Dr. Jane’s Blog

Dr. Jane’s Compatibility Meter… What Good Is It?

Posted by on 8:54 pm in Communication, Family Relationships, Love, Love, Marriage, Sex, Loyalty, Values | Comments Off on Dr. Jane’s Compatibility Meter… What Good Is It?

For years, I have written about the primary factors of long-term relationship satisfaction; Love, Loyalty and Shared Family Values. When my husband decided to convert my research on marital satisfaction into an App, I blissfully believed that my work was done. But upon publishing the App and describing its capability, we noticed that many couples looked on Dr. Jane’s Compatibility Meter as some sort of test. Often they asked “why do I need that, I’m already married” or “we’re happy; we don’t need that”. Their reactions suggested an underlying concern that the last thing these couples wanted to do was to “rock the boat!” Dr. Jane’s Compatibility Meter seemed to touch a nerve we did not mean to hit. The fact is that The Compatibility Meter is less about determining compatibility and more about increasing compatibility. Simply put, these questions offer a forum for couples to engage in meaningful conversation. When couples first meet, they usually spend a great deal of time talking. They talk about their histories, their likes, and dislikes. As they open up, share their deepest feelings, and hopefully feel accepted for who and how they are, love blossoms. We become increasingly attached to others the more we let them into our private thoughts and feelings. The Compatibility Meter simply offers up topics for couples who want to deepen their communication and their feelings for each other. Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to move from superficial to more meaningful topics for conversation. For those who are dating, it helps to know which questions they should be asking of this new love. For those who are cohabiting and considering marriage, these topics could very well help with the decision-making moving forward. For those who are married, it’s healthy to stay synchronized with your spouse so the two of you can stay on the same page and not go too far off-track as the year tick off. Dr. Jane’s Compatibility Meter is a relationship game that is based on legitimate research. Playing this game can lead to important conversations, new excitement as we learn new things about each other, and presents an opportunity to grow closer. Often the laughs and giggles that come with pillow-talk increase. After all, talking with your partner should be fun and meaningful! Shouldn’t...

read more

Communication isn’t perfect: Reminders to help couples keep their relationships healthy

Posted by on 5:33 pm in Family Relationships | 2 comments

Love, like many things in life, always seems easier at the beginning. When a relationship is new, it’s easy to feel connected and supported, but as our affection progresses, it is easy to become less thoughtful of each other’s feelings. One key to maintaining a healthy relationship is to encourage effective and clear communication, which can be difficult. Below are some common communication challenges to keep in mind so that you and your significant other can have a better, more open relationship. Communication can be elusive Ask anyone what he or she wants in a partner and you’re sure to hear “better communication.” When couples fall in love, they often attribute it to their ability to talk about anything and everything. When couples fall out of love, it’s because they can’t seem to talk about anything anymore. Make communicating with your loved one a priority. Take the time at least once a day to share something personal with each other. No television. No social networks. No distractions. Give one another your undivided attention. Communication can be difficult Humans are a sensitive lot. We long for validation yet hate criticism. We’re acutely cautious at the start of relationships, opening up slowly and carefully and quickly recoiling at the slightest hint of danger. It’s a difficult conundrum. On one hand, we want to share our private self with people. On the other hand, we’re afraid of being hurt. Maintain an attitude of support and affection by exchanging kind words; after all, doesn’t everyone deserve to feel good? Be sure to compliment your mate at least once a day. Communication can get lost Many people forget that communication is made up of more than words. It’s easy to ineffectively share our emotions or misinterpret our partner’s messages when we aren’t deliberate about the way we give and receive information. Pay attention to visual cues like facial expressions and body language. Watch for affirmation and a sense of understanding. If you think that your partner may not have understood, double back and clarify your message. It’s better to be redundant than to cause unnecessary harm. As a listener, give your partner your attention. Make eye contact where needed and show them that you are listening. Give them verbal and visual cues of understanding, like nodding. If you don’t understand their meaning, get more information. Communication can be hurtful Even after knowing someone for years, it is easy communicate carelessly and hurt one another’s feelings. Think before you speak, especially if you are emotional. Take time to cool off and think about your feelings. Quick, angry retorts may feel good at the moment, but can cause lasting damage in a relationship. It’s better to understand why you are upset so you can share with your partner in an effective, non-aggressive way. Remember, love is a physical and emotional relationship that must be nurtured every day. Saying words like “I love you,” affirms our connection, our commitment to the relationship and helps us focus our emotional energy toward staying in love for years and years. Love is not an achievement. It requires constant communication that allows both partners to thrive individually and as a...

