How to Live a Happy and Satisfying Life

Everyone desires to be happy and to lead a satisfying life. It could even be argued that every decision that we make is done with the attempt to be happy. Although this may be the case, one thing’s for sure. Not everyone is happy or fulfilled. So how can you lead a happy and fulfilled life? That’s a question that people have asked since the dawn of time. Here are few ideas to help you get there.

Positive Perspective

The most unbearable aspect of bad things that we go through is often our perspective. Perhaps trust was breached in a relationship, you lost your job or you have an ongoing health problem. It’s easy to believe that negative life circumstances can make you unhappy. The reality is that bad circumstances can throw you on your head for a while. It is even natural to experience some sadness, but that’s not where you need to stay.

A positive or negative attitude will determine the rest. A negative attitude can injure you long after a painful life problem occurs. Negative self-talk, internally putting yourself down and bitterness will eat away at you. In contrast, a positive attitude will speak tenderly to you, heal your pain and lead to a smile.

A perfect life isn’t a prerequisite for a happy life. If that was the case, no one could be happy. Even if you only had one small negative aspect to your entire life, if you focused on that one thing, you would become miserable.

Conversely, if your life was full of mostly trouble but you focused on the good, you could become happy. Although it’s often difficult to believe at first, unhappy circumstances in your life are not the greatest barrier to you becoming happy. It is your attitude about those unpleasant problems.

Delayed Gratification

Here’s something crazy to think about. Do you realize that the surest way to be unhappy is to attempt to be happy now at all costs? Imagine what your life would be like if you only thought about making yourself happy for the moment.

For example, if you thought that eating pizza was the chief means by which you could be happy, what would happen? You could wind up very overweight, rack up large dining expenses, experience high blood pressure and lower your life expectancy.

One of the reasons we struggle so much to find happiness is that we often reach for what we think will fulfill us now instead of keeping long-term happiness in mind. This could be seen in someone who quits a job after a bad day even though the job was a good fit for them. Sometimes people seek out romantic happiness at the expense of a committed relationship. True happiness is much more than what we think will make us happy now. A truly fulfilling and happy life means aiming for long-term goals that will make us happy, too.

Wrapping It Up

Another quick way to boost your happiness is to seek the happiness of others. This could mean helping someone out who is struggling financially, offering a sincere compliment, refraining from anger with your child or staying committed to the one you love. There is nothing more like an air-tight casket than a life that helps only itself. If you make a positive difference in the life of someone else, you will find deep fulfillment!

Let us help. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Do you have trouble communicating with your partner?

Communication is essential in any interpersonal context, whether it be with co-workers, friends, or family, but it is one of the most, if not the most, essential building block of a healthy and strong relationship with your partner. It’s important to remember that it is a two-way street and as much as you want to be heard, your partner will want you to listen. Many problems begin when we don’t take responsibility for our communication.

Sometimes it is hard to acknowledge your significant other’s point of view when you have one of your own, and making the effort to really listen and try to understand them is not only a true sign of respect, but can also keep things from being bottled up and coming out negatively in the future. We all have opinions which we are incredibly stubborn about, however when disagreements do occur; the common response is to become defensive. It is this defensiveness which subliminally tells our partners that they can no longer go to us with their issues. This will, in turn, cause undue anxiety for your partner as not being able to be as open as they want to be with their significant other can harbor resentment and create a lot of unaddressed friction.

Not all conversations are going to be easy and it’s dealing with those difficult ones which will lead to the strongest bonds. Avoidance of issues will not only prolong them, it may actually intensify their meaning in a relationship. This will signal to your partner that whatever it is that you don’t want to talk about is actually an issue you are struggling with. Again, since it is a two-way street, your partner will want you to want to come to them for emotional support. It’s that feeling of being a team and being able to handle any situation together that reinforces positive validation of the relationship.

It’s been said many times before, but one of the easiest ways to show you are listening is to pay attention to the little things. Those are the intimate details of your partner’s life that they will only usually share with you. Taking notice and addressing these and other minute details in conversation signifies that you have internalized and made them a priority in your life. Furthermore, take interest, but also know when to give your partner space. There are more ways to communicate with your partner to let them know you understand them than by talking. Sometimes it is best to let a conversation sink in than to try and force it. Confronting them when they are not ready is a surefire way to ensure that they will be defensive. Instead, either ask or wait for them to come to you. Finally, remember to be open and available to your partner if you want them to feel safe and secure.

