Psychologist Articles

Change what you want — but do it with love.

It's important to learn how to love your body.

I remember seeing a cartoon titled, "The Difference Between Women and Men," that had a naked man and woman each looking into a full-length mirror.

The woman saw herself as three times bigger while the overweight, balding man saw a chiseled Adonis.

While I know some men are painfully uncomfortable about their looks, being perpetually self-conscious and unduly critical is more often a problem for women.

So, unless you’re one of the very few who are genetically blessed with society’s idea of perfection, you probably exaggerate your flaws

Many women say they feel more comfortable undressing in front of men than they do undressing in front of other women. They say that women are judgmental, which may very well be projection.

Meanwhile, men are, of course, just as likely to be grateful. By the time a man sees you naked, he already desires you and is more focused on enjoying than criticizing.

The man who loves women is more like the impressionist painter — appreciating a pleasing picture and fuzzy on details. They are turned on by shape and hate it if you start pointing out your perceived body faults because it mars his vision of you

The one person that needs convincing that your body is lovable is you.

Loving yourself necessarily includes a positive body image. Perfect or not, it needs your support, acceptance, and loving care in order to truly feel good about yourself.

So, here are 5 ways to love your body — even when life is on pause.

1. Be good to your body.

Stand naked in front of your mirror and find one lovely feature — hair, eyes, lips, it doesn’t matter.

When you look into any mirror, don’t leave until you can find a positive picture.

It is your perception of reality that may be damaging your confidence level. Your view is not necessarily reality. Learning to love yourself is the best beauty tip of all.

You have no legitimate excuse for not dressing in a flattering style, practicing self-maintenance daily, and packaging your true self in an attractive exterior.

Unfortunately, many women take care of their homes, pets, and everyone around them at the expense of caring for their own bodies and health.

2. Posture helps.

Virtually everyone has a roll around the middle if they're slouching. Yes, our model ideal is tall and thin. Just as important to her look, she stands tall, which helps the skeletal structure as well as body presentation.

The way you look and carry yourself can affect your attitude. It also sends a message to dates and potential mates about your interest level.

And you look more alluring and confident with shoulders above your hips than rounded over, which can be taken for hiding from those around you.

3. Work out.

Exercise is a health essential with proven capacity to improve your immune system and prevent disease.

Working out also releases endorphins, the feel-good brain chemicals. It not only helps make your body look great but the mental, emotional, and social benefits should also be enough to get you up and out of the house or in front of a yoga or aerobics DVD.

RELATED: 15 Things You Can Do To Improve Your Self-Esteem (That Can Be Done *Anywhere*)

4. Make sure you have proper nutrition

Whether or not you are what you eat, you will look like it. So, eat mostly fresh, healthy foods that satisfy you. Eat only when you are hungry.

What you do and don’t put into your body every day can have a huge impact on your mood.

While foods like chocolate and pasta can give you immediate and short-lived feelings of satisfaction, too much of anything can make you feel groggy and grumpy in the long run.

Eating more protein, fruits, and vegetables and fewer simple carbohydrates will give you more energy. And if you don’t already, take a multivitamin that’s appropriate for your age and medical conditions

5. Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative.

Catch those unruly negative thoughts and flip them to positive thoughts. It's an art. Just try it.

When you make the conscious decision to be a more positive person, you’ll be amazed at how many more people you’ll attract. A quick return to positivity may be your most important asset.

No matter how physically attractive and charming or intelligent you are, if you see someone who’s "undesirable" or "not lovable" when you look in the mirror, other people will see you that way, too.

Self-care helps create better health and more optimism and it also increases your attractiveness. It’s instinctual to notice a woman making an effort to attract

Most animals preen and clean to make sure their fur is sleek and un-matted. Among animals, looking unkempt and with patchy fur is a sign the animal is diseased or dying, and others shun her.

It's not so different for humans.

Unclean hair and frumpy clothing are unlikely to communicate a dire disease, but it certainly doesn’t draw anyone to you either.

You want potential dates, mates, employers, associates, and friends to see you as full of life and ready to date.

Loving treatment of your body will up your chances of attracting dates love but even more importantly you will feel better about yourself.

Are wedding bells giving you a headache? Your big day is one day. It’s not forever.

