I contributed the following to a Huffington Post article about stonewalling, one of Joh Gottman’s Four Horsemen:
“2. Be aware of the physical reaction you have before you stonewall.
“If you’re a stonewaller, you usually have an internal physiological reaction (increased heart-rate or rapid breathing, for instance) and an external reaction right before you close up: Maybe you physically turn away from your partner or close your eyes and deeply sigh. These are all signs your partner needs to start paying attention to. Discuss what you do during times of distress so you both can recognize the stonewalling warning signs.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois”
You can read the full article here.
I contributed the following to a PsychCentral article about feeling lost and ways out.
“You also might feel like you’ve lost sight of the person you want to be, said Danielle Kepler, LCPC, a clinical therapist based in Chicago, Ill., specializing in adults who are struggling with anxiety, depression, and life transitions, as well as couples with relationship issues.
It also can feel like you’ve always felt this lost, and you always will, Kepler said. “You might struggle to remember a time when you felt like your ‘old self.’” You may “see no way out of it.”
Thankfully, there is a way out. There are many ways. Consider giving these a try.
Reflect on your values. What matters to you? What’s important? Ferreira suggested working through a values worksheet (which you can find online). “Pick one or two values that resonate with you and do something that is in line with that.” She shared this example: One of your values is justice, so you start volunteering at a local non-profit.
Kepler suggests clients think of someone they greatly admire. This might be a mentor, colleague, or friend. She asks them to identify the specific qualities they admire. For instance, maybe you admire your colleague’s friendliness and kindness and ability to assert themselves, she said. “These are often values that the client themselves feel are important; it’s just somewhat easier to identify them in other people than themselves.”
Read the entire article here.
I contributed the following to a Huffington Post article about signs you may be in a relationship that you might not really see going anywhere and that you are just staying in it due to comfort.
“Below, experts offer six signs you may be in a Band-Aid relationship and what to do about it.
1. You stop trying to fix the relationship.
You used to try to work on the relationship. These days, though, you’re more inclined to shrug off your problems; your requests have fallen on deaf ears so often, you figure, why bring it up again? That’s a huge red flag, said Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois.
“It might seem like you’re just compromising by not bringing it up, but when you don’t express your wants and needs to your partner, you are creating a win-lose situation,” Kepler told us. “It will slowly build up resentment between you two.”
If you’re in a Band-Aid relationship, ask yourself these questions before making any serious decisions.
2. If you were trapped on a deserted island and got to bring someone with you, would your partner be your first choice?
It may sound like a silly hypothetical question, but your answer says a lot about the state of your relationship, Kepler said.
“Who you choose should be someone that you genuinely want to spend time with and care about, someone that you can spend days on end with, comfortably,” she said. “If your ‘desert island person’ isn’t your partner, you might want to consider how strong your bond is right now.”
Read the entire article here.
Here’s a little secret about my own relationship. My husband regularly goes on hiking trips with people he has met on the Internet (often women!). Oh, and I don’t go on said trips with him and often have never met the people he goes with. He really enjoys hiking/backpacking and well, I don’t as much. I went on a few hiking trips with him and I just didn’t have that great of a time. This is his hobby and passion. I’ve got other hobbies that he has no interest in as well.
Guess what? I consider my relationship pretty rock solid and wonderful.
How can that be, you may ask? Some questions/remarks I have heard throughout the years… “Why in the world do you let your husband meet people let alone other women and spend all day with them in the woods?” “Aren’t you afraid of something happening?!” “What kind of husband would go on a hiking trip without his wife?” And oh so much more….
We live in a culture where we are taught not to rely on others for emotional support and yet see relationship red flags when two people do hobbies independent from one another.
The answer, to put it simply at first, is no, I am not worried because I trust him and I do not want to deprive him of something he is truly passionate about (nature, hiking/backpacking, mountains etc.). I do worry about him when he is hiking though safety-wise!
The more complicated answer has to do with what Mary Ainsworth, a developmental psychologist, called a secure base. She did an experiment studying attachment with infants and mothers called the Strange Situation Test. Basically, a child is put into a room with toys and the mother leaves the room and comes back. The child with a secure attachment style, while upset that the mother left, is able to be soothed by her, and then uses her as a secure base and is able to go out and explore the toys with confidence while glancing at her/his mother. The child knows that she needs her mother, her mother is available.
As adults, we are put into ‘strange situations’ every day, whether they are at work, with friends, or even when our husbands are in another state hiking with people we don’t know. Ok, maybe the last one is just me… Having a secure base as an adult is having someone who, in your time of need, 100% has your back and is supportive of you. It’s someone whom you can depend on and vice versa. As adults, we are capable of knowing that our partners are there for us emotionally and psychologically even if they are not close in proximity. If your partner makes you feel safe and is able to reassure you during hard times, you are free to focus your attention on other things that make your life more meaningful, such as hiking.
