When you need to leave, but can't
"Relationships these days break up way too quickly. People give up far too soon." That's how many people think, and I, too, see myself as an advocate for love relationships. They are allowed to feel awful for a while, to be sexless, or to have to survive an affair.
However, there are also relationships in which one of the two persistently gets the short end of the stick and is finally torn apart inside. The relationship seems too important to leave and too destructive to stay. You have children together, a house, or you become irrationally attached to what seems to be the most fascinating person in the world. When I ask, "Why do you stay?" the answer is often, "I feel guilty and sorry," and "I'm afraid of being alone."
From the outside, the solution seems perfectly clear: "Break up! Anything is better than that."
However for many, emotional hurt and rational thought don't provide enough drive to break free from a destructive relationship, both internally and externally. Habitual suffering is usually preferable to humans than the still unknown happiness. I recommend (would love!) professional accompaniment to everyone in this situation. Sessions with me or another professional helper are necessary to gain a new perspective on the relationship and one's own identity.
Here are some topics I look at with my client in such a situation:
- How were you loved as a child? How do you think lovers treat each other?
- Do you think you deserve to be treated well like everyone else? Or are you an exception?
- Exactly what are the situations that turn your brain into "spaghetti" so that you can no longer respond confidently? What would a sovereign response look like?
- Do you think setting boundaries; saying "no" is part of a good relationship? Where and how do you say "no" and what response do you expect?
- Have you ever experienced a relationship where you were loved drama-free, tenderly and reliably?
- Who do you think is primarily responsible for your partner's feelings and behavior?
- What do you need to feel loved?
- Have you ever had your life greatly shaken by a move, a death, or an illness, and managed that crisis?
Even if the sessions don't result in a breakup, my clients do feel a lot better as a result because they become more confident and regain a sense of ownership and control. If you are in such a situation, please send an email to and I will send you my offer within 24hrs on a workday.
When the spark is missing
For many -especially young- men the worst thing that can happen seems to be to end up in the "friend zone" of an attractive acquaintance. You are nice to the lady, show interest, and she gladly accepts the attention - but is keeping you an arm's length away throughout.
Of course, the female social media world has long since found a retort to this. The TikTok sound "Have you ever thought about what it's like for me? I thought I had a good boyfriend, but all you wanted to do was get me in bed!" is a sound that has been used hundreds of times and received hundreds of thousands of likes.
Let's look at the scenario through the lens of attachment theory and look for explanations and solutions. Is there an explanation for the pattern in which many women feel a tingle with the "bad guys" and overlook the mother-in-law's dream? "My new flirt is quite nice, but unfortunately it doesn't tingle, I don't feel attracted!" - This statement is also often heard, from both men and women.
Let's take a closer look at this "tingle" that many people expect when flirting. It is the urge to think about this person day and night. It's the impulse to show your very best, most seductive side so that he or she can't possibly say "no" and leave. It's the nagging question of what the other person might be thinking about you right now, and whether he or she will stay, in short: a kind of obsession fueled by the fear that he or she will leave.
There is a kind of crackling that arises from the tension and foreboding that the other person has a tendency to evade genuine closeness. And so the one in love begins to fight to keep that from happening - even before enough time has passed that would make it possible to get to know and like the other person in the first place. The "crackle" is actually a loud ringing of the inner alarm bells built into the attachment system: "Watch out, you might get dumped again, with this person here it's quite likely."
And unfortunately, since humans are more comfortable with familiar pain than with unknown happiness, we get involved again, making it more likely to slip into a relationship that robs us of all energy and wears us down until the breakup is inevitable.
So for anxiously attached people, it pays not to chase that crackle, which may be the ringing of inner alarm bells after all. At least if your goal is to have a reliable, drama-free, loving relationship.
If your significant other is attractive enough for you; sends reliable signals of affection; behaves predictably (keeps dates, checks in promptly), then he/she may be holding your ticket to an unexpectedly intimate and peaceful relationship. Why don't you take a closer look at the inconspicuous guy in your "friend zone"?
Mastering the crisis with kids
"How do I help my children get through the time of war in Ukraine without trauma?" I also answer questions like these regularly because my followers know that I am not only a couple therapist, but also a family therapist. Even though it's not my core subject, I care about self-care and mental health of all people. 🧘🏼
Here is a summary of my response:
1. Explain to your child what is currently happening in an age-appropriate way. (You can only do this if you've educated yourself about the facts). For example, like this: war and gun violence are happening all over the world. Currently Russia is attacking Ukraine because Russia is stronger than Ukraine and wants Ukraine to belong to Russia. 🇺🇦
2. Tell your child how you assess the situation, emphasizing the things that are reassuring. For example: Germany is part of a strong military alliance and is therefore well protected. Action can also make you strong: Do you want to go to a demonstration together or make a donation? 💪🏽
3. Take a break. Resist the temptation to constantly update yourself. Also, turn off the news once in a while and enjoy the sunshine with your child: it's spring! 🌷
Every Wednesday at 2pm I'm live online on TikTok to answer questions about love and relationships. 🎥 Come join me and ask me your relationship question! ⁉️
Webinar on attachment styles
If evidence-based research found one trait that enabled you to feel a lifelong, deeply connected #love for your partner, wouldn't you raise heaven and hell to find out which one it is?
Imagine that the influence of moves, personality, hobbies, nationality, political views, age, desire for children, looks, money, not even that of libido on your relationship, is less than the influence of this one trait, wouldn't you want to have that trait?
Most people are unaware of the recent research on adults on #attachment style. They continue to #blame individual faults of the person in their heart for the speechlessness, the suffering, the lack of joy, the lack of #trust in the partnership. Let's change that!
#Expats, couples who go abroad together, experience that their whole world changes. Dependence on each other increases; external resources such as job of the co-expat partner, friends, familiar places, family fall away. However, a stable, secure connection between the two lovers will continue.
Find out with me which attachment type you are and what you can do concretely to develop a secure attachment in my live webinar on Thursday, 10.02.2022 at 3pm! The webinar lasts 1,5h and is available at a reduced price for 57 Eur, just enter discount code LOVECULTURE22.
Link to the Twitter Space on #tck (Third Culture Kids) and #attachment styles in expat relationships:
Link to the panel where you can see me talk about the webinar:
Link to booking:
Have you ever noticed that, when you're angry, your whole perception and your thoughts fundamentally differ from your perception and thoughts when you are relaxed? When you are relaxed, you are calmer and more generous with other people, and you are better at processing information and solving problems.
That's why a phrase in couples therapy is "strike while the iron is cold." If you find that you're getting so angry that all you can do is berate and blame, you should calm down before going back into an exchange. (However, the phrase "Calm down!" is taboo. You can only say it to yourself and to no one else.)
There are three ways in which you can calm down:
You calm yourself down on your own. You distract yourself, journal, do a breathing exercise or go for a walk outside, etc.
2. External regulation
You call a friend, or a family member, or write him/her a message, or you try to keep reaching out to your partner despite being in a tense mood. The energy flows one way here. You want attention and comfort without giving anything on your part or being truly open to your partner's needs.
Both partners give attention to each other and relax by giving and receiving. With a child and a parent, this means that both take turns leading. A loving couple cuddles, talks, or engages in an activity together, or the like.
Your attachment style predicts what kind of regulation you prefer. Avoidantly attached people tend to autoregulate. If they are upset, they often, rather too often, seek solitude to calm themselves. They justify their urge to be alone by saying that they need to calm down first. Presumably, in the past, the most important attachment figures were not particularly helpful in solving problems.
Anxiously attached people, on the other hand, seek external regulation. They want to be calmed down by someone else. They expect their partner to know what to do without having to communicate their needs. They justify this impulse by saying that they want to solve the problem right now/before bedtime, etc. Presumably, in the past, when it mattered, the key caregivers were absent, at least emotionally.
The golden path, and, you guessed it, the road that securely attached people can take reasonably easily, is to go into contact and co-regulation at eye level, confidently, patiently, and with goodwill.
Some couples have never learned -or unlearned- to co-regulate. So when you find yourself wanting to think everything through on your own first, remind yourself that your partner can help you.
On the other hand, if you find yourself sulking and waiting for your partner to calm you down, ask yourself if you are interested in his/her perspective as well.
Did you find your preferred calming method in the article? It's always good to have access to many options - I hope the article contributes to that.
