ARTICLES - Written by Leslie Fabian, LCSW - R

Articles can be found in MoreSugar Magazine, MOM's Offer More Magazine,, and on Facebook for Leslie Fabian LCSW-R, Notes.

Emotional Intimacy - What Are We Really Asking For?

Many people ask their partners for a more intimate relationship without really being sure what they want.  If you are unclear about what you would like to see change, it is hard to bring about a satisfying result.  Emotional intimacy is different from sexual intimacy.  If sexual intimacy involves physical closeness and the sharing of sexual pleasure, then emotional intimacy might be defined as the closeness that develops from the sharing of authentic feeling

Many people find it difficult to verbalize how they are affected by their experiences, and many others have difficulty listening and responding constructively.  Emotional intimacy is the two part process which involves identifying and expressing your feelings, and having those feelings understood and accepted.  Doing so allows you to know each other on a deeper level, beyond reactions or actions. Accepting that you and your partner can have different, yet equally valid, emotional responses to a given experience is the cornerstone of listening with empathy.

Sometimes when people ask for emotional intimacy, they are really trying to get their partner to express feelings about them or their relationship.  They may be in need of some attention or assurance.  Expressing love and commitment through action without the accompanying words can  leave your partner wanting for more definition.  Remember to verbalize the thought behind the action “You mean so much to me,” “your happiness is important to me,” “I value you,”  or simply, “I love you”.  Emotional intimacy can be the pillow talk couples have before sleep or around lovemaking.  Sometimes it is the type of supportive, loving discussion that occurs at life’s milestones, but would actually be beneficial to have more frequently. 

Emotional intimacy may include sharing early memories and your feelings about them.  This allows your partner to understand your emotional history and the influences that defined the person you are today.  Revealing your daydreams or creating fantasies together is another way of adding lightness toward emotional intimacy.  (Be careful to avoid sharing sexual fantasies unless you are convinced that they will not be interpreted as hurtful.)  Another facet of emotional intimacy involves being able to talk about your inner fears or emotional triggers, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable.  Taking this risk can be infinitely healing and bonding when your partner’s response is compassionate and nonjudgmental.  

Sometimes emotional intimacy can be a non-verbal communication, the unspoken conveyance of heartfelt emotion.  It can be expressed in the depth in which you look into each other’s eyes.  It can be the exchanged smile that is read as a bond of love.  It can be a wink that defines you as lovers.  It is the tender touch to show that neither of you need to face the world alone.  Emotional  intimacy creates a connection between partners; it is like a secret language that neither of you share with anyone else.

There is an an interesting dynamic about emotional intimacy for couples; if there is a loving relationship it easier to create emotional intimacy, and if there is emotional intimacy it is easier to create a loving relationship.  Being emotionally available requires that we take down the walls that protect our egos from the possibility of rejection or abandonment, that we conquer the risk of feeling criticized or judged, and that we open our hearts and our souls to let another person engage and embrace us on a metaphysical level.


Teach Your Children Well - The Importance of Modeling a Loving Relationship

Parents have many different roles and responsibilities when it comes to raising children.  Too often overlooked is the importance of modeling for your children what a healthy relationship looks like.  Parents are so caught up in arranging a world that is in orbit around their children's schedules, that they miss one of the most important lessons of parenting.  It is healthy to show your children that you and your spouse love each other and the life you have together, that is separate from them.  A parent’s imperative is to raise children to feel safe and independent so that they grow up, go off into the world and have their own relationships and create their own families.  If children believe that their parents’ only happiness is directly dependent upon them, it can interfere in their separation process.  Our healthy relationships teach our children how to become loving partners, how to disagree without animosity, and how to sustain love through the marathon of marriage.                             

When you greet your partner at the end of the day, give each other a kiss before giving your child a kiss.  Hugging your partner, dancing in the kitchen, laughing together all show your children that you have an intimate connection with your partner.  Even if it makes your kids a bit jealous, or a bit embarrassed, the ultimate lesson is a positive one.  The concepts of the oedipal complex or electra complex are the battles that your children need to lose.  Children often go through a stage where they seem to be in love with their parents; little children talk about wanting to marry their parents, older children sometimes believe that they know how to take better care of their parent than the other parent.  Making sure your children see a romantic, loving, commitment is healthy way to secure their independent, emotional development.  

Many parents believe that you shouldn’t fight in front of your children.  However it is actually better to show your children how to argue effectively and demonstrate that not agreeing doesn’t mean you don’t love each other.  Of course it is better not to yell in front of your kids, but if it happens once in a while don’t overthink it.  Losing control is something else; raging or being physical is never acceptable.  Children experience anger and frustration, just as their parents do, if you don’t show them that these are normal feelings, they could grow up feeling more confused about their own emotions.  However, be mindful to protect them from issues that could raise their anxiety.  Seeing you kiss and hug after an argument demonstrates that it is safe to have your feelings without losing love.

Taking time to go out without your children is very important for your relationship, as well as your children’s understanding of the need to nurture and tend to your love.  Date night, weekend get-aways, even watching a grown-up movie in bed together all convey that your life, your love, your interests are worthy, necessary, and happy parts of your life.  Single parents should not feel badly to take the time to date.  Even if your kids have trouble initially accepting you with a new partner, they will ultimately worry less about you if they believe you have a companion in your life.  You don’t have to share all the details of your dating experience with your kids, but it is okay to let them know that you are interested in having romance in your life. 

Having children is a blessing, but childrearing is a long and consuming journey.  Accepting that the health of your relationship with your partner is part of the process of teaching your children well will help create balance and harmony in your household.  Don't feel guilty for taking the time to show love and understanding to your partner, since that is actually a way of giving to your children too.

What Your Husband Isn't Saying 

The stereotypical portrayal of men being bad communicators isn’t really always the case, yet there are some thoughts which many men share about their relationships that they find difficult verbalizing. Starting in childhood, men are often socialized differently from women. As a result actions often replace communication, emotion can be seen as weakness, and tact is not always paramount. Here are some thoughts that I have heard men express in therapy. Obviously, these won’t all apply to every man or every relationship, so think of them as a spring board for opening up a dialogue. 


When you ask me what I am feeling and I say, “I don’t know” - sometimes I really don’t know. 

I feel helpless when you vent to me and I cannot fix those things and make it better for you. 

I know you are frustrated when I don’t respond in discussions, but I do still think about what you have said. I process better on my own. 

If I go out to the yard or out to the garage or for a drive when I am angry, I do not mean to frustrate you or make you feel abandoned, but I am probably protecting us both from an angry reaction. Please ask me gently when I return, and you might find I give you a more thoughtful response. 

I heard you the first time. There are just so many words a man can hear. 

I can’t read your mind. Really. Just tell me. 


I wish you would initiate more. I need to feel desired too. 

I would rather that you were clear about telling me what you want, then be unsatisfied. Please don’t hold back in your thoughts or actions. 

I would like to spice it up once in a while. 

I wish we were having sex more frequently, not just because I like sex, but because I am still attracted to you. 

Sure, if you ask me, I would say everyday. But I would be happy with much less, if it felt like you were genuinely interested. 

No, I haven’t cheated on you, although opportunity presented itself. I am faithful to you because of my love for you and respect for our family. OR 

Yes, I did step out of the marriage. For a long time I felt that you did not desire me. It was an empty substitute for your love. 


Sometimes when I am sick, I do really like how you take care of me. But, I am not faking. 

I hope that I am never so sick that I cannot take care of you or our family. That type of helpless is worse than pain to me. 

It really is okay with me if you take time for yourself; to go to the gym to keep fit, to yoga to relax, etc. 

I hope I die before you, because I cannot imagine even a day of life without you in it. 


I can take out the garbage, but don’t treat me like that is my job or that you are my boss. 

I need more affection, real hugs and real kisses, not pecks. 

I want to know that you value my career and appreciate my dedication to being a provider for us. 

I know my clothes don't always match, and I really don’t care. They are comfortable. Okay, sometimes I didn’t know it didn’t match. 

I love the kids, but I am looking forward to when they are independent and it is us again. 

I really do appreciate all that you do. And, no, I wouldn’t want to trade places. 

Here is a blank one. Leave this article on the bathroom floor, on his nightstand, or in his gym bag and see what else he wants you to know. 


________________________________________________________________________ .

When you ask your husband to talk to you more, to be more emotional, and to share more with you, you have to remember to listen to him - Don’t get mad, don’t defend, don’t disagree. Just listen to what he is saying and really try to understand what he wants you know. 

Originally published in More Sugar- The Hudson Valley's Entertainment Source,

Mom's Offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community, and

Too Angry to Love

Although some relationships end amicably, many more end turbulently, often with hostile feelings between partners.  It is normal to reverberate with those feelings after the dissolution of a relationship; however, working on healing is a vital part of the separation process.  Some people are so angry or hurt that they are unable to move past their own pain to accept a revised future with another partner.  People tend to get stuck over the cause of the break-up, especially if there was deception, as an infidelity, hidden debt, addiction, or sexual orientation change.  Other times the obstacle is the separation/divorce process itself, like disagreements over chid-custody or division of finances.  The ability to resolve angry feelings, whether through forgiveness or acceptance, is often the same door that allows a person to welcome new love in their life.  Not projecting or punishing other people for the injustices of one’s “Ex” requires an honest perspective on past experiences, taking responsibility for emotional health, and not carrying hurt into new relationships.