Early on in our relationship, there were many times where my husband stood up for me, gave me pep talks, and had my back and I for him. We created this security early on, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing (more on that in later posts). My husband is my secure base and I am his. This type of relationship may look very independent from the outside. He’s off hiking on the weekends, I’m back in Chicago. On the contrary, we are actually very dependent on one another. *gasp* He is the first person I turn to if I need advice on just about anything. He opens up to me about his work stress. We are very emotionally close. So how can we be emotionally close but physically apart for a good portion of the weekends in the summer when he is off hiking?
This is what attachment theorists call the “dependency paradox” meaning the more dependent you are on someone during hard times and they are available to meet your needs, the more independent you become. Think of the kid who stands up to the class bully because they know their friends have their back either way or the husband who applies for a job promotion out of state and rocks the interview knowing he has his wife’s full support and that they will make things work no matter what happens.
The saying “if you love someone, let them go, if they return, they were always yours” comes to mind, but I’d tweak it a little bit. I would say “if you love someone to the point that you can depend on him or her to have your back and support you and likewise you for them, let them go. Do your own thing, they’ll be back and they’ll tell you how much fun they had and how they wished you were there too.” You’ll both probably feel more satisfied with your relationship and your lives.
I’m just going to go right out and say it, dating sucks, especially now with all the apps and the swiping and the paradox of choice. However, I don’t think it’s the modern technology, although it doesn’t help, that makes dating suck. It’s more scientific than that. You’ve heard that saying ‘dating is a number game,’ right? It certainly is!
Let’s talk about attachment styles for a minute. Neither one is good or bad (although it may seem that way). Odds are you either will recognize these characteristics in yourself or someone else. The three main attachment styles are as follows:
- Wants a lot of closeness in relationships
- Has a lot of insecurities about rejection
- Sensitive to small cues and fear the relationship is in jeopardy and that he/she must work to keep you interested
- Struggles expressing what is bothering him/her
- Reliable and constant
- Naturally expresses feelings for you
- Not afraid of commitment or dependency
- Communicates relationship issues well
- Sends mixed signals and doesn’t make intension clear
- Values independence a great deal
- Emphasizes boundaries in relationship
- Has difficulty talking about what’s going on between the two of you
Odds are, you have most likely dated people with an anxious or avoidant attachment style. I know I have certainly dated my share! In fact, I dated so many people with this attachment style, I almost blew my chances when someone with a secure attachment style (my husband–believe it or not) came along!
Here’s my story, hopefully you can benefit from hearing it and the lessons I’ve learned from it. Keep in mind, I would consider myself to have an anxious attachment style (at least at this time!) and my husband having a secure attachment style. I will include my inner dialogue and ways my husband calmed my “activated attachment system” as well as some
See if you can pick up the cues that his attachment style is secure.
Back in the day, I was a big fan of online dating. It was easier than meeting people in person and I liked the screening process. When my now husband messaged me on a site, I at first did not see it, but then he messaged a few days later and I quickly scanned his profile before responding. We didn’t seem to have much in common, but decided to respond to him anyway. We chatted online for an hour or so then he quickly asked for my phone number that same night.
“My phone number?! I don’t even know him, he’s moving very fast!”
“What if we talk and he gets bored because we’ve already talked for a while already?”
I gave him my phone number anyway and we talked for a few more hours that night. He said he had a great time talking with me and then asked me on a date for a few days from now.
“I don’t know about this, I usually like to talk to people more before I meet them.”
“He’s very direct, I don’t know how I feel about that.”
“I bet once he meets me he won’t want to see me again. I don’t know if I am good enough.”
We met and had a wonderful date where we talked and seemed to really hit it off. The next morning, he called and left me a voicemail saying that he had a wonderful time and he wanted to know when I was available next.
“This is unreal. I meet a nice guy and he tells me right away that he had a great time and wants to make plans with me again right away!”
“What’s his angle here, I’ve never met someone with such clear intensions.”
I messaged him saying I had a great time too and that I was available that next weekend. We called and texted throughout the week, getting to know each other further. He was available to talk during the day (work permitting) and let me complain about my crummy job at the time.
He said he knows he just met me once, but he wants to see where this goes and is planning on canceling any other dates he had lined up for the future.
“I can’t believe this. No guy has ever been this direct and able to express his feelings so clearly.”
“Do I have to do the same? I am not sure if I like him as much as he likes me…” (no, I did not have to do the same)
“He’s taking a big risk on me, I don’t know if I am worth the risk.”
