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5 Unusual (and Effective) Ways to Keep Dating Your Spouse

5 Unusual (and Effective) Ways to Keep Dating Your Spouse

written by Stephanie Schuster, LMSW, Avalon Psychotherapist

In my work with couples, I often mention the notion of dating your spouse. When first entering a relationship, it is filled with dates, getting to know one another, romance, and passion – all part of the limerence or “honeymoon” phase. 

But what happens after the honeymoon phase has fizzled out? Or when life gets busy? Or after having children? I always ask couples how often they make time for dates or even just alone time together. For some, the answer is rarely.

There are many reasons that make it hard for couples to schedule dates or alone time:

having to hire a babysitter

financial reasons (and you know what’s expensive? Divorce. Divorce is expensive…)

differing work schedules

just always being busy

There are always reasons to push dates together to the backburner, but you don’t have to have a full date night in order to date your spouse. Just like any relationship, maintaining a bond and connectedness requires work.  The exercises below do not require money, hiring a babysitter, or even taking hours of time. (Although, it always helps to keep monthly or biweekly dates in the mix!) 

Here are 5 unusual (and effective) ways to keep dating your spouse:

1.    Reminisce over the start of the relationship and/or other memorable moments. A fun and free way of dating your spouse is revisiting the moments that fostered your connection and love for one another.  Spend some time with your partner going over in detail your recollection of your first date together, or when you got engaged, or even the day you both said, “I do”.  Take turns discussing what it was like for you during that time. What were the feelings? Was it nerve-wracking, exciting, or did you feel the chemistry immediately? What were the thoughts?  This exercise is light and easy and can help you both remember what drove you to one another in the first place.

2.    Spend time together disconnected. In a time where we are constantly on our phones, watching tv, and worrying about the long to-do list that needs attention, take time away from it all. Set time aside where you both can disconnect from the social world and connect with one another. Remove focus from the daily tasks and spend time going over things that are central to you both. Talk about goals, or dreams, or places you would love to visit. This can be done at home, at night in bed, or when out on a date. Don’t get caught up in discussing the “business” of running the family. This is connection time!

3.    Show appreciation. Sometimes couples think that this is an easy or silly exercise. However, the value of showing appreciation for one another is often overlooked.  You may be thinking- why should I show appreciation for daily tasks that need to get done. Or- I already say thank you when my partner does something nice or helpful. And those are valid. But when we take the time to focus on the things we may take for granted, and even more, make it a point to recognize them, we foster love and connectedness because it meets a core need of our partner: to feel “seen.” This does not have to be done daily and can be done in a way that is fun. Take turns each week noticing things your partner does that you don’t always give them credit for. Do you appreciate when your partner makes you your morning cup of coffee? Or when they offer to pick up something from the store for you? Or maybe even the way they parent. There are always things we can appreciate in our partners; we just need to take the time to recognize them and, more importantly, verbalize them.  

4.    Take a moment to connect and sync up your breathing. This one may take a little practice but can be very rewarding once you get the hang of it.  Sit down facing your partner, find a position that is comfortable for you both, close your eyes, and get ready to be extra close to one another. In this exercise, you and your partner will sit and lean in to touch foreheads together. You will then both focus on your breathing and work to sync up your breathing with one another. This may take a couple tries and can be done for time intervals that feel most comfortable for you both.  For the first try, aim to sync your breathing for 30 seconds, inhaling and exhaling. If you feel comfortable and find you are both able to easily sync your breathing, try for longer time intervals. Remember to focus on your breathing and your body. To add another layer of connectedness, hold hands while doing this exercise. Side note: You may find it hard to keep focused on the breaths while a myriad of things are swirling around in your head, and that is okay!  Just try to notice when other thoughts come in and then return your focus to your breathing. Mindfulness is a powerful thing and keeping the focus on one another can bring on feelings of closeness and connectedness.