read more

Ray Rice: A letter to those who hurt the ones they love

Posted by on 1:22 pm in Family Relationships, Loyalty, Personal Growth | Comments Off on Ray Rice: A letter to those who hurt the ones they love

While the Ray Rice NFL scandal has sent a shock wave through America, too many people will watch the news wondering if one day, they too will be exposed for their cruelty to others – spouse abuse. While the sports and entertainment industries glamorize violence, it is not okay to harm the people around you! From the time we are born, each one of us strives to control ourselves. In school and at home, we learn how to control ourselves by maintaining important boundaries. Our human charge is to maintain self-control — Not “other-control“. Those who hurt the ones they love, seek to control others because they feel out of control themselves. If you batter, abuse, punish or dominate another person, you are not just hurting one person. You are hurting an entire community. Realize that the pain you cause affects children, parents, friends, employers, co-workers, neighbors and in the case of Ray Rice, he has caused pain to the NFL and the entire country. You don’t have to feel out of control. Thousands of mental health professionals are trained to help break the cycle of abuse. Help yourself become more lovable. Self-control is a beautiful...

read more

SIX ELEMENTS OF MARITAL SATISFACTION

Posted by on 5:00 pm in Love, Love, Marriage, Sex, Loyalty, Values | 1 comment

Not long ago, I did research on over 200 different marriages. My goal was to identify the relationship ingredients necessary for couples to achieve marital satisfaction. Below are six behaviors that can help you and your spouse make your marriage more rewarding. Expression of affection Affection is a relationship is expressed two ways – words and actions. When relationships are new, most couples pay a great deal of attention to each other and behave thoughtfully in many ways, no doubt a major point of attraction for both parties. While affection in a new relationship is easy, the real trick is to develop and sustain a genuine level of affection over time. Communication Early in relationships, partners often describe how easy it is to talk endlessly about almost anything. But over time, communication needs to involve more than interesting dialogue. Communication becomes a matter of listening to one another’s thoughts, ideas, feelings, and opinions. Communication should involve trust, a desire to confide, and an ability to express one’s self without fear of harsh judgment. Consensus While it is actually quite dull to agree about everything, partners in a relationship must have a basic level of agreement on certain matters. As relationships develop, they establish understandings between them about issues such as money, recreation, home environment, parenting, and relationships with others. While it may not be necessary to agree on all matters of politics and religion, it is exhausting when every discussion results in conflict. A certain level of agreement is necessary for a relationship to function well, which usually requires willingness to compromise. Sexuality and intimacy Among the most important ingredients in a marriage are the elements of sexuality and intimacy. Sexual love is a crucial and binding force in marital relationships. Sexuality and intimacy reassure partners that they are loved, valued, and attractive while providing security by satisfying a basic human need. Over time, these two elements create deep personal bonds or convey the height of personal rejection. Conflict management When partners disagree, the disagreement itself is usually not the biggest problem. The greater problem is usually the fall-out from the tactics partners use in a struggle to get their way. In general, people hate the feeling of giving in and seek revenge when we feel like we’ve lost face. It’s wise to consider how conflicts are handled in your marriage. Some spouses manage conflict by habitually giving into the wishes of their partner, regardless of their own feelings. While at face value this seems like a strategy for peace, it usually results in built-up anger, which often surfaces in some other destructive way. Others resolve conflict by resorting to bullying behavior, which often turns from verbal to physical violence. When conflict escalates into domestic violence, it leaves permanent scars on a relationship. Distribution of roles Marital satisfaction is related to the satisfaction spouses have with the roles they play in the marriage. The challenge is that roles can change quite a bit over time due to finances, work schedules, children, and the needs of other family members. Over a period of years, spouses will play a variety of roles. Sometimes roles change in ways that are less than desirable because of circumstances beyond our control. At other times, roles evolve because of a personal desire to grow and...