People who cannot seem to let go of the past, and dwell in their pain, often ‘leak’ these emotions even when they think they have mastered them.  They believe that they are open to meeting someone new and to falling in love again.  Often they will go through all the motions of dating, but they will find fault with any prospect and sabotage any new relationship before it gets off the ground.  It is a way of protecting themselves from getting hurt again by not being in a place where they can be vulnerable.  There is nothing wrong with the life choice to be single, but if that is not your choice, then you must take responsibility for how you might be working against your own chances at romance.

Some people obsess over their Ex.  They stalk them virtually on social media, they may even stalk them in real life.  They repeat memories in their heads or fantasize about future encounters or confrontations.  This obsession acts as a way of exercising a sense of control over an area of life where they feel (or felt) less in control.  However, it also keeps them bonded with their Ex.  If an Ex is constantly in your thoughts then you are not letting yourself move forward.  Sometimes writing an uncensored, free association letter to them, in which you vent all your anger, may help relieve feelings - But, it doesn’t mean you should send the letter.  Healing isn't always a two person process, and if you are anticipating a response, you are not there yet.  Write it to release yourself.  

Even amicable separations can be difficult because of all the change that accompanies the break-up.  In difficult break-ups those stressors are exaggerated, and people may not realize that they are taking out their anger with friends and family.  They may become short-tempered, judgmental, or righteous with loved ones.  Make sure you have healthy outlets for your feelings.  Exercise, a support group, meditation, psychotherapy, and art can help you replace your anger with positive, productive energy.  If you are spending more time thinking about how unhappy you are, rather than how happy you could be, then it is time to take an action.

Remember the old expression ‘Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’?  No matter the gender, there is truth that some people are so hurt and betrayed that it incites rage, and beware the person who crosses their path.  If this is you, don’t stay stuck in the negativity.  Accept that you are the one now perpetuating your own pain and loneliness, and let the scorn subside, let the hurt heal, and the anger transform to welcome a new healthy, romantic love in your life.  

Originally published in More Sugar- The Hudson Valley's Entertainment Source,

Mom's Offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community, and


Let it Go - And Other Secrets to a Happy Marriage

I sometimes joke with my clients that the secret of a long term relationship is that you don’t break up.  The answer is meant to be humorous in it’s simplicity, but also in that there really is not a secret to getting through the years other than processing through.  Couples that endure life’s curve balls tend to have built in mechanisms for getting through tough moments too.  The adage that familiarity breeds contempt is the opposite of how marriages sustain.  I always recall the words of a friend when I commented on how much they still love their spouse after so many years.  The response was, “Still??”  “More!!!”  

Many of us are led to believe that love fades over time, but with some mindfulness, relationships can happily go the distance.  Here are some little tricks for getting through the frustrations of daily life.

     Sing it Out:  One woman I know sings the refrain from the theme song from Frozen, known by every parent of a grade school child, Let it Go.  The main lyrics don’t apply, she just sings the refrain of Let it Go, Let it Go.  The tune serves as the reminder not to get stuck in the moment.  The Beatles, Let it Be, could work the same way.  Find your theme, your anthem, and sing it to yourself.

     Laughing it off:  Easier said than done, but many couples know how to disarm each other with humor.  One couple I know evokes Nadeen, the sassy Saturday Night Live Character, who instructs (and yells at) people to “Simmer Down”.  Not only does it remind them to temper their anger, but they laugh at the caricature and the delivery of the line, and it breaks the tension.  Find your partner’s funny bone and use it for you both.

     Find the Easy Way Out:  I once heard someone say that flip-open toothpaste caps saved marriages - of all the couples that fought over leave-it-off or replace-it.  If hiring a cleaning person for the house will prevent fights, it is worth the cost.  So are self closing toilet seats, electric light timers, and having two blankets.  If there is any easy resolution, take it.

     Celebrate the Difference:  Couples benefit by appreciating that their partner isn’t their clone, and recognizing that difference can bring balance.  Maybe it is good to learn to sit still if you are always on the go, or leave some things messy if you like everything put away.  If you were both exactly alike it might be boring or even annoying.  Chances are you didn’t fall in with love your partner for the little stuff, so don’t let the little stuff destroy the love either.  

     Look the Other Way:  There are sometimes when there is nothing else to do but look away.  You don’t have to like or approve of everything your partner does.  If their behavior isn’t hurtful, it might not be worth fighting over.  People have different etiquettes, styles, and approaches in life.  If your partner’s is bothering you, maybe just shift your focus.  Look for the positive.  Nitpicking and needless criticism are devaluing and demoralizing.  If you want a partner you can look up to, don’t knock them down. 

Long term relationships aren’t easy but they also don’t have to be difficult.  Working on your relationship, trying a new approach, and accepting your partner’s differences can help you enjoy them that much ‘More’.  In which case, ever after, may not be long enough.

Originally published in Mom's Offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community, and

Fifty Shades of Blue - Depression

Everyone has ups and downs, and days when they are feeling blue.  However, Depression is very different from having a bad day or two.  There are many types and severities of depression.  There is moderate pervasive depression, grief and bereavement, depression associated with a medical illness, and bi-polar disorder.  There is situational depression (eg. unemployment or a relationship ending) and chemical depression (where there is often family history).  People can experience Seasonal Affective Disorder that usually occurs during the winter, and postpartum depression, when they know they shouldn’t be feeling sad.  There is major depression that can lead to suicide.  Most all depressions are serious enough to require  some level of treatment, whether it is holistic, psychotherapy, medication, or hospitalization.

Depression is often categorized by the extent to which it effects lifestyle.  Most all people will experience hopelessness, sadness, changes in eating or sleeping habits, and some level of disinterest in enjoyable things (socializing, sexual relations, or hobbies).  Not all people will experience a depression that is accompanied by frequent crying, so that should not be the criteria for seeking help.  Being unable to function in one’s normal day (work/school) and complete tasks, or maintain social relationships are indicators that depression is severe.  If it is accompanied by such despair that ending one’s life feels like it would be a relief to themselves or others, or there is an actual plan how to commit suicide, immediate and comprehensive action should be taken, which may include hospitalization.

Depression is not the body’s natural state and the profound changes to diet or circadian rhythms (sleep/wake patterns) can cause serious health issues.  Withdrawal from family members can have lasting effects, especially to children who don't understand.  An inability to attend or focus on work or school can exacerbate symptoms and effect future wellbeing.  Although some people will resist treatment they will resort to self-medicating through alcohol and substance.  It might feel like a reliable friend that helps to forget, but alcohol and substance only worsen depression and clouds the ability to make healthy decisions, while leaving behind a newly acquired addiction.

Some depressions are responsive to lifestyle changes.  A healthy diet, exercise, sunlight can all help alleviate symptoms.  Natural supplements and herbs can be helpful as well.  More debilitating depressions are probably best addressed with medication.  Many people resist medication, because it unnatural or invasive.  However, the benefits usually outweigh the disadvantages of living with depression.  Today medications have fewer side effects; most don’t effect sex-drive, or weight changes, and are not addictive. People describe feeling ‘more normal,’ ‘less obsessive,’ more hopeful,’ and ‘thicker skinned’.  People will still experience a full range of emotions, although the extremes are modified.  

Psychotherapy helps people determine the level of depression they are experiencing and guide people toward healing.  It can provide a safe place to vent feelings, separate feelings of anger or helplessness/frustration that have been turned in against the self, determine options, and provide overall support.  Psychotherapy can unravel the path that the led to depression and show the way to healthier options.  There is no reason today why people should suffer with depression when there are so many options available to them for help.  If you are feeling depressed or you know someone who is you are not alone, take an action, reach out, get help, and take the first step on path of feeling better.

Originally published in More Sugar- The Hudson Valley's Entertainment Source, and

Mom's Offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community


The Perfect Holiday Gift

As the holidays approach it is a wonderful time to remember that the greatest gifts cost no money and cannot be valued. The most important gift a couple can exchange is the gift of caring for their relationship. It is the gift of making your partner feel loved and desired.  

People tend to lose sight of romance and our lover becomes more like a business partner, helping to accomplish life’s obligations. We might end up placing our spouse and even ourselves in limited roles and narrowly defined identities. Although it is important to accept our parental or professional roles, we must also remember and embrace the unique individual we are too.

Think back to when you and partner met. What made your relationship seem so special? What attracted you beyond the physical aspect? How did you romance each other, and how did you share your time together? How did you make your partner feel special? When we stop seeing our partner as our lover, we are creating a dangerous and growing distance into our relationship. Focusing on how to reincorporate our loving and sensuous selves back into our lives will improve emotional and physical intimacy, and increase our sense of fulfillment about our relationship. 

