Your Mental Health Is Just As Important As Your Physical Health

Your Mental Health Is Just As Important As Your Physical Health

A new year means New Year’s Resolutions.

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

The three most popular resolutions are to lose weight, get organized, and spend less/save more. No big surprises there. Come January, most of us are ready to hit the gym. We’ve put on a few pounds over the holidays or just lazed around the house for the past couple of weeks. I’m feeling a bit like a slug myself. It’s time to get our bodies healthy!

And if you struggle with organizing  your time, space, and finances, it’s wise to get things in order and stick to a budget. These are all valuable pursuits.

But what about your mental health?

In my opinion, your mental health is just as important as your physical health.  Do your New Year’s resolutions ever include getting yourself mentally  healthy?

Mental health matters. If you don’t attend to your mental and emotional needs, your quality of life suffers; your work suffers; your relationships suffer; your physical health suffers.

Mental health is easy to take for granted. It’s not like a broken arm or a heart attack. There’s nothing visible to alert you that your mental health is suffering. Of course, there are signs, but you have to be paying attention. In fact, often people don’t recognize their mental health problems until they manifest as physical symptoms.

Common mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, and stress often show up as physical health problems, including headaches, fatigue, muscle tension, stomach aches, heart burn, heart palpitations, changes in appetite, or trouble sleeping.

Often we try to deny our emotions and mental health problems. Unfortunately, there’s still a stigma that makes it hard for many of us to acknowledge and seek help for these issues. Sometimes we have a hard time accepting our own emotional pain, fearing it’s a weakness, and instead we push it down, drown it in food, drink, or other compulsions.

Practice preventive mental health care

We all know the importance of preventative healthcare. You probably get a physical exam and some blood work every year or two to make sure your body is functioning properly. Unfortunately, most people don’t take the same approach with their mental health. Rarely do people go to a therapist as a preventative measure or talk to their primary care doctor about their emotional well-being. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

There are also many ways you can practice preventative mental health care on your own.

How can yoResolve to Improve Your Mental Health, New Years Resolution to focus on emotional health and wellnessu resolve to improve your mental health?

  • Get enough sleep
  • Pay attention to your feelings
  • Spend time in nature
  • Pursue a hobby
  • Laugh often
  • Grieve your loses
  • Accept yourself, imperfections and all
  • Only try to change yourself, not others
  • Ask for help; you’re not superman or superwoman
  • Spend less time in front of electronics
  • Connect with friends and family
  • Try to do things because you want to, not out of obligation
  • Practice gratitude daily
  • Express your feelings
  • Surround yourself with positive people
  • Exercise
  • Remember it’s healthy to say “no” sometimes
  • Forgive yourself when you screw up
  • Limit alcohol, caffeine, and other drugs
  • Spend some time alone
  • Get to know yourself
  • Listen to your instincts
  • See a therapist
  • Practice deep, calming breathing
  • If you’ve been prescribed psychiatric medications, take them as prescribed

Your mental health is essential. All positive change is built one small bit at a time. Choose one way to prioritize your mental health and practice it until it’s a way of life. The pay off will be worth it.

 

 

 

https://blogs.psychcentral.com/imperfect/2016/12/your-mental-health-is-just-as-important-as-your-physical-health/

How to influence the way other people see you

Oliver Burkeman

Few facts about daily social life are quite as troubling as this one: you don’t really have the faintest idea how you’re coming across to others. Reading Heidi Grant Halvorson’s new book, No One Understands You And What To Do About It, you start to feel it’s a miracle that two humans ever manage a successful conversation, let alone a friendship or a marriage.

Studies reveal only minor correlations between how you think you’re viewed and how people view you; if those around you aren’t falling victim to the “false consensus effect” (assuming you’re just like them), then they’re falling victim to the “false uniqueness effect” (assuming you couldn’t possibly be as clever, or busy, or unhappy as them). Or maybe it’s you who’s falling victim to the “transparency illusion”, assuming your words and facial expressions are a dead giveaway for your feelings, when usually they’re not.

Halvorson notes that Barack Obama, after his disastrous first presidential debate of 2012, was convinced he’d done brilliantly. If arguably the world’s best living orator can’t read his audience, what hopes for you or me?

It gets worse. We chronically forget how much difference it makes that we have access only to our own thoughts and emotions; we don’t realise how many assumptions we’re forced to make about other people’s. Plus, we’re “cognitive misers”: life is so complex that we instinctively conserve our mental processing energy, spending it only when we must. That partly explains racial and gender stereotypes – they’re an effort-saving short cut – and a host of other hasty judgments.

Finally, there’s ego bias: what matters about you, to someone else, is whatever has most meaning for them, not for you. Thus, when evaluating candidates for a job, average-looking people penalise attractive applicants, while good-looking people don’t, because the average ones feel subconscious “social threat”. It’s always about the perceiver, not the perceived.

Can others ever see us the way we intend? Halvorson says yes. Many of her suggestions involve nudging people from gut judgments to more effortful, reflective ones. Show a little vulnerability, for example, and the resulting bond of empathy should prompt people to see you more clearly. Compliment someone on their fairness or accurate judgments and, research suggests, it may become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But her most useful observation might be this: when it comes to judging how people see you, trust the numbers. Our individual encounters with each other may be distorted by bias and egocentrism, but in aggregate, patterns emerge. If people regularly back away from you at parties, it’s unlikely to be a coincidence: you’re coming off as boring. If you keep being handed high-responsibility projects at work, maybe you seem far more competent than you’d imagined. It may be true that nobody understands you, but when they all don’t understand you in exactly the same way, there’s probably a lesson lurking there.

oliver.burkeman@theguardian.com

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/apr/17/influencing-how-others-see-you-oliver-burkeman

How to Peacefully Teach and Set Clear Limits, Boundaries and Consequences with Your Child

how to teach and set limits

 

Kids do all kinds of things that we don’t like, things that drive us nuts. Sometimes they do things that are dangerous, things that scare us half to death. They cross lines and test boundaries. My oldest son climbs on everything. My second son is overly aggressive with his affection, especially with his baby sister. My third son struggles with hitting, pinching or biting when he becomes angry.

This is all part of growing up. This is all part of being a parent. These little people we call our kids are trying new things and trying to figure out the world around them. In order for them to do this successfully requires that we set and help them understand limits, boundaries and consequences.

I love the way that Genevieve Simperingham explains our kids process of learning how to interact appropriately and empathetically with the world around them. She says,…

“Children mostly learn that they’ve crossed a line through the feedback of others. The image comes to mind of travelling in another country, there’s a lot of strict cultural rules about what’s okay and not okay and we only learn that we’ve been inappropriate when we get the feedback – how scary! We’d truly hope they had compassion for our lack of prior immersion into their culture and see our clumsiness as lack of awareness rather than lack of care or respect.