This is what lasting true love really feels like
True love is strong and uplifting. It endures everything, it believes everything, it hopes everything, it tolerates everything. This is how it is written in the Song of Songs (Bible), and this is how we feel when we are in love with someone. We feel deep within us the desire and the capacity to love. So why the hell is it so difficult to have a happy relationship in the here and now? When is it worth fighting for love, when is it worth staying, and when is it best to leave?
2021 was an incredibly exciting year for me, in which I came into contact with more lovers than ever before. TikTok has made that possible.
And I've noticed: when I talk in my videos about how even good relationships feel like stewing in limbo from time to time; that relationships can be hard work even if the two people involved are mature and decent humans: then a kind of virtual murmur happens, and these reactions appear: "I wish my ex had known that!" or "People give up way too soon." Since there are a lot of very young people on the app, the "It's never happened to us before and it never will!" reaction is not to be missed.
Therefore, even on my oldest channel, my blog for lovers, just before Christmas, I would like to emphasise my most important message: Love in any long-term relationship goes through ups and downs. Depending on the challenges a couple has to cope with, a low can also consist of a serious break that requires a new start and changes the whole relationship forever. We cannot possibly hold on to the heavenly state of enduring feelings of infatuation forever.
Therefore, let's stop thinking of love as if all we have to do is find our soulmate(s) and then all would be well. This is a beautiful illusion, but it keeps us trapped in a state of stagnation. If someone asked me to write a new edition of the Song of Songs, it would sound like this: Love unfolds to its full power where we recognise our own needs, open ourselves up to the needs of our loved ones, and look at everything, everything that arises in this encounter and acknowledge it lovingly and with an open mind. Even feelings and desires that we think are wrong and that disappoint us; that go against convention or a rule, or that feel too threatening to even look at.
It is actually the other way around. In relationships we always work and grow as personalities, whether between parents and children or between lovers. The phase of being in love is like a pleasant anaesthesia to bring new "developmental helpers" into our lives. It doesn't matter if we have several longer relationships in our adult life or one lifelong relationship: Parting, disappointment and contradictions will accompany us.
So when you sit in front of the tree again this Christmas with your family (or without), remember: just as from this day on more sun will shine on the plants again, people are placed at your side who let you grow so that you can - not always, but again and again - blossom.
Message from your avoidant partner
There is a tendency among my clients and followers: most of them are anxiously attached, female and have an avoidant partner. So today's blog article is written for them, my largest target audience.
Of course, hopefully the article is interesting for lovers in general!
A typical complaint from an anxiously attached client with an avoidant partner is, "He just doesn't talk about his feelings; he blocks me out. He doesn't give me what I so desperately need. When I call him on it, he says, "Well then, I guess I just can't give you what you need!" or, even worse, "Then we'll just have to break up!"
So you love connection and closeness. You crave not just the moments of closeness themselves, but the meaning they have for you. Being loved in this way gives you validation, recognition, and a sense of having a safe home in the world, and of being a desirable, valuable, interesting person. That's why rejection, no matter how insignificant, is so particularly painful.
What if you could shake your partner on his shoulders once, and they would respond to you eloquently?
I interviewed my avoidant partner at length on a walk a few weeks ago and asked him what advice he had for anxiously attached people. Are you ready? Today, for a change, your avoidant partner is asking the questions, and you're supposed to find answers. He told me, "Why don't you change your perspective and see the situation through my eyes?"
- It will always be teamwork, I can't prove anything to you by myself! "The way you approach me with your demands, it creates a huge pressure on me. I feel your existential fear. I can't take this fear away from you alone. For that, we have to work together."
- Trust me. "You can trust me. You always say you can't. Well, if you don't trust me, then I don't stand a chance in the first place. And that's exactly the feeling you often give me, of having no chance at all."
- What do you appreciate about me, apart from displays of love? "I can't give you the motivation to be with me for my sake. Why did you get together with me? What do you love about me, apart from what I can give you?
- Replace the desire for control with loving curiosity! "You can't control me, even if it would make your life easier. I have my own mind. Are you interested in that mind?"
- Invite me in! "Quite often I withdraw, not because I want to, but because I don't know any better. Invite me. You're so good at that."
What effects do these words have on you? Do they make you angry, curious, is there a new insight? I remember my mother once wrote a list of demands for her partner. I know why she did that. She wanted security, she was tired of disappointment. Still - no one likes to be coerced into meeting certain expectations, and avoidants are downright allergic to them. Which new ways can you find to approach your avoidant partner?
This little girl is me
This little girl is me.
She was shy and oftentimes lonely. She was the only girl in her elementary school in a small town in South Germany without a sibling and a father to grow up with. One day in math, the assignment was to calculate the family's need for water, and she was furious that she was only able to multiply by two.
Her mother had to go to work full-time again after a maternal leave of 6 months (that was the law for state employees in Germany at the time, the 80ies). She also was the vice mayor of their small town. People oftentimes gave her a hard time, because she was a single mother and a "foreigner" wo didn't speak the local southern accent as a woman who had grown up in the capital Berlin.
Being so lonely and yet so inspired by what her mom was able to do, she got curious about what makes relationships and families strong. Like her mother, she left her hometown. She followed her passion for loving, lasting relationships both professionally and personally.
This lonely little girl who didn't really fit in is now part of a loving family of five and works as a couples counselor with lovers worldwide. After having lived in Berlin, Cairo and New Delhi for several years she feels connected and at home worldwide.
This little story of mine was inspired by the campaign leading up to the day of the girl on 11th October. May all girls be protected and supported so that the world can see their light shine brightly!
If you're a woman reading this, please write your own #thislittlegirlisme story and tag me in it on Facebook, Instagram or Linked In!
The Secure Attachment Style
My July blog ended with the question of how we can train secure attachment behavior. The answer depends on the individual, the initial situation.
Anxiously attached people are automatically drawn into the orbit of an attractive person. It becomes problematic when they seek out a more avoidant person and begin to make very specific demands. Their learning process is to accept closeness and love in the colors and forms that are available to them at that moment, rather than constantly testing and doubting the love that exists.
Avoidantly attached people function the other way around. The inner relationship magnet is programmed for distance and keeps them away from healthy closeness. Their learning process consists of feeling that they also need and seek closeness and intimacy, and in slowly approaching both.
Two of my projects have made significant progress (I am developing a program for expat couples on a couples app and I am on the founding team of an online academy) and the next project is to develop two online classes on the following topics:
- Secure attachment for anxiously attached lovers
- Secure attachment for avoidantly attached lovers
To make it worth your while to read this post even if you don't book the class, I have one more very specific tip for practicing secure attachment. The tip in this blog is: Fake it `till you make it!
To know what behavior to practice, you need to know what secure attachment looks like. Most people are securely attached, therefore you are de facto surrounded by such behavior. Maybe you were lucky enough to have parents who were securely attached. Maybe you are friends with a happy couple who have been together for a long time. But you can also learn something from romantic movies. Look for the following characteristics: securely attached people
- have confidence that the relationship will last forever
- consult with each other on the most important things before making decisions
- come to terms with each other in conversations
- reconcile as soon as possible after a conflict
- find ways to trust and approach each other
- tell each other what they want from each other
- have appreciation for each other
- touch each other regularly
- give each other space
- want the other person to be well
Another way to take on the attitude of a securely attached person is to imagine that you are in the presence of someone whom you feel comfortable with. This can be a real person, from your family or circle of friends, or an imaginary person. You know that he/she values you unconditionally and is always there for you.
So if you find yourself in that insecure mindset again, pondering about whether your partner is the right one for you, or whether you should give your date -who is actually a good fit- a chance, just pretend that you're comfortable with a medium-tempered closeness, and see what happens. Maybe your attachment system will relax, and your demand for constant proofs of love will become quieter (anxious attachment) or the desire for closeness will become more bearable (avoidant attachment).
Visit me for more cost-free content on TikTok as well (momentarily German, but subtitles can be used) https://email@example.com
For more specific advice about your personal situation, email me at and I'll send you a .pdf with all the information about my counseling services. I will answer within 24 hours.
Extreme anger in Relationships
Have you ever had an insane anger towards your partner? You were so angry that if a lawyer had put the divorce papers on your desk, you would have signed them? You were on the verge of spouting the worst curse words you know?
And then, some time later, an hour, or even three days later, you can barely feel a connection to that anger. There may be one or two behaviors that you know you would want your partner to do differently, but that doesn't explain the full force of your anger?
Psychotherapists also talk about being "triggered". "To trigger" means to set off. A situation has triggered your feelings, but it is not the cause of your anger. Then what is the actual cause?
