Tagged: Psychology Today

How I Found Happiness and You Can Too

If you recall Einstein was responsible for the theory of relativity.  He said, “Time is relative.”   It also turns out that some other findings by Isaac Newton lead to that discovery.  Now, I know little about theses theories, little about astronomy, and much less about physics.  I do know one thing, however.  The more I searched for and longed for happiness myself, the more I learned about where to find it.  You see, happiness is also relative.  It is relative to the observer who is measuring it.  It is relative to what sort of ruler you are using to gauge where it is you want to go.

For me, the happiness ruler was finding an equilibrium.  It was finding a balance between work and play.  It was figuring out how to be content as a constant searcher.  It was learning how to know and trust myself, and make up my own definition for happy.


Now I recently, after ten years of searching, found a profession that I love and I am good at.  I am a Marriage and Family Therapist who still gets to incorporate an enjoyment for writing and research into the profession.  I continue to gain insight and education by some of the best in the field.  Once that part of the ruler was settled, much more seemed to be measurable.


What I’ve learned in the Search for Happiness:



1. Self- Help books or articles that proclaim to know “How to Find Happiness” are shining moments like the motivational video that I posted last night.  They give you a boost to start your engine.  Once the engine starts, it is up to you to find that path. No book, article, or moment can get you there.

2. Learning how to live in the now has increased my happiness significantly.  This is not because I am not a planner.  I plan.  In fact I have my planner scheduled out to May of 2014.  Learning how to live in the now required that I do one thing at a time.  If I am eating, I eat.  If I am writing, I write.  If I am watching a movie, I watch that movie.  I noticed that decreasing the busy-ness that I had created in my life, decreased anxiety and increased enjoying life’s moments.

3. Bad Habits replaced with good ones.  I was in my old hometown this October when a girlfriend of mine mentioned that she had stopped giving her kids milk because of all the hormones.  This got me thinking a lot.  Although it is difficult to ever be perfect, I made some very important changes in regards to eating more organic, taking more vitamins, and exercising.  Exercising releases dopamine and (at least for me) eating organic and getting the proper vitamins has helped significantly.

4. Taking up a hobby that resembles nothing close to work.  For me, I began DIY.  I had a passion for crafts and art growing up, so I wanted to bring that back into my adult life.  Now I enjoy my job and writing, but it was important for me to pick a hobby that allowed my mind to get as far away from thinking as possible.

5. I always used to say never instead of never saying always.  It has been important in my search for happiness to learn about balance in all areas.  I stopped (most of the time) using words that imply all or nothing such as never and always.  Sometimes I slip up and sometimes I don’t.  I allow myself grace to not eat organic sometimes or to miss days at the gym. Staying consistent leads to happiness more than extreme life changes of short duration. 

Finding happiness now is relative, because you will journey through figuring out how to be happy over and over again.  And now will be relative to where you are in your life and what you are doing.  Cheers to finding your happiness now and constantly enjoying the ride.


Intensity is Not Love

I was listening to Loveline with Dr. Drew the other night.  I overheard him say this to one of the callers, “Intensity is not love.”  I sat with that for a moment and began to unpack what it means to have intensity in a relationship.

Intensity is not what the majority of us know as “Butterflies;” that initial warm tingling feeling that we get when we see that person or when we think about them when they are away.  Intensity is much different.  Butterflies are driven by the same oxytocin hormone, but the intensity is like an addiction and can be driven by negative triggers in the oxytocin.  The intensity lies in large and fast amounts of this “love hormone” resulting later in opposite behaviors like jealousy and envy; although these emotions might not come through at the beginning of the intensity, these emotions  can take effect after the intensity is over or during its intensity.


Intensity is mostly felt by those  who experience relationships through insecure/anxious attachments or avoidant attachments.  Secure attachments are the healthy attachments that allow us to get the proper doses of oxytocin at the proper times and allow for quality trust and bond building.

When the brain and body illicit butterfly feelings, once those feelings go away our bodies do not crave or seek out those feelings.  We have landed in a comfortable place when we stop feeling those initial rushes of emotion; comfort and security override those feelings.  However when we feel intensity, it is never enough when it goes away; it is the chaos that we constantly feel or seek out in the unhealthy relationship.

When thinking about a specific someone who makes you have intense feelings, some of which can even create some anxiety, listen to your body more and take the time to acknowledge what the relationship or person is actually doing in your life.

You can also take this QUIZ to review your attachment style.  Ask yourself if intensity is something you crave.  Look into understanding your attachment style to make better and healthier connections with your partners in the future.


Maximize Your Happiness with Rituals in Your Relationship



With so much in our lives to keep us busy, it is difficult to get quality time to connect with your significant other.  Maybe you are constantly rushing out the door for work or school; you might be picking up the kids for a quick second only to get them dressed and right out the door again for soccer practice.  You might be in the middle of a big move or frustration may have kicked in about a big life change.  Whatever the situation, it is important that we continue to develop and sustain rituals in our relationships.  


Too often, couples are missing the quality connection because they are rushing off to the next event or hammering out the next big project.