Children learn about empathy mostly through the direct experience of being empathized with and feeling how that helps them feel better.”(Setting Limits with Love, Genevieve Simperingham, www.peacefulparent.com )

Limits, Boundaries and Consequences, Oh My!

Limits, boundaries and consequences all work together with love and empathy to teach and help our kids perceive and interact with the world in positive ways. In this article I’ll address each concept of limits, boundaries and consequences and some practical ways to understand and utilize them in positive, peaceful ways.

Setting Limits: A limit is an imposed request or restraint on our child, and is most often coupled with stating a clear consequence. Sometimes the natural consequence is simply built into the limit itself. Some examples may include…

  • Lead with a positive, empathetic response: “You may go play as soon as your room is clean.” In this example, play is limited on conditions of the child completing his chore. The natural consequence is that he may choose when he will do the chore and thus postpone or move him toward his playtime.
  • Set limits with love and firmness: Tell them how you feel and what you don’t like as well as what you do like. Then reassure them of your unconditional love and regard for them. An example might include, “I know you’re frustrated right now. I don’t like when you hit me. I like it when you ask me for the things you need.” When your child asks to do something, for example, “Mom, can I go to Jimmy’s house?” You could respond with, “That sounds like a great idea another day. Right now we are getting ready for dinner.” If they continue to protest and ask why simply and empathetically say, “I know you really want to go. Sorry that’s not going to happen tonight.” If it still continues, just state the famous Love and Logic phrase, “I love you too much to argue.”

[Tweet “Set limits with love and firmness”]

  • Don’t limit emotions, limit behavior: Stop the behavior through direction, separation and redirection. It’s okay for your child to be upset about it, but it’s important to separate the emotions from the negative behavior we wish to limit. For instance, it is okay to be angry, but hitting is not okay. “No throwing toys, because that hurts people and the toys.” It may require that we take the toy or separate our child from the situation, but no punishment or further action is required.

Setting Boundaries: A boundary is a statement or action of personal limits. It communicates, “This is where I end and you begin. This is what I am willing to do and what I am willing to allow you to do or not do to me. Dr. Henry Cloud describes it like your own fence around your personal property that keeps the bad stuff out and your personal treasures in. This doesn’t mean we never let anyone inside our boundary, it simply means that there is a clear boundary and a gate by which you can let others come and go in a way that is comfortable and wise.

  • When kids make demands or requests of us. My kids often make demands at the dinner table. They say things like, “Dad, get me some water” or “I want a different glass or plate or utensil.” These demands are often made of my wife or me when we are busy preparing one of our small children’s food or finally sitting down to eat our own meal. Sometimes, parents respond simply by not responding. They ignore the request. Sometimes parents snap back at the kids, “Can’t you wait a minute? I’ll do it, just wait!” Sometimes parents just give in to the demand against their will. There is a better way that acknowledges the child’s request but asserts our own personal boundaries as well. We can say, “I would love to get that for you as soon as I done fixing your sister’s plate or after I am done eating. If you don’t want to wait, you are welcome to get it yourself.” If you are not willing to do the task for your child at all you can say, “Thanks for asking. I’m eating right now. If you would like water, you are welcome to get it yourself. Thanks.”
  • Use “yes” as a boundary setting tool. When a child asks you to buy something for them at the store, say “Yes, you are welcome to buy that with your own money if you would like to earn the money and bring the money with you when we come to the store.” In essence we are saying, “no, I’m not going to buy that for you with my money” but we are not putting a limit on what they can do with their own money. This can artfully place appropriate boundaries out of what we are willing to do while also teaching them and motivating them to do things for themselves.
  • When a child hits or is aggressive. We can firmly state our own personal boundaries. “I will not let you hit me.” This may include backing away to get out of arm or leg range, putting a hand out to stop hits and kicks or gently holding a child if they are receptive and need you to help them calm themselves.

Establishing Consequences: A consequence is simply the effect that follows any given action. Consequences are inevitable. They are natural and constant. There is no action that does not have a consequence. Kids sometimes struggle to see and understand the natural consequences of their actions and definitely struggle to anticipate consequences. It can be helpful for parents to teach kids about consequences and help them anticipate consequences that will arise, whether natural or imposed consequences.

  • Educate them about positive and negative consequences: Consequences are not necessarily something we have to impose upon our children. It’s not something that I do to my children but it’s just part of living. Consequences are best learned as they are woven into our limit and boundary setting. It’s important to teach our kids that consequences are not just negative things, but that all of their choices have consequences. Positive choices also provide positive consequences. I’m not referring to rewards that parents give but just regular everyday benefits of making good choices.
  • Allow natural consequences: Too often parents jump in and either overshadow the real life natural consequences of a situation by either giving a harsh punishment or unnecessary reward instead of simply letting them experience the natural consequences. If they choose not to complete their homework, poor grades or other consequences at school may follow. If they refuse to get shoes on before it is time to leave the house (when age appropriate), they get to carry their shoes with them to the car or go without shoes. When they refuse to go to sleep, they get tired. On the other hand, they feel good when they do something kind for a brother or friend and they get to move on to play time when they complete their chores. We all experience consequences in our everyday lives and we learn from them without any lectures or punishments.
  • Follow through with realistic, rational consequences: When people think of consequences, they most often think of groundings, taking privileges away, spankings, lectures and other punishments, but these are neither necessary or effective for teaching positive skills and values. The more natural, realistic to life and related to their behavior the consequence is, the more effective it is in teaching the desired lesson. When a child makes a mess, the logical consequence is that he cleans up after himself. When a child damages something, a natural consequence is that they replace it. As referred to in the limits section, the natural consequence of a child refusing to do chores is that they postpone their own play time. When we follow through with natural consequences and show empathy we take the focus off of us and allow our child to learn from the consequence. It give us opportunity to help our child learn to solve their problems rather than causing them to blame us and see us as the problem.

5 Important principles to remember when setting TRU limits, boundaries and consequences:

It can be helpful to evaluate the limits, boundaries and consequences we set and how we set them in accordance with the principles of TRU parenting. Do our limits and the way we deliver them teach our child what we want them to learn? Do they build on our relationship? And do they allow me to upgrade myself and improve my own boundaries? The following are 5 specific guidelines to help set limits, boundaries and consequences that meet the principles of TRU parenting and promote positive ongoing cycles rather than simply demanding immediate compliance only.