read more

TOO OLD FOR SEX?

Posted by on 2:23 pm in Love, Marriage, Sex, Romance, Sex | Comments Off on TOO OLD FOR SEX?

Long beyond child-bearing and child-rearing, parents continue to grow and change individually and as couples. Theories of family development suggest that family crises occur whenever family members join or depart from the family unit. Early on, many years are spent adjusting to the changing stages of children; later on, we must adjust to the changing stages of growing older. Consider the following relationship issues and how couples must adapt: Affection and Communication: Needs that never go away. We never outgrow our need for affection. While some people need more and others less, physical contact remains an important way to validate each other. Likewise, our need for communication is essential to help us feel important and to help us keep abreast of the world. When others speak with us, our greatest task is to listen well. Others sense when our attention is elsewhere; they also sense when we are judgmental, critical, annoyed or impatient. Even when we are sure we know what another is about to say, it is important to honor them simply by listening. Especially when someone seems to be repeating themselves, we must consider the possibility that they feel they have not been heard. Sexuality and Compromise. Among the greatest myths in our society is the myth that we grow to old to engage in sexual relations past our prime. On the contrary, regular sexual encounters serve to strengthen relationships and personal vitality. Some say that sex was designed to be lifelong, as evidenced by the fact that you can do it lying down. The secret to an ongoing sex life lies in a couple’s capacity to change and adapt as they grow older. Sex changes over the years along with every other aspect of our lives. Yet, the ability of spouses to enter into the closest of unions is not only possible, but highly desirable. As with other things in life, however, the ability to compromise and change together is an essential element of that closeness. Role changes and management of conflict. With changes in household occupancy and work schedules, comes the need to re-evaluate roles within a marriage. When kids are no longer around to help with certain tasks, someone will need to do them. When there’s an extra pair of hands around the house, it is only fair that the wealth of chores be spread around a little more evenly. When retirement or disability become real, couples must be willing to change what they do in order to adequately address the current needs for living. Without this ability to adapt, family changes are met with resentment, hostility and discontent. In contrast, we must be prepared to change our previous ways of doing things and willing to do so in the spirit of good sportsmanship. Understand the keys to lifelong happiness and personal satisfaction have never been as important as they are today. Couples are living longer and retirement often occurs at younger ages than even before. Thus, when we speak of life-planning, we are no longer just referring to the years of our careers and as families who are busy with child-rearing. In her best-seller, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Rebecca Wells describes life as an experience which is short but wide. I agree. And since it keeps changing, we all still have...

read more

LOSING LOVE IS NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY

Posted by on 2:18 pm in Family Relationships, Love, Marriage, Sex, Romance | Comments Off on LOSING LOVE IS NOT ALWAYS NECESSARY