So, how do loving couples communicate and treat each other?  

They are inquisitive about the partner’s day, their thoughts and feelings, and then respond in ways that demonstrates their care and interest.  
They are open with their own feelings and are not physically or emotionally withholding.
They are not secretive and conduct themselves in a way that promotes stability and trust.
They don’t hold grudges or monopolize conversations and process through issues without being hurtful or intimidating.
They are not defensive and listen with openness and the willingness to compromise and make changes.
They share their loving and appreciative feelings and don’t keep compliments to themselves.  
They learn to be aware of their own issues and work on improving themselves.
They are invested in their partner’s happiness go out of their way to do kind and loving acts.
They try to keep themselves healthy and attractive for their partner.
They make sure to share quality time together.
They remember that their partner is a sexual being and care about their pleasure.
They step out of their comfort level and expand their mindset to accommodate their partner’s hobbies and interests.
They don’t play devil’s advocate or provoke or push buttons - they prefer open, honest, and supportive communications. 
They are mindful of their things and their space and give their partner the same consideration.  
They treat each other with kindness and respect.

As we remember that our partner is trying their best to manage many pressures and responsibilities, being someone’s child, sibling, parent, and co-worker, we must not forget that they need love, acceptance, and understanding - just as you do. They want to feel attractive, desired, and cherished. Encourage your partner to communicate their needs with you, share yours with them, and then work toward fulfilling those needs. This year in addition to all the presents so beautifully wrapped up in paper and bows, give your partner the gift of a loving and dedicated You.

Originally published in More Sugar- The Hudson Valley's Entertainment Source, and

Mom's Offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

Are We Drinking Too Much, and Should We Care?

Recently many studies have emerged citing that Americans are drinking more than ever. Beer, wine, and spirits are becoming part of everyday home-life and not just for restaurants, weekends, or parties. Many people still maintain the image of an alcoholic as someone unable to function at work, or passed out on the couch (or in the street). And although those images are not wrong, they do not portray the most common alcoholic; men and women who hold jobs and raise families under the radar of family, friends, and colleagues. Many couples have made alcohol a significant part of their relationship. Cocktails after work, wine with dinner, beer at social and sporting events. And although for most medically healthy people, alcohol in moderation should not be an issue, over time quantity and frequency tend to increase, and mood and behavior are often affected.

The latest version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM) used to diagnose patients in the mental health field, has changed their terminology referring to a problematic relationship with alcohol as Alcohol Use Disorder. There are several criteria cited for the purposes of identifying and diagnosing this disorder. How many of the criteria are met often indicates the severity of the disorder. However, even without a DSM many couples may recognize that they have fallen into a pattern of unhealthy drinking.

The glass of wine while eating dinner has become a bottle, or two. A beer or two has become a six pack or more. Having a drink will mean getting drunk. And although some people think they can drink more than others can without visibly displaying signs of impairment, their partner or friends may strongly feel otherwise.

Sloppy, angry, over-emotional, loud, aggressive, mean, and careless are ways that other people describe the negative effects of alcohol on their loved ones. It is very common that people who do have a problem with alcohol are the most defensive of their drinking behavior. Someone who may be experiencing an increase in their consumption due to a stressful life situation or trauma may quickly recognize that they are drinking more than they used to or are comfortable with. While other people who have more of an addictive relationship with alcohol will justify, diminish, or discount someone else’s observation, and will defend their drinking even to the point of relinquishing a relationship before addressing their own drinking. When couples are drinking together there is often the unspoken code of protecting their use of alcohol, and this denial further reinforces their behavior - “If I recognize that you have a problem then I have to acknowledge that I might also have a problem.”

Some important questions to consider is whether your ‘relationship’ with alcohol is problematic to the people who love you (or employ you), whether your personality changes in a way you don’t like when you see it in other people when you are sober?  Are you finding more time for drinking than other healthier activities, such as working out, being intimate with your partner, spending time with your children? Does alcohol impair your judgment or has it resulted in legal problems, like a DUI offense? Some people recognize that they are getting drunk but are still in denial about whether it is a problem.

Even if you and your partner can justify the amount of alcohol you are consuming and are rationalizing with the “not hurting anyone’ defense, you should still be aware of the unhealthy aspects of excessive drinking. Try to remember that alcohol can negatively affect your health, from excessive weight gain, to undernourished weight loss, toxicity to your liver, strain on your heart, and accidental injury or death from falls.  Although we know that we shouldn’t drink and drive, alcohol may distort the ability to make that decision. Even inside the homes, people do not take into consideration the impact that drinking has on children’s sense of safety and well-being.

Alcohol is a poor replacement for medication.  Depression is exacerbated by alcohol, anxiety is increased by alcohol, and self-esteem is deflated with excessive use.  Alcohol is not an antidote to social anxiety, or hyperactivity, or boredom.  It is ironic how many people will refuse to take prescribed medication, but will drink in excess.  Recognizing your own patterns of drinking and being honest with yourself and your partner is the first step toward improved physical and emotional health. 

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community 

Fear of Intimacy – The Scary Truth


Many things can interfere with a person’s ability to make a commitment to or enjoy the intimacy of a healthy relationship.  By intimate, I am referring to the different aspects of closeness between couples, specifically emotional intimacy, as well as sexual intimacy.  Many people complain that their partner or spouse is not emotionally available to them, or is acting like a single person despite being in a monogamous relationship.  I sometimes refer to these people as ‘independent contractors’, acting as though they are not responsible to their partners.  Often, they will not share their thoughts, feelings, desires, or even time with their partners.  They may acknowledge that they are in a relationship, but are not really willing to consider that means changing their behaviors, or taking their partner’s needs into consideration.  They sustain a level of independence that goes beyond what is necessarily healthy in a relationship in order to create a feeling of safety for themselves.  Theyseek protection from the perceived fears of vulnerability and hurt that can come from being in love, committed, and intimate with their partner. 

Fear of commitment usually masks an underlying fear of intimacy.  It is the protection from being called upon to have an intimate connection with another human being.  This fear of intimacy generally guards against one or two things.  This can be an and/or situation, and usually references back to earlier relationships; sometimes romantic, sometimes familial.  Our early relationships often form our views of relationships, either in what we experienced or what we observed.

The first is a perceived fear of rejection or abandonment.  If deep down (or not so deep down) someone has experienced being hurt in an earlier relationship, they may carry those fears into their current relationship.  So, for example, a person who experienced a parent moving out, or a parent so involved with work that they neglected them as a child, may grow up guarding against another potential abandonment.  Also, an earlier relationship where they were cast over for someone else (having an unfaithful partner) or had a demeaning parent or partner, may cause them to protect themselves from another painful rejection.  These are some examples, but the experience is not limited to these.  The fear may be unconscious or conscious, and the resulting behavior may be purposeful or incidental.  The irony is that not correcting the behavior actually brings about the thing they are trying to prevent…loss of love and acceptance.  However, sometimes having brought it about yourself is a better alternative than the vulnerability of having it happen to you. 

The second thing that may prevent people from experiencing and enjoying being intimate in a relationship is a fear of losing one’s sense of self; one’s personal identity.  This can go two ways – a belief that your identity is so strong that you will overcome and subsume your partner’s identity or vice-versa, that they will take over yours. (The taunts of ‘whipped’ or ‘cuckold’ or ‘submissive’ come to mind, even though they may have their own safe place played out in some people’s sex lives). The fear may manifest in men or women who think they will end up living in their partner’s shadow, or under their thumb.  They believe that being giving, is giving something away.  Often they will be confrontational, as though participating or compromising is an unnatural demand.  Understanding hidden motivations may help people make changes toward a more secure relationship and allow for more accessibility to feelings and emotional connections.

Relationships are tricky business, and require understanding of ourselves and our partners, as well as consistent care and nurturing.  We sometimes think that a good relationship should just be easy and happen naturally, but that is not reality.  The concepts expressed here are difficult and psychologically complex.  Healing requires the conscious desire for change, and the willingness to choose different behaviors, even if it is out of one’s comfort zone.  Being a loving and supportive partner means (amongst other things) helping to identify underlying fears, and then being supportive by giving or asking for the assurance needed to be a more considerate and dedicated partner. 

Originally published in More Sugar- The Hudson Valley's Entertainment Source, and

Mom's Offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

Why You Might Not be Getting Enough Sugar from Your Honey

One of the most common complaints of partners in long term relationships is their dismay over the change in their sexual relationship.  Some couples accept the changes while others, regardless of gender, may be dissatisfied or resentful.  Many couples avoid conversation about their feelings which over time can result in emotional distance.  Lack of frequency or a dissatisfying sex life are usually workable problems.  Long term relationships can be plagued by a variety of issues that indirectly effect sexuality, as well as issues that are specifically related to sex itself.  Addressing the problem with openness, honesty, and understanding is the best strategy for change and healing.  Be understanding that most changes happen over time, and involve a mutual dedication to the goal of improvement.