Let us help. Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.

Is Your Partner’s Texting Hurting Your Relationship?

Is technology driving a wedge between you and your partner?
With social media nearly omnipresent in our lives, the technology has sometimes outpaced common sense when it comes to understanding how being in constant contact with others can intrude on our most intimate relationships.

Let’s imagine a couple, Martha and Fred, whose experience demonstrates the potential pitfalls. Social and chatty by nature, Martha has a lot of friends, male and female alike. Fred has always admired Martha’s outgoing personality, but lately, what seems like constant beeping from her phone has been getting on his nerves. One night he finally asks her, “Who are all of these messages from?” She picks up her phone, reads the latest and replies, “Oh, that’s Dan—he’s a dad from our daughter’s preschool class.” Naturally, Fred would like to know what Dan is texting about; Martha replies that he was just suggesting an article she might be interested in reading.

While Dan-the-dad-from-preschool might be sending a perfectly innocuous text, Fred might feel very uncomfortable with the idea of another man feeling free to chat up his wife at any hour of the day or night.

There are a lot of reasons why one’s texting habits can bother his or her partner, especially when it involves someone of the opposite sex. But what I’d like to focus on is the importance of how—and how quickly—Fred and Martha each respond to this fledgling point of tension between them.

It is imperative that Fred express his concern about his wife’s texting the moment it begins bothering him, because Martha might never have guessed it was a problem.  First, he might point out that her texting habits make him feel that their personal time together is not important to her. Second, when he discovers that at least one of the texters is a man, he should state simply and calmly that this makes him uncomfortable.

He owes it to Martha to give her the benefit of the doubt that the texts are innocent and give her the chance to show that she respects his concerns, rather than letting things build up until he’s so angry and/or jealous that he assumes the worst, makes angry accusations or even begins monitoring her phone. If that happens, trust issues will run rampant in both directions.

Once Fred has expressed his feelings, the ball is in Martha’s court. She might feel that he’s overreacting or even be perplexed by his concerns. But this isn’t so much time for debate as a chance to show respect for Fred’s feelings and appreciation for his honesty—rather than accusing him of overreacting or being a jealous nut.

Together, Fred and Martha need to come to an understanding of what truly feels comfortable for both of them, which might include setting a curfew for texting. She can inform her friends that they’ve made a family decision not to read texts in the evenings, so if they need to reach her immediately, they should call.

When it comes to Dan and other texters of the opposite sex, she may have to set stronger ground rules. She could tell any man who wants to text her that she’s decided she spends too much time in the company of her smartphone and wants to limit texting to emergencies. It’s a little white lie if she’s setting different ground rules for her girlfriends, but it solves the problem without appearing to be rude.

Addressed early, effectively and openly, this is an issue that can be resolved in a positive way for Martha, Fred and the relationship itself. And if that means Martha cuts her texting with males and females alike down to a fraction of what she’s accustomed to, she might find that she actually enjoys her new freedom from the phone. Meanwhile, Fred appreciates Martha’s respect for his feelings and swift response to address the problem. And together they’ve beat back a potentially spiraling resentment in their relationship, which is always something to celebrate.

If you are considering couples counseling, let the counselors at Relationship Center of Orange County help you.  Schedule your appointment online using our online scheduling tool, call us at (949) 220-3211, or text us.
 

Listen Up! For the Good of Your Relationship

Can you hear me now?
No doubt you have heard about the importance of being a good listener your entire life. However, knowing its value and doing so effectively are two completely different things. Listening, and truly hearing what your spouse or partner has to say takes skill and effort. Not being a good listener can lead to miscommunication and relationship problems. There’s always room for improvement when it comes to being a good listener, and in the long run, nothing is more important than that to maintain healthy communication in any relationship.

Pay attention
As obvious as it sounds, it is sometimes easier said than done. Sometimes your partner will want to talk when your mind is already going in a dozen different directions and focusing on the conversation feels nearly impossible. Maybe you are distracted by an important project at work, the score of a big basketball game on TV or a million other things. Whatever it is, if your attention is too compromised at that moment, speak up. Plan for a time to talk later, and then do what you need to do in order to listen well: Turn off your smart phone, computer and TV. Try to clear your head of distractions. We call this “being in the moment”—in this case, focusing on the person sitting in front of you and truly hearing what they have to say.