There’s a part of the poem, No Loser, No Weeper in which Maya Angelou begins with the line, “I hate to lose something” and ends with, “…I mean I really hate to lose something”. In the poem, Dr. Angelou wrote of losing her doll, her wristwatch, and then, of losing love. In my work, I see people who have found love, lost love, abused love, and confused love. Here are a few thoughts on the matter. Sometimes parents and children lose their love for each other. Love between parents and children carries very high expectations. Parents and children alike are guilty of wanting to redesign each other’s personalities and increase each others’ strengths. Therein lies the loss. Instead, we must be willing to truly love each other as we are… imperfect beings who have some wonderful qualities that should be highlighted. Sometimes husbands and wives lose their love for each other. While dating, people tend to spend a lot of energy on being attractive to each other. The feeling of being in love is the incredible high that everybody seems to want. However, for some reason, after the wedding, some people stop making the effort to be attractive life companions to each other. Usually love relationships require a great deal of daily nurturance. So when love gets taken for granted, the people in the relationship become lonely. It takes continuous effort to keep a relationship synchronized, alive, fun and exciting. Emotional distancers prevent closeness in relationships. Things that are distancers come in all forms: they can be hiding places, activities, or substances. For example, the smoker who is confined to a certain part of the house may choose to spend a lot of time there alone. Some people like to hide inside their computers. Being an alcoholic is like having a love affair with the bottle. When this occurs, the intoxicated person is never really available to get to know others. Frequently, secret drug or food addictions cause people to withdraw from intimate relationships. It is easy for spouses to live parallel and separate lives when their work schedules conflict or they spend most of their time at home in different rooms. In the words of my best friend and husband, “If you’re not together, you’re not together.” Emotional losses occur when things become more important than people. Part of any relationship is a mutual process of sharing. Unfortunately, too many people are nonassertive “at the time” but carry away an unspoken grudge. Without the skills to communicate and solve problems, misunderstandings often lead to the demise of relationships between siblings, friends, and whole families. Sadly, lifelong relationships often end over money, opinions, or possessions. Being successful at marriage and family requires new skills. Today’s couples must learn communication skills, develop problem-solving routines, and learn how to work toward compatible lifestyles. When problems occur, we usually want to handle them in the same way that our parents handled their problems, but we also recognize that life and some of its rules have changed. We are not born with computer skills but most of us recognize the need to develop them. Similarly, relationship skill training is becoming more and more necessary in order to combat the more than 50% divorce rate. Marriage and family relationships are terrible things to lose....

read more

ESTABLISHING RELATIONSHIPS

Posted by on 2:06 pm in Family Relationships, Love, Marriage, Sex, Overcoming Loneliness, Romance, Sex | 1 comment

Today, for a variety of reasons, many adults find themselves living as Singles. Some have divorced, others are widowed, some have just not found their life partner… yet! So, it is not uncommon for those who have been in successive relationships to find themselves a bit battle-worn by the ups, downs, hurts and disappointments. Over the years, I have worked with a variety of singles of all ages. This post is dedicated to them. It takes time to heal from past relationships. Whenever we experience a loss, we are left with a sense of confusion. We wonder what went wrong, we replay our roles in search of understanding, and we question how to avoid the same mistakes next time. These are important learnings, and it takes “longer than you think” to learn them! It is important not to “hurry” or rush ourselves into the next relationship, even when it is difficult to be alone. It is important to learn from past relationships. In the end, we are left with memories. One constructive result is to analyze the relationship for the Red Flags that foretold of the mismatch in personalities, goals, and loss of communication. Many Red flags appeared at the beginning, and many were there all along. In new relationships, apply the principles of friendship. New “love” relationships often come with an acccumulation of expectations, but good friendships are built just one step at a time. As with any developing friendship, we must grow closer at a comfortable pace. When it feels uncomfortable, you owe it to yourself to step back and appraise how you feel. You may be experiencing a Red Flag. Each of us must be self-sufficient. No one else can bear the weight of meeting our needs; so we must be able to take care of ourselves. While single, become expert at standing on your own feet! Independence is a great personal quality; one which is often attractive to our next prospective partners. Interpersonal relationships are a great challenge… both to establish and to maintain. Healthy relationships require enough flexibility to allow for personal growth of all members, and enough time for enjoyable companionship. And if I haven’t mentioned it lately… we all deserve to be happy and fulfilled in our relationships!...