Extreme anger at your partner in a situation where he/she is not meeting your needs as you imagined can be a part of the anxious attachment style. The thoughts in this attachment style go something like this, "Now I ask ONE TIME for a perfectly normal thing and then get rejected SO MUCH. Surely I'm not that stupid/fat/ugly that I deserve this? How humiliating that is. He/she just doesn't understand me and never will. I never get what I need here."
From the outside, the situation looks a little different. It may be that many other needs have already been met, or the same need, just in a different way or at a different time. But anxiously attached people sometimes perceive anything that doesn't go completely their way as a cold, hard rejection. This, of course, doesn't help alleviate the immense loneliness and anxiety that resides within them at times.
In today's article, I'd like to share a short meditation exercise that helps in just those moments of anger when you've run into another room, banged the door, and can't imagine ever talking to your partner again.
Lie down on the couch, bed, floor, or sit or stand in whatever way works best. Then feel into your body where the anger is. In your stomach? In your throat, from crying? In the head? Put one or two hands on this place. Then say the following words to yourself:
At this moment I am (super angry). (Insert an appropriate adjective).
In (my stomach) is (a lump of anger). (Find a phrase that fits your body).
This feeling hurts.
It is an old feeling. I've known it before.
It's directed at the people who have let me down in the past.
This is what my attachment system feels like when it's activated.
It's trying to protect me.
Now I am an adult and have support and love in my life.
May I be kind to myself.
This technique is adapted from psychologist Dr. Kristin Neff's self-compassion method.
A client asked me: how is it possible to face such a strong feeling so rationally? Well, the feeling is an illusory giant. It's only threatening and overpowering as long as you don't look closely at it. If you give this feeling a name, it feels seen, it has done its job, so to speak, and can leave you again.
If you have taken care of yourself in this way, you can also turn to your partner again without using swear words.
Does all the nagging actually serve a purpose?
You probably know these people too - that one friend of yours just always has something negative to say about his partner. This other friend just always ends up with the wrong guy. Or you are like that - you are never 100% satisfied with your relationship. You have the feeling that he/she just doesn't have enough to give you, or not the right thing.
Have you ever asked yourself why that is? Many of my TikTok followers have simply generally lost confidence that they will ever find a person to love. For example, one user writes: "People are increasingly selfish and grumpy lately".
You can guess what's coming from a psychologist now: it may be that this mistrust is deeply rooted within you and has more to do with your attachment system than with the people out there. Nagging, criticizing and feeling rejected follows a pattern and fulfills an existentially important purpose for you, namely: to prevent too much closeness, intimacy and dependency and to internally always keep you ready to be able to deal with life and your needs on your own, when worse comes to worse.
You either have this predisposition in your genes, or it has arisen through corresponding experiences. Avoidantly attached people may never have felt truly welcomed and appreciated. Anxiously attached people have had one or more loving, caring bonds removed from their live without warning. In one way or another, deep doubt has arisen as to whether a trusting relationship truly nourishes and sustains us existentially.
On the other hand, the longing for deep attachment is our human nature. Even if we spend a year in meditation, we want to get up afterwards and join a community we can rely on, to which we feel we belong, and which will carry us through difficult times. And we also long for embrace, skin-to-skin contact, and passion.
Maybe now is the time to let go of the nagging and allow a true, trusting, committed bond? As an anxiously attached person, you could accept what love and attention you get without "ifs and buts" and learn to trust that a new day will bring new affection as well. As an avoidantly attached person, you could trust your intuition that life could have more to offer and invite your beloved one into your life without reservation.
And if the whole thing turns out to be harder in reality than in a blog article, I have a book tip for you below as well as the hint: with me you can book an online consultation quickly and cheaply, I answer within one working day. Mail:
Book tip: "The power of attachment" by Diane Poole Heller
Attachment styles and their influence on our love life
Have you ever experienced that feelings of disappointment, heartache, and anger boil up inside you very quickly when your partner doesn't behave the way you would like them to? Objectively speaking, it's not a big deal. You know very well: you are in a committed relationship. You are the most important person in your partner's life. He/she has already shown you in many ways how important you are to him/her. Maybe you got married, had children, bought a property.
And yet you might freak out if he/she asks too much of you, or gives too little. Why is that? Attachment research has found good answers to this question. In our psyche, a relationship pattern is integrated that determines which need for closeness we have in very close relationships. Most strongly, our love relationship activates this relationship pattern.
Let's listen to three adults describing their relationship (similarities with with existing people would be purely coincidental):
Bea: "We've had a long-distance relationship for a while. Both of us care about our jobs. After a while, we decided we were a good match. We have a common circle of friends and enjoy spending time together. But each of us also has our own hobbies. Soon we will be together for 10 years. We're planning a bigger trip when the Corona location allows it. I'm looking forward to it."
Constanze: "I'm actually not very picky, but it took me a long time to end up in a committed relationship. The older you get, the more you know what you want and, above all, what you don't want. My boyfriend really wants to buy a house with me, but I don't think that's something I want either. My freedom is very important to me."
Martin: "My girlfriend is a great woman, a very interesting person. But our relationship is also exhausting. We have been together for four years, but I often think about whether she is the right one for me. We have two children, and when we finally manage to have couple time, she doesn't want to talk about her feelings."
Even babies and toddlers can be assigned to one of four attachment styles, with most people falling into one of three categories:
1. Securely attached people are comfortable with closeness and intimacy. They like to support their partner and have confidence in their partnership. Their behavior is predictable, you can rely on them. They say what they want and what they don't want without being suspicious or playing games. Approximately 50% of people are securely attached.
2. Anxiously attached people have a great need for closeness. They want reassurance several times a day that they are loved. They constantly interpret their partner's behavior and often interpret neutral behavior as rejection. It takes them a long time to forgive such rejection. Approximately 25% of people are anxiously attached.
3. Avoidantly attached people long for closeness just as much as everyone else, but when it comes to intimacy in the here and now, they quickly shy away; they feel constricted and pressured. About 20% of people are avoidantly attached.
Can you match the examples to an attachment type? Try it! The answer is coming.
Bea is securely attached. She has taken her time to get to know her partner. She enjoys togetherness, but can also stand on her own two feet.
Constanze is avoidantly attached. She has a concrete idea of her dream man (often this is an ex or someone otherwise unattainable), which prevents her from fully committing to her relationship.
Martin is anxiously attached. He often seeks closeness to keep his fear of not being good enough at bay. If his partner responds too late to his needs, he gets stuck in a negative emotional and thought loop that is very difficult to get out of.
The fourth attachment type, disoriented attached, is rare. In this pattern, there are swings in both directions: a strong need for closeness alternating with a strong desire for separation.
Our attachment system is so powerful because it regulates our entire being: Nervous system and hormones; feelings, thoughts and behavior are interrelated and mutually reinforcing. Anxiously attached people try to calm their activated attachment system by seeking closeness; and avoidantly attached people by avoiding closeness.
There's a lot of good news here. First, the research in this field is giving you a good reason to stop taking your partner's behavior so personally. It has a lot less to do with you than you probably think. Second, the pairing of secure and insecure attachment styles usually results in a successful relationship. Third: The pairing of anxious/avoidant attachment is problematic, but such a pair can successfully train to exhibit secure attachment behavior. A person's attachment style changes over time. Anxiously attached people lose their anxiety as they age, for example.
So how does it work to train one's own behavior towards "securely attached"? I will dedicate my next text to this question.
Your love language
What is your native language? You are likely thinking of English. But I am talking about another, non-verbal language: your personal language of love. Gary Chapman gave couples around the world words for how to express and receive love in the 90s. And today, I continue to recommend that "my couples" figure out their language of love.
A big part of my work is helping people express their personal needs in their own personal language. Sometimes it's not so easy to figure out what to want from your partner in a conflictual moment or in a partnership that is going through a crisis.
Imagine the following scenarios.
1. From today on, your partner tells you every day what he/she likes about you. "You look wonderful today!", "It was very nice opening up to you, thank you!"; "I'm proud of what you do for us!", or you get a what's app message with a love message and a cute picture saying you mean everything to him/her.
2. You notice over the next few days that your partner is seeking your closeness. First thing in the morning, you get a hug and a kiss. When he/she comes home, he/she only takes off his/her shoes and washes his/her hands, but then he/she comes straight to you and takes you in his/her arms. As he/she passes you by, he/she strokes your hair or your hand. On the couch in front of the TV, he/she offers you a foot massage.
