The Valentine’s Day Solution

Posted on
Alone on Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day can be a challenge- for all kinds of reasons.  If you are single, you’re apt to feel left out.  There’s a tendency to think that all couples are having a dandy old time…although that’s often not the case!  If you’re in a new relationship, there may be anxiety- wondering whether to buy a gift or not.  If you’re expecting something on Valentine’s Day and don’t get anything, that can be a letdown.  Guys especially may feel the obligation to do something romantic even if they don’t feel like it, and no one wants to receive a gift that doesn’t come from the heart.   If your relationship is on the rocks, trying to manufacture emotions isn’t going to work.

What to do?

If you’re a couple, and want something special from your partner on Valentine’s Day  don’t expect them to read your mind.  Tell them that receiving a gift or having a celebration on Valentine’s Day means a lot to you and you would really appreciate it.  Explain what it would mean to you.   Maybe you want a simple gesture, a flower, a poem,  a homemade card or meal, or some bling and dinner out.  Ask for it… and see what happens.

This is about sharing your desires, not demanding that they be fulfilled.    Don’t hint, rather spell out what you’d like.  If your partner doesn’t take the hint, accept it.  Don’t get into ‘stinking thinking’ and make interpretations about what it says about you that they aren’t getting on board.    Instead, if you want something special to happen why not surprise your partner and create the Valentine’s event yourself?    

An Alternative: If that doesn’t work out or if you are single, why not be your own Valentine by turning Valentine’s Day into  ‘I Love Me Day!’  Rather than waiting on someone else to fulfill your wishes, or pine about not having a partner, you can create your own special day.

True freedom comes when you can shine the spotlight on yourself without having to wait for someone else to do it for you.  Does it feel wonderful when someone else does it?… YES for sure…but when you are able to do it, then you don’t need it…you’d like it, you want it, it’s icing on the cake, but if you don’t get it, you aren’t crushed.

Most people are lacking in the self- love, self-appreciation department, so this is the perfect solution.  If you’re single, you can avoid the feeling  that you’re missing out, and if you have a partner that isn’t romantic, you no longer have to feel disappointed or angry or sad that they aren’t into it.

It’s the least selfish thing you can do because when you take the time to nurture, cherish, adore yourself and appreciate yourself, you feel so much better and don’t  feel deprived.  If that sounds lame, it’s because you aren’t used to doing nice things for yourself, and because you don’t feel worthy.  With practice, it’s something you can get used to.  

One way to feel more loving and appreciative of yourself is to create an appreciation journal for yourself and write in all the things you like and love about yourself, your characteristics, things you’ve accomplished, anything that makes you feel good.  Write as much as you can and when you read it, get into the feelings those messages bring up.  Add to it everyday and read it everyday.

Over time your love and appreciation of yourself will grow, and giving yourself an ‘ I Love Me Day!’ will be something  you look forward to.


Is Technoference a ‘Thing’ in Your Love Relationship?

Posted on
Marriage Consulting

As a baby boomer, I love technology!  It’s above and beyond what I ever imagined.  Cell phones, I-phones, lap tops, satellite, face-time, social media, all unheard of when I was a kid.  

As a relationship coach, counselor and educator, though, I’ve seen the downside.  Clients come to me complaining about their partner’s over-use of  electronic devices and how it interferes in their ability to connect with each other.  Although technology allows us instant access to random people and  data, it’s often being done at the expense of creating deep, meaningful relationships with the most important people in our lives!  What an irony!  

The term technoference was created by Brigham Young University prof Sarah Coyne.  She defines it as ‘everyday intrusions or interruptions in couple interactions or time spent together that occur due to technology.”  In her study of 143 married/cohabiting women, 75% of them reported that technoference significantly interfered in their ability to connect with their partners.  

It seems that many people have addictive relationships or are at least preoccupied with technology- they can’t seem to go without their phones, and MUST check out every ping as it comes in.  

Turns out that the instant gratification of the ping of a text, or ring of a phone, or seeing likes on FB cause the release of dopamine, which gives us a ‘high’ feeling which is hugely addictive.   We want more and more of it in the same way that drinking or gambling can cause that high feeling.

It’s a challenge not just in couple relationships, but worldwide, as we are profoundly affected by the cultural influence of technology.  We see other people constantly on their phones rather than talking to each other, and it’s become the new normal.  Back in the day when the early adopters of ‘cell phones’ were carrying around their huge portable phones, we would snicker at them behind their backs, but nowadays, if you don’t have a phone and other gadgets, you’re the odd person out.  

Author Simon Sinek loves technology too, but has identified a disturbing trend especially among millennials have grown up with technology.  In an interview with, Tom Bilyeu of Inside Quest, he stated that it’s millennials who are especially at risk of going to social media to manage their stress and numb themselves rather than turning to their partners or others for support.   

He says we’re all at risk of becoming preoccupied with technology and in danger of missing out on life.  His advice is:

“If you’re sitting with your friends at dinner and texting someone that isn’t there…that is a problem. That is an addiction.” “If you’re at a meeting with people you are supposed to be listening to and place your phone on the table (up or down) it is sending a subconscious message to the room that they are not important to you right now.”  He also suggests that rather than getting stuck in your phone while waiting for a meeting to start, engage with the people around you, get to know them, ask them questions…connect.

