Tanya Younce, M.Ed., LPCC

513.795.2562

Life as a Social Chameleon

dreamstime_s_100780031Social chameleons are people who know how to quickly blend in to any other person or group by picking up on and then embodying their way of acting, speaking, and various other ways of, well…BEING. Like a beige-toned color, they can go with just about anything, unlike someone with a distinct color that can only be complemented by certain hues. This ability is actually be a pretty cool super power. Imagine being able to go to any country and knowing how to conform to its culture and speak their language without even thinking about it!

But as adaptable as it is, this super power keeps someone from knowing who they truly are. In another country, we could say we’re American, we speak English, and have these idiosyncratic behaviors, beliefs, and lifestyles. But for a social chameleon (aka Sochams), it’s not that easy to describe themselves as an individual.

I guess it’s important to know HOW one develops this unique coping skill. Usually it’s due to one or more of the following ways they were raised:

  • They weren’t allowed or encouraged to have their own opinions, styles, voice, or decisions.
  • They feared any kind of clash or confrontation.
  • They got their needs met for approval, love, attention and connection by people-pleasing and making others comfortable in their presence.
  • They modeled similar behavior from a parent or other caregiver.

Because they don’t feel safe discovering their own uniqueness (or know how) , Sochams just borrow other people’s identities and often convince themselves that that’s who they really are. That can go on for a while, until a different person or crowd comes along. Then their color may change again.

“Oh no, that wasn’t me…actually I’m more like THIS!”

This causes especially significant problems when they become adults and get involved in close relationships.

At first, they likely present themselves to their partners in a way they know will blend well with them. It could even go as far as moving forward with marriage plans, buying a house, and/or having children (or not). It’s just too easy for Sochams to get sucked into the current of the energy surrounding them.

But then imagine this relationship several years down the road. Sochams don’t know this, but they all have a hidden storage box of tiny little resentments that add up over time. Anger and irritability will seep out from that storage box now and then, because their true spirit is fully aware that they have not been in touch with nor expressed themselves in authentic ways.

Instead, they are square pegs trying to fit into round holes. And over time, it gets awfully uncomfortable.

The time when Sochams finally “burst” is either around their 40’s, or after their children have been raised and are semi-independent. They just have a vague “knowing” that something is amiss. They start to question everything.

“What do I really want?”  “Do I truly like this?”  “Are these my honest beliefs and feelings?”  “Why have I been doing THIS all my life?”  “Why am I unhappy?”

Many people might call this a “midlife crisis,”  but it’s no joke. Sochams finally come out from behind everyone else’s wants, needs, and choices and start looking for their true Selves in the mirror. It’s a clouded mirror, so it won’t show who they are very clearly at first. But with some focused attention and work, they can clean this mirror and eventually have it reveal their true nature.

What do I mean by “attention and work”?

Sochams will first need to decide that they are worthy of spending time, energy, and perhaps even some money on discovering their own uniqueness. It sounds like a simple act, but this decision alone, especially if it’s not well supported by their loved ones, will be their first test of strength.

If they can get past this initial step, they’ll then need to spend time tuning in and learning to listen for their Inner Voice. For Sochams, the voice will be very quiet and timid in the beginning, because it’s been locked in a closet and abandoned for a long time. But the more attention it’s given, the louder and more confident it will get.

If you think you’re a Socham and feel stuck, here’s a good exercise: Go around your home, room by room, and pick out your most favorite things — a picture or painting, certain books, a coffee mug, a jar of peanut butter, a sweater, a pair of shoes, or a bottle of shampoo — anything you LOVE! Now bring them all together onto your dining room table. See if you can see a pattern in these items. Are you drawn to cool or warmer colors? Do you like certain styles or themes? What textures feel best? Write about why you love each of these things and see if they have any qualities in common.

The point is to get your brain programmed to pay more attention to things that look, feel, sound, smell, and taste GOOD to you. Practice being SURE about your preferences without anyone else’s input. Bringing more of those things into your life will strengthen that Inner Voice and coax her out of hiding.

At first, the people Sochams are connected to will be confused or even angered at their changes. But this is human nature. Whenever you radically change something about yourself, your family and friends will want to push back. They’ve known you as one way for many years, and now you’re becoming a different person. That feels threatening to them and to your relationship.