1. Lead with the positive and with empathy: The connection and relationship between parent and child is one of the most important elements of setting positive, clear limits, boundaries and consequences. When we approach a limit with understanding and with words that ignite positive, agreeable feelings, we find that kids are much more cooperative. My wife’s cousing recently shared the following story with me about my wife and second son. She reported…

“Eli (my 6 year old son) was teasing and upsetting Emma (my 2 year old daughter). Camille (my wife), was watching and recognized what was going on. Instead of saying “Eli stop” or “Don’t tease your sister” she kindly said “Eli, I don’t think we have hugged today come over here and give your mom a big hug” He happily jumped up and gave her a big hug for a few seconds and then magically he went about playing and NOT teasing his sister.”

I thought this was so awesome! This is such an incredible example of empathy and my wife recognizing my son’s underlying need. She set a limit by redirecting his behavior to a more appropriate avenue and left the formal teaching for a later time. The need was met and the behavior stopped, all in a way that taught positive principles, built the relationship and Upgrading my wife’s state of mind and being. I know, my wife is amazing!

2. Don’t be afraid of “NO” but don’t overuse it: Sometimes the best way to define or set a limit is with a good old fashion “no.” However, I’ve found that when “no” is overused on every nitpicky little irritation, it loses its value and creates a negative atmosphere.

3. Don’t set limits while sitting: Be actively engaged. When we sit back and bark out limits and orders from our arm chair, our limits have no power. Move toward your kids and reach out to them. Deliver limits and boundaries at their level both physically and developmentally.

4. State what you will do or not do and do or don’t do it: Try to focus on what you will do rather than on what they should do. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Be a Mom or Dad of your word. For example, if your child wants a different color cup than was placed on the table you can say, “I would love to get it when I’m done eating if you would like to wait. I’m fixing food right now and eating my dinner. You are welcome to either get it yourself or wait for me to be done with my dinner.”

5. Teach and plan during the good times: Use weekly family nights, play time or other fun and positive times to be together to teach and plan appropriate social boundaries and show them what consequences might come in different situations. Use role plays and games to help them learn limits, and cause and effect relationships. It doesn’t have to be a struggle to set clear limits. It really can be fun.

Other great resources on setting limits with our kids…

Aha Parenting: How to Set Effective Limits for Your Child

Peaceful Parenting: Setting Limits with Love

http://truparenting.net/peacefully-teach-set-clear-limits-boundaries-consequences-child/

‘Magic 6 hours’ could dramatically improve your relationship

 When John Gottman talks, I listen.

Actually I’ve never heard him talk, but when he writes, I read.

So when a newly revised edition of his best-selling “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” (Harmony Books) hit my desk this week, I cracked it open immediately.

Gottman is a psychology professor at the University of Washington and the founder/director of The Gottman Institute, a marital research and counseling center in Seattle.

Maybe you’ve read about his theory on “master couples” versus “disaster couples.”

Co-authored with Nan Silver, “Seven Principles,” which has sold a million-plus copies, was first released in 1999 — before Tinder, before Facebook — heck, before some of us even had cellphones.

The updated version (out next week) offers tips for dealing with digital distractions, including Gottman’s suggestion to agree on rules of tech etiquette: How much are you comfortable with your partner sharing on social media? When is texting/posting off-limits (mealtimes, date nights)? Do you create cyber-free zones in your home?

Most compelling of all, though, is Gottman’s “magic six hours” theory, based on interviews with couples who attended marital workshops at The Gottman Institute.

“We wondered what would distinguish those couples whose marriages continued to improve from those whose marriages did not,” Gottman writes. “To our surprise, we discovered that they were devoting only an extra six hours a week to their marriage.”

If your first thought is, “Only? Where am I going to find an extra six hours in my week?” — I hear you.

If that was not your first thought, forget I said anything.

Anyway, back to the winning formula.

Couples who saw their relationships improve devoted extra time each week to six categories.

First up: Partings

“Make sure that before you say goodbye in the morning you’ve learned about one thing that is happening in your spouse’s life that day,” Gottman writes. “From lunch with the boss to a doctor’s appointment to a scheduled phone call with an old friend.”

(Two minutes per day for five days, for a grand total of 10 minutes per week.)

Second: Reunions

Gottman recommends greeting your partner each day with a hug and kiss that last at least six seconds and ending each workday with stress-reducing conversation that lasts at least 20 minutes. (About 1 hour and 40 minutes per week.)

Third: Admiration and appreciation

Spend five minutes every day finding a new way to communicate genuine appreciation for your spouse, he says. (35 minutes per week.)

Fourth: Affection

“Show each other physical affection when you’re together during the day, and make sure to always embrace before going to sleep,” he writes. (Five minutes per day, seven days a week: 35 minutes.)

Fifth: Weekly date

For two hours once a week, Gottman recommends one-on-one time, during which you ask each other open-ended questions. “Think of questions to ask your spouse, like, ‘Are you still thinking about redecorating the bedroom?’ ‘Where should we take our next vacation?’ or ‘How are you feeling about your boss these days?'” (2 hours per week.)

Sixth: State of the union meeting

Spend one hour a week talking about what went right that week, discussing what went wrong and expressing appreciation for each other. “End by each of you asking and answering, ‘What can I do to make you feel loved this coming week?'” he writes. (1 hour per week.)

All of it adds up to six hours per week.

Some of these suggestions sound a tad awkward. “What can I do to make you feel loved this coming week?” reminds me a little too much of the last time I bought a car. (“What can I do to earn your business today?”)

But I like to think of marital advice like the food pyramid: You’re not going to adhere to it every day, but it’s an instructive guide to shape your habits around.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifestyles/ct-improve-relationship-in-six-hours-balancing-20150430-column.html

30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of “How Was Your Day?”

boy and girl playing on driveway after school

When I picked my son up from his first day of 4th grade, my usual (enthusiastically delivered) question of “how was your day?” was met with his usual (indifferently delivered) “fine.”

Come on! It’s the first day, for crying out loud! Give me something to work with, would you, kid?

The second day, my same question was answered, “well, no one was a jerk.”

That’s good…I guess.

I suppose the problem is my own. That question actually sucks. Far from a conversation starter, it’s uninspired, overwhelmingly open ended, and frankly, completely boring. So as an alternative, I’ve compiled a list of questions that my kid will answer with more than a single word or grunt. In fact, he debated his response to question 8 for at least half an hour over the weekend. The jury’s out until he can organize a foot race.

