Words from the Dalai Lama that could benefit intimate relationships

The NY Times has an interesting piece running today by The Dalai Lama and Arthur C. brooks. It explores what is behind our anxiety—the fear of “being unneeded.” According to the authors, for all the progress the world has made on human rights, poverty, sexism, and hunger—there is still much anger, discontent, and a feeling of hopelessness, especially in the worlds’ wealthiest nations.

This article attempts to answer why this is so. It references research about what makes people thrive, and what comes up over and over again is that people need to be needed. Selfish people are unhappy, those who serve their fellow men in a variety of ways, great and small, are found to be happier. They quote 13th century sages who taught that “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”

All the great religions in the world teach this, and it is a tenant they all share. Studies prove that selflessness and joy are intertwined, yet too many people are focused solely on their own needs and wants or on survival, heads down and only seeing a few steps ahead.

The authors theorize that pain and indignation are rising in wealthy countries due to the belief of their citizens that they are no longer useful, needed, or at one with their fellow citizens. This then dampens the human spirit and leads to negativity and feelings of isolation.

The piece suggests that what people can do about this is ask themselves what they can do each day to appreciate the gifts and contributions of others. In other words, we need to become compassionate societies.

Upon reading this, my thoughts went to how this appreciation could be applied to improve committed relationships, marriage, and families. Too often, couples find themselves falling into emotional and physical distance, due to a focus on their own needs, wants, and bean-counting behavior. By this I mean, grudgingly giving with the expectation that they should be rewarded a certain way, and if not, resentment and unhealthy competition often set in. Too often, appreciation is not expressed, only frustration and annoyance when the individual feels slighted, minimized, or their feelings are overlooked by their partner.

Therefore I would suggest that everyone reading this make a commitment to show even some small appreciation every day for what your partner brings to your life and relationship. Nothing is too small to notice or mention. This validation will lead to feelings of goodwill that will help to provide insurance against all the rocky days and periods that all relationships go through. And if the research and the conclusions of these authors is correct, it will help you to achieve greater happiness in your relationship.

Houses haunted by past loves

The NY Times has a fun piece today titled; The House That Love Built before it was Gone. It features three unique and notable homes built by people long ago for someone they had fallen passionately in love with. Frank Lloyd Wright, Eileen Gray, and Monica Vitti, were either those who designed and built them or the objects of the passion that inspired them. For each, their love affairs all ended in these homes, just 3 years after each had begun.

These were people with money and opportunity, those who could follow their passion to wherever it led. One couple fell in lust with other people while married—and followed their hearts to a new home he built for (and inspired by) her. But she died in a fire there that was deliberately set and killed several others, including her children. For another, the passion died a natural death, they split, and the house had a new mistress in it. The third couple was an older woman and younger man, she having built the home with exquisite details of their union designed into the stone. When they split following much absence by him, she left him the house and moved to another, apparently hoping for a new love. The house would later be the setting for murder and tragedy—a dark place is how it is often described.

If houses really do reflect the people who live in them—do they also contain the energy that was once there? If so, this is what people must mean when they talk about the personality of a home—that which is shaped by those who built it, lived in it, loved and even died in it.

Do you ever dream about past places you have called home? Are you tempted to drive by and see if any evidence of you and those you loved has remained? Do you wonder about the people who lived in your house before you—what their life, work and passions were all about? Do you wonder if any trace of you might be found years from now through some small memory or object you left behind?

Houses are so much more than buildings—and this is demonstrated every time we walk into an old home and feel the ghosts and hear the stories of those who came before. This is not haunting—it’s just a home holding onto something of those who once lived and loved there.

To go the article, click here

Do you zig when your partner zags?

The NY Times ran an interesting piece this past weekend on the Lark-Owl problem that many couples have. This is when one is a morning person and the other gets a second wind late at night and rises later—which leads to an incompatible sleep schedule.

For many couples, different sleep cycles mean they see less or little of one another, which can lead to a breakdown in communication and intimacy. However since sleep plays a major role in mental and physical health, it is hard for individuals to attempt changing their natural patterns and risk exhaustion/brain fog/illness for the sake of the relationship.

Approximately 60% of the population sleeps with someone else, and if their bed partner has a sleeping problem it usually impacts them and their relationship satisfaction. Research has shown that people sleep better when sleeping alone, probably because they have no one there to disturb their sleep or impact their sleep/rise schedule. However, people in general report they are less happy sleeping alone—so learning how to get adequate sleep when sleeping beside a partner who has a different sleep cycle should be a priority for everyone.

Whether you are a Lark or an Owl will depend largely on genetics, and less so on age and gender—that is, primarily what your parents and grandparents were and are. Each of us has a sleep chronotype, which is our internal timing that can vary up to 12 hours from our partner’s chronotype. These are like fingerprints, everyone is different and the possibilities are as numerous as the people with them.

