6 Strategies to Show Your Partner Appreciation

Have you ever had moments in your relationship where you feel sort of under-appreciated? Maybe there have been times when you’ve been on the other side of it and have not been paying as much attention to your significant other as you should. If either of those scenarios sound familiar, read on. Here are 6 easy ways to show your partner they are not forgotten and you care about them:

 
 

1 | Surprise them with food

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Food is great. When it’s nice, toasty, and prepped for your convenience, it’s that much more wonderful. Cooking a meal or simply having some warm food ready for your loved one (for those of us who’d rather endure the cashier’s stand than the kitchen) is always a pleasant surprise. Also, it will show how considerate of a partner you are. And who wouldn’t want that label?

2 | Buy a favorite item

Similar to the meal, this shows deliberate attention to a loved one’s likes. For me, if gum is gifted, I’m in a great mood for the rest of the day. You can never have enough packs! Well, maybe you can. But I certainly CANNOT! What is something your significant other always likes to have? Do they have it right now? No? Well go get them some and see if it puts a smile on his/her/their face.

3 | Massage them

After a long day, everyone likes to lie down and have some rest. Maybe the kids were being unruly or the boss was not copacetic and your significant other has a little more on their mind today. Scratching or massaging their back/neck/head can provide sensory feedback and relieve some tension. It costs nothing but could make a huge difference for your companion’s spirits. Plus, the physicality could lead to something a little more intimate. ;)

4 | Clean something

This may not seem like the most romantic gesture you could do to show some love but I’ve got it on good authority — this works. Do the dishes, vacuum, throw out the trash, clean the inside of the car. Alleviating some of your loved one’s work will get you brownie points.

5 | Write a thank you letter

It doesn’t have to be a birthday or holiday to write your companion a letter telling them how awesome they are. For some, writing feelings down is a lot easier than speaking them. There’s also the plus side of being able to edit out things that don’t sound as eloquent on paper as they did in your head. Thank them for being a terrific parent, hard worker, supportive, genuine, understanding, compassionate, funny, lighthearted, beautiful, sweet. What makes her/him/them stand out? What exactly do you appreciate about them?

6 | Give extra attention

Lack of attention could be the sole origin of feeling undervalued. Don’t forget about your partner. When they’re talking, listen to what they’re saying. Put the phone down. It doesn’t take years to sit down and have one quality conversation with your lover, but if you consistently have quality chats, you could keep your lover for years.

What are some ways you show the special someone in your life you care?  Are there any unique ways that work every single time? Tell me your thoughts; post in the comments. Thanks for reading. Now, go show your partner why they are your most special someone.


about the author

Hi! I'm Trina. I graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Psychology (cum laude, but no one is keeping score, right?) I enjoy re-reading Harry Potter and extensively Googling new words. My aim in writing for this blog is to help couples overcome hurdles in their relationships.

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5 Signs of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental condition characterized by instability in mood and relationships that negatively impacts many areas of one’s life, such as the ability to regulate one’s emotions, to maintain relationships and to excel in occupational or educational settings. BPD presents many challenges to the individual with the diagnosis as well as others in the person’s life, due to the often unpredictable and risky behavior that manifests due to the disorder. If you are concerned that you may be in relationship to someone with Borderline Personality Disorder, listed below are some tips for spotting BDP:

 
 

1 | You walk on eggshells

One of the most common signs that you are in relationship to someone with BPD is that you’ll feel like you have to “walk on eggshells” around the person, for fear that something you do or say might “set them off.” People with BPD are often highly reactive to situation where they are perceived to be offended by someone. This can make it tough to feel comfortable around these folks.

2 | They feel betrayed

Some indicators that a loved one may have BPD is if they express to you an intense fear of betrayal or a sense of emptiness inside. This could manifest as your loved one taking it personally if you need to leave their house early or cancel plans with you. Instead of seeing that life circumstances popped up unexpectedly, they are likely to see your cancellation as an abandonment.