Questions a kid will answer at the end of a long school day:

  1. What did you eat for lunch?
  2. Did you catch anyone picking their nose?
  3. What games did you play at recess?
  4. What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  5. Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
  6. What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
  7. Who made you smile today?
  8. Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?
  9. What new fact did you learn today?
  10. Who brought the best food in their lunch today? What was it?
  11. What challenged you today?
  12. If school were a ride at the fair, which ride would it be? Why?
  13. What would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
  14. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you want it to be? Why?
  15. If you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?
  16. Did anyone push your buttons today?
  17. Who do you want to make friends with but haven’t yet? Why not?
  18. What is your teacher’s most important rule?
  19. What is the most popular thing to do at recess?
  20. Does your teacher remind you of anyone else you know? How?
  21. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  22. If aliens came to school and beamed up 3 kids, who do you wish they would take? Why?
  23. What is one thing you did today that was helpful?
  24. When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
  25. What rule was the hardest to follow today?
  26. What is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?
  27. Which person in your class is your exact opposite?
  28. Which area of your school is the most fun?
  29. Which playground skill do you plan to master this year?
  30. Does anyone in your class have a hard time following the rules?

Love In The Age Of Big Data

Once upon a time, in the Pony Expresso cafe in Seattle, a man and a woman began to experience the long-mysterious but increasingly scientifically investigated thing we call love. The first stage is called “limerence.” This is the spine-tingling, heart-twisting, can’t-stop-staring feeling, when it seems as though the world stops whirling and time itself bows down and pauses before the force of your longing. The man, a then-44-year-old University of Washington research psychologist named John Gottman, was drawn to the woman’s wild mane of black curly hair and her creativity: She was an amateur musician and painter as well as a psychologist like himself. The woman, a then-35-year-old named Julie Schwartz, who’d placed a personal ad in the Seattle Weekly that John had answered, was turned on by John’s humble little car—voted the ugliest vehicle in the University of Washington faculty parking lot—and his expansive curiosity. He read physics and math and history and kept a little spiral-bound notebook in his pocket that he used to jot down things his companions said that captivated him.

They talked avidly; it felt as if they’d known each other forever. Over the following months they drew closer and closer, proceeding through subsequent stages of building a fulfilling love relationship. John learned about the unhappy home life growing up in Michigan that had driven Julie to spend so much time in the forest by herself, and Julie learned about John’s desire to understand deeply earth’s biggest mysteries, like the nature of time. Although they were afraid—they’d both been divorced before—they confided their admiration for each other, John’s for the courage Julie showed in her therapy practice by helping the “sickest of the sickest,” schizophrenics and Vietnam veterans on Skid Row, and Julie’s for John’s absurdist sense of humor. They kayaked together. They joined a synagogue. They married and had a daughter, fulfilling one of John’s longtime dreams, and bought a house on a forested island three hours north of Seattle, fulfilling a dream of Julie’s. They fought. They attended couples therapy. Through their conflict they came to love each other more.Twenty-nine years after that first date, John Gottman and Julie Schwartz Gottman stood on a black stage in a ballroom of the Seattle Sheraton in front of about 250 other couples, young and old, straight and gay. The intense intimacy of their relationship was on full display: They finished each other’s sentences, bantered with each other and talked candidly about how their struggles had made them stronger. Julie wept. John held Julie, caressing her hair. The rest of us, seated in chairs that had been hooked together in sets of twos, watched them with yearning.

We’d come to see the Gottmans because the pair has spent the last 20 years refining a science-based method to build a beautiful love partnership yourself. They reveal it over a two-day, $750-per-pair workshop called “The Art and Science of Love.” “It turns out Tolstoy was wrong,” John told the crowd in an opening lecture. “All happy relationships are similar and all unhappy relationships are also similar. … Is there a secret? It turns out, empirically, yes, there is a secret.”

Over decades, John has observed more than 3,000 couples longitudinally, discovering patterns of argument and subtle behaviors that can predict whether a couple would be happily partnered years later or unhappy or divorced. He has won awards from the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Council of Family Relations and has become the subject of increasing public fascination. He went on Oprah and the “Today” show. A book he co-authored that summarizes his findings, Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, is a New York Times best-seller.

His work took off because the consistency of his predictions is astonishing. One 1992 experiment found that certain indicators in how couples talked about their relationship could forecast–with 94 percent accuracy–which pairs would stay together. This was magic–a virtually foolproof way of distinguishing toxic partnerships from healthy ones even before the couples knew themselves–but it was also science, so it appealed to our contemporary desire to use empirical data to better our lives. Walk by any newsstand, or trawl the Internet for three minutes, and you’ll find data-driven methods to improve everything we do. “Is This the Ultimate Healthy Meal?” “The Best Workout Ever, According to Science.”

You might expect love to be the last frontier breached by data. It is the Antarctic of the human experience, richly feeding the oceans of our emotions, yet somehow remaining elusive and unknown. Philosophers have argued over it for millennia without arriving at a satisfactory definition. Poets like Erich Fried capture its strange mix of pleasure and pain, the sense of its essential ungovernability: “It is foolish, says caution / It is impossible, says experience / It is what it is, says love.”

I first encountered Gottman’s research last year in an Atlantic article called “Masters of Love.” It went viral; my own friends posted it on Facebook saying, “This is what it comes down to.” Finally, love had been harnessed in the laboratory, seen, understood and broken into building blocks we could all apply to our lives.

The article proposes a recipe for becoming a love “master” instead of a love “disaster” by responding the right way to what Gottman calls your partner’s “bids for connection.” A “bid” is when your lover points out your kitchen window and marvels, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” You could go “Wow!” and get binoculars (an active “turn-towards”); mumble “Huh,” and keep reading your newspaper (a passive reaction, less good); or say, “I’m sick of your fucking birds. What about the broken garage door?” Gottman found that masters turn towards their partners’ bids 87 percent of the time. Love, he concluded, comes down to “a habit of mind.”

And habits of mind take work to instill. Everyone at the workshop was given a kit in a box with a handle. Inside were decks of cards proposing questions to help us learn about our partners (“how are you feeling now about being a mother?”) or offering ways to connect erotically (“when you return home tonight, greet each other with a kiss that lasts at least six seconds”). A manual provided us with a vocabulary to demystify and contain some of the scary things that go on in love: fights are “regrettable incidents,” the things that make us feel good together are our “rituals of connection,” the dark inner chasms that regrettable incidents seem to reveal are our “enduring vulnerabilities.”

One of the Gottmans’ employees, Kendra Han, estimated that a quarter of the couples in attendance were the kind of ickily self-aware duos who try this kind of thing for “fun and enrichment” while the majority were in some state of “relational distress.” The prevailing mood was a mix of hope and fragility. “This is already not going well,” I overheard one woman say, laughing a little. “My husband’s late.”