3. Tonight your partner comes to you and says, "This week I'm picking up the kids from school and daycare." You also notice him/her to clean out the dishwasher, tidy the living room, take out the trash, take down the laundry, and iron, without you having asked for it. On Saturday, he/she asks, "What projects do you have going on right now? How can I help you with those?"
4. On Saturday morning, your partner says to you, "This weekend is going to be a romantic weekend. I've arranged for the babysitter and we'll go for a walk together. We'll have a picnic together and you'll tell me how you're doing right now." On Sunday, he/she says, "I did the shopping, let's cook together." On Monday, he/she picks you up from work just to go home with you.
5. Tonight your partner comes home from work with beautiful meadow flowers. "I went for a walk and thought of you." The following week, he/she will bring you your favorite candy. Also, whenever you are apart for more than a day, he/she will bring a souvenir that proves how well he/she knows your preferences and how accurately he/she remembers your beautiful time together.
If you could make one of these five situations a reality, which one would it be? Which one do you think your partner would choose? This is already a first clue to your native language of love. Chapman identified the languages as words of appreciation (1), touch (2), support (3), time together (4), and gifts (5).
You can think of your need to be loved like a tank. The fact that you fell in love and the beloved chose you fills the tank for a few years at first. But it slowly begins to empty. Then it becomes important to regularly refill your tank in your language.
What I particularly like about the concept, even though it has not been proved scientifically: we are not asked to find out which personal deficit makes you have this need, instead it is simply assumed that needs are human and can be met (to some extent; sufficiently) in a loving relationship. No need is more or less justified than another.
It is not an obligation to speak the love language of your partner, but an important information: "All means of receiving attention are nice, but this one thing makes me feel deeply loved and cherished in a relationship."
And since two partners unfortunately seldom speak the same language of love, Chapman lastly points out that lack of understanding is no longer an excuse: If you don't understand and can't speak a language, you simply have to study and practice it by paying more attention, asking questions and rehearsing constantly.
For those who think this is too much to ask, here's another incentive: Isn't it wonderfully economical to do even less for your partner than before, but still fill his/her tank faster?
Hug until relaxed
Irritability, as it occurs more frequently during Corona times, oftentimes ignites a medium-sized fire when everyone in the family snaps at each other. That's when it's useful to have a fire extinguisher in the corner. Such a fire extinguisher is the exercise „hug until relaxed".
So now that you're stuck at home with your partner, finding new ways to put up boundaries between the two of you; negotiating work space and working time that are yours alone; why not balance out the other side and work on your physical closeness?
Today's inspiration comes from David Schnarch. You can build a "collaborative alliance" with your partner that allows you to trust and feel the closeness of your partner as support even when you are troubled and nervous on the inside at first.
To do this, stand up straight and take your partner into your arms. At first, if you are not used to this, it may feel strange and uncomfortable. Your task now is to balance your weight so that you are standing comfortably (your partner must respond to this). Also, calm your breathing. The hug should last at least 5 minutes.
Do the exercise regularly until you are already completely relaxed at the beginning of the exercise. This way you give yourself the chance to feel the presence of your partner as calming and supportive.
Desire and fidelity
In recent months and years, to my surprise, I have encountered one topic more and more frequently: extramarital attraction, or attraction outside the main monogamous relationship. This topic is relevant to everyone in some form or another. I've encountered every attitude on the subject from "Men and women can't be friends and that's it!" to "Monogamous marriage makes no sense, we're relatives of bonobos and should basically settle every social issue with a round of sex!".
More nuanced observations are hard to find. Even colleagues seem rather conservative and moralistic in their statements. Esther Perel is a refreshing exception. She enriches us with her wealth of experience without having answers ready in advance.
We all have certain ideas about fidelity, and over the course of our love life we are very likely to be confronted with the fact that we ourselves or our partner cannot or no longer want to fulfill them. In the very unlikely event that we talk about this, we get prefabricated responses, "She shouldn't act like that, she probably doesn't love you. She doesn't deserve you." Ideal and reality rarely drift apart as much as they do on this topic. It touches us right in our heart and identity.
It slaps partners in the face when an affair is revealed. What a cruel shock that then follows. My invitation to my reader is this: follow the trail of desire in your life. What fantasies do you have about sex? What do you type into the google search bar when you're alone in the dark? What people do you find attractive, aside from your own partner? What actually stops you from approaching these people? Morals? A promise you made 15 years ago? Is that your very best reason? Then maybe it's time to rethink how you handle your passion.
What does fidelity mean to you? How do you expect to handle attraction outside of your primary relationship? What do you expect from your partner? These questions sound simple. However, when put into practice, the answer quickly becomes complex. What does your partner do when a strange man overlooks her wedding ring and slips his number into her hand? When someone writes her a message on social media about how attractive he finds her? I can't help but think of the scene in "Eyes wide shut" when Dr. Harford (Tom Cruise) tells his wife how faithful he thinks she is, her and the entire female gender. His wife gets a hysterical fit of laughter.
Passion is a part of life, it is the root of life itself. It doesn't discriminate by relationship status, gender or age. And it tends to disappear from long-term relationships. Passion will find you. Be prepared.
Bad mood at home
Oftentimes, I hear a friend or client complaining about "the atmosphere at home". (I'm familiar to those thoughts as well.) "The mood at home is lousy. I'd rather go out and meet a friend" or "The mood at home is bad. It's better not to talk about my problems and needs at home.
The mood at home is a social reality. The creators of this mood are the adults in the house. The victims are children or pets, if any.
Speechlessness between you both as a couple is both the cause and the sustaining condition of bad mood. You do not need the permission of your partner to change anything.
Ask yourself these two questions:
1. What do I need in order to feel good at home?
2. What can I do to get what I need? What should I avoid?
Then you tell your partner the result of your considerations. He/she is probably irritated, surprised or angry. This reaction is okay. Let it happen.
There is a lot of power behind your needs and in someone who takes care of them with serenity, generosity towards themselves and acceptance of themselves. This will also impress your partner. Having time, friends, peace and money just for yourself is not a luxury. They're legitimate needs.
Here are some inspirations for point 2:
- I will spend time in the bathroom every Tuesday evening at 7:45 pm (Bath with foam and candles, red wine and book)
- I will not put the children to bed on any Tuesday.
- I will go on a city walk with a friend every second Sunday morning.
- I will cook for the family on Saturdays
- I will not cook on Sundays
- I will not cancel appointments with friends because you have spontaneous business obligations
- I will not clear the table after the meal
- I will not hang up and fold the laundry
- I will clean the bathrooms
- I will not clean the apartment (vacuuming, dusting)
- I will work 10 hours a week
- When Corona is over, I will leave for a short vacation with a friend
This list does not need to be implemented exactly as you write it. Your partner is welcome to discuss it. What's important is this:
- you become aware of your needs, wishes and dreams
- you write them down
- you formulate them in such a way that you are the one who acts
- you present them to your partner.
Stand up for yourself and trust that your chosen one has a great interest in making you happy.
Say "no" lovingly
One of the essential skills you need in your life to protect your integrity, and thus the dignity of your person, is to deny another person something.
Saying "no" is something that you may not be good at. It is an art. Saying "no" is viewed negatively in social contexts. It's just not nice. You expose yourself to the danger of becoming an outsider. Being liked less or not liked anymore. You risk hurting your counterpart and damaging your relationship. So much for the traditional thinking about "no".
That is why you only say "no" in very special situations. In emergencies. When others virtually force you to do it. Children are particularly good at forcing a "no" that you shouldn't have to say in the first place. When your child asks you for the 20th time whether he or she can watch TV or eat another piece of candy, you explode. You explain why it is the child's fault that you now have to say "no" violently and for a long time.
But you also find your partner cheeky when he/she wants to have sex for the fourth time this week or wants to go out for dinner, or wants to go with you to his/her in-laws. You want to make it clear to him/her how impudent he/she is. The only reason why you have to bring out that terrible "no" is because his/her demands are outrageous. Right?
No. No, they're not. The "no" marks the line between you and your loved ones. The "no" protects you from losing yourself in the other. It makes you visible to the other person. It is a relationship offer, because if your counterpart knows where you are, he/she can respond to you.
The "No" is therefore a gift from you to others, but it can only develop its constructive effect in the medium term. When you say it, it is very important in which way you do it. Wrapped wrongly, this gift becomes poison. It must be clear that it is a very personal "no", namely yours in the here and now. So what can you do concretely so that your "no" loses all harmful additives?