3 | You can’t predict their moods

BPD is often misdiagnosed at Bipolar Disorder, which shares the common element of labile mood (meaning a mood that fluctuated between highs and lows,) however BPD is unique in the profound effects it has on the individual’s instability in interpersonal relationships, as well.

4 | One day you’re great, the next you’re awful

It is often said that, in relationship to an individual with BPD, one day you’re the best thing since sliced bread and the next day you’re the scum of the Earth. This is because people with BPD experience rapid fluctuations in their appraisal of the people in their lives.

5 | They can be hurtful

When a person with BPD becomes offended, they can retaliate with very hurtful and disturbing words and actions. Because of this, it is very difficult for individuals with BPD to preserve healthy relationships with other people.

Did any of these signs resonate with you? If they did, I know how challenging it is to be in relationship to someone with BPD. If you are interested in exploring your relationship further and the effects it may be having on you, I highly suggest counseling. Working with a therapist can help you establish and maintain healthy boundaries with your loved one with BPD. You can find a local referral here, or if you live in the Los Angeles area, you can work with meIf you feel that you may be in an abusive relationship with an individual with BPD, please read my intimate partner violence series for more information and resources.


about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.

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A Couple's Guide to get Started Budgeting

Personally, I love budgeting. I love it so much that I have a paper version, an app on my phone, and a google sheet that all tell me the same thing: where is my money going? (Compulsive much? Yes!) I know I have an obsession but here are my reasons why you and your partner should create a budget and see if it helps you refrain from arguing about money:

 
 

1 | Visual access to your spending

You actually get to see where your money is going. I know everyone has their bank statements and some things vary from month to month (like PG&E or dining expenses) but for the most part, what you spend has some degree of consistency. This can aid in the reduction of fighting because you won’t be like my friend and look at your bank account one day and realize you and your boyfriend have $40 to last you the rest of the month. (YIKES!) The budget is an assistant in communication.

2 | Freedom to tailor your budget to you

Now that you know what you spend, you can create a budget that matches it. Or reduces it if that’s your goal too. I use Mint, a free app that allows you to carry your budget in your pocket wherever you go. (Disclaimer: you do have to allow access to your bank/credit card accounts but it’s totally legit and user-friendly.) Unlike my mother, who thinks my budget is the end-all be-all of money spending (I like to cap my monthly outings at around $50 a month and we have differing views. Let’s leave it at that); it is totally up to you and your partner how much you want to spend or save. I know people who budget for $1,000 every month for entertainment and that’s completely fine if it’s within your means. You know where your money is going. That’s great!

3 | You can address the ‘Who is paying for what?’ question

It’s date night — who picks up the tab? Reference your money spending tool. Did both you and your spouse factor outings into the budget? If so, then it’s still within the collective budget regardless of who pays this time. Hopefully next time it’ll be the other person’s treat. One of my most cherished ideals is being fair. Everyone says “Life isn’t fair” but my rebuttal is “but you can try to be fair to everyone in life.” For example, I know a couple who don’t make the same amount of money; one person pays more for rent than the other. But they came to the agreement that each would pay 35% of their income. So even though it’s not splitting rent 50/50 it’s still equal in terms of what each person can afford. The budget can aid in deciding how much one person pays for things you both use.

It’s easy to swipe your card and not think twice about what that swipe represents. With the budget, you can see what is going where. Everyone works hard to earn their money; a budget shows you what’s going on and will give your partner some insight to spending and saving habits. The beauty of the budget is you can do it for yourself (if you and your partner don’t share money) or you can do it as a couple (if you do share money and would like to know just how the heck you only have $40 left for the rest of the month!) and it will be beneficial regardless! Maybe creating a budget won’t eliminate all fights about money but I sincerely believe it could help. Remember the budget is not meant to be one size fits all. Talk it over with your partner and figure out where each of you stands.

Now, I’d love to hear your feedback. Did you try the budget? If so, what were your results? Do you have another way to diminish your fights about money? Please share in the comments below. Good luck in your spending ventures. Thank you for reading!


about the author

Hi! I'm Trina. I graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Psychology (cum laude, but no one is keeping score, right?) I enjoy re-reading Harry Potter and extensively Googling new words. My aim in writing for this blog is to help couples overcome hurdles in their relationships.