Listen at least as much as you talk

Another kind of distraction happens when we tune out our partner’s words because we are too busy trying coming up with our response before they’ve even finished talking.  You are prepared to interrupt at any moment, and acting on that impulse can be a death knell to constructive conversation. If you find yourself getting angry and defensive, it may be hard to let your partner even complete a sentence without jumping in with a rebuttal. Nevertheless, think of it this way: your position is more likely to be heard in return if you first let them have their say.

Don’t offer what isn’t asked for

Refrain from offering unsolicited advice—with “unsolicited” being the operative word here. Maybe your partner had a fight with a sibling, friend or colleague and just needs to vent. Even if you think they are making a mountain out of a molehill, resist the urge to be dismissive as this will feel like you don’t find what they need to talk about as valid or worthy of your time. When they’re finished, ask if they want your opinion—if so, there’s nothing wrong with giving it, as long as you are respectful (i.e. “I can see why that was hurtful to you, but my guess is he/she didn’t mean to offend you, and by tomorrow you’ll both have forgotten about it.”)

Cut them some slack

Give your partner a little time and breathing room if they’re struggling to communicate their thoughts, concerns or needs – especially if the topic is emotional or directly concerns your relationship. If you feel you are being attacked by an aggressive tone and language, say so (calmly) —but try to refrain from retaliating with angry retorts of your own. Likewise, if you feel like he or she is bringing up ancient history that is not germane to the topic at hand, say that too. However, if you can try to steer the conversation back to a more productive back-and-forth, do so. Ask specific questions like, “I know that what happened last year was very painful for you, and I apologize for that. But what’s going on today that made you feel you had to bring it up again? Is something new concerning you that we can address together now?”

Another good strategy is to repeat back to your partner what you think they are trying to express and ask if you are getting it right. Use sentences starting with, “What I hear you saying is…” This shows your partner that you are really trying to understand, gives them the chance to clarify and even helps them stay focused on their true concerns.

Follow the Golden Rule

Finally, the golden rule of communication in general is to know when it is time to call for a temporary truce. When things get too heated, effective listening goes out the window. Agree to take a break for now and revisit the subject when cooler heads prevail.

If you’re struggling to communicate effectively in your relationship, please give us at a call at or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the OC Relationship Center are here to help you.

Top 4 Things to Discuss Before Considering Marriage

Let the counselors at the Relationship Center of Orange County help.When people fall in love and begin to consider marriage, nothing seems less romantic than discussing the potentially thorny issues that are likely to crop up down the road as their relationship progresses. After all, isn’t a little mystery a good thing? No one wants to treat a future engagement or marriage as a potential business merger.

However, I believe some questions are far too important to leave to chance. Even when you feel sure that you’ve found the one and that you already know each other better than you dreamed possible, you’d be amazed at some of the differences in wants, dreams, beliefs and values that somehow slip through the cracks during the dating stage.

Here are four of the most important things couples should discuss before they consider making a lifetime commitment to each other.

Finances

I’ve heard too many stories about couples getting married and one finding out only after the fact that their partner holds significant debt and other financial liabilities. To be clear, I am not suggesting that people should make decisions about marriage based on how much money they do or do not have. In fact, quite the opposite; if in the process of discussing your finances you begin to suspect that your partner’s affection is based disproportionately on their expectations of your wealth, that should give you reason to pause. But, you should try to begin your lives together with eyes wide open, maybe even put together the beginnings of a financial plan.

Children

Sounds pretty obvious, doesn’t it? Yet I meet plenty of people who have always wanted children and just assume their partner does, too. Or, even worse: Imagine you have always wanted children, but your partner has repeatedly expressed that they do not share that dream. Yet you are sure that one day he or she will have a change of heart. That is a mistake. The key to discussing these issues ahead of time is being willing to listen and take the other person at their word, rather than holding false hopes that they’ll change their feelings to suit yours.