Fatigue - Demanding work schedules, raising children, and just not enough hours in the day are some of the explanations couples give for not finding enough intimate time.  If this is the case, some creativity, as well as some limitations might be needed to change up the rut you have fallen into.  Consider shutting off TVs and computers an hour early and getting into bed while you still have some energy.  This boundary may include a quitting time for working from home.   Finding time in the mornings before children are awake and after a good night’s rest is an alternative to night time coupling.  Use some of the time in the middle of the weekend normally designated to chores, to spice things up a bit; skip the errand and jump back in bed.  Don’t forget, being in good physical shape also helps combat fatigue, so start exercising and eating well.  You can approach being fit as a couple’s activity.

Anger/Depression - Many people either consciously or unconsciously act out their feelings rather than discussing them with their partner.  Anger about issues unrelated to sex, that are held in can easily become depression, and manifest as the withholding of affections and sex.  In some way, this becomes the punishment that both partners suffer.  If you are angry or frustrated with your partner, or suspect you partner is with you, then open up a dialogue.  However, be committed to listening compassionately (without defending every thought) and accept the idea of change.  Simply venting feelings may be enough to address some underlying anger, but usually it will require some changes in behavior.  Depression can also take its toll on libido.  Often life circumstances, like grief or loss of employment, can cause someone to retreat inward emotionally and physically.  If you are depressed, seek help, there is no reason to have to feel miserable or stagnate in your depression.  If you believe your partner is depressed, start a conversation to help them get the help they need toward feeling better.

Boredom/Same Old Thing  - Long term relationships often fall victim to the problem of routine.  A pattern of sexual behavior usually develops because it ‘works’ for that couple or because inhibition prevents further creative approaches.  Eventually, boredom with the act leads to complacency, which leads to the demise of desire.  Finding new ways to shake things up or finding new ways to help your partner feel safe out of their comfort zone is worth the investment.  However, remember that not every time is going to be memorable and sometimes sex is for release or relaxation, or affection and connection.  Also, not everything done in bed has to culminate in orgasm.  Pleasure is a reward in and of itself.  So talk to your partner (not when you are in bed) about expanding your repertoire, adding something new or shaking up the routine, and sharing a new and rewarding experience.

Not Meeting Their Needs - Repetitive unsatisfying sexual experiences can destroy a couples sex life.  Quality over quantity is the real issue here.  This problem may even be attributed to both partners.  If you are being a selfish or withholding lover than you are arranging to ultimately be deprived yourself.  Caring about your partner’s pleasure and desires becomes an investment in your own pleasure.  Some people are more complicated or require more time to achieve sexual satisfaction.  Learning how to please them is your role and responsibility as their lover.  Being able to talk about sex openly and specifically is important to address this issue.  Finding a vocabulary that you feel comfortable with, learning not to be shy, and being specific (even clinical if you must) is paramount when discussing sex.  

Sexual Dysfunction - When your sexual relationship changes due to a physical change in your body you have to approach it as you would any other medical issue.  A visit to your doctor is the first step.  Hormones, aging, mental health, and medical conditions can all adversely effect one’s libido and performance.  Make sure you are receiving the proper medical care for these conditions.  Most are easily treatable, including a much anticipated prescription for female arousal.   Don’t be embarrassed to discuss your sex life with your doctor.  They have heard it before and are there to help you.  If you cannot treat your condition medically or through therapy, then be creative.  Expand your own definitions of pleasure, intimacy, and sexuality.  

Sex is often a bonding act for a couple.  It is a way of expressing love by providing the gift of pleasure for your partner, and giving your partner the opportunity of pleasuring you.  It is the defining act for many couples; the one thing in your life that is shared only between the two of you.  Communication, commitment, and change are the cornerstones of revitalizing your sex life.

Originally published in More Sugar- The Hudson Valley's Entertainment Source

Breaking Up is Hard to Do 


Unfortunately, some relationships that start off strong don’t always withstand the test of time.  If you are at the point in your relationship where you are wanting outconsider whether there is any possibility that the relationship is still workable.  Many couples have survived difficulties; everything from boredom to infidelity.  If your partner is willing to process through issues and make changes, ask yourself whether you have done the work before walking away.  Have you discussed things with your partner and given them the opportunity to try to make things better?  Have you taken responsibility for what you are bringing to the table, and are you willing to make changes?  Have you gone to therapy or couples counseling to learn better communication skills and assess your options?  We tend to repeat what we don’t fully understand.  In other words, if you don’t process through your issues now, you might end up in the same place in your next relationship. 

Staying in a relationship that is loveless because you are afraid to hurt your partneis, ultimately, a selfish act.  By staying you are actually preventing your partner from their right to get over you and find the love they deserve.  You are stopping them from finding the person who can give them the type of relationship that you cannot.  If they would prefer to stay with you and accept a loveless relationship, perhaps their issues need to be addressed.  Their self-esteem may have even contributed to the difficulties in the relationship.  Ask yourself whether you have added to those feelings of inadequacy or whether you have done your best to help your partner.  Addressing these issues openly may be the catalyst to finding the help your partner needs to grow and heal, with or without you. 

Ending a marriage can be far more complicated break than dating or living together.  If young children are involved that decision becomes more complex.  Staying for the children can have merit, but often it is a rationale that couples hide behind.  All children will have their feelings and are effected by divorce.  However, very few children are profoundly or permanently effected by divorce, especially when their relationship with their individual parents continue beyond the physical separation.  Remember, you do not divorce your children.  Children who grow up with disassociated parents or parents who are always fighting can be worse off than the children of divorce.  Question what you are modeling for your children if you are willing to sacrifice your happiness, and what pressure that puts on them.  How you handle the subject of the relationship ending can determine their path for healthy healing. 

Many people end up staying in relationships for financial reasons; primarily the cost of living separately.  In truth, most couples can afford to live apart, although perhaps not in the same manner that they are currently.  The issue comes down to what is more important in your life and what aspect of yourself are you being true to.  If you are staying in a relationship because you don’t want to live in a studio apartment or without a flat-screen, what does that say about your relationship… or you?  Many people don’t want to compromise their income as would be required in a divorce settlement, and end up living in a highly stressful situation; as platonic roommates.  It is time for a check of your values if you are more concerned about your checking account than the emotional well being of you and your partner. 

Fantasies of being single are almost always overrated.  Few single people will tell you that the dating world is fun.  For most it is a means to an end.  Dating in your adult years is also very different than dating in your youth.  People have more history, more baggage, more commitments and obligations.  Research reveals that married folk have more sex than single folk.  So don’t end a relationship because you think that it is going to be fun and games out there.  You should only consider ending a relationship if the idea of being single and alone for a good long time is a preferable option to staying in your relationship. 

Yes, many couples have found richer, fuller relationships the second or even third time around, and you shouldn’t stay where you are miserable.  However, be realistic about life after a break up, including that your partner may find love before you. 

If all roads lead you to the same conclusion, than it is probably time to take an action.  Prolonging the inevitable is poor planning.  Be gentle with your partner, even if they have caused you pain.  Anger is a bonding emotion.  If you are still harboring anger or rage, then you cannot have closure.  Sadness will fade over time, hurt will subside, and getting started on a healthier life can begin.  Your serenity and your healing might be contingent on forgiveness and a clear conscious.  If you are having trouble with your on-going feelings, spend some time and energy on yourself.  Remember that it is healthy to take good care of one’s self, which is very different than being selfish.  So take a deep breath, know that you have done all the work you can, and take the next step toward your future. 

Originally published in More Sugar- The Hudson Valley's Entertainment Source

ARTICLES - Written by Leslie Fabian, LCSW - R

Regression in the Service of the Ego – Or, The Importance of Being Goofy


Often in couple’s sessions I speak of the different facets of relationships that act as a kind of glue, holding couples together.  I am referring to the things that support a couple’s unity through the adversities and challenges of life.  Some of these bonding elements are specific to a particular couple, while others are common to many couples.  Shared interests, like a love for theatre, golf, or cooking help define couples and keep them enjoying their time together.  Sex is one type of bond whereby sexual intimacy defines a couple’s identity, since it is only experienced between them.  Another quality that many ‘happy’ couples share is the bond of laughter.

Ego Psychology defines specific concepts that strengthen ego functioning (the well being of the ‘self’).  One concept that has a very fancy name is called Regression in the Service of the Ego.  Essentially, it means that regressing (or reverting to childlike ways) serves or is good for the ego.  Therefore, the importance of laughter or being playful is good for one’s mental health and well being.  Extending this concept to your relationship means that the ability to let go of certain inhibitions, to exercise a childlike joy of the world, to find humor in the seriousness of life, and then to share this with your mate is a way of taking care of your relationship.

Couples frequently share the stresses they might be experiencing; finances, career, extended family, or childrearing.  Stress can create a heaviness pervading the culture of the relationship.  Couples can get caught up in the negativity, which is why it imperative to seek out and highlight levity, find the humor, which can offset troubles and despair. 

