Hark! The Holidays Often Herald the End of Relationships:
Here’s How to Strengthen Yours
By Debbie Mandel
‘Tis the season to be jolly; however, many of us are mildly depressed, especially about ambiguous relationships. For example, “If he doesn’t give me a ring for Christmas, we are so over,” “I buy him a thoughtful expensive present and he gives me a blender from the drugstore! Does he think I belong in the kitchen to serve him?” “Listen to how her mother speaks to me during Thanksgiving dinner and she doesn’t defend me! I know where I’m not wanted.” During the holidays our expectations are heightened by the media and we tend to focus on what we don’t have. The key to happiness lies in the concept of being reasonably happy. When we are reasonably happy, we want what we have. Here are four relationship measures you can implement immediately in order to want what you have, appreciate him or her and have a romance with life.
Stop the Negative Criticism
The first step in your journey with your lover is to stop the negative criticism as soon as possible. Negative words are damaging to self-esteem, and painful. No one likes to be criticized including those that say, “Criticism polishes my mirror.” In fact, I would prefer my mirror to be smudged. Harsh words are absorbed by the recipient, even if there is no counter response and lodges in the mind and body as resentment. Remember, a word said is never dead and usually leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy. “You’re too fat,” never triggered a spouse to lose weight. “You’re so boring, all you do is sit on the couch and watch TV,” never motivated anyone to be less sedentary. Be kinder to one another. But how do you change what you don’t like if you don’t criticize?
Don’t Try to Change Your Lover
The next step is to stop trying to change your lover. Anyone who has ever tried to change a lover grew frustrated and surrendered. In the words of Bridget Jones’ Diary - I love you just the way you are! Imagine if you said that to your lover - what a high! How affirming to self-esteem, body image and self-love! And if you don’t love yourself, you can’t completely love another person. The key is to accept that you cannot change your romantic partner - as in the Serenity Prayer. What do you do about the dynamics of the relationship? You change yourself! When you change, everything changes. If your partner is sedentary, then go out and do what you want to do independently. When he or she asks, “Where are you going, honey?” You will explain the fun activity you have planned for yourself. You will be happier fulfilling your own needs, completing yourself. You will come home to a partner as an independent, happy person and that will create a more pleasant environment for the two of you. At the very least you will have fun doing what you want to do and in the best case scenario he will join you in the future.
Third, exercise together. This will make you both healthier, more body conscious, better lovers, less stressed and happier. Being physical together can mean getting in touch both in mind and body, supporting one another, or spotting one another during a strength training workout. Physiologically, testosterone is elevated in both men and women during exercise and that raises libido. How wonderful to have your partner with you at that time. Conclude with some partnered stretches that are nurturing for the two of you. You don’t have to join a gym to exercise. Put on your shoes and just walk out the door together. A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. Take that journey together, shed stress and raise your endorphins along the way. Maybe you will hold hands and have meaningful conversations without speaking.
Don’t Build a Wall
And the fourth step is not to build an impenetrable wall between you and your partner. Sometimes we freeze the other person out; we become silent and distant when we feel hurt. However, the lines of communication need to be kept open. Self-expression relieves stress and can clear up misunderstandings. Consider this: Each one of us has an ego and each one of us wants to be right. We need to let one another be right. When we communicate our needs that doesn’t mean we should criticize one another. So, if you feel the urge to criticize, reread step one. Rather, we should affirm one another and express a wish list. Instead of worrying about problems separately, let’s put our minds together to devise a solution. Remember we can use humor to cut our partner some slack. Through humor a wall around a heart can be penetrated. It helps to visualize life with a lover as a TV sitcom. Let’s make it a sitcom worthy of an Emmy.
Follow these four steps around the holidays to engender closeness. Instead of saying, “Bah, humbug,” You will be saying, “It’s a wonderful life…”
Debbie Eisenstadt Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer at Southampton College. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WLIE 540 AM in New York City, produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com