5.    Get in your six second kiss each day. Anyone who is familiar with the Gottman Institute may already know about the 6-second kiss. If not, I am here to tell you about this amazing way of staying connected with your partner. It really is as simple as kissing for 6 seconds. Yup, that’s it! Now for the science- Kissing releases oxytocin and dopamine and can help reduce cortisol. What are those chemicals you ask? Oxytocin helps with feeling comfort and bonding, often referred to as the love hormone. Dopamine is that fun chemical that activates the reward center of the brain, giving us feelings of pleasure and satisfaction.  And cortisol, the hormone that gives you fight or flight reflexes, a response to stress. This is a simple but powerful way to keep dating your spouse, and who doesn’t love a good kiss!

While setting time aside and scheduling date nights is important, it is not the only way to keep dating your spouse. Try any or all of these methods to help in reconnecting you to the one you love. Life is busy and hectic but that does not mean it has to get in the way of being close with your partner. 

Stephanie Schuster, LMSW

10 Steps to Ditch Your Diet (For Real)

10 Steps to Ditch Your Diet (For Real)

Diets don’t work; if they did, we would all be our perfect ideal weight/size/shape.  We wouldn’t be jumping on the next fad diet come January 1, and we wouldn’t be spending $60 billion per year on trying to shrink our bodies.
We believe that our diets don’t work, or don’t work forever, because we don’t have enough will-power, or character, or we’re too addicted, have too many emotions, or our bodies just won’t stop being hungry.
But, what if it’s not us?
What if, it’s that dieting doesn’t work?
What if our bodies don’t understand dieting as “dieting” and instead respond to “famine” and “food scarcity?”
What if our bodies actually work by trying to keep weight on us if they get the message (through dieting) that there isn’t enought food, so they send us MORE hunger signals, slow our metabolism, and otherwise do whatever they can to ensure that we EAT?
The weight loss industry has a vested interest in keeping us believing that weight loss is the holy grail of all things worth living for. What if there is a name for this and it’s “diet culture?”
But what if so much of what we are taught is just…wrong?
What if diets are actually the problem and not the solution?
But how do we actually stop dieting? What does eating and living even look like when we decide to toss aside food rules and leave diet culture behind? Is that even possible?
Yes, it’s possible. And some may say it even sounds simple. But, it’s likely not an easy or quick process, especially if you have been dieting or trying to control your eating for many years. In fact, it’s possible that the longer you have been dieting, and the younger you were when you started your first diet (yes, WW is and always has been a diet), the longer, slower, and messier the the process may be. But, the good news is, you will probably start to feel better as soon as you take even one small step. Here are 10 ways that you can start to ditch your diet and experience food freedom and better health for the long term.
  1. Smash that scale! Or, just put it in the back of your closet and see how your day or week is not dictated by such meaningless numbers.
  2. Delete the fitness and food tracker apps! Think about how these apps actually help you. How do you feel and what do you do when you go over your crudely calculated “calorie budget?” And how does this app know what you should Unsurprisingly, Research shows that the use of these tools can lead to restrictive, unbalanced eating and also increase risk of developing an eating disorder. Just get rid of them!
  3. Unfollow those accounts that make you feel like your body is wrong. Take control of your own feed and selectively choose which accounts make you feel good and get rid of those that don’t. Ain’t got no time for that!
  4. Wear clothes you like, that fit, and that make you feel good. How do you feel when you try to squeeze into too tight jeans? Be kind to yourself and get rid of any items that don’t fit or that you are saving for “when you lose weight.”
  5. Move your body in ways that are pleasurable, whatever that is for you. Gone are the days of “no pain, no gain.” If it hurts and you don’t like it, do something else that doesn’t. This includes sex, too!
  6. Listen to your body. Like, really listen. What is it saying? Is it hungry? Is it full? Is it tired? Then, act on what you need whether it’s a sandwich, a cookie, a nap, or maybe all three.
  7. Break all the food rules. Or just one to start. For example, did someone once tell you that eating late at night causes weight gain? Or to eat your carbs in the morning but not at night? Sadly, many of the food rules we follow are simply unfounded. I challenge you to see what it’s like when you go against these bogus beliefs about food and body.
  8. Give yourself unconditional permission to eat, enjoy, and get your fill of your favorite foods whenever you want them. When we lift the restrictions and relinquish our control over food, we are then able to begin the process of making peace with food.
  9. Give up fighting against your body. Trust it! Use all of that energy and space for something truly special.
  10. Get support-for many, ending dieting means ending a whole way of life and way of being in relationship with food, body, self, and life. Professional support is critical. An Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size focused nutritionist and therapist can help you work through the complex emotions and challenges that arise from letting go of dieting.