Can we agree that marriage is more important than the wedding? Then now would be a fantastic time to keep a firm hold on perspective. Reaching agreement about your “big day” and the decisions surrounding it helps guarantee memories that will warm both of your hearts.

LESSON TO LEARN BY: Cindy and Mario

Cindy and Mario, are clients of mine who are naturals together - a beautifully suited pair. Their similarities and common interests out weigh their differences. They are loving, sexually compatible, share the same values, and have fun. They had been friends and colleagues for eight years before their romance began. A year later, deciding to marry seemed an obvious and happy conclusion.

It was then that they bumped into each other’s dark sides for the first time and it was over wedding details, outsider opinions, and minutiae. You might say their arguments were symptomatic of deeper problems. Well, sometimes they are and sometimes it is only symptomatic of how indulgently self-righteous we are all capable of being over the staging of our holidays and ceremonies particularly on this “day of days”.

The good news was Cindy and Mario enjoyed pleasing each other. The bad news was they tried to please everyone else as well and were headed for pleasing everyone but them selves. Cindy’s friends had strong opinions about what she should have and that she as the bride should have it her way. Mario’s family demanded that every ritual that had ever occurred in his family history be repeated and that ever relative with even a drop in the blood line be invited. As a couple they were becoming emissaries for their competing camps and fighting over opinions that weren’t theirs. Ultimately, bride and groom decided to no longer be good children. They anointed them selves as the sole determiners of what was right for them both at their wedding and in their marriage in the future and kindly, considerately, and firmly announced their plans.

Whether it’s guest list with a personality disorder or two (narcissists can be counted on to try to eclipse attention), budget, location, or celebrant, only the two of you need agree, or agree to disagree. And remember: you are not clones. Celebrating your differences and allowing each other to show their uniqueness can be as close a connection as being on the same page.

Whatever the detail/problem is, try this simple 5 step dispute breaker:

  1. Each of you writes down on a scale of 1-10 how much each decision/choice matters to you.

  2. Deal first with the ones you can dispense with almost immediately. (If one of you cares at a 3 and the other an 8, I suggest #3 surrenders graciously.)

  3. Put all other issues aside for a day or two or a quiet weekend to have time to think them through again keeping the wishes of your beloved as well as yours in mind. Tip: it’s more contributive to be happy than to be right.

  4. Both offer a solution to resolve remaining decisions with no judgment or criticism just ideas and humor encouraged.

  5. Move ahead with what you agree on. Then deal out the leftover choices so that each has roughly the same amount of decisions to make on their own. Discussion is over, acceptance reins, and joy ebbs once again.

This is your practice venture into marriage of win win. Friends, family, or staff can help realize your wishes and offer sage advice but a committee of two should make all executive decisions.

Some choices such as personal vows should be just that - personal. It’s usual that one person is more verbal than the other or more comfortable expressing feelings publicly than the other. You both don’t have to make the same choice. If either of you wishes to create personal vows, here’s how:

  1. Start with your words only and write from your heart. Don’t go to the internet until you do. The object is expressing your love not an oratorical masterpiece. Cut and paste from the Internet if you wish. It’s okay to borrow but know that if you see it there, everyone else may have heard it in another ceremony.

  2. Write without editing, Articulate your feelings about marriage, your love for your partner and the ways in which she or he enhances and inspires you. Grammar, literacy, and coherence are secondary and an easy clean up.

  3. Ask your partner for his or her favorite things you’ve said or written and include them. Be light if you wish but you must know what your spouse-to-be finds amusing (and if you don’t, consider postponing the wedding). Remember: Even the slightest dig can be uncomfortable and reflects questionable sensitivity level on your part. It’s a vow not a roast.

  4. Keep it relativity brief (200 word maximum). Brevity is a boon to poignancy.

  5. Make a copy of vows and write on note cards. You do not want to worry about losing them and if memory fails or emotion overcomes, you can read.

  6. If you memorize, don’t practice to perfection. You aren’t running for office or competing with your mate. Sincerity captures the beauty of the moment.

The ultimate aim of a wedding is a heartfelt ceremony based on genuine feelings of love and commitment. The only “should” is how to create indelible and positive mutual memories of how you worked together to plan your day your way.