Here are my tips for you.
* Breathe in and out and realize that you are giving a gift that comes from your heart. Maybe you can even look at your counterpart affectionately and smile (for advanced students).
* Make it short. "No, I don't want that" is enough. If you can, don't justify it. The longer your reasoning goes on, the more the other person will feel that you are blaming him/her for your "no".
* Now you turn your attention to your partner or child. They may be frustrated. Your "no" is yours and their frustration is theirs, and that's the situation you are in now. That is fine. The situation will change again.
The loving "no" will be very, very good for your relationship in the medium term. Practice it whenever you can.
please note that I will be on parental leave with our third child until next summer. From September 2020 onwards I will be happy to welcome you back in my counseling rooms and online!
„I am going through our phone conversations. I replay that one evening in my head. I am thinking about the years we spent together. What did I do wrong? I remember that I wasn’t passionate enough that night. I remember that I demanded too much and sounded too angry in this text I sent him. It’s my fault. I am so needy. How shameful to be so needy.“
It’s my fault. I know it. I blame myself. I am an awful person.
At one point in therapy, I mostly get to hear one of these thoughts from my clients, along with feelings of embarrassment, shame and anger towards oneself.
Why are we obsessing over past social situations so much? Because our brains became this way over the course of many hundreds of thousands of years. We are, as humans, excellent at cooperation, way better than any other mammal, and we have always needed to cooperate to be able to survive. Being able to maintain a good social status meant, and still means, being able to live. Understanding this part of our monkey brain might make it easier to step back sometimes and just accept it, and possibly stop obsessing for a few minutes.
Why are we looking for someone who is guilty? Again, because our brains are made like that. We are constantly looking for cause and effect. It makes life predictable for us. Why do we blame ourselves? Because we can tell ourselves that we had and have some control in life. It puts us in the position of being able to be angry. Being angry is an effective short-term antidepressant (with many negative side effects). If we don’t have control in life, then what do we have?
Letting go of self-blame and negative descriptions of yourself can trigger the feeling of loss and sadness. My father left me, not because of the way I am, but because of reasons I didn’t have any control over. The relationship to my mother is damaged not because I’m a bad daughter but because life, circumstances, chance and former decisions of hers are shipping her away from me, out of my control. My ex-wife decided to leave, because we weren’t a fit, and there was nothing I could have done to prevent it. My baby died in my womb, not because I’m a bad mother, but because biological mechanisms in pregnancy sometimes just don’t work out.
I am helpless there, I have lost this love without having had a chance to change the outcome. That is really a huge part of our lives, and a very sad and scary one. This loss is real, and it needs a grieving process. And then, and only then, a new chapter can begin. The good news is: it is NOT your fault. The bad news is: to prevent this was and is indeed out of your control, and you have lost. Give yourself time and empathy for this grieving process. This loss will from now on be a part of your life. It will change its form, and not burn as much, but it will be there in the memory of your heart.
The truth is that we don’t have control over many aspects of our life. We don’t have control over our genes, our circumstances, our upbringing, and the behavior and needs of other people. Research even shows that we don’t have control over the thoughts that appear in our minds. You can’t chose what appears next in your consciousness (for more detail see Sam Harris’ book: Free Will.)
Now this knowledge about ourselves can bring relief. Guilt is a category completely useless in psychology and relationships. The useful category here seems to be responsibility. We are responsible for the effect we have on ourself and other people, and the time to be effectively responsible towards ourself and other people is in the here and now, not in the past. How can we exercise responsibility towards ourself and others? We can try and understand our actions and reactions with great love and empathy, in order to understand ourselves better and make wise decisions in the future. We can get help for whatever it is we’re struggling with. We can open up about ourselves to others who we want to have flourishing relationships with, in order for them to know us better as well. Exercising this responsibility brings a feeling of empowerment that will enhance your feelings of self-worth and self-esteem.
I am wishing you, the reader of this blogpost, happy holidays and a very good 2019!
Traveling spouses are in a delicate position. On the one hand, it’s an ideal life. Your spouse is earning all the money for you, and it’s enough to provide for a good school for your kids and quite an amount of luxury like free time on your hands, traveling or fine dining and parties in spacious gardens.
On the other hand, the possibilities to pursue your own dreams are very limited and often restricted to quite a small world in which you have only one or two roles: maybe parent, and spouse of the „important“ working part. Often, only politeness hinders officials to stop talking to you whenever they discover you’re „just the spouse“.
This can lead to feelings of inferiority, boredom and lack of fulfillment, paired with anger at oneself for being so ungrateful. Accompanying men have the additional struggle of alienating the host society with a rather new role that only recently showed up in the history of humankind: the stay-at-home accompanying male.
How do we deal with it?
We drink too much alcohol. We have affairs. We act like we were 18 years old and completely happy with just partying. We travel all the time and lose touch with the real world. Which are understandable solutions, no judgement (I’m quite a dancer myself), but they might leave you unfulfilled as they are not tackling your existential need of being of real value for your community.
First of all, realize the situation you’re in. Give the thoughts and feelings some structure. Some people like writing, some like talking to an old friend. Then there’s always a counseling session with me in Delhi (if you don’t know me personally) or any counselor online (with good qualifications).
Secondly, give yourself a big pat on the back. It’s not your fault. It’s not your spouses fault. You did your best up until this point. And you’re not alone. We all feel like this.
Thirdly, share what you’ve discovered with your hard working spouse. I know that this feels like even more burden on his or her overworked shoulders. Plus, won’t you sound ungrateful? Also, you rely heavily on all of this to work. You don’t want to upset your spouse - there is a lot at risk.
But your spouse is actually doing his/her work thinking all of this makes you very happy. They are rolling their eyes when they see your alcohol consumption or the time you spend messaging the other sex on what’s app, wondering why the hell this is appealing to you. They want to see you happy. They want to know what’s going on in your life. (And if not - well then you have to ask yourself why you’re still the traveling spouse.)
And number four, but this will come naturally after the first three steps, you will act on it. This can be any number of things and is not even the most interesting part for me. If you are interested what others in your situation do, stay tuned as this article will have a continuation.
Oh, and if you’re connected with me or want to be in the future, find me on facebook or write a mail, and suggest any topic you would want me to write about!
I don't need a shrink!
As a psychologist, I had the chance to witness different attitudes towards my psychotherapeutic job. Some people are instantly afraid that this innocent-looking person might gaze deeper into their soul than they would want anyone to. Some people just find it interesting and share thoughts about the psyche of the society they’re living in. Some people instantly grab my card for a friend, or, who knows, themselves, as they feel that it’s always good to know where to look for help when it’s needed. One reaction that people generally hide from me is this one: „I don’t need a shrink. I can handle my own problems. What can you do for me anyways?!“
Many factors play a role when it comes to the reputation of psychotherapy in a specific person. The societal climate in Europe floats somewhere between the almost complete acceptance in the USA and the almost complete refusal in India. Then there are those who have had a bad experience with a person working in the field. (This could be anything from a social worker at school not being helpful when being mobbed; a person who did psychodiagnostics with their child at a learning center not contributing to the childs’ wellbeing to a human resource psychologist making a hurtful statement at the workplace.)
I would like to answer to some misconceptions that exist around psychotherapy and counseling.
I am not crazy.
No one needs to be crazy in order to receive assistance in dealing with the tasks that life throws in our face. (We all are a bit crazy though in our own weird way, and that’s ok.)
I can handle my own problems, I don’t need a shrink.
I agree that your wellbeing is your responsibility, and you are the main resource for yourself to make things better. Please remember though that a qualified psychologist might generally know more about feelings, thought patterns and helpful behavior than you and could therefore contribute to the solutions that you will come up with yourself. You would not stitch your own bleeding wound like a warrior just because you maybe could. You will go to a medical practitioner. It’s the rational thing to do.
3. You know nothing about me.
That is true! You are and will continue to be the number one expert for yourself, a unique person. Counselors will react based on what you tell and show them about yourself. I encourage you to take from their reaction what is useful for you, and openly reject what is not.
There is nothing you can to for me anyways.
That might be true. What my clients have reported after my sessions is that they feel their thoughts and emotions have been put into a certain order and that they’re able to think more clearly; they truly felt understood by someone, maybe for the first time since a long time; or they understand and accept themselves and / or their family members better. I will admit that not everyone leaves my practice feeling richer than before.