If you at dinner with friends….leave your phone at home.  Designate one person to bring their phone.  Enjoy the world….look around you…don’t take away those little moments…It is sad that people aren’t engaged in meaningful conversation and experiencing the connection of the person in front of them!’

When it comes to couple relationships, technoference is a huge issue.  Here you are in  in the middle of a conversation with your partner,  when suddenly you’re put on hold while they tend to something more important- their phone.  

A study by Christine Leggett and Pieter Rossouw  (International Journal of Neuropsychotherapy 2014)  concluded that the continuous engagement and disconnection that occurs as a result of checking technology during face to face interactions leads to ‘reduced feelings of safety, control and attachement’ in relationships.  No surprise there!

Renowned relationship researcher and psychologist John Gottman says that the number one reason someone leaves a relationship is because they feel unimportant, taken for granted or criticized.

Dr. Sue Johnson, psychotherapist and author of Hold Me Tight, says that we are biologically wired for connection- it is a strong human need that we all want fulfilled, and yet we have so many obstacles to express our need.  Add to that the intrusion of techie devices, and couple relationships are at serious risk of never getting beyond superficialities.

If you are the cause of technoference in your relationship, it’s time to take action, unless your okay with a table for one:  

  1. Determine if you have a preoccupation with technology.
  2. Does your partner complain that they have to compete with your phone for attention ?
  3. Do You go to your phone to avoid feeling uncomfortable or have potentially awkward conversations.  
  4. Do you get a high from checking your phone?
  5. Do you take your phone with you everywhere you go and feel stressed out if you can’ t check it every fifteen minutes?  
  6. Do you  keep your phone on the table while eating dinner with your partner  Interrupt your partner or yourself to check a message?

If this is you, here’s some things you can do:

  1. Take your partner’s requests seriously.  Ask them to share with you the impact that their device use is having on you. Be open to hearing what they have to say.  Don’t be defensive. 
  2. Become mindful about how much time you actually spend each day on your devices by tracking it.  How much of it is actually necessary? You will probably be shocked to see how much time you are squandering on your devices at the expense of real, meaningful time you’re your partner.
  3. Jointly create rules about device use for the purpose of enriching your relationship- for instance, no devices at the table.  If you must bring a device with you when out, put it on airplane mode and do not disturb as much as possible.
  4. Schedule device free appointments where the two of you can connect uninterrupted.
  5. Develop your listening skills.  Let your partner know that you heard them and that you have their back.  Put yourself in their shoes.  Don’t criticize or give advice. Make conversations safe and comfortable so that both of you know you can turn to each other for support rather than rely on gadgets to feel better.
  6. If it’s your partner who is the ‘addict’, set clear boundaries with them and follow them.  Honestly share the impact that them being on the phone is having on you.  For instance, you feel unimportant, ignored, taken for granted, not required.  Have patience as it takes time to unlearn a habit.    Enjoy the times that you do have that are device free and limit your attention to the device use.  Don’t become a nag or the device police or this will backfire on you.  

Final words of advice from Simon Sinek: Don’t charge your phone by the bed…. Don’t use it as your alarm…buy a clock.  If the first thing you do in the morning is look at your phone before saying good morning to your partner/spouse, you’ve got a problem!

If you liked this article and would like more advice on having a better relationship with your partner, you may want to read: Marriage: What To Do When Fantasy And Reality Collide


Christmas Blog: Keeping The Love Over The Christmas Holidays

Posted on
Handle Stress over the holidays

Keeping The Love Over The Christmas Holidays

It’s a beautiful gift to be married to the love of your life.  In order for the love to stay, it must be nurtured, or it can take wings and fly away.  Unless you’re conscious about making each other your top priority, you can easily get pulled into the demands of work, family and friends.

The Christmas season, meant to be about peace, love and joy, can take an even greater toll on your relationship as you struggle to meet the demands and expectations placed on you.  Unless you’re deliberate about how you’re going to spend the season, you’re at risk for feeling frazzled, anxious, resentful and disconnected by the time it’s over.  Below are my top ten tips for carving out time to stay connected during the holidays.  