A close friend warned me about “guys like him.”
Can you pick up on his secure attachment style? How about my anxious one and what I was used to dating in the past (anxious and avoidant men)? Had I listened to my friends and my rather calm but confused attachment system, I may have missed out on someone really special.
A few tips on how to not let a secure person get away:
- Ask yourself “is this person able and willing to meet my needs?”
- Do you really like a few texts throughout the day? Are they able to meet that need for you?
- Do you need to vent about your work? Do they listen to you and not shut you down?
- How do they react to you expressing your feelings (within reason) for them.
- Do they shy away from commitment or play games with their feelings?
- How do they react when you express displeasure with something they did or said?
- When you effectively communicate that you were disappointed, how open are they to your feedback.
- Do you know where you stand with this person? Is there very little “drama”?
- We’ve conditioned ourselves to be used to and welcome the drama, but people with secure attachment styles are upfront with their feelings and can at times seem boring due to the lack of drama.
Stay tuned for more attachment style insights to help you improve your dating life.
I contributed to the following article for the Huffington Post about ways couples ruin their marriage right before bed:
“Ever get angry at your partner and say to them ‘I don’t want you to sleep in the bed tonight. You have to sleep on the couch’? Regardless of the argument, you want to be able to say to your partner (through words or actions) that you still love them despite your problems. This can be as simple as both going to bed in your shared bed or holding hands as you fall asleep. By taking ownership of the bed and kicking your partner out to the couch, you’re turning away and creating physical and emotional distance between both of you.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois”
Read the entire article here.
I contributed to the following article for the Huffington Post about the signs a couple should consider going to therapy:
“It gives you a safe, open space to address complaints you haven’t voiced to your partner.
“Take a behavior that six months ago was slightly annoying to you, such as your partner forgetting to turn off the lights before leaving the house. At some point, you might start to think, ‘I bet other people’s spouses remember to turn off the lights and aren’t so wasteful.’ Seek out couples therapy before you get to the point. You never want to unfavorably judge your partner’s behavior and compare it with real or imagined alternatives.” ― Danielle Kepler, a therapist in Chicago, Illinois”
Read the entire article here.
I contributed to the following article for the Huffington Post about ways to reduce your defensiveness in arguments with your partner:
“When someone is ranting and raving, it’s easy to plan your mental counter attack, but when you do that you are no longer listening to them and the message they’re trying to get across might get lost. Try to postpone your agenda and listen for points that make sense to you. Then let them know what makes sense. “ ― Danielle Kepler, a couples counselor in Chicago, Illinois”
Read the entire article here.
As a therapist and a person, I hear time and time again “I just want to be happy” or “I’m not sure why I am not happy.” Upon further discussion it almost always leads to the other person comparing themselves to others around them. Whether it is a single person comparing themselves to all of their paired-up friends or a person in a dead-end job comparing themselves to people they know that are successful. Comparisons.
I’m not sure when humans as a species first learned to compare themselves to others around them but I bet it is similar to Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.” After all, how did we determine who the fittest was or how could we be fitter than the fittest if we first did not compare ourselves to our fellow humans?
This logic might have worked for us back when we had to run from wild animals, but like many evolutionary traits (like the fight or flight response!) they don’t have nearly as much use as they did way back when.
Now, in the modern world, we use that “comparison trait” to compare ourselves to others who already excel in one area where we are weak. Like my earlier examples of single vs. in-a-relationship or in a dead-end job vs. successful. This is not a very fair comparison at all since the other people already have something that you desire. Sometimes this type of comparing can lead to people working harder to surpass others, but more often it leads to unhappiness.
So how does this all relate to happiness?
I’m not sure we can do away with the “comparison trait” all together, but we can turn the focus more inward than outward.
Instead of comparing yourself to what others choose to show you, you can compare your current self to your former self.
Make your own happiness dependent on whether you are growing as a person and completing goals you set out for yourself. Every person is unique and has unique ways they grow. This cannot be fairly compared to the growth or success of someone else. It can be as big as taking a chance and asking someone out that you’ve had a crush on or as small as cleaning your house. Both examples create a sense of personal accomplishment that involves no comparisons.
Three Ways in which to do this:
- Start a happiness journal/log and log 3 things you were grateful for that day. Do this for a month and see what happens.
- Have a bunch of hobbies you never have time for? Make a list of hobby goals (for yourself!) and set out to accomplish them. ie. learning to cook, learning a new language etc. Make sure it’s easily measurable so you can compare your progress and growth!
- Comparing yourself to others looks-wise? Make fitness goals and keep track of your progress. Fitness goals are a good choice because they are about YOU and are easily measurable.
There you have it–whether or not you choose to focus on internal or external happiness is on you.
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