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8 Ways to Make More Time with a Spouse

With all the responsibilities of modern life, it can be tough to find time to spend with your special someone. Often times, with two people's busy schedules, it can seem like there isn't enough time in the day or week to dedicate to "us time." But we also know that in order for a relationship to thrive, we need to have quality time with our partner. If you feel like you and your partner need to implement some new strategies to make time for one another read on:

 
 

1 | Solo to Duo

If you and your partner are struggling to make time for each other, try doing something you typically do solo with them. Some ideas could be working out together, cooking, or running errands. You’re going to eat at some point, right? Why not cook dinner and eat with each other?

2 | Put the kids to bed earlier one night a week

Not being a parent myself, I enlisted my brother-in-law’s advice on this one. I asked him how he and my sister guarantee extended time together when kids require so much time and energy. He said putting the kids down earlier ensures parents get at least a few minutes together without being interrupted by the children. It doesn’t have to be hours and hours earlier, but 10-15 minutes earlier gives you that much more time to spend with your partner and dedicate some of your attention to them for a bit.

Conversely, if you do not have children, still make it a point to engage with your significant other prior to falling asleep. Even participating in this behavior for 5 minutes a night gives you an extra half hour per week with your special someone.

3 | Have a no-phone night

This generation is always stuck with some piece of technology in front of our faces (I write as I type this up on my laptop with my phone 2 feet away). It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the phone that it can become another partner taking time away from your significant other. Ditch it for a night and see how much quality conversation can stem from the lack of devices.

4 | Surprise them with food

Food makes everything better. Try surprising your significant other with lunch one day at work (obviously if you have the means and the time). Hang out for a bit; talk. If you’re pressed for time you can drop it off with a quick hello but the gesture will still convey to them, “Hey, you were on my mind.”

5 | Plan a date night

And stick to it! There are always factors that can come up to deter you from focusing on quality time with the object of your affections; but do try ever so hard to have a night or a couple hours on a weekend afternoon to just be together. Leave everything else at home: the kids, work, any other distractions. Revel in each other’s company.

6 | Go on a walk

If money is an issue for stereotypical dates like dinner and a movie (forget about dropping $50 on popcorn, am I right?) Go on a walk. Walks have the rejuvenating effect of allowing you to simply share space, which forces you to spend time together, and it’s healthy. Look at you taking your mental, emotional, and physical health seriously. Go you! Ask them about their day and they can reciprocate engaged conversation.

7 | Take a trip down memory lane

Again, not a time-consuming venture but something that can remind you what you two were like at the onset of your relationship and how far you’ve come since then. What was your first impression of your partner? Did they prove you wrong or right? Offering your perspective could help bring you closer.

8 | Compromise on schedules

If you have a big work project coming up or an event that has been in the calendar for ages, plan a time before or after to say “Yes, this is on my plate right now but I haven’t forgotten about you.” And if you have yet to spend time with your partner recently and have an event coming up that your presence is that of less than dire importance...play hooky and spend time with your loved one instead!

I hope some of these tips prove useful to give you and your special someone extra time together. Remember that quality of time together is more important than the quantity – so even if it's an extra 15 minutes a day being truly present with one another, this could have a significant positive impact on your relationship. Now I'd love to here from you! How do you make it a priority to carve out time with your spouse? Please share in the comments below. Thanks and be well.


about the author

Hi! I'm Trina. I graduated from U.C. Santa Cruz with a B.A. in Psychology (cum laude, but no one is keeping score, right?) I enjoy re-reading Harry Potter and extensively Googling new words. My aim in writing for this blog is to help couples overcome hurdles in their relationships.

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How do I Know it's Time to Just Move on?