Religion

The average age for first marriages in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men. Both ages are higher than they have ever been, but for many these are still relatively carefree ages that fall vaguely between post-college and “real adulthood.” For that reason, religion, though it may be important to them in the bigger picture, is not very high on their radar at this point in life. That makes it both tempting and easy to dismiss the fact that one is a Catholic and the other a committed atheist, or one is a Presbyterian and the other Jewish, and on and on. Yet down the road, if the couple has children and one wants them baptized while the other wants a bris…this can become a tricky issue indeed.

It isn’t just children who make religious differences challenging territory. For many, church, synagogue, mosque or other places of worship can become important avenues of one’s social life. For the inter-faith couple, instead, it may become a point of long-running tension.

Long-term Goals

This is sort of a catchall for the various remaining subjects I believe couples should address before making a lifetime commitment. Do you enjoy living where your live now, or do you expect that one day your job, desire to live closer to aging parents, or other factors will take you elsewhere? It is not uncommon for one partner to be change-resistant and expect to live out their life in the same place, where the other has an inborn wanderlust that will pose conflicts in the future.

Along the same lines is the discussion about money. Some people aspire to upward mobility and assume (there is that word again!) their partner does, too. Ten years later, when they still can’t afford that bigger house, new car or dream vacation—and it turns out one is more or less fine with that, while the other is growing frustrated or resentful—well, that’s a conversation that’s definitely years over-due.

Of course, we all know that the best-laid plans, even when made with clear understandings, don’t always go the way we expect. That is where the traditional marriage vows about “for better or worse, richer or poorer, and in sickness and in health” come from. Circumstances will change; people will change course; life happens. But, the more open you are from the start, the better your chances of sticking it out through good times and bad.

If you think counseling with a professional therapist would help you talk through these issues and others prior to marriage, please give us at a call at 949-220-3211 or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the Relationship Center of Orange County are here to help you.

Don’t Let Little Secrets Become a Big Deal

Keeping secrets? Let the counselors at the OC Relationship Center help you come clean.

” I feel that telling my secrets makes me less vulnerable. What would make me vulnerable are the secrets I keep.” ~ Isabel Allende

Unless it involves the present you just bought your partner for her birthday, rarely is keeping a secret from your partner or spouse a good idea. No matter how innocent they may seem at the time, secrets between couples can cause problems both large and small—sometimes when you least expect it.

Here are a few reasons habitual secret-keeping can come back to bite you and undermine the intimacy and trust of your relationship:

The cover-up is usually worse than the crime.

Have you ever gotten a speeding ticket and, out of shame—not to mention regret over the $100+ hole will cut into this month’s budget—decided to quietly pay the fine and never mention it to your partner?

It seems like an innocent lie of omission. But one of the many problems with secrets is that they rarely stay secrets forever. Maybe one of your kids was in the car and spills the beans, or your partner checks the bank statement and notices the check you wrote to cover the fine. Now, a minor incident that probably wouldn’t have upset your partner in the first place—almost everyone gets a speeding ticket at some point—could plant a seed of doubt in your partner’s mind: Is he/she hiding anything else from me? It’s not worth it.

What They Don’t Know WILL Hurt Them

You tell yourself that what they don’t know won’t hurt them, but is that really your call to make? Maybe you attend a dinner party your girlfriend/wife opted out of, and when you reveal the guest list, you leave out that your ex-girlfriend will also be there. Let’s assume you have no interest in seeing her (beyond mild curiosity about how you stack up against her current beau). But people usually keep secrets, even small ones, for a reason. Maybe your partner would care about your casual encounter with an ex, or maybe she wouldn’t. But she has a right to decide and speak for herself how she feels about it.

Its a Bad Habit

Secrecy is habit forming. One common example involves spending. So many times you hear about a person who wants the latest designer handbag (or great pair of shoes, or whatever it is) so badly she decides (a) her partner will never understand, (b) they’ll never know how much it cost, anyway, and (c) it’s a relatively harmless purchase to keep to herself. For some, this can lead to a dangerous pattern of spending sprees that come to light only when they’ve run up massive credit card debt and have no way of paying it off. It’s an extreme scenario, but it’s not the only one. For others, it’s the platonic but surreptitious stop at a coffee shop with a colleague that leads to something far less innocent.