True compatibility is the feeling that you have a helpmate – someone who wants to help you reach your goals and develop as a person. And you must respect and be willing to support your mate’s development and goals as well. With such a strong base, staying together becomes relatively easy.

I’m going to let you in on a secret: people without any dreams or aspirations usually aren’t as interesting as those with a sense of purpose. If you’ve ever met someone who has given up wanting anything for his or her future, you know they tend to lack enthusiasm and are not much fun to be around. They lower the energy level in the room and are likely to be relationship challenged as well.

Once in a committed relationship, you often have to juggle time and energy for jobs, children, family members and friends. Something that is important to your partner can and should change how you plan your time – together and apart. Compromises must be made, but the big picture of a couple’s life together can often be lost before it’s even imagined.

Numerous studies have shown that people who write things down are more likely to get things done. Make a list of the things that are important to you as an individual and as a couple. Writing it down is important even if you never look at it again. Only share your list when you feel ready. And your partner’s list may surprise you!

Now it’s time to create your Mutual Goal List:

  1. Goals, Dreams & Wishes: Write down all of your goals, dreams, and wishes, even those you (or others) believe might be unattainable.

  2. Long-Term Goals & Needs: In all of the craziness of daily life, it’s easy to lose sight of things that really matter. Keeping a list of what’s most important to you individually, and as a couple, can help make those important things your priority.

  3. Places You’d Like to Visit: List the places you’d like to visit together, and below each destination, what it would take to get you there—money, learning a language (doing this together would be a great way to bond), or scheduling a babysitter, etc.

  4. Each Other’s Goals: Share your ideas for yourself and for each other. For example, she might see herself as a not-so-great cook, and he might see her passion and talent without the self-critical goggles women tend to wear. He might suggest a dinner party for twelve using recipes she had been squirreling away. Or she might have creative ideas about how he could increase revenue in his business and suggest he check back in with her when he has put the ideas into play to see if they succeeded. She might realize by the notes and emails he writes that he’s an excellent writer, and encourage him to get a story published, or he might help her realize how valuable she is at work and urge her to negotiate for something she wants.

  5. Financial Goals: Write about what you want out of life over the next five, ten, and twenty year periods, then describe how you plan to get there. What do you want retirement to look like? How much is it going to cost to make your goals happen? Eventually you will need a financial advisor or accountant, but for now just make a basic list and take the first steps.

Setting and reaching even small goals will make you feel better and get you further than you ever imagined. So when all else fails put this on your calendar: get up, get out, and do something – anything that will get you moving towards your goals.

If you’re dating “a keeper,” they will likely have compatible life goals. However, at least you’ve got the perfect exit line if he or she isn’t a keeper: “I believe we have different goals.”

Remember it is easier to reach the stars when you have a partner who is willing to hold the ladder!

Dr. Janet Page is a psychotherapist working with individuals, couples, and groups in New York City and Atlanta and is available for appointments, consultation, or speaking engagements via phone, Skype, or in person. To contact Janet, click here.

When conditions force you into more alone time, see it as an opportunity.

As important as communication is, without connection — touching, sensing, and giving what you've learned your partner needs — a relationship is less likely to be sustainable.

Connection is an all-important key component to a happy love life and a hot relationship.

Here are 7 ways to keep that connection alive and learn how to have a hot relationship.

1. Keep your mate’s most loving messages and texts on your phone and reread them.

If ever you're feeling less than fully satisfied with your relationship or whenever you want to smile, leaving these messages as reminders can help give you that loving boost you need.

For example, Jesse was a guy who knew how to keep a lady happy. He had three rules: 1. What the lady wants, the lady gets 2. Spoil her, spoil her, spoil her 3. When in doubt, refer to the first two rules.

One of this clever man’s ideas was to make every day Valentine’s Day with a card, email, or Post-It note at least daily. His mate, Jenny, knew she’d find something somewhere, but never knew in what form or where she would find them.

 

Jesse’s notes could be written on a mirror, hidden in the pocket of her coat, or emailed at a precise time so it would be the first thing she saw when she sat down at her desk at work.