As I watched the Gottmans from my own seat two rows from the stage, I felt anxious, too. I had come with my own love problem to solve.

Some traditional Arab cultures believed that when you fall in love, your lover steals your liver. The ancient Chinese told their children that love could take out your heart. Romantic love, in older human cultures, was often something dark. It involved physical dissolution, the sense of falling apart. It made us act irrationally and tore a hole into the neatly woven fabric of our lives, beckoning us to step through it into a land of terrors. “You get lots of stories of getting tricked,” William Jankowiak, an anthropologist who has extensively studied love in folktales, told me.

That’s why, for much of human history, the marriage historian Stephanie Coontz writes, people thought lifelong partnership was “too important” to be left up to love. Marriage was a business contract. Families used it to acquire lands, to create stable legacies on which their next generations could build. Love resisted these kinds of reasoned considerations.That all began to change in the West in the 1700s. The rise of wage labor freed young people from their families and gave them more autonomy to decide whom to marry. The Enlightenment put freedom of choice into vogue. The word “spinster” emerged, a pathetic figure compared to blissful women in love.

JOHN BEGAN TO FEEL AS IF HE COULD EAVESDROP ON A COUPLE SITTING ACROSS FROM HIM IN A RESTAURANT AND GET A PRETTY GOOD SENSE OF THEIR CHANCES OF DIVORCE.

Simon May, a British philosopher who has studied the development of beliefs about love over two millennia of Western culture, suggests that we’ve placed vastly more importance on finding love since the retreat of Christianity and the rise of relativism. “Human love,” he writes in his magisterial Love: A History, “is widely tasked with achieving what once only divine love was thought capable of: to be our ultimate source of meaning and happiness, and of power over suffering and disappointment.” The grounding we used to find in devotion to ideals like nationalism or communism, or in our faith in an ever-caring Shepherd, we now seek from individual, fickle human beings.

After I read May’s theory that love “is now the West’s undeclared religion,” I began to see evidence of it everywhere. “When you get down to it … [love is] the only purpose grand enough for a human life,” writes Sue Monk Kidd in The Secret Life of Bees. At funerals, we praise the way the deceased person loved as the ultimate sign that his life had meaning. Justice Anthony Kennedy, in his Supreme Court opinion legalizing gay marriage nationally, identified marriage as the ultimate wellspring of all the other essential human joys, from “expression” to “spirituality,” while Sheryl Sandberg counsels young women that their choice of a mate is the most important decision of their lives. According to May, we no longer view love as “the rarest of exceptions,” as older cultures did, “but as a possibility open to practically all who have faith in it.”

These expectations are crazy-making, and it’s no wonder scientists have jumped in to try to save us. In the 1930s, sociologists began to generate charts to try to predict what kinds of love marriages would last a lifetime. You could take your own personality traits—loves sewing circles?—and plot them against your beau’s to forecast the happiness and stability of your match.

Starting the ’70s, with divorce on the rise, social psychologists got into the mix. Recognizing the apparently opaque character of marital happiness but optimistic about science’s capacity to investigate it, they pioneered a huge array of inventive techniques to study what things seemed to make marriages succeed or fail. They had partners write down everything they hated or loved about each other and then studied how close the pair subsequently sat together on a couch. They even generated fights, instructing couples to argue over how to pack the car for a vacation while each partner twiddled dials under the laboratory table assessing their mate’s helpfulness. One study showed that couples who did novel things together fared better; another revealed that intense emotions, once believed to be a sign of immaturity in love, could be worked with to create very deep intimacy. Given how central our love partner had become to our well-being—research had begun to show a good marriage was more predictive of long-term health than eating right or not smoking—Sue Johnson of the Ottawa Couple and Family Institute told me she felt like she was “in the most exciting revolution that’s happened in the 20th century for human beings.”

“Imagine proving all those poets and philosophers from way back wrong!” she said. “Finally, we can make sense of love and actually shape it with deliberation.”

♦ ♦ ♦
One recent afternoon, the Gottmans met me in their downtown Seattle office to talk about John’s research and how they turned it into the Gottman Method. Julie was wearing a turqoise shirt and big earrings, her thick black curls streaked with a Susan Sontag ribbon of white. John, smaller and eagle-nosed, wore a black jacket and a yarmulke over a fringe of white hair. He’d brought his omnipresent scratch pad with him.

“A few years after we’d married,” John began, “I wanted to leave for Chicago to take a job there. But Julie felt Chicago was too flat. And then we were in that canoe—”Julie interrupted him sharply. “Well, that came a bit later,” she said. “The real story here is we decided to offer a parenting support group. Remember that?”

“Oh, yeah,” John deferred. “I forgot about that.”

Seeing the Gottmans’ marital interaction up close is almost alarming at first. Most couples tone down the perpetual spats, adjustments, sideways glances and hopeful asides that constitute one-on-one intimacy when they’re in public. The Gottmans don’t. Sitting across from them at a conference table, you feel as though you’ve come upon them tucked into bed, working it out with each other. They exchange constant meaningful looks. They interrupt each other, or Julie mostly interrupts John, correcting his behavior and memory. John accepts it. They use couples-therapy language. (“Boundaries!” Julie reminds John, when he starts speaking about his ex-wife.) They openly refer to deep wounds in their relationship. They also snuggle. John puts his arm around Julie, she arches into him and they wrinkle their noses at each other. In my presence, Julie wept twice, once recounting a time John had made her feel like a bad mother and once when John said she had been “the answer to my prayers.”

They started their parenting support group in 1989–just 10 couples, once a week, talking about the ups and downs of having children at the Seattle Jewish Community Center. John approached it like a lab. “He was all about observing and learning,” Julie said. “And I would jump in and talk about their emotions, looking for ways to try to help these parents. We’d have these great discussions afterwards and laugh about it. ‘Why are you trying to help these people?’ John would say. And I’d say, ‘Honey, why are you not trying to help?'”

When John got his start researching couples in the mid-1970s, he was the one who needed help. He’d grown up in Brooklyn and New Jersey a diminutive nerd with few friends. As an adult, his love life felt perpetually unstable and unhappy. He found it hard to be satisfied with the woman he was with. In one two-year relationship, he and a girlfriend argued so much he ended up with stress-induced pneumonia.

Psychology, which he studied at the University of Wisconsin, gave him a way to use his problem-solving mind to attack the question of his own loneliness. Like a science-fiction android who pins electrodes on his human subjects to try to figure out where their emotions come from, John set about creating experiments that were as broad as possible: What does a good relationship look like? What does it feel like to be in it?