Anytime you feel the urge to keep a secret, that gnawing guilt you might feel is probably a healthy warning. If the designer handbag is not in your budget, talking it through with your partner can be a constructive reminder how hard you’ve been working to save for something far more important. If the secret is about that cup of coffee with an attractive colleague that seems just a teeny bit inappropriate, maybe it will help you be more honest with yourself about your true intentions.

When it comes to secrets and relationships, prevention is always the best medicine. If you’re in a committed relationship, both partners ought to make a blanket commitment to being honest and open about everything. It’s not always the easiest path—there will be hurt feelings, thorny differences of opinion and even painful admissions—but the outcome is always better than the alternative.

Have you been struggling with secrets kept from your partner or spouse, and why you’ve gotten into the secret-keeping habit? Please consider couples therapy. Discussing your concerns with one of the trained, caring counselors at the OC Relationship Center can help you work through the issues causing this behavior and help bring honesty back into your relationship. Give us a call today at 949-220-3211 to book your appointment, or use our online scheduling tool. We’re here to help.

The Grass is Rarely Greener on the Cheating Side

Need help repairing the damage after an affair - or are worried you’re headed in that direction? We at the OC Relationshiip Center are her to help.A married friend once confided in me about an affair she’d had with an old college boyfriend. It had been brief but intense and ended badly, with her husband discovering a trail of emails that told the whole story. Even the boyfriend abandoned her out of anger that she’d allowed her husband to discover the affair, thereby putting his own marriage in jeopardy. Though she and her husband ultimately reconciled, it took years for her to fully regain his trust.

Interestingly, the most remarkable details of her story were how unremarkable they were. Hers was almost a textbook lesson of what happens when people in committed relationships have affairs, replete with the lessons we can learn from it. Here are just a few:

The Facebook Trap

Though my friend and “Brad” had dated in college, they’d been out of touch for many years. In the interim came the advent of Facebook. Facebook is a great way to reconnect with old friends, but t’s also an easy way to reconnect with old flames better left in the past. I’m not suggesting it’s impossible to look up old boyfriends or girlfriends, email a quick “hello” and leave it at that. But the temptation to become Internet pen pals—without respecting proper boundaries—is dangerously strong for a lot of people.

You can’t fill a square void with a round peg.

People often have unconscious motivations for entering into an affair, including trying to fill voids in their lives that may have nothing to do with the prospective lover. In my friend’s case, reconnecting with “Brad” made her feel younger and protected, taking her back to a time in her life where she felt more sure of herself.

Sleeping with him, however, did nothing to fill my friend’s true voids, which in her case included some complicated factors such as (1) she had never properly grieved the loss of her father, who died while she was in college, and (2) she had abandoned the writing career she had planned to pursue after graduation. Sleeping with her old boyfriend did nothing address those needs in her life – it was just a distraction from them.

The grass is not always greener

Anyone who’s been married more than a year knows that the honeymoon doesn’t last forever. We often take sex for granted, because, after all, we’re married. Meanwhile, life intervenes—bills, laundry, cleaning up after the dog—and there’s nothing sexy about those. It takes work to keep the romance going.

Not so with an affair. Forbidden sex, to start with, is a major turn-on for many. But far more dangerous is the illusion that the romance—unencumbered by children, mortgages, or even consistently spending time together—runs deeper than it really does. My friend and her lover never had the chance to see each other’s human flaws. She loved that he treated her like a princess, but his image of her was based on little more than sex and pillow talk.

I’ve already told you how the affair ended, but there was good news in the aftermath. She and her husband learned to communicate more about what each needed from the other on a regular basis. She worked with a therapist to start getting to the heart of the voids she’s hoped the boyfriend would fill, such as finally grieving her father and picking up where she’d left years earlier by making a real effort to pursue her creative dreams. Best of all, she learned that her husband really did love her—flaws and all—and that their relationship was ultimately more satisfying and far more substantial than what she’d thought she’d found in Brad.

Her only regret? That she didn’t learn all that without risking the destruction of her marriage in the first place. Still, there are lessons to be learned from her mistakes, and knowing some of the warning signs is an excellent start.

If you need help repairing the damage after an affair (and working through the issues that cause the affair in the first place)—or are worried you’re headed in that direction—please give us at a call at 949-220-3211 or schedule an appointment via our online calendar. We at the OC Relationship Center are here to help you.