Not knowing whether to stay in a relationship or leave feels like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, you know that you're not quite satisfied with what is, so you don't feel like staying, yet the idea of leaving and losing that person you care for seems too way too hard, especially if you still have strong feelings for this person. I've worked with many individuals and couples and have seen people work through all kinds of issues. However, there are certain characteristics that make it clear to me that the best course of action would be to just move on:

 
 

1 | Your partner is not interested in growth

If you are interested in self-growth, self-help, reading, learning, seeking guidance and making yourself a generally better person and your partner isn't like that, it might be time to move on. When one member of a couple is constantly evolving and bettering themselves and the other is remaining stagnant, that is a recipe for an unbalanced relationship. It will be challenging to see eye to eye, and this discrepancy will only continue to expand as you develop further.

2 | Your partner is unwilling to talk about their feelings

As uncomfortable as it can be to talk about our emotions, it is absolutely necessary for a relationship to thrive. If your partner is unwilling to explore emotional territory, this doesn't bode well for the relationship. We need to be able to be vulnerable enough to share our emotional experience with our partner and we need that back from them too in order to feel deeply connected to that person. If your partner has difficulty with this, but is working on it, great! However, if your partner doesn't see the value in expressing emotion or refuses to grow in this area, it might be time to walk away.

3 | You don't trust your partner

It's normal to have trust issues! Many people carry around the weight of previous betrayals if they haven't adequately processed through the hurt and consciously let go of those experiences. Lingering trust issues can inadvertently create tension within your relationship -- manifesting as jealousy, controlling behavior, doubting your partner's motives, etc. If you're willing to take responsibility for your inability to trust and work on it, that's wonderful. But if your partner has acted (or continues to act) in ways that reasonably diminish your trust in them and that despite your best efforts you still don't trust them, then it might be time to reevaluate the relationship.

4 | You feel worse around your partner

Intimate relationships are satisfying and fulfilling when spending time with and talking over the phone to our partner uplifts our mood and inspires us. This may seem obvious, but when with your partner, for the most part, you should feel better, not worse! If your partner is constantly complaining and focusing on the negative, then start to ask yourself, "what is this person contributing to my life?" If someone is bringing in more negativity than positivity, it might be time to consider a break-up.

5 | Your partner is abusive

Don't skip over this step! You might be thinking "oh no, that can't apply to me." But I was in an abusive relationship for almost 5 years without knowing it was abuse. Please read my Intimate Partner Violence Series for more information on this.

I hope this article is helpful to you in exploring more deeply what you believe is best for you. As a therapist I never tell my clients what to do in a given situation. Instead, I educate them as much as I can and I help them connect to their own desires and intuition so they can make a decision from a place of clarity and authenticity. I wish you the best of luck! Leave a comment below if you have any questions or thoughts about this topic. I'd love to hear from you.


about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.

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Strategies for Strengthening Your Bond

When things are going smoothly in our relationships, it's easy to feel connected to our partner. We naturally want to spend more time with them and engage in enjoyable activities. But when times get tough and the road is bumpy, it can be more challenging to find ways to connect. Think of your relationship bond like a muscle – if you want to strengthen it, it takes consistency and practice. Here are some tips for you and your partner to implement if you feel like your relationship needs some extra TLC:

 
 

1 | Set aside “us” time

If you live with your partner, it may seem unnecessary to schedule “us” time, since you may see that person a lot. But remember, quantity of time does not make up for quality of time. Set aside some time that is without distraction (i.e. no phones, laptop, T.V. or books) just for the two of you to be together. This time could be used for simple talking with one another, giving each other a back rub or cuddling and connecting.

2 | Mix it up!

Sure, a dinner and a movie is always a great staple for a date night. But the same ol’ same ol’ can get stale as old bread. Mix it up with something fun and new! If you want some new ideas for creative date outings, browse Groupon and Goldstar to see what strikes your fancy. The bonus is these sites also offer steep discounts for fun activities. Like live theater? TodayTix is a website and app for discounted last-minute tickets to plays. Love museums? Here’s a list of museums in Los Angeles that are either free or have free days.