Some couples do not share the same sense of humor and find their partner’s humor offensive or generally not funny.  They can’t agree on movies, or comedians, or laugh at the same jokes.  Humor becomes self-defining, as though they are giving in if they laugh.  Finding common ground for laughter is well worth the search, so that laughing together can become a joyful bond.

Be mindful that not all humor is helpful or appropriate.  Humor that is directed at, or at the expense of, the other person can be more harmful than good.  Even if a person can laugh at themselves, it may still be hard to have their partner tease them.  No laugh is worth hurting the person you love, and being careless or hurtful with joking is a passive aggressive act.  Knowing when to use humor and when not, using your sensitivity to know your partner’s mindset is vital.  Be careful in the bedroom as being silly during sex can be a turn off to many people.                     

For many healthy and happy couples, laughter is a soundtrack to their lives; laughing about stories together, telling jokes, and consciously being open to enjoying the silly things that are in everyday life.  It is often said that laughter is good medicine, and there is truth that laughter helps people cope with medical conditions and supports healing.  Laughter is also good medicine for relationships that are caught up in the mundane, and relationships that are drifting apart.  The same way giving a lover pleasure is gratifying, making your partner laugh is rewarding.  Laughter can relieve tension, bring smiles, brighten our souls, and keep us close with our loved one. 


Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

Is Your Relationship Suffering from T.A.D.? - Technological Abandonment Disorder

There is no actual diagnosis by this name, but I am referring to a widespread, pervasive situation that effects many couples.  This is the problem that arises when one or both members of a couple spend so much time on their technological devices (cell phones, computers, or tablets) that someone ends up feeling neglected, rejected, or abandoned. Unless you truly are trying to avoid your partner, you might end up regretting how much time you've spent disengaged from them, or wonder why they are then disengaged from you when you are desiring emotional or sexual intimacy.

As our lives become more involved with raising children, demanding careers, or caring for elder family members, our free time becomes more limited.  Those precious few hours where our obligations subside seem shorter and shorter.  Often the simple act of sitting still and not speaking to another human being feels like a good way to relax and unwind.  Even couples without children or retired couples may find that too much of their ‘together time’ is spent with little intimate connection.   Whether you are engaging in gaming, mindless shows, social media, or whether you are dedicating your time to more cerebral online activity, you might find that more time passes than you really meant to spend engaged with your device.  A few minutes, become an hour, an hour becomes several hours, and soon it is time to go to sleep and you haven't spent any quality time with your partner.  Perhaps your partner understands your need to zone-out for a while, but at some point they may begin to feel that they are competing with your machine for your attention.  That in itself, is hard on someone’s ego and builds resentment.  Devices, unlike television, are almost always a solitary act (although many people complain they feel left out when a partner watches something on TV that they particularly dislike).  

Knowing when to power down your device may differ from person-to-person and couple-to-couple.  In this day and age it might be unreasonable to have a zero tolerance attitude or policy toward online time in your household.  Often work requires on-line time from home.  However, thinking about how much time you realistically want to spend on your device and then setting a timer (helpful that it is built-in to most devices) will also encourage you to hit the off button.  Many parents will set rules and limits for their children’s use of technology, which can be used as a basic guideline for their own use; not at family dinner, not in restaurants, not after lights out, etc. 

For some people the draw of the screen is addictive, and the thought of limiting their time with it feels like an encroachment on their personal identity.  Instead, think of learning to be stronger willed, more directed, and having better interpersonal relationships as ego enhancing and identity building.  Looking at your daily life in terms of each week rather than each night may also be helpful.  Yes, you should try to find some time every day to have undistracted, eye to eye contact and communicate with your partner.  This doesn't always happen, but the conscious attempt to find that time will help bring it about.  Maybe dedicate certain days of the week to actively engage with your mate; sharing stories, taking walks together, reading to each other, getting in bed together before you are exhausted.  Don't worry too much if 'date nights' are planned and not spontaneous - it is better than not at all.

There is an old adage that no one on their death bed ever said, "I should have spent more time working".  Who will say, ”I should have spent more time on my device”?


Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

From Broken Heart to Fresh Start - Thoughts for Getting Through Your Break-Up

“Losing love

Is like a window in your heart

Everybody sees you’re blown apart

Everybody sees the wind blow”              Paul Simon, Graceland

Many people have experienced the hollow feeling that follows the irreconcilable break-up of a relationship.  It is often accompanied by hopelessness or depression.   If you are there, you might feel that little can console you.  You must trust that these feelings will subside, that your strength will return, and that your life will be fulfilling and love filled again.  There isn't a formula for getting through a break-up.  The path is different for each person that travels it.  Yet there are some important thoughts to keep in mind during the dark times.

Recognize that your pain is real and do not feel embarrassed for hurting.  Both men and women feel lost during break-ups.  Often women are afforded the release of crying while many men must permit themselves that same comfort.  Tears are healthy as they alleviate the pent-up stressor of sadness.  Remind yourself that each passing day will bring you closer to smiling and laughing again.  

Act in your own self interest and make decisions that enhance your health and well being.  Indulge yourself, but not to the point of excess - excess is not in your best interest.  Avoid isolating and fill your calendar.  Busy-ness will help take your mind off the past.  Try something new like the old advice of changing your haircut/color, or learn an instrument, or a foreign language, or take a trip.  Don't dwell in the world of 'What If' or 'If Only I’.  Teach yourself to embrace the moment and invite the future.

Exercise, yoga, strength training, dance all help your endorphins kick in and make you feel better.  A strong body and strong mind are interrelated.  Also, surround yourself with the friends and family members that make you feel loved.  We begin to equate our feelings of rejection with inadequacy.  Fill your life with people that remind you of how wonderful and lovable you are.  

Try not to idealize the past.  Make a list of the unfavorable issues of the relationship.  It might mean accepting that you weren't as happy as you thought, or that you were in denial of the signs that the relationship would end.  Maybe you were committed to commitment and stayed for the wrong reasons.  Write down the things - the ‘bad stuff’ - and keep it in your pocket. When you have moments of weakness and you want to reach out and re-establish contact, read the list first.  Keep your mind out of the past and don’t indulge in thoughts that are only more hurtful.  Turn your mind toward happier thoughts.

Know when you need professional help.  No relationship is worth the loss of life or the loss of desire for life.  Therapists, healers, and counselors can get you through the worst of times.  Make that your new relationship for a while.  Go talk to someone who is dedicated to enhancing your well-being.  You might learn things about yourself that are contributing to the intensity of your sadness.  Therapy can help you find perspective and renew your hope for the future.  Consider medication even if you are hesitant.  People tend to self-medicate during hard times with alcohol or drugs - These options work against you.  Prescribed medications can help you get through the worst of times.  It doesn't mean you will have to take it forever, but it could help ease the pain for a while.  Recognize the line between grieving and suffering.  You don't have to suffer.

Accept the idea that you are where you are supposed to be.  Life has led you down this path for a reason and there is something to learn about yourself from this experience.  Welcome the idea that wonderful things will happen in the next phase of your life and that you needed to be open and available to receive them.   One day soon you will enjoy and celebrate yourself as a single person, and then another day you will find the lasting love that you deserve.

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

AAA - Roadside Assistance on the Highway of Love

Affection,  Appreciation, Adoration

At any point along a couples journey they might find themselves in need of a relationship Jumpstart.  Deep inside you love each other, but your daily relationship might be fraught with frustration, aggravation, or resentment.  You might find yourself in a rut, and wondering what happened to all the love and romance you had in the beginning of your relationship.

The road to a more fulfilling relationship requires changes that often are the conscious choices of outward expression.  It is the commitment to doing something different in your relationship even if it at first seems awkward or stilted.  One of the biggest mistakes couples make is keeping ‘the good stuff’ to themselves; the loving and caring thoughts about their partner.

Affection is frequently misunderstood in the necessary role it plays in couple’s lives.  Affection is not just a female need, men desire affection too.   It isn’t only kissing and hugging.  Affection can be the gentle hand on one’s shoulder when a partner is stressed.   Holding hands when walking together.  Affection is the back rub after a hard day.  The card placed in the coat pocket that says ‘I love you’.  It is the blown kiss across the room at a party.  It is the caress in your sleep.  Affection is the physical act of letting your partner know that they are loved.

Appreciation is something that everyone needs.  Even when we are careful to let our children know that they are appreciated, we often fail to let our mate know.  Acknowledgement and appreciation are closely aligned here.  Often we silently acknowledge the things that others do which makes our lives easier, feel more loved, or adds to our respect for them.  Appreciation is the outward sharing of those feelings - it is the ‘thank you’ for things that weren’t asked for, or are the routine part of our daily lives.  It is simply saying, not only do I know that you do these things, but I also value that you do these things; from taking out the garbage, to stocking the house with food, to getting up and going to work everyday, to being a caring parent.  If you start to think about it, there are probably endless things that you appreciate about your partner.  Share them.  Don’t keep compliments and gratitude to yourself.  Appreciation is the verbal act of letting your partner know that they are loved.