But the Social Chameleon will need to hold on to his or her real shape and color, and try to avoid slipping back into people-pleasing behavior. If they truly want to embrace more of their authenticity, there may unfortunately be some casualties in the process. Certain relationships may need to end. Others may need more distance, time or boundaries.

But know this.

The relationships that do survive, and the new ones that will develop, will be the ones Sochams can be sure will love them for who they really are.

It is an Almighty Aha moment when a Socham realizes that finding their OWN identity outweighs the costs of shedding their beige color and sycophant capabilities. It’s scary and it’s not easy, but going from a Socham to being able to say “I am” is the most profound and liberating super power they will ever possess.

Rediscovering Your Dreams – Part III

Loving Sid Vicious

I know.

I left you waiting for the last part of the Rediscovering Your Dreams trilogy. It’s been months since I published the second part, and I could give you a lot of excuses for why this is late, but what happened was this. After figuring out my dreams and organizing all my ideas, I ran into the very same roadblock that almost everyone faces when it comes to taking ACTION on them.

Self-doubt.

sid2.jpgYeah, that sneaky bastard moved into my head and convinced me that my ideas were just bullshit, and that I didn’t really know how to teach people how to build dreams when I couldn’t even do it myself! It suckered me into believing that I was a fraud and that my voice wasn’t as important as other, more deserving therapists and coaches.

Now I know I mentioned Obstacles that might come up, in my last post, between where you are now and where you want to be, but I think this stage of dream building bears a blog post in and of itself. It’s what I’m going to write about because this very stage is what keeps ALL of us from launching forward with what we truly want, right?

I was about middle-school age when I started hearing that Bastard Voice of self-doubt. Actually, an old friend of mine posted this picture of me on Facebook, not too long ago. I was at her birthday party, back in the 70’s. Seeing this picture, I couldn’t help but remember the shame of how plain, boyish, and uncomfortable I looked. But it was an accurate depiction of how I felt inside — awkward, emotionally fragile, and terribly insecure in the midst of authority figures, social activities like these, and my own voice or opinion about anything.

Fortunately, there were two adults of whom I wasn’t afraid — Brother John and Brother Michael. They were the youth group leaders for our church, at the time, and I thought they were cool as hell. They were all about having fun, being inclusive of everyone, and teaching and modeling how to be decent and confident kids. They loved and accepted ME — not the pianist or the good student — but just me. And they gave me a nickname — Sid. I later learned it was because my choppy, red haircut reminded them of Sid Vicious, the bassist for the Sex Pistols. It seems hilarious to be now (I mean, what Franciscan monks would listen to the Sex Pistols??), but I knew they’d given it to me endearingly. “Hey, it’s Sid!” they’d say with big smiles, when I’d come into the Teen Lounge. They’d each give me a warm hug and I’d settle into the safe place they kept open for me at all times.

What I mean to say here is this. Every child needs a grownup that just loves and accepts the gawky and self-conscious person who is in the process of becoming. It’s the inner voice that doesn’t hold judgment for whether they become something exceptional, beautiful, or even successful. Similarly, working on a dream is a process of developing. You show up and do the best you can, despite the agonizingly self-conscious, pre-teen feelings you have. But here’s the thing — we also have to be the grownup that sits quietly nearby, totally accepting and being compassionate about the blunders and fears that come up during its evolution.

So love and create a safe place for your Sid Viciousness. Take it by the hand and step into the gawky Unknown of your creative dream building.

The creative process (i.e. dream building) is therapeutic in many ways, but the biggest way is in learning to love and accept yourself, even if what you end up with is a bit clumsy, wonky and imperfect. I know it sounds cliche, but this is fucking HUGE. That Bastard Voice comes from well-meaning parents who probably put high expectations on you during your childhood. But the adult version of you can record over that voice and instead give way to encouraging and warmhearted words like “Yeah, you can DO it!”  “This is beautiful! Keep going!” and “It’s okay…it’s all part of the process.”

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Taking ACTION on things that feel in alignment with your soul is what I know to be the real catalyst for positive growth in anyone’s life. Yes, it can be horrifying. And no — you won’t know all the answers or have clear direction sometimes. But, like GPS systems, you’re not going to be given the entire journey at the beginning. You start with “Turn left.” And you need to allow room for happenstance. Don’t be the grownup that already has a hard-wired vision for what your work should look like. If everything is predestined, then you not only feel judged all the time, but you limit yourself to only the outcomes YOU can imagine. Leave space for ideas and results that might go way beyond that!