His career took off when he met a psychologist named Robert Levenson. Each man turned out to be exactly what the other had needed. Levenson was investigating the remarkable variance in how different people react to stress by testing their heart rates and sweat-gland activity after receiving a jolt. By teaming up with John, he says he finally felt as if he was working on something more “personally relevant and emotionally rich” than administering electric shocks. Meanwhile, by joining with Levenson, John thought he might uncover a way to measure marital happiness that was more “real” than people’s self-reporting on surveys.

Their collaboration led John to create an actual mock apartment where couples could do “ordinary” things like cook and watch TV together. “It was just like being at a bed and breakfast,” he said, “except you were hooked up to electrodes … and there were surveillance cameras hanging from the ceiling.” Then, he harnessed the emerging power of computers to analyze a vast amount of data from the interactions. Professionals trained in interpreting facial expressions evaluated hours of video, rating the couples for emotions like delight, disgust and fear; assistants coded questionnaires the partners filled out about their relationship history for positive and negative feelings; and machines took constant measures of the couples’ heart rates and vascular tone while they flirted and fought.

Years afterwards, the psychologists followed up to see which couples were happy and which had split up. They plugged that information into a computer, along with all the data they’d previously gathered, and asked the machine to create equations that associated certain behaviors and physiology with long-term happiness. What emerged were fascinating and often surprising observations on lasting love. They found that couples that stay happy used a lot of “we,” whereas couples that turned out unhappy used “I,” “me” and “mine.” They also discovered that when partners with a good long-term outlook argued, they somehow managed to maintain a ratio of five positive comments to one negative one. “At the time, everybody was enamored with this idea that romantic relationships were full of fireworks,” Levenson remembered. “Well, that was not the finding. It is the capacity of couples to calm down, to soothe, to sort of reduce the level of arousal for each other, that is the most important factor in predicting whether the marriage will last.”

In the beginning, the two men’s techniques were viewed as dangerously iconoclastic. “When Bob and I were assistant professors getting evaluated for tenure our committee said, ‘Look, you guys are crazy. We can’t predict one person’s behavior. How are we going to predict two people’s behavior? You’ll never find anything. You’ll never get a grant,’” John recalled. But as the astoundingly robust predictions started rolling in, all that changed. John got elected to chair the family psychology research unit of the American Psychological Association. The New York Times profiled his findings. Where John had once felt hopelessly bewildered by love, he began to feel as if he could eavesdrop on a couple sitting across from him in a restaurant and get a pretty good sense of their chances of divorce.

“John had these brilliant insights,” Julie told me, “but nothing was being done with them.”

Loving a Trauma Survivor: Understanding Childhood Trauma’s Impact On Relationships

Loving a Trauma Survivor: Healing Connections

Survivors of childhood trauma deserve all the peace and security that a loving relationship can provide. But a history of abuse or neglect can make trusting another person feel terrifying. Trying to form an intimate relationship may lead to frightening missteps and confusion.

How can we better understand the impact of trauma, and help survivors find the love, friendship and support they and their partner deserve?

How People Cope With Unresolved Trauma

Whether the trauma was physical, sexual, or emotional, the impact can show up in a host of relationship issues. Survivors often believe deep down that no one can really be trusted, that intimacy is dangerous, and for them, a real loving attachment is an impossible dream. Many tell themselves they are flawed, not good enough and unworthy of love. Thoughts like these can wreak havoc in relationships throughout life.

When early childhood relationships are sources of overwhelming fear, or when absent, insecure or disorganized attachment leaves a person feeling helpless and alone, the mind needs some way to cope. A child may latch onto thoughts like

  • Don’t trust, it’s not safe!
  • Don’t reach out, don’t be a burden to anyone!
  • Don’t dwell on how you feel, just move along!

These ideas may help a person cope when they hurt so badly every day and just need to survive. But they do not help the emerging adult make sense of their inner world or learn how to grow and relate to others. Even if the survivor finds a safe, loving partner later in life, the self-limiting scripts stay with them. They cannot just easily toss them and start over. These life lessons are all they have (so far) to survive the best way they know how.

Noticing Trauma’s Impact On Behavior and Mood

Many times, trauma survivors re-live childhood experiences with an unresponsive or abusive partner (an important topic for another article). This often happens without the ability to see the reasons why they feel compelled to pursue unhealthy relationships. Beneath awareness is a drive to revisit unresolved trauma, and finally make things right. Of course, childhood wounds cannot be repaired this way unless there are two willing partners working on changing those cycles. But if these forces remain unnoticed, survivors can get caught in a cycle of abuse.

Even with a safe partner, a trauma survivor may

  • Experience depression
  • Develop compulsive behavior, an eating disorder, or substance dependence to try and regulate their emotions
  • Have flashbacks or panic attacks
  • Feel persistent self-doubt
  • Have suicidal thoughts
  • Seek or carry out the adverse behavior they experienced as a child

Partners of trauma survivors may want desperately to help. But partners need to “be clear that it is not your problem to fix and you don’t have the power to change another human being,” says Lisa Ferentz, LCSW in a post for partners of trauma survivors. Rather, know that both of you deserve to connect with resources to help you find comfort and healing.

Seeing Trauma’s Impact On Relationships

It is important to recognize unhealed trauma as a dynamic force in an intimate relationship. It can super-charge emotions, escalate issues, and make it seem impossible to communicate effectively. Issues become complicated by:

  • Heightened reactions to common relationship issues
  • Emotionally fueled disagreements
  • Withdrawal or distant, unresponsive behavior
  • Aversion to conflict and inability to talk through issues
  • Assumptions that the partner is against them when it is not the case
  • Lingering doubt about a partner’s love and faithfulness
  • Difficulty accepting love, despite repeated reassurance

In a relationship, a history of trauma is not simply one person’s problem to solve. Anything that affects one partner impacts the other and the relationship. With guidance from therapy, partners begin to see how to untangle the issues.

Many people do not even realize that they have had traumatic experiences. Trauma-informed therapy works by helping couples begin to see how they experienced traumatic abuse or neglect, and how it still affects them, and impacts their current relationships. This approach enables the therapist to provide specific insights to help couples separate past issues from present ones. Progress often comes more readily through a combination of individual sessions and work as a couple.

Trauma-informed therapy helps partners give each other the gift of what I and other therapists call psychoeducation – learning to understand each individual’s story, how it impacts their relationship, and how to process thoughts and emotions in healthier ways.