3 | Make it sensual

Usually when couples are feeling disconnected, the first thing to go is the romance and affection. And when that’s not there, it’s really tough to employ the “fake it till you make it” approach to dealing with challenges. Instead, wake up the senses on a daily basis to start feeling more sensual and more interested in shared connection with your partner. How does one do this? Begin noticing throughout the day what naturally feels good (for example, walking through a park on your lunch break and feeling the leaves of a tree brush up against your arm) and share that with your partner. Have them do the same so you both know what’s pleasing to the other person. This will inspire you guys to want to create more physical pleasure for one another.

4 | Use the atmosphere

We’re going for the power of association here – think of how a spa atmosphere automatically makes you feel more relaxed, even before you’ve begun to receive your treatment. Simply walking into the spa and hearing the gentle music and noticing the pleasant smells invites you to feel calmer. We can do the same at home. Create an environment at home that’s more stimulating to the senses through lighting candles, putting salts in the bath, spraying aromatherapy, playing soothing music etc. When you intentionally make your surroundings more amenable to romance, you’re more likely to want to connect with your partner.

5 | Get inspired

It helps to get some outside inspiration when we’re not feeling so great about our relationship and need some new tools and ideas to work with. Here’s a list of 10 books that are great for learning about the dynamics of relationships and how to strengthen them. Don’t have time to read a whole book? Use Audible to listen in the car or choose a podcast instead. You can check out this round-up of 10 relationship podcasts you can sink your teeth into.

6 | Reflect on the good times

When we’re in the throes of conflict with our partner or seriously doubting our relationship, it’s easy to forget all the amazing memories we’ve shared with that person. Simply pulling out photo boxes, leafing through scrapbooks or looking at Google photos can remind you both of the fun times you’ve had together. If you and your partner are in need of some serious bonding time, set aside an afternoon or evening to sit together and look through old photos from vacations, dates and other occasions. The act of looking at these pictures will bring up stories, jokes and anecdotes that will surely bring you closer.

7 | Pull out all the stops

By now, you can probably tell that date night is a good idea. But don’t stop at that! Pull out all the stops. Spend some time getting ready and dolled up for each other. Buy flowers. Go to a restaurant you can’t really afford to go to. Get a couples massage. Your relationship is an investment and it’s worth the splurge every now and then! You’ll send a strong message to one another that the relationship is worth it. Most importantly, enjoy the royal treatment.

8 | Be spontaneous

It’s great to have plans, but sometimes plans don’t work out for one reason or another or sometimes something more exciting comes up. In your bonding time together, allow yourselves to divert from original plans and go with the flow. This will allow you guys to reconnect to a younger, more spontaneous side of one another. Often as we get older, we become more set in our ways and less able to let the night take us to unexpected places. If it’s a gorgeous night and you get the idea to take a drive up Mulholland for a gorgeous view or a drive up the coast to smell the salty sea air…do it!

9 | Have limits

Are there certain topics that inevitably spiral into arguments or stress? Take a vacation from those themes for a night or weekend to simply enjoy one another. No, this doesn’t mean putting off dealing with your problems forever. It means that it’s okay to set limits on what you won’t talk about for your bonding time together. If something gets brought up, and you don’t want to forget to address it later, simply write a short note in your phone about it and table it for another time.

10 | Hire a babysitter

If you have kids, and if you don’t have a babysitter yet, you need one! This is essential. I’ve known many couples who rely on their parents, neighbors or friends to watch their kids and this is not enough. You need and deserve to have professional childcare that is available to you on a regular basis so that you can go out on dates without the guilt associated with asking for a favor and without relying on other people’s availability. If you don’t know a sitter, there are great nanny websites such as Urban Sitter and Care.com.

Now I'd love to hear from you! How do you reconnect with your partner in times of conflict or emotional distance? Every couple is different and a strategy that works great for one pair may not fare well for another. That's why I'd love to get some varying opinions on what works and what doesn't work for couples who've hit a rough patch. Please share in the comments below. Thanks for reading and be well.


about the author

Hi! I'm Natalie. And I'm passionate about helping people create healthy relationships in their lives. Through couples counseling in Pasadena and here on the blog, it's my mission to help foster stronger connections, healthy communication and life-long love.

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