So love and create a safe place for your Sid Viciousness. Take it by the hand and step into the gawky Unknown of your creative dream building — whatever it might be. Again, show up, do some work, don’t judge, then come back and do some more the next day. Trust that allowing your voice to be heard and your gifts to be shared — while totally accepting everything that comes up — will serve you much better than listening to that paralyzing Bastard Voice of self-doubt.

Rediscovering Your Dreams – Part II

In the first part of this “Dream Trilogy,” I talked about how, as children, we allowed ourselves the freedom to openly use our imagination and create all kinds of worlds in which our minds and bodies were able to play. But somewhere in our development, the wide open space we had became more limited. As adults, we put up fences and walls that blocked out what we came to regard as silliness and naiveté.

But I encouraged you to peek over those walls and set your judgment aside for a moment, in order to remember and write down some dreams you might have entertained back then. I wrote how it’s actually NOT silly, but in fact a SERIOUS need to pay attention to and evaluate ideas and dreams that still linger in the crawl spaces of your psyche. Hopefully you were able to come up with at least a couple of them, or generate some new ones, so that you have something now to design and develop.

Part II of this process is providing your dreams and ideas with a new and welcoming space in which they can live and grow. This GE commercial is a wonderful illustration of how you should open your doors to nurture such new, scary, and messy ideas. Watch this real quick, before you keep reading: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sfmQvc6tB1o

dreamstime_l_12584250-jpgPractically speaking, this space that you’re going to create for your dreams and ideas can be a notebook, binder, file box, poster board, or project folder on your computer. Create a landing strip for all of your thoughts that surround this idea or dream. An example might be that you have a dream to build and live in a log cabin somewhere in South Carolina. Your binder could have one tab for pictures of log cabin designs that you love. Another tab could be a list of companies that make log cabins and their contact numbers. Still other tabs could be for interior decorating ideas, information on select cities in South Carolina, job opportunities out there, etc.

Wedding planners use this method, by the way. A bride will have a “dream wedding” in her mind, and the planner will set up a binder with tabs (physically or electronically) for everything from the registry to the invitations to the flowers — in order to attend to every aspect that will need to come together to create the perfect event.

It’s basically project management.

So that’s the physical place for your dream(s) to exist and grow. Now consider whether you are able to provide a safe mental place for it/them to be.

It’s very easy to think of all the obstacles that stand in the way of your dream — like the funding for it, for example. Or having the time to work on it, or the ripple effects it might have on your family, or the education you would need, etc. I’d encourage you to write down every obstacle that you can think of on separate sheets of paper — and don’t forget to include the beliefs that are also standing in your way.

Not really believing you could do this, is a big one.
But so is “what if I actually could?!”

Marianne Williamson wrote, in her book A Return to Love, Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

Your negative beliefs are like the fences and walls that kept you away from your dream in the first place. Despite feeling unsure, scared and doubtful, you will need to choose to believe: “I can do this” “This is going to work” and “Change will be okay.” Positive affirmations like this will be game changers because they will re-wire your brain to start accepting and using your powerful abilities. They will give your dream a safe mental atmosphere in which to exist.

So keep all your doubts and barriers under a tab labeled ‘Obstacles,’ where you can flush out what stands in the way between where you are and where you want to be. Don’t do anything with them just yet — just identify them. We’ll work on breaking them down in Part III. For now, it’s a big step to just open your doors and give your ideas and dreams a home where they have a much better chance of surviving and growing into their full potential!

Rediscovering Your Dreams – Part I

dreamstime_m_11951874-jpgWhat did you play when you were a kid? What did you wish for, dream about, or see yourself having? As children, we have the innocence and lack of self consciousness to put no limit to our pretend lives. We might have put on various costumes to be superheroes, built entire neighborhoods with Legos, used Barbies to play out our fantasies, or used the outdoors to find new adventures. We could look at the clouds or a painting and see a hundred different things in them! Our imaginations were in technicolor — and we lived our lives wide open!

But as we got older, the cruel faces of self-consciousness, doubt, fear, worry, and criticism appeared on our mind’s screen. They made our lives feel more reserved and confined. They worked like erasers, slowly but methodically rubbing away the pictures of our imagined futures — the futures that would otherwise have made us feel powerful, have more fun, and awaken countless new capabilities.

What a tragedy.