Psychologists and psychoanalysts in the western world wore a white coat and were considered a part of the „gods in white“ with complete authority up until the 70ies. Modern therapists reject to play this role and like to be at eye level with their clients.
Research shows that the most important thing for a successful psychotherapy is the relationship between the therapist and the client. If you want to give it a try, check for the therapists’ education and experience in their field and decide after a trial session whether this person is someone that you like and are able to trust.
The ONE tip for couples
If I could give only one practical tip that all couples in the world can hear, it would be this one:
Take your time once a week, preferably during a walk in the park together or a dinner at a nice restaurant, and watch the clock. Perform the following exercise: one starts and speaks for 10 minutes. The other listens attentively, but must not respond. After these 10 minutes, the other one starts speaking for 10 minutes. The content is flexible, but it should preferably be about how you feel in the family and as a couple. What you feel comfortable with and what you don't feel comfortable with.
In this exercise, there is almost everything included that makes a couple work as a couple.
1. The couple has to prepare for and agree to this plan together.
2. Both are willing to play their part in keeping the relationship alive.
3. While speaking, one is freed from having to wait for the other one’s reaction.
4. During listening, you are freed from having to react immediately.
5. Thoughts can unfold that would otherwise be constantly interrupted. This is particularly true for introverted or shy people.
6. Usually our thoughts operate on a psychological surface. They only go into the depth when the superficial thoughts are allowed to be expressed without being commented on for a few seconds.
7. During the pauses in speech, the feelings of the speaking person have time to follow the spoken words. Feelings evolve more slowly than words.
8. The listener is forced to fight against internal resistance and not to react immediately (insulted).
9. After minute 7 or 8, something will usually appear, what we call the active part of a message. This active part is often missing in relationships. Most people manage to talk about their negative feelings (feelings=the passive part), but the next step is missing: taking responsibility for these feelings and saying what they want to change or what they want from the partner.
10. Both couples get the same speaking time - this is usually not the case, as the partner who speaks better and prefers to speak dominates the conversation in everyday life.
For those of us who like New Year's resolutions, this could be a fruitful one. All the best for 2018!
Live a life worth living
Recently I finished Christopher Hitchen’s book „Mortality“. At the same time I was watching a TED talk by Esther Perel about infidelity. I realized that these two topics are interconnected: desire and death.
The motor for an affair originates from our desire to live a good, happy, exciting life. A life worth living. The scene for this is set by the fact that we are going to die some time not too far away in the future. Hitchens wasn’t able to finish his book the way he wanted to, because he died. He said he had lit his candle of life on both ends. He didn’t sound like he regretted it.
So, our striving to make better use of our time has a very serious and realistic background. This little text is not supposed to make you start an affair. But I do have a tip on how to use your desire to bring more life into your relationship. One could also say: to bring more of the person that you want to be into your relationship.
Take some time out of your every day life to have a conversation with your partner. Tell him* that you want him to listen to you for 10 minutes straight without interrupting. Tell him respectfully what you want and need in your life. What you miss. What you don’t want any more. What is your desire, what are your phantasies? If you weren’t married and didn’t have any marital or parental duties, what would you do?
Don’t expect him to be happy about everything you say. He will most likely be frustrated or intimidated. That’s ok, give him time. My guess would be that one or two days later he will come back to you with what he himself misses and desires in his life. That is going to be a fruitful exchange and a little adventure that you’ll have together. And that’s what we want more of before we are going to die.
*All genders are meant to be adressed.
Raising your children to be care-free?
There are a few unwritten rules that families seem to follow. Here are some examples:
Both parents should have the same opinion about the upbringing of children.
Children should never be a witness of a discussion or even conflict between the parents.
If there are unpleasant things happening in the family, keep them as far away from the kids as possible.
The thinking might go as follows: „What they can’t see or hear won’t influence and harm them.“ That’s a nice thought, except that it doesn’t match very well with reality.
The family is an isle of identity, intimacy, learning, care, rest and joy. But it’s not an island where the rules of life are levered.
One shocking example from real life might be the concerned parents moving from one continent to the other. They didn’t inform the kids that they will move. When the holidays arrived, they sent the kids to the grandparents and organized the move. They arranged the children’s rooms just as they left them behind in the old place. When the holidays were over, the parents felt good in being able to console the kids: „Don’t worry, you’ll adjust quickly, all your toys are here, just like before, you see?“ The kids never got to be sad before the move and they never saw the mess of a home being taken apart - isn’t that a clean and considerate solution?
It’s clean in the way that the parents superficially got to have a clear conscience while the kids didn’t know what was going on. They didn’t have to deal with questions, grief and stress from the children’s side. But it sure will leave damage on the children’s trust in being safe in the place that they're at for good.
Children don’t learn how to deal with life if we try to create an artificial carefree stage within the family. Children learn how to behave from us, their role models. If they don’t learn how to be angry, how to fight in a conflict, how to grieve over a loss, how to say goodbye from us when they’re young, they will have to learn it when they’re 30 over their first divorce. Learning to grieve when you’re 30 ist like learning to walk when you’re 30. You’ll get there, but it’s so much more painful than necessary, and you will have missed a lot of your life in the meantime.
Let the children be a part of your life when you’re going through hard times. When you cry, explain why you’re sad. When you’re angry, tell them why and how you manage to calm down. Don’t send them to their room when you are in a disagreement with your partner. Take them to the funeral and tell them what’s happening there. Life can be scary, and your child needs you to be there when it happens.
The magic of the first moments
Sometimes we can’t stand our partner or our difficult kid. And those feelings of anger, disappointment or even hatred give us all the more reason for suffering, because we shouldn’t have them, right? Plus, we are responsible for the way things are in our family.
Where can we even begin to change?
Maybe at the very beginning. Do you remember how you felt seeing your husband for the first time in your life? How curious you were and how precisely you followed his every move. His eyes, his hair, his underarms, his butt, his height? How did you feel as he was smiling at you for the first time? Gave you the very first compliment? The first kiss? The first sex? It (or at least some of it!) was magic, right? Yes, it was magic.
Do you still remember how it was to see you child the first time? Maybe you heard it first before you saw it. Did it sneeze? Did it cry? Was it covered in blood or already clean when the nurse put it in your arms? Do you remember this mighty feeling of loving another being to the moon and back from one second to the next and to be willing to protect it whatever the costs may be? How was it to finally hold your baby? To lift the tiny weight? To hear the rattling breath come out of his tiny nose? How was it to feed it the first time? Do you remember those surprisingly loud, greedy swallowing sounds? And how the yawning brought a mild smell of milky acid? Weren’t you sure from this very second why you’re alive?
Share that love story of the first moments with your partner, with your child. These first moments are like magic, and you can feed from them for the rest of your life. A part of that magic is still alive and will help you gain strength for your current relationship.
My son loves the story of this very first sound in this world, it was a tiny, but effective sneeze. In that moment, although only hearing him, I was completely with him, and the roots of my motherly love grew ever so deep in that very moment forever; and they give me the strength to stay curious and loving in each conflict that we have (or at least regain that state of mind shortly after).
And whenever I’m disappointed in my husband and wonder: „Has it always been that hard?“, the answer is: „No, it hasn’t. Back in time, when I wasn’t expecting anything from him and was curious about every move he made, our relationship was easy and loving.“ And I’m able to gain this mindset within seconds.
I have a fond memory of a conflict between my 1,5year old son and a 2,5year old birthday girl. The girl was a strong little fella and pushed my son to the ground. He started crying and me and the girl’s mom rushed to the crime scene. We held the two on our arms. The other mom told the girl repeatedly: „Say sorry! Say sorry! SAY SORRY!“ until, at one point, my son sobbed one last time and said, almost with relief on his face: „Sorry!“
It hurts me when I hear parents demand to express a certain feeling from their children that they almost never have, at least not in that moment. I think what they mean to say is: „My child didn’t act up to my moral standards. Or at least to the moral standard that I think the other parents have. Only an immediate apology of my child can prove that we are good people who know how to behave.“ That is a big burden on a small human.
Aggression in children appears when a need that a child has isn’t fulfilled. The appropriate adult reaction would be curiosity and empathy. Certainly not a threatening voice or even punishment.
We don’t solve any problem by training our children to say „Sorry“ when they don’t feel sorry. The opposite is the case. We train them to put on a polite mask and hide their true feelings behind that mask. They will have to invest a lot of time and money for psychotherapy to remove the mask and find out about their true needs and feelings in their adult years as a result.