We have a problem when our natural rhythm doesn’t line up with the demands of our personal and work lives. The result is “social jet lag,” which we can all relate to. We can adjust our internal clocks by staying in the light longer or turning lights off earlier. The author uses camping as an example. For anyone who has camping experience you know what it was like to be ready for sleep soon after dark and an early meal. Then when the sun rose, you found yourself awake and ready to get up and start the day. But for most people who work inside, often in front of a computer screen, sleep problems are common.

Recent research suggests that different sleep patterns don’t have to be a deal breaker and can in fact, be beneficial—allowing one partner to handle early times with children or both to have some alone time when the other is catching their zsssss.

Otherwise finding time when both are awake to connect can help keep the relationship strong and healthy. Couples who master this are often better problem solvers in general. What is NOT advised is to try and get your partner to change for you. If you pursue this solution, you will end up with a tired, irritable partner who is lacking in energy, unable to focus or be productive—and who blames you for their problems at work and in the relationship.

A popular trend—gray divorce

The NY Times has an interesting piece out on the increase in divorce among older, long married couples. Abby Ellin shares some interesting statistics and the feelings and experiences of a number of women who left their less than satisfying marriages and dove into the frightening unknown because they wanted more and knew the clock was ticking.

Divorce for long married, older couples is on the rise. In 2014, those 50 and older were twice as likely to divorce as that age group was in 1990. And for those over 65, the increase was even higher. Yet divorce among younger couples has actually dropped or remained the same over the same period of time.

Many theories are being floated as to why this is occurring. Second marriages are twice as likely to fail as first marriages and many older couples are in a second or third marriage. Another theory is that life expectancy is a factor—people used to die earlier and didn’t look forward to a new life at an older age. Now they do and if their marriage is stale or no longer meeting their needs, they think about what else might be out there and reflect on the need to pursue it since time is passing. The stigma of divorce is also largely gone, and in the past this often kept couples together long past the “happy” expiration date of their unions.

What may be surprising to some, but if we think about it, not really—is that women are the ones most likely to initiate these later in life divorces. They are the burned out caretakers who very likely put their own dreams on hold to support those of their spouse and to raise children. They don’t want to be caretakers to their aging husbands who may not be in as good shape, have fewer interests and/or be retired and sedentary. Their spouse can feel like a ball and chain as opposed to being a partner they can move forward into new adventures with. Because many women have careers and money of their own, they are not financially dependent, which used to be their primary reason for staying.

With the kids out on their own, even if not happy with their parents splitting up—these women are going for it while they still can. Though it means taking a risk, many women are more comfortable with this than men. They may give up some financial security, but feel the trade-off is worth it. For many, their standard of living goes down, for some even below the poverty line–yet they still take this step into the unknown. But many do work and therefore have their own income and a means to support their new life.

The retirement of spouses also plays heavily into rising divorce rates. When men are suddenly home all day, the dynamics of the relationship change—and what wasn’t good in their relationship is suddenly exposed and highlighted 24/7, with no distractions or escape for women. They decide the risks are worth it as they make the decision to leap into the unknown and to see what is out there as they search for greater meaning and personal happiness.

Older women beware of dating site con men

The NY Times ran a great piece on how older women are targeted by scammers when they post profiles on dating sites. These women are choice victims because they have accumulated wealth from years of savings, and are often recently widowed and lonely–which makes them especially vulnerable to that interested and attentive stranger who knows just what to say as he heaps attention on them and eases their loneliness.

According to the piece, this industry is thriving and it could be worse than anyone really knows. This is because so many of these women don’t report it, due to a sense of shame–imagine that heaped upon a loss of significant cash or even one’s life savings. Women who were interviewed for this story talked about how good it felt to have someone to talk to who seemed to care so much. They described their hurt, shock, and shame. Many hid it from family and friends. All said they were naive and that these guys were just too good at it. Amounts up to several hundred thousand have been reported as lost to these scams–and one wonders if these women are now unable to keep their homes and lifestyles because of it.

Everyone from the FBI to the dating sites themselves have been working to find ways to identify and prevent these predators from gaining access and finding and conning their targets. Warnings are posted all over the sites, but too often they go unread. These guys have a formula that involves connecting, gaining trust quickly, then asking the target to use private email and phone contact instead of going through the website where it could be detected.

The formula usually involves posing as a businessman headed to another country for work who gets in a jam and needs money transferred to carry him over. In some cases, he needs money for his new business or for a project that is being held up until his own funds are accessible. Another one is when he needs money for medical bills due a medical emergency far from home. Then there is the classic one of needing cash so he can come to her and they can have that first in-person meeting and then more to follow.

The bottom line is that somewhere along the way He asks for money–and this should be where the red flags start flying. Never, ever send money to Anyone you don’t know well, like a close family member. It may sound impossible that this could happen to you or that anyone could be this bad, but they are. They are very bad.