The Importance of Self-Care For Trauma Survivors and Their Partners

Trauma survivors and their partners have different needs for support. How can one respond when the other is grappling with mental health issues? How do you calm things down when overwhelming emotions get triggered?

It takes therapy for couples to find answers that are most healing for them. But some general tips for trauma survivors and their partners that can help are:

  • Have a really good support system for each of you and the relationship. Make time for family and friends who are positive about your relationship and respect you and your loved one.
  • Find a trauma-informed therapist to guide you as a couple or as individuals in your effort to better understand yourselves and each other.
  • Find resources outside of therapy such as support groups or other similar activities
  • Take time for psychoeducation. Learn about the nature of trauma, self-care and healing techniques like mindfulness. For example, one helpful model is Stan Taktin’s “couple bubble.” This is a visual aid to help partners see how to become a more secure, well-functioning couple. Surrounding yourself and your partner with an imaginary bubble “means that the couple is aware in public and in private they protect each other at all times. They don’t allow either of them to be the third wheel for very long, at least not without repair. In this way, everybody actually fares much better.” See More Helpful Resources below.

Communication Tips for Partners of Trauma Survivors

Building a healthy bond with a trauma survivor means working a lot on communication. Grappling with relationship issues can heighten fear and may trigger flashbacks for someone with a history of trauma.

Learning how to manage communication helps couples restore calm and provide comfort as their understanding of trauma grows. For example, couples can:

  • Use self-observation to recognize when to slow down or step back as feelings escalate
  • Practice mindfulness to raise awareness and recognize triggers for each of you
  • Develop some phrases to help you stay grounded in the present and re-direct your dialog, such as:
    • “I wonder if we can slow this down.
    • “It seems like we’re getting triggered. Can we figure out what’s going on with us?”
    • “I wonder if we are heading into old territory.”
    • “I’m thinking this could be something we should talk about in therapy.”
    • “I wonder if we could try and stay grounded in what is going on for us – is that possible?”

Communication can also help a partner comfort a loved one during a flashback. Techniques include:

  • Reminding the person that he or she is safe.
  • Calling attention to the here and now (referencing the present date, location and other immediate sights and sounds).
  • Offering a glass of water, which can help stop a flashback surprisingly well. (It activates the salivary glands, which in turn stimulates the behavior-regulating prefrontal cortex.)

Healing childhood wounds takes careful, hard work. But it is possible to replace old rules bit by bit. Finding a therapist who can recognize and acknowledge the hurt, which the survivor has carried alone for so long, is key to repairing deep wounds.

Partners may decide to work individually with their own trauma-informed therapist, while working with another as a couple, to provide the resources they need. When a survivor of early trauma can finally find comforting connection with a therapist, and then with their partner, the relationship between the couple can begin to support deep healing as well.

The more we understand about the impact of trauma, the more we can help those touched by it to go beyond surviving, and find the healing security of healthier loving relationships.

More Helpful Resources

 

Articles and Websites

Helping a Partner Who Engages in Self-Destructive Behaviors” by Lisa Ferentz, LCSW

Trauma-Informed Care; Understanding the Many Challenges of Toxic Stress” by Robyn Brickel, M.A., LMFT

Sidran Institute (resources for traumatic stress education and advocacy)

Books

Wired for Love: How Understanding Your Partner’s Brain and Attachment Style Can Help You Defuse Conflict and Build a Secure Relationship by Stan Tatkin, PsyD, MFT

Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Was Sexually Abused As a Child by Laura Davis

Trust After Trauma: A Guide to Relationships for Survivors and Those Who Love Them by Aphrodite Matsakis

Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Daniel Siegel

http://brickelandassociates.com/trauma-survivor-relationships/

The science of spanking: What happens to some spanked kids when they grow up?

You know what the most annoying thing in the world is when you are a parent? Other people telling you what to do as if they know better.

Backseat parenting drives me crazy. Until I’m the one doing it. I have dear friends who spank their kids, and I always try to talk to them about the science of it. They always respond with, “I know what’s best for my kids, just like you know what’s best for yours.” Which is exactly what I’d say if someone told me that I was doing it wrong. Every kid is different. Every kid has their needs.

However, during those discussions, I’d say there is science that backs up doing something other than spanking. They’d always ask for specifics. I never had them. Until now. So here’s an infographic explaining what 36,000 people and 88 studies found.

The biggest takeaway for me? Even if you spank with control, discipline, and good intent, your kids are more likely to have depression and engage in aggressive behavior in adulthood.

For those of you who spank your kids, let me just declare: I am in no way attacking your parenting skills or blaming you for anything. Parenting is hard. I’ve wanted to spank my kids on numerous occasions. But learning about the science can help you in the future.

Maybe it’s what you grew up with. Maybe it’s what you have always known. But the science is hard to ignore. Take from it what you will, but just know I’m not here to judge you — I’m only here to ask you to consider an alternative.

I think we can all agree that we want what is best for our children.

http://www.upworthy.com/the-science-of-spanking-what-happens-to-some-spanked-kids-when-they-grow-up

Five phrases that are guaranteed to make your kids stop begging.

I was in the supermarket last week, listening to a multitude of beeps from scanners, when a new sound caught my ears. It was a kid, a preschooler, begging for one of those baby bottle suckers with the sugar inside. She wanted the cherry flavour.

“Mummy, can I have this?” the little girl asked.

“No, honey,” the mother smiled.

“But mum, I don’t have one.”

“We have plenty of lollies at home,” the mum reminded.

“But I don’t have this one.”

“I said no,” the mother replied, while looking through an entertainment magazine.

With having no luck breaking her mother down verbally, the little girl upped her ante. Her face turned red and words about unfairness and meanness erupted from her mouth.

And then her next strategy: crying. In between her cries and words, she delivered gasps of air, purely for effect.

“Just put it in the cart,” the mum replied. “But you can’t have it until after dinner.”

“Can I just have one bite in the car?” the little girl asked.

“We’ll talk about it when we get in the car.”

The little girl’s tears turned to smiles within less than one minute of her setting eyes on what she wanted.

Now, I’m far from a perfect parent, but I cringed knowing what this mother had just traded. Basically her soul. She traded a nasty temper tantrum for a life of bargaining between her and her little sweet pea. And the sad thing is, it doesn’t have to be that way, nor should it.

“Now, I’m far from a perfect parent, but I cringed knowing what this mother had just traded.” Image via iStock.

I wanted to hand the mum a laminated card with these five fail-proof sayings burned into the paper. They’ve worked for me for years and remind me of chocolate. Every single one of them is good and I pick which “flavour” depending on my mood.

Next time your mini cross-examiner is giving you the run-down, take charge, be a mum, and above all, be consistent.