My son didn’t understand where the urgency in that other mom’s voice came from. He was shocked by being pushed. He needed comfort and empathy. „You were pushed really hard and you don’t know why hm? What a shock. I can see that.“
His friend needed empathy as well. „I see that you’re really angry! What happened? Did that boy take your toy? There are a lot of kids here that take your brand new birthday toys, right? That’s a lot. I can see that. Let me see how we can give you some rest and relief.“
The best learning experiences take place when the kids can learn for themselves how it feels to not share a toy and see the disappointment in their friend. They need to feel that extra second of freedom so that they can chose the right thing to do all on their own. They will learn to do the right thing in their own pace. This process of finding out how to be yourself amongst all the other people and their demands takes a lifetime of experience. Let’s take the time and gather the interest to accompany our children in this process instead of hindering them.
This will help us even more than them.
Keeping the right distance?
In 1891 the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote a parable about some freezing porcupines. They wanted to warm each other with their skin, but the closer they got to each other, the more the spikes stung. It is believed that Schopenhauer really was talking about human relationships here over a century ago.
In my counseling sessions I am meeting clients who miss having a loving, caring and intimate relationship in their lives. They suffer from emotional heartache, many of a broken heart. When getting to know these clients, we discover that there is some benefit in not having an intimate reliationship. There seems to be a pain that can be even scarier and more hurtful than the pain of being away from someone you love: it's to be close to the one you love and being hurt by him or her.
There are many reasons why intimacy might be painful and scary to us. If we were brought up by being praised for every little thing that we did, it might hurt if someone is simply realistic and honest with us. If we experienced the loss of a parent in our childhood, be it through a divorce or an early death, we might feel deep within ourselves that love means loss on the level of an existential threat. Some found that when they had a loved one at their side, they had no more freedom as a person. Whatever reason it may be, it does not have its roots within intimacy itself.
Schopenhauer suggested that, in the end, the porcupines have to find the optimum fixed point with a maximum of warmth as well as a minimum of pain. It seems that many people are following this strategy. Unfortunately, this keeps them from the full experience of a satisfying and nourishing relationship: happiness seems always an arms' length away.
That's why I suggest the opposite, dynamic strategy: optimize both intimacy with your partner and personal freedom for yourself. Open up about your needs. And make sure that they are met in the long run yourself independently.
The word „No“ –
so much healing power, so hard to say out loud.
There are many goals that are worth fighting for.
We want to excel at our job. This means: we earn enough money to be able to take care of the children and ourselves, if needed. We do exactly the job that we love and that fits our competences and preferences. We don't just do our jobs – we put our heart in it.
We want to take care of our children and make sure we have a harmonious family time. Isn't it our fault somehow that they have to grow up abroad? And when our partner is tired, which means: most of the time, we entertain them.
We want to look good and wear nice clothes.
We want to stay in shape and dive into fitness.
Our home needs to be well-maintained, clean and cosy.
We volunteer. Especially now in times of crisis.
We take care of our parents. We live far away, but that's only one more reason to do so.
We keep in contact with as many friends as we can, including social media. Generally we want to be seen as fun to be around, happy and in control.
We know that home cooked food is the best – so we make it.
When we do have time for ourselves, there is a lot to do: newspapers want to be read, this book, and there is a new online game as well!
And what about the hobbies? We play an instrument, of course. We visit museums and art exhibitions.
The list goes on forever.
Our time and energy do not.
Especially women tend to exhaust themselves without even realizing it. If we become aware of signs of exhaustion, we blame ourselves for it:
we feel unattractive
we eat too many sweets
we drink too much alcohol
we become embittered and negative
we feel tired
we can't sleep well
we yell at the children
we have feelings of dislike towards our partner.
The new year is a good time to think about our priorities in life and put these thoughts into action. This will probably include telling others, even close family members, a gentle „No, not today.“ For women, who are taught since childhood how to make others happy, while ignoring our own integrity, this is especially hard. But it will pay off. For our mental health, our partnership and our family.
There are many things that are worth fighting for.
And there are plenty more things, we better say „no“ to, because this „no“ means:
„My achievements are good enough.“
„I'm interested in my own well-being.“
„I care for my mental health.“
„I am doing this, because it's good for me.“
Those couple (of) problems...
Christmas Time is here! The time we can't escape from home. A good time to takle the obstacles. There are two common mistakes couples make in dealing with problems. Get to know them and learn how to avoid doing them in order to find intimacy and love in your relationship.
1. You deny that a problem exists. You find endless reasons why your suffering isn't that bad. Your wife doesn't look up when you come into the room from work? Oh well, who are you to force her to give you a hug. Your husband made a hairy mess in the bathroom again although he had agreed to be more neat? Oh well, he has a lot of other stuff on his mind.
2. When in an argument, you get really angry. You definetely want to prove your point this time. You want to have more sex and your spouse talks only about her own problems? Well that is only adding stress and really not the point right now! Your husband complains with a loud voice about the kids' behaviour? Well, he obviously doesn't have the right perspective on this topic!
To break this pattern of escalation, don't do anything at first. Just look at what's there. Your wife doesn't look up when you enter the room. She just mutters a „high“ without putting down her book. You feel angry, and sad, and lonely. You don't feel appreciated for your hard day at work. That's your situation, that's how it is right now. Nothing can make this go away. Hold these thoughts and feelings for a second.
After this second, see if you have any kindness or love within you. If you do, slowly sit down next to your wife and look into her face. Does she look at you? If yes, would you like to say „Hi“ and kiss her and ask her how her day was? Or do you want to tell her what you are feeling right now? If you feel nothing but anger, go into another room, dress in something comfy and find out what makes you that angry. It's certainly not about one look of one woman on this planet. Find out what happened to you and, in a quiet, intimate moment, talk to your wife about it, using „I feel...“ and „I want...“ instead of „You don't...“ or „you should....“. Make sure you do bring up what bothers you in a timely manner. This way, the next time your partner confronts you with a problem of his own, you will have the capacity to listen.
Be patient with yourself. After twenty or thirty years of patient and loving practice, you will avoid the two mistakes! But even while trying for the first time, you will enjoy taking yourself seriously and taking over responsibility for the relationship, and at the same time, you will be a role model for your partner to do the same.
Guidance in the upbringing of kids
During a lecture in Delhi I was asked: „What sould I do, if my child doesn't do as I say? In the morning, I want him to wear a jacket, and he sais no.“
This reminds me of a situation with my daughter this week. In front of the school, there is an icecream wagon. Everyday my kids want icecream. My daughter wanted icecream especially bad that day. Our agreement was icecream on friday, the last day of the week. That day it wasn't friday. I said: „No, not today, I'll buy you icecream on friday.“
My daughter pulled on my hand. I let go of her and walked towards the car. She stayed. I wanted to take her into my arms. She walked away. She crossed her arms. I said: „To have an icecream right now is very important to you, I know. It's so hot outside and I want to go home for lunch. I will get in the car and you follow when you're ready.“
My daughter had a little talk with herself, and after a minute she entered the car, smiled at me and gave me a kiss.
I know the impulse very well to yell at the kid and drag her to the car while grabbing her arm. I didn't care about icecream that moment. I don't want my daughter to act up in public. Someone might even think I'm a bad mother!
This means, during these seconds so many thoughts are running through our head, that we are in danger of taking the stress out on our child. When you realize that you're getting angry, take a moment of breathing and decide to show interest in your child. Ask her what's going on. Why it's not possible at the moment to do what you want from her. Give her a minute time, stop talking and give her space. Then ask again. In 99% this will remove the tension off the situation.
The mom could ask her son: „Why don't you want to put your jacket on?“ Maybe the boy sais: „I don't know.“ If it's a small child, you can take the jacket and say: „While I put your jacket on, you can think about what's important in not wearing a jacket. When you know, you can tell me.“ An older child might have relatable reasons, like it's not cold; preference of another jacket, etc. Acknowledge those reasons. And if it's still very important that he wears his jacket, stick to it.
As a parent, you're the guide. Yet we often engage in a power struggle, because we think we have to win, and we think we need an obedient child to win. Or you might not want your child to experience unpleasant feelings and fight with him. A child needs guidance. Guidance makes it feel secure and guarded. It provokes it. It wants to know your position. Don't put your child into the guide's position. This will make him very lonely. Instead of demanding obedience, show interest in your child. The better the child knows himself, the better you know him, and the closer your relationship will be. And the closer your relationship is, the more your child will listen to what you say, and trust you that putting the jacket on is important.