  1.  Create A Christmas Holiday Vision Together.  Talk about how you want to feel- connected, loving, joyful and relaxed -and find ways to create it.  Share the traditions that are most important to you and honour each other’s wishes.   
  2. Do It Your Way.  Friends and family will have expectations of you- be ok with being disapproved of and stick together as a team.  
  1. Eliminate Unnecessary Tasks:   Review your to do list and be willing to remove some of the items that are no longer necessary or enjoyable.  Perhaps participating in the yearly cookie bake-off was one of your traditions, but now you’d rather be roasting chestnuts on the open fire.  
  1. Decline Invitations. Schedule appointments with your partner on your calendar and stick to it.  With limited time and energy and lots of extra tasks, you need time just to hang out and breathe.
  1. Be Partners Then Parents.  Parents, remember to put each other first and show your children through your actions that you love and respect each other.   That’s truly the best thing you can do for them.  Take time to connect, even if it’s just for a little while after the kids go to bed.
  1. Let Go Of Unrealistic Expectations Trying to live up to Martha Stewart is a recipe for frustration and anxiety and puts you at risk of behaving like a sergeant major.  Do you really need to have a spotless house, the best and most thoughtful gifts, matching dishes and silverware?  People are visiting you for you, not for your home.  You want the energy in your home to be joyful and uplifting.  
  1. Take Time For Self-Care.  Whether it’s going for a walk, or to the gym, or meditation, maintain your routine in order to rejuvenate yourself and be at your best.   This is especially important if you are travelling, or doing a lot of hosting and having people stay over at your home.  
  1. Be An Appreciator.  Show your partner through your words and deeds that you love your partner and that they are the most important person in your life.  Feeling loved and respected are far more important than any gift.  
  2.  Stay In Touch– Do a 10 second hug every time you meet and every time you part.  Neuroscience tells us that simply holding each other reconnects us and washes away feelings of distance that can easily come up.
  3. Lighten Up!  Have fun together.  Be playful. Have some laughs, watch some fun movies, do silly things together.  When you look back on the holidays, you’ll have fond memories.

Listen to my audio series. It will help you de-stress during the holidays and learn how to communicate better.

Marriage Coaching

Marriage: What To Do When Fantasy And Reality Collide

Posted on
Marriage education Coaching & Counselling Ottawa

In  20 years of working with couples and individuals on emotional fitness and healthy relationships, I’ve discovered that most couples have no idea what they are getting into when they marry.  This is thanks to our society, which emphasizes the Hollywood version, and leaves couples to their own devices once they say ‘I do’.

We know how well that worked out!  You may be surprised to know that the majority of divorces occur by year five, often due to fantastical expectations clashing with reality.

My husband and I were in the same boat:  when we got married 30 years ago, we didn’t have a clue how to be good partners to each other.

Spoiler alert:   Dave and I were able to figure it out and are now having a blast and you can too!

It turns out that there are predictable stages in relationships that every couple goes through.  The first  is  the honeymoon phase, where mother nature intoxicates couples with love chemicals such as domapine, adrenalin and oxytocin.  In their euphoria they  hyper-magnify each other’s best qualities.  Their relationship is the most magical ever!  As they drift along on in their bubble, everything and everyone else receeds into the background.   This is a glorious phase and  is really important because it bonds the couple together.  Sadly the honeymoon phase is only temporary as it’s based on fantasy- the couple each put their best foot forward and don’t share what their needs are. There’s no effort required to keep it going as the couple ‘falls’ in love and their intense energy and focus on each other is fuelled by  ‘love potion #9’

The next phase is the disillusionment phase, where the couple moves past fantasyland and begins to see the flaws in each other.  This occurs in every couple relationship, either slowly or suddenly and comes as quite a shock.

Although it sounds like something negative, it’s actually a good thing.  In order to move forward to the eventual bliss phase, all couples must resolve this phase.  In order to truly love someone there needs to be emotional intimacy (in-to-me-you-see) and that’s not possible unless you know the person warts and all.

Things that you found cute in the past are now annoying.  Qualities that you previously valued, like organization, are now seen as nit-picking.   Differences become magnified and the couple starts to feel like they have nothing in common.

This can be a time of great anxiety and confusion for a couple.

Adjusting to the fact that they are two unique individuals with different perspectives and ways of doing things can be a huge challenge, and there’s a tendency to take everything personally.  Both partners often feel like they are no longer accepted unconditionally.  Daily life gets in the way of them catering to each other, and balancing their individual needs with their needs as a couple becomes a challenge.

Not only is our partner not the person we thought they were, but marriage isn’t either.  Couples who have the idea that their partner and marriage itself are going to make them happy and take away their lonliness forever are doubly disillusioned.

Although essential to moving forward, the disillusionment phase is the most dangerous time for a couple.  They now have to decide whether to split up, soldier on and pretend that everything is ok, or embrace each other’s differences and work together to create a deeper, more satisfying relationship.

Unfortunately, most people never get there….often through lack of awareness that this is a predictable phase and the lack of skills to navigate it

Ok so how do you navigate the disillusionment phase?

  1. Accept that this is a normal, predictable and essential phase of every relationship
  2. Be willing to embrace your differences rather than trying to make your partner be like you
  3. Let go of your demand that things be the way you thought they would be
  4. Exchange your expectations for appreciation of your partner.
  5. Commit to seeing things from your partner’s point of view

As human beings, we are biologically wired to focus on the negative.  We have to take deliberate efforts to focus on what we like.  Make the decision to find things to appreciate about your partner-magnify the good and minimize what you don’t like.  This will make you feel better about them and will in turn allow your partner to feel better about themselves.  Don’t demand that your partner do this as well.  One person making this change of attitude can change everything.  One way to increase your appreciation is to create a ‘partner appreciation journal.’ Fill it up with all the things you like and love about your partner and read it every day and add to it every day.

By developing the habit of appreciating what you love about your partner, your loving feelings for them will heighten and they will feel it too.  This will allow you to create a new reality- one that you co-create together to have the relationship you dream of.