Look for men closer to home. Check them out online to see if they are who they say they are. Google the “script” they send you about being in desperate need of quick funds–how much do you want to bet you will find it word for word listed on a scam identifying site. No.one can take advantage of you without your permission, so say no. A guy who is the real deal will only be interested in you, not your bank account.

Is sex really that important in a relationship?

The New York Times just featured an interesting piece titled First Comes Sex Talk with These Renegades of Couples Therapy. Essentially it deals with the issue of the importance of sex in happy marriages and relationships—and it challenges the notion that couples need to first focus on their underlying issues in couples therapy in order to heal and/or strengthen their relationships. Instead this piece is saying that sex is the 600 pound gorilla in the relationship that has been ignored for way too long.

Many new voices in the field of couple’s therapy (my field by the way) are emphasizing the importance of good sex in a relationship—and basically saying that without good sex, the relationship will be in trouble. They are therefore saying that sex should be talked about before any other issues the couple may be struggling with. Now that is new.

Now instead of focusing on infidelity, communication, and chore sharing, these “sex-forward” therapists are talking about sex, and kinky sex at that. One prominent member of this radical group of therapists says that Mystery and distance could benefit long-term monogamy.” This is new thinking all right. She also believe that talking about the trauma of affairs limits the couple’s ability to grow and strengthen their bond. She believes that betrayal is the opportunity for growth—and it’s hard to argue with this. I have worked with many couples who come out of an affair with a much closer and stronger relationship.

Another sex therapist in this movement tells couples to write their own monogamy rules, which can include weekend trysts or trysts that they participate in together. She sees monogamy as something that needs to be regularly renewed, like a license. This can be a slippery slope if you ask me. Once these boundaries get crossed, it can harm the relationship if one partner feels threatened or falls for someone they have been sexually involved with.

One New York psychotherapist meets with her couples individually, asking them to write sexual menus that they can share with their partner later on. Her focus is never to feel embarrassment about your desires or shame your partner for theirs. Everything is OK as long as both people agree. She believes in “GGG” which is based on the column of Dan Savage, a syndicated sex columnist. It stands for a belief that a “person should strive to be good in bed, giving to their partner and game for anything — within reason. She also emphasizes quality over frequency, which is very different than what most therapists advise. The piece also discusses pornography and internet use of it and how couples can come to some agreement on this issue.

Want to read it in its entirety? Click here

The NY Times on Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman, a Harvard trained psychologist, past science writer for the NY Times, and author of the book Emotional Intelligence penned a column on April 7th titled, How to be emotionally intelligent. It’s written in a very straightforward style, in which he outlines the competencies of EQ.

I found this piece to be very user friendly as the usual definitions and descriptions for its use are very wordy and often seem too weighted and academic. This list gets right down to what you need to think about and focus on in order to raise your EQ, which will help you to attract others in your professional, personal and dating/relationship lives.

Dating and relationship coaches and counselors often focus on how a person dresses, and what they say when they approach or converse with others. While these have importance, it’s everything we don’t say that often speaks the loudest and sends the truest messages about who we are and what we think and feel.

If you have had little exposure to EQ or have only a limited understanding of what it is or how important it can be to your interactions and relationships with others, I recommend you read this piece in the NY TIMES.

Can you increase your happiness and attractiveness to others?

The New York Times is running an interesting piece called “The feel Good Gene.” Essentially the author, Richard Friedman, MD talks about how some people are less prone to anxiety and drug use to control it, due to a gene variation in the brain that leaves some folks less anxious and fearful. A higher level of the chemical anandamide is produced by those who have this variation, and this resulting chemical is appropriately known as the “bliss molecule.”

Talk about the luck of the draw—some things really are helped or harmed by basic biological luck. According to recent research, about 20% of adult Americans have this mutation—bet we all know someone. They are those easy-going, happy, calm folks who can “just say no,” to drugs like pot and cocaine and mean it. We all have some measure of anandamide, just some have more and life is a bit easier for them because of it.

A mouse study was published last month that backs up these findings. Mice with higher levels of anandamide were more outgoing, risk-taking, and calmer than those who had less. Their emotional control was stronger as well. The good news here (yes there is some) is that environment always influences genetic predisposition. Given the right amount of stress and a too heavy dose of life challenges, those with this gene mutation could exhibit high levels of fear and anxiety. The reverse is also true.

The real take away from some of this research is that anyone regardless of having or not having this genetic advantage can have high stress and related addiction problems in the right environment. My take-away is a reinforcement of what I have always believed. Making good choices and decisions influences outcomes–having a good support system, using relaxation and other techniques for stress control, eating good food, getting a healthy amount of sleep, engaging in regular exercise, and seeking out positive people can make a difference for all of us. Maybe this is the real secret of happy people, the kind that others want to be around.

Want to read more? Go to to read the whole article and see if it can be useful to you, especially in your relationship life.