Adoration is a bit harder to describe, and for some couples may require a deeper look into themselves and what is blocking it.  Adoration is the way your face lights up when you see your partner.  It is the time and mindfulness taken to listen and really understand the stories your partner tells you.  It is the sparkle in your eye when you are feeling sensuous toward your partner.  Adoration is the pride you feel that your partner is yours and you are grateful for that.  Adoration is the soulful act of letting your partner know that they are loved.

Many couples don't always make the whole journey together, often realizing along the way that something is missing, but not sure how to get it back on track.  Even the best relationships need maintenance, the care and attention to go the distance.

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

The Fine Art of Forgiveness

Sometimes the easiest sounding concepts can be the most difficult to put into practice.  Often this is the case with releasing negativity from your life.  The idea of ‘letting go’ of hurtful memories is frequently attached to the people who inflicted that hurt.  The implication behind ‘Mercy’ and ‘Forgiveness’ is that you hold the power to punish or to blame the other person, but instead, chose - consciously chose - not to do so.  Forgiveness further asks that you also release your anger or resentment.  But to be clear, it does not require that you forget what you have experienced, or arrange to be hurt again. 

Forgiveness is a difficult task.  Sometimes Forgiveness is an easier path if you know that the person did not consciously intend to be hurtful to you, but that your experience was an indirect result of their actions - an interpersonal collateral damage.  Other times Forgiveness can be found in the knowledge that someone did not know any better, that they repeated their own history, often unconscious that they are continuing a pattern of hurt or abuse.  Yet, there are other times, when it is difficult to find rationalization for someone’s behavior.  This is where an important distinction must be drawn.

Forgiveness is not about the other person.  It is not a gift or a pass for them.  Forgiveness is a personal act, an act for the Self.  Forgiveness is about accepting that you no longer want to hold onto anger, that you are ready for release, that you no longer want to live clouded by pain.  Forgiveness is the conscious choice to live a freer and happier life.  It is the separation from the your past of hurt and resentment, and the acceptance of your present and future life defined by health and love.  Forgiveness provides clemency and mercy for you.

When you realize that holding onto past pain is a way of punishing yourself and continuing to keep yourself bonded with negativity, it becomes easier to accept that you should desire and moreover, deserve change.  You may have once been a victim, but Forgiveness insures that you no longer define yourself that way.  Your positive health becomes more important than someone else's ill-will, maliciousness, or unconscious acting out.  You may have to steer your thoughts toward searching for some good that came from your experience, including the celebration of your choice to Forgive and using that energy for your own best interest.

Some people might need a tangible road to Forgiveness.  This might take the form of a conversation, or a letter (to be sent, or not) or even a ceremony or commemoration.  Some people may need the other person to bear witness to the hurt that they have endured, while others might not have that opportunity because that person may be dead, or because it would cause more pain to relive the hurt in their presence.  As Forgiveness is about you, you must find the way that makes your path the safest and most meaningful.  

Sometimes the act of Forgiveness teaches us that we are stronger than we ever realized.  That not only have we survived our experience, but we can still thrive and flourish afterward.  That we are greater, happier, and lighter because we consciously choose to take control of our lives, influence our thoughts and feelings, and not dwell in blame, anger, or resentment.  As with all difficult tasks, be kind to yourself, and understand that Forgiveness might be a process whereby each step, each attempt is in itself the goal.

(With Gratitude to Greg Fay for his insight.)

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community


Surviving Valentine’s Day - A Guide for the Reluctant

Let’s face it, not everyone eagerly anticipates February 14th.  Whether it is because you are single, unhappy in your relationship, or just don’t like being told when you should be romantic, Valentine’s Day is often the scourge of peoples’ calendars.  Instead of wishing your February days away or risk disappointing a partner, think about how to make Valentine’s Day work for you.  If there are Valentine’s Day cards for grandchildren or pets, it is pretty safe to say that that the day is yours to define.  Take the day and make it into something fun, creative, or indulgent. 

If you are in a couple, consider:

  • Going dancing.  Local venues offer everything from swing to salsa.
  • Baking together, and don’t forget the icing!
  • Taking a painting class.  New sites are opening up where you can drink wine and paint together.
  • Sleeping naked.  
  • Staying at a Bed and Breakfast.
  • Reading to each other.  Short stories.  Erotic stories.  Poetry.  Or, tell each other a story about life together in the future.
  • Going Bowling.  Wear matching shirts to add some humor.

If you are single, consider:

  • Eating at the bar of your favorite restaurant.  
  • Buying your best friend flowers or handing a bouquet to a senior citizen.
  • Painting your bedroom a new color.
  • Binge watching the series you meant to catch up on.
  • Writing a letter to your future lover to summon them into your life.  Maybe next Valentine’s it will be your card to them.
  • Signing up for online dating or Meetups.
  • Taking a group class in dancing, cooking, music, yoga, art, etc.
  • Perusing  Nothing says unconditional love like a wagging tail or a purr.

If you are in a relationship that is having difficulty, consider:

  • Talking to your partner about what their expectations are for Valentine’s Day.  You might not be the only one who wants to take a pass on the day.  On the other hand, you might be surprised about what your partner is thinking.
  • Looking at the ideas above and see if you can bring something new to the day.
  • Talking to each other.  Talk about your feelings, your dreams, your wishes.
  • Writing a list of all things that you made you fall in love initially.
  • Compose a story of how you first met in words, illustrations, or collage.

Like any other day, Valentine’s Day is another day on the calendar.  However, if you use it to make your life more meaningful, to mark your love for those you share your life with, or to share the tender thoughts too often keep to yourself, then the day becomes your day of celebration and not Hallmark’s.  So, use your imagination and learn to have a Happy Valentine’s Day, there’s another one coming next year!


Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

Do You Really Want to Know What You Don’t Want to Know - The Question of Infidelity

Suspicion of infidelity in a relationship can evoke different responses from confrontation, to waiting  for proof, to ignoring.  If you suspect that your partner may be unfaithful, it is helpful to explore your own thoughts and feelings before taking action.  Remember that you cannot un-know what you already know.  Truly understanding how you feel and what you might do if this situation is confirmed is one of the hardest tests you will face in your relationship.  Many people who think that they could never stay with a partner that was unfaithful, find themselves fighting for the person that they love.

If you have reason to believe that your partner is unfaithful, think why that might have come to be.  Have you been ignoring signs that a partner is unhappy?  In some instances nothing you did or could have done would have prevented the infidelity.  However, most people have no intentions of cheating and only do so as a response to feeling despondent or ignored.  Understanding cause and effect will be crucial to your healing, no matter how the situation plays out.  

In their hurt, people are quick to point a finger and place blame.  Yet, a very difficult thing to do is look to yourself to determine whether you have consciously or unconsciously contributed to the situation.  Have you been ignoring your partner’s emotional or sexual needs?  Have you started treating your partner like a second class member of the family?  Have you stopped trying to make your partner feel special?  Have you been withholding your feelings?  (Sometimes people who are angry at their partner end up withdrawing and closing them out of their lives while still participating in the daily motions of marriage.)  Over time these situations create vulnerabilities in the relationship where attention and affection from another can find fertile ground.

Occasionally suspicions arise from one’s own fear of being abandoned or rejected, and can have little to do with reality.  If your partner was being complimentary or showing interest in another person, that is not conclusive.  Yet if it evoked a strong response in you, it might be worthwhile to look back at your own past to determine if there is a historical basis for your concerns.  Was a parent unfaithful or accused of being unfaithful?  Did a parent abandon the family?  Were you raised with the belief that it is inevitable that people cheat?  Was there infidelity in your early relationships?  People who are overly jealous, overly suspicious, obsessed with fear of infidelity, need to start with their own selves first.

It is a daunting task, but before confronting your suspicions with your partner, think about asking them to work with you to improve the relationship.  Address your belief that the relationship is at a critical point, and that you would like to work on increasing the intimacy and connection between you.  Ask if your partner can be onboard with you and if they are willing to make changes.  Remind them of your love for them, your commitment to each other, and the life you have been building together.  Emphasize your desire to be a more attentive spouse.  Most people would rather save their existing relationship than leave. 

Fear of being alone is not a good reason to try to resurrect a relationship that has undergone the trauma of infidelity.  Being able to release the anger, resentment, and betrayal is crucial to resolution, and difficult to achieve if your sense of well being is dependent on someone other you.  If you are going to try to save your relationship, make sure you have helped construct the foundation to rebuild it on. 

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community


Asking For What You Want - The Gift of Clarity

With holiday season here, there is a lesson for couples to learn that will serve them the entire year through.  It is simple:  Ask for what you want.  Yes, it applies to presents, just as kids tell Santa what they want (and parents are let in on this secret and then magically produce all the right gifts), but it also applies to daily life between partners.  Asking for what you want is the simplest way to help your partner understand your needs and desires.  It gives them an opportunity to fulfill your wishes and make you happier, which hopefully is their wish too.  Not asking for what you want is simply arranging to be resentful.  