I’m not saying this happened to everyone. Nor can I claim that ALL our dreams were squashed as we got older. But I do know that if we didn’t have loving guides who helped us preserve our innocence, foster our imagination, or bolster the optimistic views of our futures, then they sure were at high risk of dying.

So then…how do we learn how to dream again, as adults?

You may ask “Why would we need to do that? Isn’t that kid stuff? Isn’t that silly?” No. Actually it’s not silly at all. In fact, it’s very serious stuff. If we don’t have dreams, imagining ourselves having or doing the things we love, or if we simply settle for whatever our limited lives have become, then we are not really doing our job in this lifetime. 

More people need to understand that!

We live our lives either by design or default. We can play our hand or we can fold. Prince Ea’s video “Everybody Dies, But Not Everybody Lives” is a clear message to us that, as grown ups, we have a responsibility to discover what it is that lights us up and plays out the purpose with which we were born.

Yes. We were all born to live out a dream with some kind of purpose. But not everyone knows this. So if you were allowed to go back in time and get your old dreams back, or were given full permission and opportunity to develop new ones — what would they look, feel, smell, taste, and sound like?

Would you write a book and become a famous author?
Would you become a pilot and fly all over the world?
Would you be up on a stage dancing or singing your heart out?
Would you be helping save lives in a hospital or third world country?
Would you grow award-winning chrysanthemums in a greenhouse?
Would you own an oceanfront beach house where your whole family could gather?

These are the kinds of dreams that we’ve forgotten how to not only HAVE, but to BELIEVE in. I’ve written before about achieving great things with hard work, but this has to do with the initial claiming and nurturing of the fantasies we would love to have come to fruition.

Take a moment and think about a list of the dreams you would reclaim or create. This might take a while, but it’s worth the time and effort. Save them in a journal or write them on pieces of paper to place inside a box. I don’t care how you store them, but treat them as you would any brilliant idea — with excitement, curiosity, and reverence.

I’ll share how to start making them come true in Part II, so stay tuned!

The 4 Key Components That Keep You REAL!

“To be nobody but
yourself in a world
which is doing its best day and night to make you like
everybody else means to fight the hardest battle
which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.”
I’m not exactly sure what year e.e. Cummings wrote this quote, but I do know that he died in 1962, so it was some years before then.  And back then, they didn’t have nearly the amount of media, advertising and social barrage that we experience today, pressuring us to be somebody else. Today, it’s become even more important to hang onto that which grounds us and reminds us that we are okay just the way we were designed.  Do you remember back when you’d get so drunk in college that the room would spin when you tried to lie down? (yeah….you do.)  The trick was to keep one foot on the floor so it sent a message to your body that you weren’t really spinning.So what’s your “flooring,” in the midst of your spinning world?  I break it down into four key components:

  1. The people who keep us honest and true to ourselves.
  2. The places where we feel comfortable and emotionally safe.
  3. The things that remind us to hold steady and stay grounded.
  4. The actions or activities that bring forth our most authentic selves.

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When I was in college, I was in a very self-exploratory mode, and for some reason I thought it would be cool to change the spelling of my name from Tanya to Tania.  I was studying French at the time, so maybe I thought it looked more European.  At any rate, I’d written a letter to a friend from high school (yep, we still did that back then), using this new spelling, and he wrote back “What the hell is this T A N I A shit? Pretentious much?”  He totally, totally busted me!  LOL!  So he was a friend who kept me REAL.  He didn’t let me get away with being anything but myself, and that’s what I call a true friend.  So who in your life calls you out whenever you’re doing something stupid or against what they know you’re really all about?  Make a list of these people — past or present — and periodically ask yourself “What would ________ think of me doing this?”

Places
Does coming home to your parents’ house remind you of your roots and real self?  Does your best friend’s front porch allow you to be who you truly are?  What about a specific spot in a park or the woods?  Or a certain vacation spot?  One of my clients told me she created a little space in her walk-in closet where she goes to get grounded and feel safe.  It can be ANY space that has the ability to hold YOU and your real feelings, or brings forth the values you honor the most (even a church or maybe your yoga studio).  Write these places down as well — so that if you start feeling like you’re lost or losing some part of yourself, you have a place to go to get re-rooted.