Allowing time for your partner can help alleviate some of life’s stress, while at the same time creating quality romance and bonding.

Rituals can help you connect to your partner.  Life can get busy and overwhelming, and before you know it disconnection has happened in your relationship.

Develop a ritual in your relationship to stay connected such as: 

  • Walks outside
  • Romantic baths together
  • Coffee and talk in the morning
  • Watching a television show together


  • Whatever you choose make sure you are connecting.
  • You might not talk, but during the television show you can playfully sit on your partner’s lap or spoon on the couch.
  • Make sure the rituals contain an intention physical and emotional connection, such as talk and touch.
  • Remove any distractions such as smart phones or work emails.

Sit down together and think about what would be meaningful to you and your partner.  It is important that you understand how each of you connects with one another.  In an earlier article, we discussed the five love languages quiz: this can help show you how to romantically engage with your partner.  Here is a link to the quiz:  http://www.5lovelanguages.com/profile/

First, understand what makes your partner feel connected to you.  Then, develop rituals around those languages that can connected you on a regular basis.

Why is Dating So Complicated?

Do you remember back when a “crush” would call; you relished the fact that you finally got your parents to buy a cordless phone so you could take the call in your bedroom.  You would yell out, “Mom, I got it,” after picking it up.  Before that you would hope that the phone cord would reach far enough into the other room so you could close the door in privacy.  Now all of that seemed complicated!












So if we have privacy and numerous ways to connect (social media and online dating) what makes dating so complicated now? Whether you are new to the dating scene or getting back into it after a recent break-up or divorce, dating has never been more complicated.

Dating is so complicated because:

We bring our past into it.  It is sometimes unintentional but also unavoidable.  Most of our grandparents and some of our parents met and married when they were between the ages of 19-23.  This means that their past dating profiles were limited in comparison.  In todays’ culture our break-ups and divorces stack up and make it more difficult to let our past go.

Too much freedom.  The days of leaving a message at the beep are over.  Text Messaging is the new way to ask or be asked out on a first date.  The problem is that beginning a relationship like this makes it so impersonal.

Too much distraction. I can recall going on a few dates in which the suitor would utilize his electronic device during dinner to text or skim Facebook.  Honestly, that was such a turn-off that I never went out on a second date, but some of us don’t see it right away.  The distraction of smart phones becomes one that is hindering our dating lives.  (And some of our relationships).

Too much talk. We become a more entitled people each generation to the next.  We believe that because we graduated college someone owes us a great paying job.  This sense of entitlement has carried over into our dating lives.  We want someone who is going to have the full package (looks, personality, career, character, and thoughtfulness) but we are not willing to make sure we are giving the full package in return.  If you complain about your 35 hour work week, don’t expect to find someone who is loyal to a job and lands a managing position after putting in 2 years of 50 hour work weeks.

You don’t pay attention to red flags.  Most of the time there are hints about a person in the beginning of the dating relationship.  You can pay attention to these and weed out the bad ones pretty quickly.  If you have a tendency to try to look past that and find the best in people, well that is a very admirable quality, but it is not a quality to utilize in your dating life.  Be smart and weed the bad out quickly.

Dating doesn’t have to be complicated.  Join us tomorrow as we talk about How You Can Un-Complicate Your Dating LIfe.  Don’t worry, it does not include plugging back in that landline phone.

Your Marriage is Not a Drive-Thru; You Have to Go Inside!

I have heard people say this about romantic relationships: “You should not have to work in a relationship” or “Your relationship should not be work.”  What should it be then?  All of the good friendships that I made took time and energy to foster and to keep.  Why do people not complain about the work they had to put into their friendships, but will emote that kind of rant in their romantic ones?

Those statements boggle me.  We are a society that believes we get things handed to us.  Our grandparents or parents stayed together because they believed in the commitment in marriage and believed that hard work was the only thing that got you anywhere. They faced the same issues and frustrations that we do with relationships today.  It looked different, but the solutions are similar.

I am asking that we stop treating marriage like a drive-thru.  You need to park the car, get out, and go inside.  If you are having difficulty in your marriage, the best thing you can do is seek professional therapeutic help from someone who you can trust and who has a track record of reconnecting marriages. Marriage will never be simple.

1. Relationships take time to foster. If you are in a hurry to walk down the aisle, that is a clear sign that your heart may not be in the right place.  In Facebook world it appears everyone is getting married and having babies.  However, in real-time, there are still a lot of singles out there.

2. The best way to keep your relationship simple is to always remember the friendship that is behind it. It is vital to be your partners’ best friend.  You should continue to get to know each other for years to come.  As you change together, you will need to learn new things about one another.

3. You have to nurture the marriage all the time.  Just like we maintain our cars, water our grass, or dedicate ourselves to educational leaps through school; you constantly need to nurture your marriage.  If you keep up with the little ways that you can stay connected, your marriage will keep on the right track.  If you don’t keep nurturing the marriage, it will get put in the shop, die, or not pass the 9th grade.  We maintain almost every aspect of our lives.  We maintain our jobs and our progress.  Why should it be any different in romantic relationships?