His notes included statements like:

  • “You're the center of my life.”
  • “My challenge is to keep you in love with me for a lifetime.”
  • “Sex based on love is two melting into one and waking up in heaven.”
  • “You are hot. You are beautiful. You have class. You've entranced me.”

Men have a lot to do with the success of a relationship, and Jesse is an example of a man who decides to be responsible for the romance level in his marriage and wins.

 

2. Make time to make love.

Unfortunately, over time, most couples stop making love with the frequency they did in the beginning and call it normal.

The longer you are together, the more obligation you have to keep that sparks flying. That usually means spending quality time alone together.

Take every opportunity you can to make love by word, deed, and physical touch — even if it doesn’t end in intercourse.

If one or both of you is too tired for sex by the time you go to bed, go to bed earlier. And you don’t need to be in your bed to make love. Have sex on the weekends, during the day on the living room floor, on a pool table, or in a guest room.

 

If you’re with lots of people, make love with your eyes. Steal glances across the room, or touch each other under the table.

You don’t need to be ostentatious about your public displays of affection — grossing out the kids or dinner guests is not the goal. In fact, it’s more fun when no one knows you’re doing it.

If you need to communicate to your partner that you desire more sex, try to do it in a nonverbal way first. You should know by now what it takes to get your partner interested, so just do it.

And if you can focus on being a better and more generous lover, they're probably going to want lovemaking more often, too. If they're pressuring you for more than you want, express how attractive they are to you.

 

Explain that them backing off a bit gives you room to build desire. Then keep that promise.

3. Kick the kids out of your bed.

The family bed concept is terrible for your sex life and can get a bit weird as your children grow. It might bring a sense of connection to the family, but it tends to lessen the connection between parents.

Also, take things a step further and put a lock on your bedroom door. Without one, having a comfortable, relaxing sex life is hard. You'll always be nervous about your kids walking in, and you really don’t want to risk traumatizing them or yourself.

After all, what’s sexy about an image of the kids walking in and screaming every time you and your mate start to undress?

 

You don’t have to keep kids out of your room at all times, but make sure it’s on your terms when your bedroom door is unlocked.

RELATED: 6 Ways To Inject Some Passion Into Your Marriage

4. Keep your pets out, too.

Bonding over a pet you both love is great. But if one of you is bonding more with the pet than with you, you have a problem.

If it’s the latter, it doesn’t mean the pet has to go — but reconsider its role in your life.

Pets can come between couples literally and physically. Someone who's lavishing excessive attention on the pet may be avoiding intimacy in the relationship.

In addition, some pets like to sleep right between their two owners, making it impossible for you and your partner to touch each other. And touching, sexual or not, is good for a marriage and good for your health.

 

5. Do things together.

Doing things together is a great way to be mutual. But make sure you’re taking time to do things together just for the sake of doing them, and not because they have to be done.

Quality leisure time is good foreplay. Carve out some time to spend exclusively with your partner. Take a class together, exercise, nap, go out to eat, or read the same book.

Share a sense of adventure by traveling together. Train for a race together.

There’s a special bonding and turn-on that comes along with working out together, because your endorphins kick in and you and your partner will share a natural high. You can get similar highs from sharing good food, laughter, socializing, learning, and volunteering.

 

It really doesn’t matter what you do; the point is to do it together.

6. Share a calendar.

This is of utmost importance. So many fights start just because someone didn’t have the right information.

He: "I didn’t know about your great-aunt’s birthday lunch."
She: "Well, I told you."
He: "Well, I must not have heard you."
She: "You must not have been listening."

This is precisely what a shared calendar can help prevent.

Sharing a calendar, either online or on paper, eliminates some squabbles. And irritation is definitely not foreplay.

He can’t be mad because he cooked a big dinner without looking at the calendar to know that you would be at spin class instead of the dinner table.

 

And you can’t be mad that he can’t come to your last-minute work cocktail party because you already know he has a long-standing weekly softball game and the team counts on him. Fair is fair.

7. Enjoy every minute.

If you're at a point where you're able to openly and honestly connect with your partner, you’ve also reached a point where you’re open and honest with yourself about who you are and what you need from life.

Enjoy and appreciate every minute, even the less-perfect ones. It's easier to get through difficult times with consideration and respect, plus the cushion of a whole lot of loving.