If you say no, you better mean it. By changing your mind, your child has gained more than a lolly; they’ve gained the knowledge you can be broken down easier than a cardboard box.

Have fun practicing these phrases with your little interrogator:

1. “Asked and answered.”

This is the motherload of all chocolates. Although I use the four below, I use this one ten more times then I use anything else. Let’s replay the scenario from above.

Child: “Mummy, can I have this?”

Mother: “No, honey.”

Child: “But mum, I don’t have one.”

Mother: “Asked and answered.”

Child: “You never get me anything.”

Mother: “Asked and answered.”

If the child keeps at it, you become a robot, saying the same three most blissful words over and over and over again.

“If you say no, you better mean it.” Image via iStock.

2. “I’m done discussing this.”

Child: “Can Ashlyn spend the night?”

Mother: “No, she just spent the night here last week.”

Child: “Please?”

Mother: “I’m not discussing this again.”

Child: “But …”

Then, from the mother, all action, no words. Smile pleasantly, tilt your head to the right, give the best devil eyes you can, and then simply walk away.

3. “This conversation is over.”

Child: “Can I ride my bike?”

Mother: “No, it’s raining outside.”

Child: “But I’ll wear my rain coat and it’s only sprinkling.”

Mother: “This conversation is over.”

Child: “But pleeeasssee?”

Mother: “Asked and answered.”

Become your usual robotic self. Remember, you’re a rock.

4. “Don’t bring it up again.”

Child: “I want these shoes.”

Mother: “No, those cost too much.”

Child: “But I don’t like those.”

Mother: “You’re getting the shoes in the cart and that’s final. Don’t bring it up again.”

Child: “I need them!”

Mother: “You brought it up again. There went your dessert for tonight.”

Yes, you’re going to get more crying with that response, but remember: getting your child to understand you mean business is a marathon, not a sprint.

“Yes, you’re going to get more crying with that response…” Image via iStock.

5. “The decision has been made. If you ask again there will be a consequence.”

Child: “Can I watch the iPad?”

Mother: “No, you know you’re not allowed having technology at the table.”

Child: “I won’t get food on it.”

Mother: “The decision has been made. If you ask again there will be a consequence.”

Child: “But I promise!”

Mother: “I told you not to bring it up again. No iPad for the rest of the day.”

Prepare for a few tantrums until your child learns they’re not going to get anywhere. This is part of their normal testing stage.

Your child will eventually realise nothing changes your mind. This is how you will earn your child’s respect and set up a relationship where your child accepts your decisions the first time.

Don’t forget: their best friend, Timeout, is only a few short steps away.

Here’s a success story: After years of using these phrases with my four-year-old, I’m reaping the benefits everyday with no tears or fighting back.

Here’s the conversation I had with my daughter, Charlotte, while writing this article.

Charlotte: “Can I have a cookie?”

Me: “Yes, you may have one.”

Charlotte: “Can I have three?”

Me: “This conversation is over.”

Charlotte: “OK, I’ll just break it in half so I can have two.”

Sure, I see some passive-aggressiveness in that last comment, but I still won the battle. She happily ate her one cookie and I happily continued typing at my computer.

You can have these blissful conversations, too. Laminate a card or start memorising, but trust me, they’re almost better than chocolate.

http://www.mamamia.com.au/kids-stop-begging/?redirect=tm

 

 

There’s No Such Thing as Equal Parenting

I have a feminist marriage, except I also don’t.

I’ve been meaning to write this piece for weeks, but I’ve been too busy parenting. In fact, I’m only starting this after the dog’s been walked and fed, the baby’s had some food placed optimistically in front of him and been convinced to go to sleep, and the dishes have been (mostly) done. There’s a pile of clean, unfolded laundry in the hamper and another wet one festering in the washer, but I’m choosing to ignore both. I know that if I take those five minutes to put the damp clothes in the dryer and another 15 to fold the dry ones, it’ll somehow be 30 minutes before I’m back at my computer, and this sliver of nighttime quiet is precious, precious time.

My husband and I didn’t give much thought to what would happen when our careers ran up against the challenges of having a child. We had muddled through the domestic stuff fairly decently until then―or at least that’s how it seems in retrospect. And then we dropped a kid into the mix and what seemed like occasionally uneven scales tilted dramatically in one direction. I don’t mean to imply that my husband doesn’t help. He’s a modern, enlightened, all-around good sport who is especially receptive when handed to-do lists, although he often greets them with an “I’ll do my best”―a phrase I’ve come to loathe for its impervious good intentions.

Man washing dishes

But the truth―and he would not contest it―is that I do more. Once, in a fit of peevishness, I tracked every minute he and I devoted to household work and tallied the figure at the end of the week. I had done over 12 hours, my husband just over five. I accounted for our totals for a few more weeks and then gave up because of―what else?―lack of time. Was this tabulating ungenerous and shrewish? Probably. Did that make its conclusions any less annoying? No.

The disparities are augmented on nights like tonight when he’s across the ocean tending to business, and I’m at home white-knuckling it on my own. Because of some combination of social, professional, and financial pressures, he travels more for work, works longer hours, and when, in a few weeks’ time, we have our second child, I’ll take about 12 weeks of leave from my job and he’ll take two.

We are far from alone, although we are, in many ways, on the extremely fortunate end of the spectrum. We have a babysitter who works pretty much full-time Monday through Friday, allowing us both to have careers, and local grandparents who help out with childcare. We’re able to pay someone to clean our apartment every now and then and someone to come fix cabinet doors that won’t stay shut. All this means that we spend less time than the average American woman or man on household work, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: She clocks in at 2.6 hours a day; he logs 2.1. (Childcare, in the BLS’s metrics, is broken out as a separate category, but women still exceed men in those responsibilities.)

WAS THIS TABULATING UNGENEROUS AND SHREWISH? PROBABLY. DID THAT MAKE ITS CONCLUSIONS ANY LESS ANNOYING? NO.

But all that good fortune doesn’t stop me from harboring resentment about the disparity in our household labors and wondering if the dream of an egalitarian marriage―hell, even the honest attempt―inevitably collapses under the responsibilities of child-rearing, when social pressures amplify and leisure time diminishes. Because, I thought in some subconscious section of my brain that I’d married a Marty Ginsburg (husband of Ruth Bader) or an Andrew Moravcsik (husband of Anne-Marie Slaughter), a man with ambition and drive but also a willingness to put his own career on the back-burner when his wife’s was taking off.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg being sworn into the Supreme Court
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, with her husband in the background, as she’s sworn into the Supreme Court.