4. There must be mutual respect.  We respect our friends.  If  you are my friend and I don’t text you back right away, you are not going to text me two hours later and say ? or why didn’t you text me back? We set boundaries and keep them very well in most of our friendships.  We need to learn to do the same in our relationships.  We must respect our significant other for the obligations they may have, the love that they may need, and everything in between.

5. You have to have a passion to have fun together.  Have fun together in everything you do.  Fun can be fostered by become more caring and in tune in the relationship.  Make a list of three things that you will each do each day for the next two weeks. See how this new daily caring makes for more positive exchanges in the relationship.   (Such as 1. Tell them you love them every morning when you get up. 2. Write them a note and leave it someone different each day.  3. Call them during lunch just to ask how they are doing.) If you are saying, three things every day?!  Yes, three things each day for two weeks.  You manage to eat three times a day and go to the bathroom multiple times.  Make it routine!

Am I dating “her son” or “my boyfriend?”

Have you ever dated a guy that made you swoon over the way he treated you?  He opened doors, he made sure to walk you to your car, or he brought you flowers so often you thought he owned a floral shop. You have been with this guy for only months and you begin thinking about details of a possible perfect wedding.  Nothing could stop your fantasy dream….. but then you meet his mom.

The more and more time you spend with his mom, you begin to realize that she has no intention of stepping down as the most important lady in his life. As time goes by you begin to un-plan the wedding.   Not to his discredit, as he has learned the love language of the ladies from being close to his mom.

The problem is unless his mom is willing to step out of the lead role, it will be  impossible for you to fall into the role of wife.  It is customary for a mother to protect her son.  However, when that son is ready to go out of the nest, it is vital that the mother let him go out alone.  It is important that her role is less and less as he gets closer to choosing a partner for himself.  There are many different reasons for a mother to be too attached to her son; including unhappiness in her own relationships, jealousy of other or younger women and the list goes on. It is a response and a behavior that comes from something deeper.  It is important for you to know that biologically it will be natural for the son to take the mother’s side.  As much as you can want to have a happy family, it will be near impossible until mom steps out and lets you have the leading role.  This is a difficult relationship triangle that needs to be resolved if there is going to be a successful relationship between you and your boyfriend

Family is one of the most important things in life.  I am not downplaying the strength of family, but psychology tells us that enmeshed family can create maladaptive behaviors.  We talk about how boyfriends and girlfriends need time for friends and need individual space, and the same is true for the immediate family.  Separation is important; you can have a healthy family life with your significant other when boundaries are in place throughout all relationships.

Don’t Hate the Player, Learn the Game!



Let’s address the idea that being single in a world of couples can make anyone become a bit insensitive to the idea of finding someone.  Although, I don’t believe in “the one” on any given day, I appreciate that observing humanity  and engaging in conversations is what helps me to elaborate on different topics.  I have lived vicariously through my friends’ marriages, through friends’ break-ups and my own heart ache, through single life and dating life; I study psychology to better understand the behavioral patterns that we take on.  People who have a tendency to be in charge of their dating world can be viewed as bad and all selfish.  Players are some of the best people to learn from when wanting to take charge of your dating life.  I am not suggesting that you become dishonest or deceitful, but I am suggesting that you learn some things to take charge of your dating life.

One thing is certain, dating patterns are some of the hardest patterns to break.  We have a tendency to be attracted to and to date similar people or personalities.  If you have dating difficulty, learn the game in order to learn how to break patterns.  If you give yourself a three-month window to really get to know someone before you jump into a steamy-make-out session or long phone conversation (where each person is trying to impress anyways) you might have better luck finding the good ones and dismissing the wrong ones. But don’t hate the players, because they have a valuable place in helping you learn the game.  Whether you are a man or a woman, if you have a high rate of heart-breaks or shot-downs, it’s time to learn the game.




Steps to learning the game: 

First,  befriend a player and let yourself learn the patterns of the game.  You are a side-line observer; get in the game with the player and you are bound to lose. Pick up on the suave and causal manner that is displayed around their dating patterns.




Take control.  You are in control of who you date, until you aren’t anymore. Players are always in control of who they date and when, because they don’t let themselves attach too soon. Staying in control means keeping your dating partners at arm’s length.



Keep time. Don’t create situations in which you require long periods alone with one another.  Leave room at the end of date to make up an excuse to leave. Keep availability to every second time they ask you out in the beginning and third time they ask when they start hitting you up more.


Date multiples.  If you are the type of person that has one date with a person and drops everyone else prior to having the DTR (Define the Relationship talk), it is time to change.  That’s a guilty conscience if you can’t date two people at once.  Getting to know someone for who they really are, often requires models to test it against.


Make it natural.  Don’t start sending yourself flowers or being vibrant about all the multiple dates you are having.  Players are great at the game because the down-low is more than a way of hiding the bad, but more importantly projecting the good.

Be sexy but always classy. Put a spark out in the way you project and take care of yourself.  Make sure you are always put together and never thrown together.  Take time to plan attire and attitude.  What you wear tells people who you are.  Your attitude helps people decide if they want to approach you or not. A player is constantly up on this part which makes securing dating partners a success.