in developing quality relationships.

How well do you know yourself?

Knowing yourself, the deeper meaning of who you are, and how to apply each to building and nurturing the quality of life you desire is a long-term and at times, difficult process. It takes work, vulnerability, comfort with you as a whole, with each of your facets, and strength. Learning about yourself (i.e., what you enjoy, dislike, how you plan, your work ethic, preferences for physical and emotional intimacy, desires, fears, anxieties, coping style, what you grapple with, and how you engage in relationships) is a key factor in the process of honoring who you are as a human.  Each impact you as a human, and how you engage in relationships. In addition, knowing your identity on a fundamental level assists in navigating the smooth, bumpy, and at times, roaring waters of a relationship.

Developing a deep understanding and commitment to who you are (and aren’t) as a person increases life satisfaction.  In addition, having a stable identity increases the probability of partnering with a person that is more compatible with you.  It’s human nature to desire connection with your partner, independence, interdependence, enjoyment of time together, a level of contentment, safety, and to feel fundamentally on the same page. At times, this is difficult to navigate; especially when negotiating through life, family, morals and values, goals, growth, change, and difficult times.

Part of knowing who you are is developing a strong sense of the following:

Consider the significance of each for you as an individual, and how each positively and negatively impact your relationship.

  1. What do you enjoy, what are your daily habits, and how does each impact your quality of life?

Consider how this supports you, your goals, and what this means for you in a relationship.

  1. What are your educational and career goals? How does this impact you in a relationship long-term?

Consider your goals educationally and professionally.  Then consider how this works with a long-term relationship and decisions on family.

  1. How often do you prefer to have physical intimacy in a relationship? What are you open to sexually? What boundaries will you set?

In addition, consider:  Whether or not your partner has similar preferences, and how to navigate differences in healthy ways.

The above takes time, a healthy self-disclosure-trust ratio (at your personal comfort and pace), vulnerability, healthy boundaries, and openness, as well as, respect. Have fun with it, if and when you decide it’s right for you.

  1. What is your comfort with emotional intimacy?

Consider your comfort with sharing the depth of your emotions and receiving your partners, eye contact, verbal affirmations, and how you express, feel, and give love and support. In addition, explore the meaning of giving and receiving of each in your relationship.

  1. What do you desire for yourself and in a relationship? Is this realistic long-term?

Developing realistic expectations for yourself, for your partner, and the relationship as a whole takes work and exploration. In addition, consider your approach to growth and change throughout long-term relationships.

  1. Check in on mental health.

Consider what you grapple with, how this impacts the ways you engage that may support and/or hinder progress as an individual and in relationships.

Consider how each affects communication styles, mental health, and attachments.

When issues are spilling-over and decreasing your quality of life and/or lowering life satisfaction- be kind to yourself and seek out support.

  1. Honoring yourself and your identity.

Explore what supports and strengthens you and your wellness as a whole person.  Then consider how to implement self-support and honor into your relationship with yourself and with your partner.

  1. Create and implement healthy boundaries.

Whether you’re repressing aspects of who you are, if you’re still figuring out your identity, or if you’ve given yourself permission to explore and honor who you are, you’re still you. Honor who you are by creating healthy boundaries and do so with integrity, respect, by being ethical, and doing no harm to others. Be humble, build awareness of your strength, and implement balance.

At times, it’s difficult to know what healthy boundaries are. The support of a therapist will assist you in identifying and implementing healthy boundaries that honor you as a human.  

  1. Do a self inventory.

Check in with how you’re treating yourself.  Are you treating yourself with kindness and self-compassion, engaging in self-care, honoring your identity, and checking in with how you feel?

Give yourself permission to take inventory of your relationship, your feelings, and the significance of each in your life. 

  1. Have fun in the process.

Engaging in fun is healthy for your brain, for you psychologically and physiologically, it lowers stress, and supports a sense of life balance.  You’ll feel refreshed and more ready to take on what’s important to you each day.

Learning and developing who you are (and aren’t) as a human supports you, your life goals, and allows for you to spend time with yourself in more enjoyable and authentic ways. You’ll feel more whole, more confident, more comfortable in your choices, and you’ll enjoy your relationships more.  With that being said, if you’re not there yet, give yourself permission to explore and uncover who you are in healthy ways- it will nurture and strengthen you as a whole human and each of your facets too 🙂

In conclusion, this series of articles was designed to give you insight into communication, respect, appreciation, attachment, relationships, and in giving yourself permission to develop and honor your identity moving forward. Relationships are work, including the one with yourself.  You’re worth the time, energy, and dedication it takes towards a healthier more satisfying life, identity, and in developing quality relationships.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

***

MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.

Two women friends in an friendly embrace

Part 5: The Essentials of Developing Quality Relationships

by Mandi C. Dalicandro-Turk, MSPC, NCC

 A Series of Articles: 5 of 6 – Attachment Style and Developing Quality Relationships

This series is focused on relationships. Article 5 of 6 focuses on attachment style. Secure attachment, anxious, and avoidant will be explored.  How does your attachment style increase satisfaction and/or increase frustration in your relationships? Your attachment style assists in determining how well you engage in and recover from disagreements, struggles, tolerating frustration, adapting to difficult and unfamiliar situations; including, how you feel during good times, positive times, and the important moments in your life that you desire to be present for.

As a therapist and relationship coach, I work with clients grappling with their attachment style and the contributing discomfort, anxiety, stress, isolation, and relationship issues. Your attachment style and your partner’s attachment style have the probability to motivate behaviors, impact interactions, and increase or decrease issues within your relationship.