Yes, a fight can actually bring you together.

In a perfect world, couples would never fight. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and people in relationships often feel misunderstood, neglected, insecure, and any number of other emotions that can lead to fights and disagreements.

That doesn’t mean your relationship is headed for doom and gloom, and it doesn’t necessarily mean you're any 'less connected' as a couple.

Fighting, or arguing, can even be healthy for a relationship IF it’s done respectfully and you both come out of it with a better understanding of the other person when the conflict is resolved.

Putting some thought into what you want to say (and how you'll say it) BEFORE you engage in a disagreement with your partner is wise. Here are some of the basics to keep in mind:

Be very specific when you introduce your complaint.
State what change would satisfy your complaints. 
Bring up only one issue at a time: get one issue fully resolved before moving on to another. 
Be prepared to compromise — win/win is the ultimate goal. 
Never assume: ask your partner what they're thinking or feeling.
Now, all of that said, once you step into the arena of an argument, it's easy for things to go awry quickly.

So, here are six rules to help you "fight nice" the next time you and your partner squabble: 

  1. Agree on a code of behavior

In most relationships there’s one person who’s more verbal. If this is you, you might feel you have a partner who shuts down when arguments arise. People need to be allowed to quit on the discussion temporarily and return to the discussion at a mutually agreed upon moment. This allows the less verbal to have some control over timing (spontaneity is not usually their friend). But there are people who will always quit on a discussion and will never re-approach or resolve the problem. If this sounds like your partner, go back and review the fight rules together, strike what you can’t agree on, and write more rules of your own that apply specifically to your relationship. If you can agree on a code of behavior, it levels the playing field for both the verbal and less verbal players, and will make resolving a disagreement a bit easier.

  1. Set a time limit

Someone who avoids confrontation is often someone with limited focus, and a time limit helps maintaining focus on the topic at hand. A time limit also helps the more verbal person to work on being succinct and get to the bottom line more quickly.

Don’t explain why you want what you want, when you first wanted it, and so on, in great detail. Your listener could be worn out before you’ve gotten around to saying what you want. Try saying what you want, quickly, with no explanation of why you need it or why you should be getting what you are asking for. Then get the feedback. Maybe there’s nothing more to say.

  1. Don’t dredge up the past

Yes, fights are often rooted in the past, but you can’t fix the past, only the present. The worst thing you can do in a fight — other than physically or verbally attacking — is drag the past into it, and blame someone today for something he or she did a week, a year, or a month ago. Save talks about the past for times when you’re not fighting.

  1. Listen, listen, listen

When you’re working out a disagreement with your partner, be sure to give your undivided attention, make eye contact, and stay rooted to the spot. Taking a phone call or texting isn’t only ineffective listening, it can be hurtful. If you look like you’re listening, you are communicating that you truly care and care about what is being discussed. Even if agreement isn’t reached, your partner will at least walk away feeling heard.

  1. Don't interrupt your partner.

Be especially mindful not to finish sentences or try to “help” your partner communicate in a fight. Don’t help. You can and should restate what you believe he or she is trying to communicate to you, but a fight is really not the time to put words into his mouth, finish his sentences, or tell her how she feels.

  1. Don’t be afraid to go to bed mad.

Contrary to popular belief, going to bed angry is not the worst thing in the world. Couples’ fights often happen at night. Why? Sometimes it’s because people are tired, which makes everything seem more dramatic.

If you can go to sleep with a truce, or a pause, whatever it was you were fighting over may not seem so bad and sometimes not even memorable after you’ve slept on it and in the light of day.

Some couples argue more often and find its part of their sense of passion.

They might just be more emotional, and that works for them. No matter who you are, fighting stops working or being constructive when you break the rules. If one or both of you begin making cruel remarks, then you’re just creating garbage. You can be colorful, but never be cruel. If you’ve said something so terrible about your partner that it is unforgettable, you’ve damaged your love and trust. It’s important to keep a sufficiently cool head when fighting to remember that your objective is an even stronger, loving bond when the fight is over.

Dr. Janet Page is a psychotherapist working with individuals, couples, and groups in New York City and Atlanta and is available for appointments, consultation, or speaking engagements via phone, Skype, or in person. To contact Janet, click here.