There are several misconceptions about ‘asking for what you want’. 

  1. It is selfish.   No, it is taking good care of yourself and giving your partner an opportunity to take better care of you.
  2. I shouldn’t have to ask.  No, your partner cannot read your mind, and may not even realize it is important to you because  you never bring it up, or because your needs have changed over the course of the relationship.
  3. I should only have to ask once.  No, sometimes the most basic request falls prey to old behavior or unconscious motivations.
  4. Asking more than once is nagging.   No, not if you don’t do it in a nagging tone.  You can always say that we have spoken about this a couple of times, I have expressed to you that it is important to me, and I am wondering if there is something that is preventing you from following through.

All of these misconceptions interfere with a couple’s open communication and instill anger.  If you ask for what you want, several things can happen; You might get what you want and, great, because that is the goal, or you might not get what you asked for, and that might bring about a new discussion or make things about your relationship or partner clearer in your mind.

Asking for what you want does come with some parameters.  Do not ask for the unreasonable, as you will certainly be disappointed and make your partner feel less than.  Asking is different than demanding.  Ask for the things you want in a loving manner with the preface that you believe it would make you happier/ be helpful to you/ improve your relationship.  When you partner gives you or does the things you asked for, let them know you are appreciative.  Also, be open and encourage your partner to ask for the things that they want too.

Often people have a tendency to give their mates the things that they might want themselves, and not realize that the other person may have different needs.  For example, a wife might tell her husband how handsome he looks because she would like to hear how beautiful she looks.  The husband may bring his wife chocolates, because he would like her to buy him the things he enjoys having in the house.  Each think they are being loving (which they are) but not necessarily the type of loving the other needs.  Don’t assume because it is important to you that it is important to them.  Learn to speak the other person’s ‘language’.  

Giving your relationship the gift of open, healthy communication is a wonderful way to celebrate your love all year long.


Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

Of Empty Chairs and Cold Beds  - Early Widowhood

Til Death Do Us Part, usually conjures up images of elderly, wrinkled hands, stooped backs, and elegant black mourning attire.  Sadly, that scenario is not always the case as we may find our friends or ourselves facing early widowhood.  We grapple to deal with the unfairness of losing a spouse or long-term partner too soon, the absence of their presence in our home, and the expectation of a lifetime companionship robbed of us.  Their death creates a void that remains hard to comprehend while life continues on.

For the newly widowed, the storm of emotions is an entity in itself.  Shock (even when a death was preceded by illness), grief, confusion or disbelief, anger, fear, hopelessness, resentment, and even relief, can overtake the strongest and most capable of people.  Initially there is much to take care of, from planning the funeral or memorial, visits from friends, family reuniting, financial and legal issues.  The demand of this whirlwind can keep you going through the motions.  Eventually, when the momentum subsides, a new emptiness prevails.

This is the part that a widow/er suffers alone; the private grief over the intimacy and nuances that the couple shared.  The loss of the friendship that was stolen away.  It is a time when the smallest action or inaction can evoke the greatest of emotions; throwing away the toothbrush, not having to fluff the other pillow, accidentally placing one more setting at the table, erasing their voice on a phone message.  It is a time when every memory has a silent echo.

If your spouse or partner has died, remember to take good care of yourself, even if it feels like you are being selfish or needy - you are not - you are mourning.   Ask for help from people who can be helpful to you.  Go to a support group or therapist, you might be surprised that it doesn’t make you more depressed to talk about it.  Don’t be resistant to going on medication to help relieve some of your suffering.  Forgive yourself when you are resentful.  Don’t be afraid to cry or laugh. Being widowed is different than being divorced, try to explain this to well-meaning friends who might miss those subtleties because of your youth.  

There is no set time when your heart will be ready to accept another person.  Some people choose not to date again.  Many others go on to new relationships and often remarry.  It is important that you understand how your loss effects you in order to make healthy decisions.  Not dating because it feels disloyal maybe a way of undeservingly punishing yourself.  Dating too soon may be out of a reactive fear of being alone.  Breaking up new relationships might be a way of protecting yourself from the fear of abandonment.  Thinking you will never find as great a love as the one you lost, may be depriving you and your children of a different yet very special love.  Everyone has their own experience, but it will be helpful to understand your conscious and unconscious motivations.

If you know someone who has lost a spouse or partner, this is the time that your friendship and compassion will becalled upon.  Do not be afraid to talk about the person who has died.  Even when words of comfort are hard to find, most all attempts at finding them are better than no words at all.  Invite your widowed friend to talk to about their loss, and ask them how you can be helpful in their lives.  Widow/ers with young children need other kinds of help too.  Remember that as much as they need you in the beginning, they will still need you in different ways as time goes on…Don’t forget them.

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

Couples Counseling - Is it Time to Try and Will it Help?

As with most problematic situations, improvement begins with recognition and admission that there is a problem.  When couples are having difficulty one partner may recognize that there is a problem while the other might be oblivious, in denial, or resigned.  Many couples go through years or even a lifetime together accepting or tolerating an unsatisfying relationship that could be improved or healed with a bit of help.

The first step when an issue is affecting the relationship, is bringing those concerns to your partner’s attention.  Sometimes people are clear about what is wrong and/or how they feel, other times they just sense that they are dismayed or angry or frustrated.  At a time when you are both alone, not distracted, and without other critical life demands, broach the topic of wanting to constructively improve the quality of your relationship.  If your partner cannot recognize the issue, explain that your feelings are enough of a reason to warrant their understanding and cooperation.

One of the biggest oversights that couples make is agreeing to work on their relationship, and then not doing anything different.  Partners end up discouraged and depressed thinking that their relationship has failed when it hasn’t even been given a chance.  Couples counseling is usually helpful if both partners are simply open to the idea of communicating better.  Not all problems get fixed in treatment, but just clarifying the problem and potential solutions often leads to positive change.  Most couples will, at some point, vent or complain in session; however, the goal of couples therapy is change - for the betterment of both partners.

The experience of going to see a couples therapist can be as varied as the number of therapists you find.  Each will bring a different background and approach to treatment.  However, all couples therapists should be able to provide an objective and safe environment to allow each partner to express themselves.  It is not the therapist's place to take sides and therefore, from a treatment perspective, it is irrelevant whether the therapist is male or female.  Instead, their role is to help the couple understand the issue/s at hand, determine how they arrived at that point, define whether they are willing to do something different to improve the relationship, and then guide them toward the appropriate changes.  Couples counseling tends to be an interactive discipline with the therapist encouraging, interpreting, and mediating the communication between the couple.

There is no perfect time to approach couples counseling.  It is not only for married couples, and it is not only for times of crisis.  Many people wait until they have exhausted their own patience to seek help, even though those cumulative feelings add an additional obstacle to healing.  Try not to wait.  Strike when the iron is warm not hot.  Approach your partner with the idea that relationships require nurturing and commitment, and it could be beneficial to have a third party help you navigate the process of improving and healing.

Although reconciliation is often the object of counseling, there are times when therapists can help the couple identify and accept the end of a relationship and guide them through the process of separation.  Additionally, sometimes therapists might ask to meet with each of the partners separately, others will only see the couple together.

Agreeing to go to speak with someone is a healthy step toward positive change, and a testament to the type of commitment that insures couples will have fulfilling and loving lives.


Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community


 You Want to do ‘What’? - The Changing Landscape of Sexuality

Along with the many ways that the internet has reshaped our lives, it has also played an important role in the changing scope of sexuality.  What was once covert is now easily accessed, and the hidden worlds of alternative sexuality have entered the mainstream.  Pornography and erotica are out of the closet, and have made their way to our computer screens, TV’s and theatres, and bedside tables.  Sexual websites and erotic print are no longer the strict domain of men, but enjoyed by women of all backgrounds; housewives leading the charge, thanks to Fifty Shades.  

So, what happens when a click of the computer reveals the previously hidden worlds of the illicit?  Often the world of fantasy which was previously left to the imagination is available in its full imagery.  One click leads to another, one book to another and what was previously taboo is now the desire of the curious, the inclined, and the monogamous!

Sometimes these new desires are not shared by both members of a couple, and how to address what is acceptable and what is not can add a strain to peoples intimate relationships.  As always, an open mind is an asset to any relationship.  So, if you or your partner want to introduce something new into your sex life start off with a conversation about it, but not in the bedroom.  It is fundamental to explain that there is something that you want to explore, that it is meant to enhance your relationship, and that it will be handled with respect.  Some people will be open to discussing things, or reading stories, or watching videos to help them visualize…Others will not.  

If your partner brings something new up to you, don’t make assumptions about what it means to them.  Don’t think it means that they have been unsatisfied with you and sex, or that they are perverse, or that it is meant to be demeaning.  If you are uncomfortable with the request, ask what it means to them.  Some people will not be able to verbalize an answer.  It might be a desire that they don’t fully understand, and that is okay.  Sometimes talking about it too much will destroy the mystique.