Things
Do you know why tickle blankets are so important to children?  Because they’re the constant in a world that seems scary and ever-changing.  Over the years, our tickle blanket turns into other things, like a stone we found, old pictures, or a special bracelet or necklace given to us, a meaningful tattoo, certain comfort foods — even our morning cup of coffee can be what grounds us!  Whatever you have to hold onto or wrap yourself in, it should be the thing that reminds you not to veer into the bright lights and sell your soul to get other, more superficial, needs met.

Activities
When I was going through my divorce in 2008, I did yoga EVERY…SINGLE…DAY.  The ritual and flow of it kept me focused on what was true and where I had control. Yoga kept me calm, humble, and honest, because my body always showed me what it could and couldn’t do.  There was no faking anything there.  So think of activities that resonate with you, that remind you of where your physical power is and — maybe more importantly — where it is not. Activities that bring us peace or release, so we can let go of that which no longer fits for us.

Once you have these components identified, I’d suggest carrying them with you in the form of a list — either written on a small card you can put in your purse or wallet, or you can use your ‘Reminder’ app on your phone to keep track of them.  However you want to do it, the list serves as your “flooring” when your life starts spinning out of control.  If you weren’t able to come up with some of these components, then make it a point to create and cultivate them.  Recovering addicts go to meetings and have sponsors, religious people go to their place of worship or read their scripture, nature lovers get outside and commune with the living world.  You can find your people, places, things, and activities that bring you back to your Self virtually anywhere.

Just realize that, more than ever, we need our personal army and ammunition in place if we’re going to keep fighting what e.e. Cummings claims is the hardest battle which any human being can fight. And boyyyyy do we have a lot to protect ourselves from!

Be well!

How to Develop Your True Voice

Being a poor decision-maker or having difficulty being clear about your own needs, interests or goals usually comes from being raised without being allowed to speak what was on your mind or express yourself fully. Or, if you were allowed, it was somehow criticized, marginalized, or disregarded (“You don’t know what you’re talking about.”).

Been there. Done that.

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We were seen but not heard. If we disagreed with anything, we might have been railroaded anyway or even punished. It seemed as if adults just didn’t take us seriously. And so, we were left believing that our opinions, needs, interests, and emotions weren’t going to be valid until we were grown-ups.

When authority figures tell you what you like, how you really feel, and make all major decisions for you (without consulting you), how can you possibly learn how to do any of these things for yourself? Giving a child a voice, taking the time to fully understand what it is they’re feeling or thinking, and encouraging them to make their own decisions or have their own interpretations of things is one of the most empowering gifts you can provide as a parent, teacher, or other caregiver.

It not only gives them a sense of self-worth, but it develops a sense of competence and a clearer understanding of who they are and what they’re about. This helps with being a strong individual but, perhaps more importantly, it also helps them be in healthier relationships with others.

I have seen countless couples in marriage therapy where the communication breakdown has been, in large part, due to one or both of their inabilities to identify and adequately express their needs, thoughts, and feelings. They either err on the side of shutting down completely and developing strong resentment against the other, or they go to the opposite extreme of having complete and utter emotional meltdowns, rendering them ‘ridiculous’ and ‘irrational.’

What we need more than anything in relationships is to be heard, understood and respected. “Seek first to understand, then to be understood” is a motto that can heal a lot of wounds between people, groups (think current hate groups, racial divides, and political parties, etc.), and even countries.

The only way to heal from being denied any kind of platform, as a child and/or teenager, is to take every opportunity as an adult to learn how to tune into yourself and pay attention to what’s going on inside. Meditation is excellent for this. So is journaling and therapy. Understand yourself first, then seek to be understood. Your voice will become stronger as the margins around who you are, as a person, go from being blurry and vague to being more clearly defined and in focus.

Therapist In Mason Ohio

How Fish Sticks can Strengthen your Marriage

When I was a kid, my two brothers and little sister and I were often babysat by local teenagers while my parents went out for either dates, parties, or other fun get-togethers.  We all knew that if my mom was baking fish sticks or potpies and getting out the applesauce, it was a sure bet that either Mary Estelle Kennelly or Susan Langloh was going to be babysitting us that night.

We didn’t complain about it much.  It was actually normal (and even fun!) for us to have babysitters 2 to 3 times a month, because my siblings and I all had a visceral understanding that our parents were adults, who were married, and that their needs and plans were just as important as ours.

But these days, it seems like that kind of attitude is scorned. Putting the well-being of your marriage even on the same level as the well-being of your children, is considered unusual at best, and selfish at worst.