Avoidant Attachment

Individuals with avoidant attachment have difficulty connecting emotionally.  For example, if you and/or your partner have an avoidant attachment style there is an increased probability of experiencing difficulty in trusting others; many times, this includes romantic partners.  During uncomfortable and difficult communication, you or your partner may cease communication, deflect from the issues being addressed, or retreat completely feeling confused and frustrated.

In a newer dating situation, a person may cease contact without explanation.  At times, a person in a romantic relationship will feel ‘if only, s/he will let her/his guard down.  It took past relationships to build walls and working to allow one’s guard down is complex and extremely difficult for a person with an avoidant attachment.  At times, the individual is unaware that s/he isn’t connecting; many times, s/he feels the same void you’re feeling, yet, has extreme discomfort in engaging in any level of vulnerability, openness, or trust.  Other times, the person doesn’t connect emotionally and whether on the surface or on a deeper level doesn’t seem to have the desire to connect.

It’s important for a person with avoidant attachment to ask whether s/he feels an issue is present. Then ask if the desire to connect, trust, and to learn to feel safe in sharing exists. Through therapy, you and/or your partner will have the opportunity to develop awareness to the issues that supported the development of an avoidant attachment, how to cope with and lower frequency of runaway cognitions that may not be beneficial in present relationships, and learn new ways to engage towards developing a more secure and mutually connected relationship.

Anxious Attachment

Individuals with an anxious attachment feel more fear and anxiety in relationships.  For example, if there is a disagreement or difficult communication, an individual with an anxious attachment style may continue to discuss the issues, and attempt to increase verbal engagement and communication.  It may feel that you and/or your partner continue the conversation after everything feels discussed- many times over, s/he may still desire to talk further. At times, you or your partner’s motivation is an unconscious attempt to decrease anxiety and increase feelings of safety by engaging.  S/he is attempting to connect. However, this leads to increases in feelings of anxiety and fear, runaway cognitions, ruminations, and decreases feelings of safety for the individual with an anxious attachment, and adds much confusion and frustration for each partner.

At times, an individual with an anxious attachment and an individual with an avoidant attachment will partner in a relationship. There’s potential for increases in frustration, conflict, confusion, and misunderstanding for partners that are an anxious/avoidant combination; this is more so when communication isn’t strong, communication patterns mismatch, and/or are difficult for one or each partner to understand. However, you are able to learn ways to increase communication skills, lower pressure, minimize demands, and lower the potential for emotional lability. In this environment, communication, understanding, and empathy for each partner is vital.  Couples therapy gives opportunity to begin to build awareness to internal feelings and motivations, how you give and receive love, and ways to increase emotional stability and safety.

Secure Attachment

Individuals with a secure attachment feel more security, confidence, actively engaged, and experience stronger feelings of trust in relationships. You and your partner are able to work through difficult and stressful issues with a level of reciprocal communication and responsiveness.  You’ll feel comfort in being authentic and genuine, and in feeling a level of acceptance towards and from your partner.  You and your partner have an increased probability in giving and receiving mutually, support is more easily embraced, and issues with communication are negotiated more successfully. Secure attachment carries into relationships with family and friends, and allows for a minimal preoccupation with being abandoned or with having the desire to create distance.  You’ll have an increased opportunity to develop a mature and long-term relationship with intimacy and the benefits of developing a healthier and more satisfying relationship.  It’s beneficial to allow flexibility, respect, support, and healthy boundaries.  Inevitably, there will continue to be stressors, tolerating frustration, and areas to work towards embracing, accepting, and working on as partners; this is part of being human.  However, working with a therapist to process your issues and develop a secure attachment benefits your romantic relationships and increases the quality of each area of your daily life.

Relationships consist of a combination of attachment styles and behaviors; each combination has the probability to buffer from or exasperate relationship issues and complexity. At times, you may experience more than one attachment style depending on the person you’re with, the type of relationship, length, and seriousness; however, most times, you’ll engage in a dominant style. Environments, genetic predisposition, past relationships, life experiences, and how you feel about yourself support your attachment style.

Temperament and personality impact attachment, communication, perceptions, and how you engage during difficult and positive aspects of life. Developing an understanding and awareness of you as a person and reflecting on where your partner is coming from allows for smoother navigation throughout the relationship.  Additionally, the presence of a fundamental connection and desire from each partner to learn and grow as a couple increases success and long-term satisfaction.  It’s important to be aware if you’re feeling that you’re having a relationship for two or if you’re expectation is for your partner to take on most of the relationship’s work and engagement. With that being said, take time to explore and build awareness to how each person gives in similar and different ways; it’s beneficial to make room for each.

In conclusion, developing awareness and comfort with your issues internally and in relationships is beneficial in working towards developing a secure attachment and increasing the quality of your relationships. Working with a therapist in a strong and supportive therapeutic relationship will assist in setting goals and giving yourself permission to develop a secure and healthy attachment, to develop trust, and heal from past relationship issues. You’ll have the opportunity to develop awareness as to what secure attachment is and is not, setting realistic expectations, reflecting on what works and what doesn’t in your relationship, setting healthy boundaries, and enjoying a relationship where you feel intimacy, connection, and security in a quality relationship.

COMING SOON: article 6 of 6 in the series.

Learn, grow, & enjoy,
Mandi

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MandiTurk[1]Mandi Dalicandro-Turk writes about a variety of topics related to mental health, behavioral health, relationships, stress, anxiety, aging, grieving, self-care, therapy, and improving one’s overall quality of life.