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Katrina Seidman, MS RDN LDN

Click here to learn more about how to work with Katrina!

Avalon Psychotherapy Associates, LLC

 

We need a new conversation about food and weight.

We need a new conversation about food and weight.

We need a different conversation about food and weight. We need a conversation about food and weight that is not focused on the outcome being about food and weight.

We need a conversation that recognizes and centers two critical aspects of our difficulties:

  1. Our relationship with food is happening within the context of a larger food creation and distribution system that maximizes profits at the expense of public health, and;
  2. Our relationship with food is not about food and weight, but about deep relational wounds that often begin in childhood and for which food, eating, and weight control or chaos are symptoms.

There is an intersection where we find ourselves starved for the core sense of love, acceptance, belonging, and security, all of which evoke embodied feelings of satiety, warmth, fullness, and calm; and the prevalence of cheap, readily accessible foods that have little nutritional value, but also evoke a temporary sense of satiety, warmth, fullness, and calm.

Yet, because these very real sensations are not love, acceptance, belonging, and security, so many people find themselves driven to return to food as the source of the sensations over and over as we attempt to regulate our nervous systems in the face of very real unmet human need for deep connection.

This is the why when diets “don’t work.” Food restriction is incompatible with our physiology AND our neurobiology. When food is the solution to the problem, removing that solution still leaves the underlying problem.

This is true for all addictive patterns.

The solution must acknowledge the deep truth that we eat within a complex, economically driven, and politically protected food system that needs the population to eat and eat and eat.

We are provided a rich abundance of highly rewarding food products that keep us coming back for more.

All the while we are starved for the love and human connection we so desperately need for physical and psychological survival.

Nourishment, which is our very first experience of warmth, love, and safety moments after we are born is deeply wired into our beings to be associated with the core experience of love.

We have to stop demanding that people somehow eat normally in a very abnormal environment.

We have to end the suffering of shame and blame and daily private wars being waged with food in the battlefield of our bodies.

We have to reframe the discussion and help individuals and communities understand the problem is not will-power. It is not self-discipline. Is not that people are lazy or gluttonous.

It is that, as human beings, we are desperate for deep connection, yet we find ourselves deeply disconnected, not only from each other, but from ourselves.

We are not bad for seeking satiety, warmth, fullness, and calm in the face of constant discomfort, fear, distress, worry, and the terrible lie that we come to believe in childhood that we are fearfully and irreparably not enough. We are not bad for reaching for the thing that evokes the same embodied sense as that for which we so deeply long that is provided in such pervasive supply.

We must frame this conversation around removing the suffering of misunderstanding and blame for the individual and shifting the focus to empowering the individual and demanding that, as a society, we recognize the incredible harm our systems are doing to us as individuals and as a collective, as well as the planet we inhabit.

We must demand that health and mental health professionals divorce themselves from the “blame the individual” narrative around eating and weight. We must demand that professionals learn the available science of interpersonal neurobiology and addiction. We must demand that helping professionals honor the dignity of every human, trusting that each is doing the best they can within the context of their experience.

We must step beyond the false duality of fat/thin, healthy/unhealthy, good/bad, all/nothing narrative about food, weight, and eating disorders and compassionately recognize the profound need for human attachment – to ourselves and each other.

We must recognize that we are not eating in a normal environment for humans. We need complex solutions that compassionately recognize the complexity of our relationship with food as a species and its inherent link to our very nature as social beings.