And despite the articles and research that have been written, proving that putting your marriage’s needs above those of your children is the most beneficial way to manage your family’s needs, couples still insist on making excuses for why they don’t have the time, energy, or money to maintain the connection that they so lovingly created in the first place.

It makes me wonder — given the “permission” to swap priorities, would couples actually do it?

marriedI’ve worked with many married couples who have become incredibly disconnected due to putting their children’s needs first.  It’s called a child-centered marriage.  The kids become the main “glue” that keep them together.  Healthy marriages need so much more than just their children to keep them connected!  How about other glue — like humor, common interests, a strong circle of friends, great sex, fun trips, meaningful conversations, and creating any other kind of sacred space that’s off limits to the kids?

Marriages are organic entities, which means they are always evolving, changing, morphing, and needing different things as time goes on.  It’s like software that keeps running and updating in the background of your busy daily lives.  If couples don’t pay attention to this entity, it will either crash or it’ll look so different by the time the children grow up that they’ll have no idea how to care for it.  Because they wanted to live up to the standard of being “good parents” who put their children first, couples have lost their ability to openly and comfortably talk about and care for their relationship.

If you do have children who are dominating your home life, I implore you to talk with your spouse about factoring in more time and energy for just the two of you.  After the kids go to bed, spend quality time together.  Give each other love and affection every single day.  And at least twice a month, find a babysitter or take them to grandma’s and go out!!  Don’t have relatives nearby?  Don’t know where or how to find a sitter?  Go to these sites, where you can find profiles, pictures and reviews of people who’d be more than happy to watch your little ones:

www.sittercity.com
www.care.com

In Northern KY and Mason, OH, they have a childcare drop-off business where professionals will watch your child/children day or night for an hourly fee: www.skidaddles.com

If these options are too pricey, consider forming a Babysitting Club with other parents in your area, through www.meetup.com or on Facebook.  Here’s an article with more details: http://www.wordconstructions.com.au/articles/family/bsitclubnew.html

Remember….your relationship existed before any children came along, and it will exist well after they have left home and started families of their own, if you’ve taken good care of it.  Don’t feel guilty! It’s much easier for children to learn to like having babysitters and fish sticks than it is to be raised by disconnected, unhappy parents.  So do this for them.  More importantly….do this for YOU!

It’s Not Your Fault

boyWhen we are children, we are very watchful.  We learn to think and behave in the ways that get our needs met.  Sometimes that means being seen and not heard, just to keep things calm in our family.  Other times it’s having to make a “scene” in order to get attention from anyone.  Or maybe a child learns to become a high achiever or perfectionist in order to get praise or love from others.

Whatever behaviors or thought patterns we develop, growing up, is what helps us survive.  They’ve worked for us enough times that they almost get stitched into our DNA.

Then we move into adult life.

When we leave home and venture into the academic or work world, with new people, in new environments, with new obstacles to overcome, what responses do you think we’ll use first?

We’ll use our previous patterns of thinking and behaving, because that’s the formula we know — and we know it very, very well.

Sometimes they’ll work beautifully.  If we’ve learned to be polite and respectful of authority, or if we’ve learned to hold our tongue to keep the peace — others will likely respond positively to that and we’ll be accepted.

But someday, in some different scenario, with different people, those beliefs and behaviors may not help us.  In fact, they might HURT us.

For example, if we’ve learned to act out and be loud and argumentative to get our way, that’s probably not going to bode well when we’ve found a boyfriend or girlfriend who just wants to talk or compromise on something.  If our belief about our self is that we aren’t worth much and that we need to just ‘fly under the radar,’ that can lead to never opening ourselves up to relationships, getting better jobs, or standing up for ourselves when we’ve been treated unfairly.

What I’m saying is, the schemas we learned growing up were learned for good reasons and they worked for us back then.  So we weren’t wrong in developing them.  A lot of our perceptions and reactions were not our fault, but simply how we got through our childhood.

But when we become adults, it’s our responsibility to reevaluate them — no matter how ingrained they are. As an adult, we no longer have our parents to blame for acting the way we do, or our old environments to justify why we interpret things the way we do.

Considering our new surroundings, the people who are currently meaningful in our lives, and the different needs and expectations we face, we’ll have to decide which knee-jerk responses can be kept, which need to be changed, and which need to be buried.

Think of it like going through your current wardrobe.  Now and then, we need to see which clothes still fit, which ones are out of style, and which just need to be altered a bit.