The important thing is to find your comfort zone.  Understanding that it will pleasure your partner is sometimes a good enough reason to try something new.  Have an agreement that if it isn’t okay you can stop without having hard feelings.  Know that it is okay for sex to be fun, playful, messy, and creative.  Draw the line where you feel it would not enhance the non-sexual part of your relationship.  Be very, very careful if the idea of including others is involved.  This is an area that some couples can manage without repercussions, most cannot.

Living out fantasies can be a wonderful addition to peoples lives, egos, and relationships.  Have fun, be open, have boundaries if necessary.  Sex is the glue that binds many relationships.  It is the one thing that we do with our partners that we do not do with anyone else.  Taking good care of your sex life is great way to keep your relationship vibrant.

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community

Why it All Changed After Kids - And How to Get it Back

Look around, and it is quite astounding how many couples seem to be divorced, separating, or struggling in their relationships. Today’s world places different demands on us than existed for previous generations. Marriage and commitment seem to be the indirect casualties of our increasingly stressful lifestyles. Couples try to find time for family life in a world where career, technology, and social media creates new and immediate demands. In many households both parents work to support the family, although the educational system still operates as though there is a stay-at-home parent. It is not surprising that our stress levels are effecting our personal happiness and expectations of our partners.
Many couples do well until after the children are born, and then the extra time dedicated to caring for children and the extra expense needed to support the family bring about the end of the honeymoon. Both parents are assuming the roles of providing financially, child-rearing, and homemaking. Often fathers find themselves feeling neglected and abandoned, as their wives focus turns to babies and children. Mothers often struggle with feeling like they are stretched thin and that, with all of their responsibilities, some are not getting enough of their attention. Neither feel appreciated enough for what they are contributing. Exhaustion sets in and the couple's friendship and romance degrade to a working partnership. Sex becomes a chore or an infrequent rendezvous.
Although some couples manage to make it through these times, many find themselves with school age children, feeling like their spouse has become their roommate. If you find yourself in this situation, realize that you are not alone. It is understandable how you got there, and your spouse is probably feeling similarly. However, it is time to do something different, even if that change is starting a conversation about what is going on.  Remember that having a healthy, and romantic marriage enhances your children's sense of well being. Taking them to the playground, museums, concerts are all good. Showing them that their parents can have some fun on their own is comforting for them. For children, seeing their parents kiss, hold hands, laugh, or dance together are wonderful ways to teach them how to become a loving partner, and provide them with enduring memories of a happy childhood. Just as it would be unhealthy to neglect your children to enjoy your spouse, itis as unhealthy to
neglect your spouse for your children or your job!
Don't forget to argue, but do it constructively. Holding everything in, or raging, or ignoring each other, or acting like a free agent are all unhealthy behaviors in relationships. Kids seeing their parents disagree, then work out a resolution are better off than kids who never experience their parents arguing. Children have to learn that it is okay to feel many emotions, but be responsible for their words and actions. Parents can model this by expressing disagreement and working it through. Avoid pointing the finger at your mate unless you can clearly express how it makes you feel (the emotion invoked), and why you personally are effected in that way.
If you used to have a good sex life before the kids came along, and you no longer do, then chances are one or both of you are unsatisfied. Time to start reconnecting. Finding the time for intimacy is one of the greatest obstacles couples face, not finding it is often the greatest oversight. Breaking the ice again after long periods without sex may start off slowly or awkwardly, but may also give you the opportunity to tweak a couple of things that might have previously gone unmentioned. It is a good time to discuss your sexual needs and desires, what you always liked, what else you might like.
Couples who commit to process through difficulties have a much greater chance at staying together. There will be hard times, there will be times when you feel more distant, but communicating, feeling understood, and showing your affection are the best starts toward making the changes that save relationships.

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community



Renewing Your Relationship -  Just in Time for Spring

Just as we welcome the onset of spring, and all that it represents as a time for renewal, and change, and rebirth, it is time to put some of that fresh new energy back into our romantic relationships.  It is time to shake off some of the slumber of the winter months and rediscover and celebrate our partners and spouses.

Spring is a good time to rediscover some of the interests that couples share.  Think about the things you enjoy doing or used to enjoy doing, have each of you make a list of five things and see where you match up, or see which things you can open yourself up to in order to share that with your partner.  Raising children is not enough of a shared interest to hold a marriage together in a satisfying and fulfilling way.  So, make some time to spend time together, without the kids.  Sure, going out to dinner is fine, but so is going to the gym together, taking a painting class together, hiking a mountain together, building a deck together, going to hear a band together, or volunteering for a cause together.  The key word here being together.

The other way to renew a relationship is to get some of the things you are bottling up out and discussed.  Resolution breeds intimacy, so take a chance and process through.  Ask for the things you need, but ask in a way that doesn’t sound like an attack for what was missing, but a request for what would be positive if it was added.  Don’t forget to be attentive to things your partner has been asking you for directly or indirectly.  Do the things…Say the words.  One of my favorite phrases is, “How can I be helpful?”  As nice as it is to have someone ask you that, is as nice as it is to ask that of your loved one.  It also makes it very clear what is needed, and how to fulfill that need.

The bedroom is another place to bring a fresh outlook.  Sexuality and intimacy is the glue that bonds romantic relationships together.  There are many things we do with our friends and family, but only some things that we only do with our mates.  It is, in many ways, what defines two people as a couple.  Talk to your partner about sex and intimacy, find a vocabulary that you feel comfortable with, but don’t talk about it in bed.  Find a time when you are both relaxed and the house is quiet.  Doing something new can spark a tired or nonexistent sex life.  Sleep naked, take a shower together,give a massage, play a strip game (Cards, Backgammon, Trivia, it doesn’t matter), buy a new sex toy, initiate sex (if you don’t usually), role play.  Nothing is dirty, or silly, or trite if you both enjoy it.  Remember, that giving pleasure is pleasurable…don’t be withholding.

Very often I hear clients say, why does it have to be me?  Why do I have to make the first move?  Why do I have to do all the work?  It is not unusual for one person to carry the emotional responsibility of the relationship. This isn’t a bad thing, and as relationships grow and mature, and more things are verbalized and processed, much of that responsibility becomes second nature to both partners.

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community


How Did I Get Here? - Dating as a Single Parent

Dating can come as a shock to parents who didn't expect to find themselves single again.  The parameters are different than before there were children, households, and financial pressures.  These circumstances pose different obstacles, including finding the time in your busy life, kid’s needs, and visitation schedules. 

Help your children understand that your desire to date is a natural and healthy step.  Do not let them dictate whether or not you can date.  It is natural for children to harbor a fantasy that their parents will reunite, even after one is remarried.  As children mature, the concept of their parents living separate and fulfilling lives becomes more acceptable.  Children tend to be resistant because they don't want to share their parent, or they are trying to establish their own sense of stability post-divorce.  Children, sometimes subconsciously, try to sabotage dating; from temper tantrums, to feigning illness the night of your date, or being contentious with your new dating-interest.  Just as you are getting used to your new life, children must be given time to adjust to the changes in their life.  Help them understand that you have enough love for them and a new partner, but that your love for them is a special love that no one can replace.  Make sure if you are going to introduce your children to someone, that they are prepared in advance, that it is someone you already know well, and will (most likely) continue to see.  New people come and go when you are dating, but don’t expose your children to the same filtering process.  Protect them from information that they do not need to know.  

Finding dates is harder now as the pool is smaller and those that are single often have their own complicated situations.  The people you will date come with more history, and more than likely, an ex-spouse, children, and additional financial obligations.  Sexuality may be different at this stage, from quickly wanting to know if you are compatible, or a desire to explore fantasies, or even decreased libido. The most important guideline at this stage is keep an open mind and use your common sense.  

Finding new people online can seem a contrived process, but meeting singles in the suburbs can be challenging.  On-line dating is a process that requires time, patience, and plenty of hopefulness.  You might spend a considerable amount of time on your computer and meet many people before you find someone you are interested in dating.  New people come on dating and social media sites all the time, so don't lose faith.  Another option are Meetup sites that cater to singles and non-singles with shared interests.  These are a great way to engage in activities you enjoy, make new friends, and perhaps meet your next love.  Remember, friends and colleagues know other people, put the word out.  

Always meet new people in public places, and remember to keep your wits about you.  Don't engage in activities that may cloud your instinct or intuition.  Don’t feel obligated to discuss every aspect of your life on a first date.  What you choose to do on your date is your business, but make decisions that you will feel good about the following day.  Manage your expectations, have fun, and enjoy meeting new people.

The real lesson at this stage is that being single isn't a bad thing and the world isn't judging you on whether you have a partner.  It is okay if you are not ready for a relationship, or cannot find a match.  If you already have children there is no rush.  Learn to enjoy the things that define you, and appreciate your friends.  Accept that being a third or fifth wheel is okay, and that some of your married friends may envy your independence.  Sleep in the middle of your bed, leave the toilet seat where you want it, and embrace being single.  If someone new comes into your life, know that you learned to celebrate yourself before they came along.

Originally published in MOMs offer More - A Magazine for the Entire Community