Doing Life Together

ID-100100147I just had my 6 month check up with the dentist. It wasn’t good news. There is an infection brewing under one of my teeth. I had no idea, but was glad I kept my six month appointment. Otherwise, I would be clueless and in trouble.

Regular checks ups help prevent major problems. And marriage is no exception.

A recent study proved this point by asking couples to undergo a marriage check up. The idea was to discuss strengths and weaknesses in the marriage to see if this made a difference in moving forward.

The results of the study conducted by Dr. Cordova and his colleagues, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, showed a mark improvement in relationship satisfaction, intimacy and feelings of acceptance compared to couples who did not do the review.

Furthermore, the check up decreased depressive symptoms and helped improve the relationship in couples with the most problems. The check up worked!

The idea is to perform the marital check up with care.

Begin with the positives of the relationships. Once you move into the weaknesses–no blaming, criticizing. Focus on the problems rather than the person. Discuss why you feel the way you do, again using your “I” position rather than “you.” Be empathetic and try to understand the world of your partner in terms of what may be adding to the problem (e.g., stress, job pressure, health, etc). Allow your partner to respond and then discuss a possible way to improve or change the problem.

According to the study, once you finish this type of regular review, your relationship gets a boost. So why not schedule your regular check up. Just like the going to the dentist, it can prevent problems before they become too difficult.

family  tug of warTrust is the foundation of any healthy relationship. The key to building trust is to know the other person’s world and reliably respond to it. Do what you say. Keep your promises.

A second component of building trust involves empathy. Empathy helps us see an issue from both sides. Empathy creates a safe haven to work through differences.

When differences are expressed and that expression is negative, stay calm and listen to those feelings. Try not to get defensive, turn away or decide to avoid the person. Stay in it. The person who has the conflict is trying to connect with you.

When you stay in the conflict, trust builds. You learn, I can have issues, but the person will stay in the relationship and work through those issues with me. This is what creates safety and a secure attachment- a willingness to work through differences.

During a conflict, be careful not to turn the conflict into a win-lose argument or debate. American Idol’s Randy Jackson’s sentiment, “He’s in it to win it,” doesn’t fly with conflict. Disagreements aren’t about winning; they are about understanding. We aren’t in conflict to win it. Our aim is to understand the other, consider our part, and take responsibility where necessary. Then, we can come to a resolution or agreement on how to proceed. This is what creates a win-win outcome.

Finally, when trust is broken, repair is needed. Repair begins with forgiveness. In my opinion, people deserve a second chance and a right to win back our trust. We all make mistakes and need a little grace in our lives.

Now, if a person repeatedly shows you that he or she is not trustworthy, then boundaries are needed. Even so, continue to forgive and keep the door open to repair by being clear as to what needs to change in order for trust to be restored.

Yes, it is easier to walk away than do the hard work of repair. But remember, trying to work through conflict helps you develop those skills and brings growth. Walking away does neither. And in order to work through problems, building trust is a key factor.



depressed studentsFor 30 years I have taught in medical schools and universities. This generation is different. They are more anxious and suffer from higher rates of anxiety disorders.  And what I am about to say is a generalization. Not all college kids are anxious and acting like victims. But for those who are, listen up. We have a number of stressed out kids, not coping well with life.

Since they were kids, this generation has seen an unprecedented protectiveness from parents. Gone are the days of roaming the neighborhood, entertaining yourself and dealing with boredom. Instead we have consistently given the message that the world is unsafe and we can protect you from harm. You must be entertained and lead with your emotions, especially when you are offended.

In our politically correct culture, all things potentially offend someone. Consider these statements that have been cited as offensive on college campuses:

America is the land of opportunity. 

The most qualified person should get the job.

Really? Individual differences are handled by vilifying people and silencing critical thinking. Be like me or don’t speak. Offend me and I  report you. Then add the power of social media to underscore authority and destroy reputations with no accountability. Basically, students have few conflict resolution skills or even the ability to tolerate distress. Part of the blame is on us as parents–we overprotected, took care of every problem and didn’t allow for competition or failure.

How does all of this relate to anxiety and college students? Those highly anxious stressed kids (and yes, I am making a generalization here) can’t tolerate differences, difficulty or divergent thinking. Emotional reasoning leads the way and determines what is offensive. Civil debate is gone.

We have given in to this constant complaining through more political correctness and speech restrictions instead of telling students to grow up, deal with the real world and learn to tolerate their feelings of frustration.

We have created campuses of homogeneity, where students don’t have to deal with divergent views. They aren’t forced to work through their negative and disquieting feelings –the treatment for anxiety.

To deal with anxiety, you have to be exposed to the triggers, tolerate them and move through the process. But on college campuses, we coddle and try to protect students from bad feelings. It’s the wrong approach.

One day, anxious and stressed students will face the real world of diversity and offense. Will they be prepared to handle it given the atmosphere of most university campuses?

We have to ask, are we really surprised that anxiety rates have risen?


supriseLast year, I wrote a blog, Is Sitting the New Smoking? In that blog, I reported on the impact of too much sitting on physical health. Too much sitting is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and early death from all causes. That’s right, the World Health Organization puts sitting or physical inactivity 4th on the list of risk factors for death worldwide.

So what do we do with these findings?

It’s time to crank up the James Brown, “Get up off of that thing,” and start to move! If you are a couch potato or a typical office worker, here are your marching (literally) orders.

Professor of ergonomics at Cornell University, Dr. Alan Hedge, recommends we get up and move at regular intervals. Dr. Hedge says it is important to break up our activity. Specifically, he recommends we sit for 20 minutes, stand for 8 minutes, then move around and stretch for 2 minutes. This means every 20 minutes, we are moving around.

I was in a 3 hour meeting the other day, so I am thinking, how am I going to do this? It seems a bit disruptive. My colleagues would think I lost it if I got up every 20 minutes and stood, then stretched. This isn’t going to work in some parts of the business day.

However, as I sit hour after hour working at my computer, I could give this a try. So I did, but it really ruined my train of thought. I was on a creative roll and then, oops, time to get up and move. I did and lost my train of thought.

So here’s the thing. I’m going with the spirit of the research. As much as I can, I will make it a point to get up and move, stand for some minutes and walk around the building. The key here is movement. Sit, then stand, sit, stand…alternate. Too much sitting or standing isn’t good for our health.

We have to make this work as the researchers found that regular exercise doesn’t mitigate the effects of all our sitting. Sitting too much changes our bodies in negative ways, so we need to change it up. Shake it up, yes, Taylor!

Here are a few ideas I am trying:

1) I don’t have one of those stand up desks,but I do have a shelf that I could move my computer to for a few moments to stand. I’m going to give it a try.

2) I’m being more intentional about standing up and moving around when I am working on the computer. I set my IPHONE on a reminder.

3) I asked a few people to walk and talk instead of meet at a table. They thought I was weird!

4) I stood at the back of the room during a meeting. Yes, it is awkward, but people now know I am doing that health thing.

5) I take the stairs everywhere.

6) I take a short walk at lunch.

Overall, I got the message, but need to work on the application. Let me know if you have more suggestions.