After this reassessment is done, we leave room for new beliefs, responses, experiences, and even new types of relationships to come into our lives.  And we’ll need to do this throughout our lifetime to make sure we’re adapting appropriately to our environments.

Again, we weren’t wrong in subconsciously designing ourselves the way we did, when we were children — we had to make the best out of our little worlds!  But we would be wrong not to reassess and possibly redesign ourselves, in some ways, to live our best adult life.

5 Ways To Reconnect With Your Man This Month

So Valentine’s Day is upon us this month — a day when most people do the traditional dance of making dinner reservations at a nice restaurant, drinking some wine, having a fancy chocolate dessert, opening cards and gifts, then heading home to go to bed and make love.

But what if you’ve been feeling disconnected from your boyfriend or husband? Sadly, many women do.

Getting reconnected in your relationship means trying to tune into each others’ unmet needs, then find a meaningful way to actually fulfill those needs. If you can have a conversation with your boyfriend/husband ahead of time, then it will make things easier.  But women are pretty intuitive.  Most of them know the underlying desires that their men have — they just aren’t currently attending to them, for whatever reason.

But trust this — one of you has to be the first one to reach out with an effort.  If the effort lands correctly, you’ll see a boomerang effect.  It may not happen right away, but keep at it.  Here are some ideas to start implementing to show your man that you’re making an effort to be attentive to his core needs.

Respect

dreamstime_m_6265617This is a big one for men, and one way to show how much respect you have for him is to show up with coffee at his place of work, let him give you a tour, learn more about what he does each day, meet some of his colleagues, and either bring lunch or treat him to a nearby lunch spot to connect further.  Show how impressed you are with what he does.  Take interest and ask questions.  What he needs from you is for you to see him as important, smart, and capable.  Since caveman days, men have always valued being good providers for their families, so do what you can to augment the recognition of and appreciation for his hard work.

Confidence

Along with respect, men and women alike need boosts to their self-confidence.  There are many ways to help remind of how attractive, caring, courageous, accomplished, strong, funny, sexy, and how great of a father he is.  You can write affirmations like:2

“Your eyes (smile, broad shoulders, laugh, etc) make me melt”
“You did such a great job with fixing _________”
“I saw how enormous your heart is when I witnessed you _________”
“I can always rely on your strength to keep me safe”

Either put them on small pieces of paper and fill up a jar with them, or write each one on a page in a small, spiral-bound notebook that he can carry with him.

Physical Touch/Affection

dreamstime_m_29516705I know that women are much less likely to want to have sex with their guys when they don’t feel emotionally connected, but there are many other ways to touch and be affectionate, like offering your man a foot or shoulder massage with scented oil.  Or a place that really gets tense for men is his head — so running your fingers all over his head, as if you’re washing his hair, is a huge relaxation point.  Have him relax so that you do the work.  That way, YOU are in charge of where it starts and where it ends.  Remember, your goal here is to reconnect, so take a risk by giving him your sincere affection.

New Perspective

One great way for both of you to get a different perspective on your new relationship together is to rearrange and/or redecorate your bedroom.  4Collaborate on a new floor plan, your favorite colors, new artwork for the walls, area rugs, new bedding.  Putting your minds and muscles together, and investing in things that bring you pleasure can be the united effort you need to break some ice. Get rid of any office furniture, clutter, and things that no longer serve you.  Let this room be a symbol of a new and redesigned relationship that you’ve co-created.

Reassurance

5I saw this idea on Pinterest and thought it was a cool idea.  This involves writing a series of short letters with various themes, placed into envelopes and titled “Open When….”  Give your guy a stack of letters he can open when he needs things like:

* a boost in self-esteem
* hope/encouragement that things will get better
* reason why you married him
* a sense of belonging
* happy memories from the past
* a good laugh
* visions of your future life together
* reminders of the good things he’s done for you
* reminders of what’s going WELL in your relationship

Some of these may take the entire month to accomplish.  Some only a day or two.  But putting forth the effort to feed and nurture your husband and marriage is the best thing you can do to honor the true meaning of Valentine’s Day.  Practicing and sharpening your skills to tune into what’s needed to reconnect your broken marriage will serve you more than you think.  Put yourself out there and LOVE GENEROUSLY.

It certainly can’t hurt. 🙂 Happy Valentine’s Day!