read more

FAIR FIGHTING FOR LOVERS

Posted by on 1:58 pm in Family Relationships, Love, Marriage, Sex, Sex, Stress Management | Comments Off on FAIR FIGHTING FOR LOVERS

The ability to manage conflict is essential in healthy love relationships. While I often encourage couples to “bring their problems to the table” and brainstorm solutions together, I know this requires a fair amount of trust. We have to trust that we won’t be criticized, scolded or rejected. We have to trust that differences of opinion won’t turn into painful fights. Our love relationships are very precious to us. While there’s no escaping conflict, it is possible to use conflicts constructively. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter. Working through conflicts brings us closer together. Initially, all relationships are superficial. Relationships deepen when we achieve new levels of understanding and when we survive difficulties together. Couples who have been together a long time have usually survived a variety of trials and tribulations. When we combine our knowledge and experiences, we can help each other solve problems and we can watch each other’s back! We are always learning about ourselves and each other. Every one of us is like a tree. Each day we sprout a few new leaves, we stretch a little further, and we grow in some direction that changes us. This is a healthy part of life. Ideally, being in a relationship affords us someone who will help us celebrate that growth. Best friends share the story of their day, knowing that they will be encouraged, applauded or just listened to. Agree ahead of time not to criticize and not to be judgmental. Problem solving takes a bit of time and patience. If you wish to discuss a particular issue with your beloved, give him/her the gift of fair-warning. Usually we want to talk about things after we have thought about them for awhile, but our mates may be clueless that something’s on our mind. To be fair, our partners deserve a warning and some time to think about issues before being put on the spot. Say “ I’d like to have a conversation about money, sex, children, relatives, jealousy etc… not now, but let’s make a date to talk”. Good joint decisions require unrushed thought and open discussion. Agree ahead of time to work on problems until a mutually satisfying solution is found. Patience, trust and perseverance are valuable building blocks in long-term relationships. Stick and stones do break bones and names do hurt relationships. It is important to cool down when you are angry and avoid saying anything you might later have to apologize for. Every name that is called leaves a scar on our trust. Once there is scar tissue, it can feel unsafe to be open in a relationship. Before uttering cruel words, consider that they may cost you the entire relationship. There is a very steep price for losing your cool. When children sit down to play a game, they almost always ask each other, “what are the rules?” After all, different people play by different rules. We all bring differences to the table and to our relationships; that doesn’t make one of us right and one of us wrong. In the beginning, we are attracted to each other’s differences. Over time, our differences can continue to keep things...

read more

THE INTRINSIC VALUE OF A HEALTHY SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP

Posted by on 6:34 pm in Family Relationships, Sex, Uncategorized | 1 comment

Sex is one of the most talked about and least talked about subjects in the world. Studies confirm what happy couples already know; there is intrinsic value in a healthy sexual relationship. When couples are attuned to each others’ sexual needs, they behave romantically toward one another and develop a very loving and respectful relationship. But this is not a new idea. The time-honored wedding vows have always explicitly acknowledged that sex is a benefit, a responsibility, and an obligation associated with marriage. What are the secrets of a good sexual relationship in marriage? Here are a few thoughts on the matter. • Keep your sex life healthy. Research demonstrates a strong connection between sexual intimacy and satisfaction in marriage. Yet many couples describe an unfortunate decline in sexual interest following marriage. Reasons for declining interest run the gamut from exhaustion to marital conflict, childbearing, interruptions by children, erectile dysfunction, lack of interest, illness, etc. However there is no good excuse for not communicating about sexual intimacy and affection in your marriage. If you and your spouse are not communicating about sex, watch out! Without it, changing expectations and needs will go unmet, rendering the relationship vulnerable to intruders. The “instruction booklet” on marriage emphatically states that satisfaction with intimacy and sexual pleasure are essential, but not sufficient ingredients for a happy marriage. This means that while sexual love is essential, it is not automatic. A fulfilling sex life must be actively pursued and yes, it must be scheduled like a date. • The problem of bait and switch. Most couples describe their sexual attraction prior to marriage. Not surprising, sexual passion is usually one of the great selling points of a relationship. While dating, most partners are passionate, romantic and attentive to each other. They tend to be good listeners, they solve problems together, and they are excellent companions. In other words, they do all the right things on the road to falling in love. After marriage, however, many spouses begin to take that same relationship for granted. They may intentionally ignore or avoid each others’ sexual advances. But rest assured that even when couples talk less, their behavior speaks volumes if their playfulness and common interests are replaced by demands, criticism, and interpersonal rejection. • Marriage is an everyday affair. Before marriage, couples work hard to understand each other. We inform each other when our feelings are hurt. We express our likes and dislikes but try to remain open to new ideas. We monitor our combativeness, our tone of voice, and our attitudes as we work toward becoming a functional couple. Once married, however, it is easy to forget that we are working as teammates on joint goals and shared interests. The marital relationship is designed to reduce stress by increasing interpersonal support. As a couple, we are building a home together using our own creativity and designs for comfort, safety and support. The trick is to be mindful that even as you are building your home together, your efforts may be thwarted if one or both of you begin to dismantle yesterday’s progress. Children of divorced parents have seen their parents dismantle a marriage. Spouses who develop second thoughts about their marriage, may consciously or unconsciously seek to sabotage success. Rather than pushing harder to complete the project, take...

read more

THAT THING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

Posted by on 6:26 pm in Family Relationships, Love, Marriage, Sex | Comments Off on THAT THING ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS

When love has gone terribly wrong and divorce leaves people alone, the desire to be in a new relationship is compelling. After all, people love to fall in love, love to get engaged, and love to put on a wedding, but the building of a strong marriage after the wedding is a completely different challenge. Chronically high divorce rates in first, second, and third marriages reveal the difficulty of this task. Here are a few more thoughts on the matter. Create a blueprint for what each of you wants in the marriage. Like any successful venture, marriage requires a plan. This is difficult since most of us know more about what we don’t want, than what we do want. Remarriage and combining families is tantamount to merging two corporations. To put it mildly, there is much confusion at the beginning. This is no time to be quiet about what you feel. Couples get into trouble when they stop talking to each other about the daily problems they need to solve together. Relationships do not exist in isolation. Couples fall in love when for a moment they are alone and everything clicks. But each of us comes with family members who will continue to play a strong role in our lives. Ex-spouses, parents, children and even grandchildren may come with the package. Relatives who are not even alive or present may be unseen driving forces that come with remarriages. Get to know this family that you will be marrying. While divorce legally ends a marriage, family ties are forever. Be careful not to displace each other. When re-coupling, there is a great temptation to divvy up the family roles without reviewing how that’s working. For various reasons, biological parents sometimes relinquish authority over the kids to new step-parents. In spite of good intentions, this rarely works out well because children need direct access to their biological parents. Efforts to achieve healthy and respectful bonds take time and trust. Biological parents who want to please both their children and their new mates have a tough juggling act that will require a great deal of flexibility from all parties. Relationships need rules and constitutional amendments. Regular “family meetings” between spouses give couples a forum for discussing the progress of their merger. The merging of families affects all areas of life. Good or bad, all changes in the family cause a great deal of chaos before achieving a new healthier reorganization. I recommend that couples keep a special notebook in which to identify various family problems, solutions, and progress in the effort to achieve the goals in their “marriage blueprint”. Have regular “meetings” to evaluate how things are going. Without these efforts, it is all too easy to find yourself facing another divorce. People remarry for many different reasons. While being single is often lonely and overwhelming, it is wise to be very selective when dating and getting to know prospective partners. Take time to find someone who shares your concept of teamwork. Wait for someone who values you and wants to co-create a healthy life together. You deserve the best and those who love you will appreciate your patience!...

read more