Homework and Responsibility
School started again. This means: school children bring home homework. It doesn't necessarily mean that this homework is getting done. Which means that moms and dads chase after their kids and doors are slammed, tears are cried and some parents hear: „Mom, I'm not going to school tomorrow. I don't want to live anymore.“
Does it have to be this way or is something going wrong?
It's valid to ask the question whether homework generally makes sense as an acitivity for a child. When in doubt, which one should be the priority: time with friends, family, sports, and play or homework? There are no undisputed clues from learning science that homework is essential for school success. The learning scientist John Hattie realized a meta-analysis including 50.000 studies of learning science and found a dissappointing effect of .29 for learning success with homework. An effect between .4 and .6 are considered moderate. The most important single factor with 1.44 was the cognitive maturity of a child (Hattie, Visible Learning, 2009).
For a child who goes to school today, these latest scientific findings come too late. In order to happily go to school, that's what our children tell us, the homework needs to be completed.
Here are some tips for dealing with homework:
Be very aware that homework is your child's responsibility. Even when the child is only six. It's not your job to make your child do his homework. That is my most important message. Your child doesn't need you in life to tell him what to do. Instead, he needs you to support him in order to find his own way in a self-confident manner. Maybe you have experience with tasks which you know you should finish off, but you „somehow“ aren't able to accomplish them quickly and in a timely manner? Your child could profit from your experiences. Be it, because you have empathy with her. Be it, because you know the importance of relaxation.
At the same time it's important that you provide an inviting setting regarding both room and space. There should be an orderly, inviting table, placed at a quiet part of your appartment. Tell your child: „Now you have time for doing homework. Later we will shop for groceries, have dinner and then it's bed time.“ I recommend asking the class teacher how much time the child is supposed to spend doing homework at her grade.
Show interest in the topic of homework. „Do you have to do math today?“ „How far have you come?“ Ask like you really are interested, and only if you really are interested. Don't ask to push your child to work. Only help and explain the homework when being asked for it.
If the child doesn't want to do homework, just be there for her. Cuddle up if she wishes. Try to understand as a friend how she feels. „You don't like doing homework today? Okay. Is something different today? How are you?“ If your child quits her homework regularly and for a long time, the homework itself is your smallest problem. In 99% of the cases, a child wants to cooperate and not lead.
I want to come back to the phrase: „I don't want to live anymore.“ It means, translated to grown-up language: „My everyday life is so painful sometimes that I can't bear it.“ Try to find the cause together with your child. Spend time with him. Talk to his teacher; to your partner and with other parents.
All of this seems to be quite complex. Souldn't we just tell the child: „Do your homework already and stop complaining!“? With most children, this strategie will work (even if it includes the drama which I described above). For me, homework is a superficial topic of many possible ones, with the underlying topic „responsibility“. You could fight about other things that include responsibility as well like: brushing teeth; sharing toys or spending money. We won't get around the fact that we have to let go of control in order for our children to take over responsibility for themselves and for their social groups. You are allowed to always lend an ear to listen, and reserve a hand for helping. Like a two-year old girl once so beautifully said: „I'm doing it myself, but I'm not doing it alone.“
Accompanying spouses: Restricted and free at the same time
Worldwide and also in Delhi, expats are returning to their temporary home after a long holiday break. They have visited friends and family and took a break in cool, healthy air. As such a summer holiday is so long, it might feel a bit strange returning to your familiar foreign home.
During the few days of adjusting, until everyday life makes everything run smoothly again, you might ask yourself the question: „What am I doing here? My kids go to school and my spouse has a work contract. And I am the backbone. I take care of the school issues, I manage the staff and I decorate and maintain the home. Is that enough? Is that the way I want to spend my life?“
Some of them might think: „One more year of bad air and then it's over.“ Or: „This final posting and then we'll retire and I'll be self-determined again.“
But for people who will probably live this traveling lifestyle all their life, delaying their needs like that might lead to the feeling of missing one's own life. Because of that it might be better to appreciate this time of your life in the same way you appreciate the time as a school child or the time when you lived near your parents' house or the time you studied in your favorite city; or your dreams for the future.
Be very clear about why this time abroad is valuable for you, even though your employer didn't ask you to live there; and leave aside the family reasons for a minute. What brings you joy in India, in South America, in Europe, the place where you currently live? What is difficult for you in your home country, that is easier here? What activities are you involved in, and do you appreciate yourself enough for doing them? What possibilities do you have here, that you always wanted to make use of, but haven't found the time yet?
Accompanying spouses are two things to a high degree: limited and free in their possibilities. Make use of the freedom, and the limitations will be tolerable.
Support children after the separation
Every life contains little pains and also big pains. Toddlers have scratches and bruises. A nice band-aid, a little song and a cuddle make it all better.
There is some pain that is not so obvious and more difficult to approach. Children of divorced parents carry the pain of seperation within them for their whole life. Parents, family and friends often have the impulse of cheering the child up when he or she is sad. They want to show them the positive, bright side of life. They want to motivate it, to see it smile and be happy.
A more adequate way of encounter the childs' grief is to sit at his or her side a little. You can say: „I see that you're not well. Are you thinking of dad?“ When the child doesn't answer, it's a sign that you're right. You can tell her a little about yourself. How was it for you as a child, when somebody left? Where does it hurt and what do you do to cope with the pain? These questions are important for children, and the answers that you found for them, too. If you are afraid of crying in front of you child, don't worry, you can do it. Just make sure that you won't let your child console you. Dry your tears and see how it reacts.
An adult can handle loneliness and grief like an adult. He can think, write a poem, visit a grave, ask a psychotherapist, pray, or ask a good friend for a cup of coffee. A child needs an adult who is interested in him and who is ready to face feelings of grief and pain. In Germany there is a saying: „If you share pain, you will only have half your pain.“ This might not be completely true. But when a child experiences the company, interest and empathy of an adult while going through pain during his or her childhood, threatening shadows can be transformed into lapdogs.
Expressing care for your partner
April 15th, 2015
All of the couples that visit me for counseling care deeply about the wellbeing of one another. Each partner could talk to me for hours about why the other one is in this difficult situation he or she is in; what needs to be done to fix the situation and how they contribute to a solution.
Unfortunately, the way they express this care doesn't seem to really impress the loved one much. Many of them tried their strategie for years, trying harder, longer, being more patient, and after too many painful years they have moments here and there where they realize: they have no more strength to keep going and they are frustrated because all their efforts aren't rewarded.
What I do in this situation is, I remind the partners that nobody ever said they should solve the problems of their partner. They aren't responsible for their happiness. They are also not responsible for their misery. Any moment they can let go of the feeling that they know everything and they are responsible for everything and just listen is a golden moment for the two. The amazing thing is, even couples who have had a surpressed or open conflict for a long time benefit tremedously from these moments.
Let me give you an example that a couple shared with me. It was the first morning after the mother had given birth in the hospital. What she wanted more than anything was to brush her teeth. She has had a C-Section and she wasn't able to move from her bed. The nurses were busy. The husband was holding the baby, it needed a diaper change and was crying heavily. She asked her husband to get the brush for her. He seemed unhappy as he handed it over. She realized she had no place to spit out. She asked him for a cup as well. He didn't react any more.
This situation stuck in her mind and heart for many years. Now, in a fight, he would say: „But I handled the baby! What more do you want? It was an expensive hospital! Some fathers aren't even there at birth! And you complain about a toothbrush!“ As her husband found a possibility to become deaf for blaming and to „just“ listen, he was able to feel the loneliness, helplessness and grief between the words of her story. Tears appeared in his eyes. He looked at her lovingly and said: „This must have been terrible for you.“ This couple never needed to talk about toothbrushes ever again.
It is not easy at all to step back and make room for a new perspective. This new perspective is very often a feeling that wants to be seen, expressed and acknowledged. This life includes pain, loss and disappointment more than we'd like. It's easy to blame a single fact, a single person, a single behaviour for it, when in reality it's no one's wrongdoing, and no one can fix it. The only thing one person can do for herself or himself is taking over responsibility for her or his life, happiness as well as misery.
And at the same time, nothing makes you feel more loved and less alone than when you have your chosen partner sitting next to you, listening closely as you explore all those aspects of your life for yourself.
How to help children to develop personal responsibility
March 15th, 2016
How do I teach my child to be more responsible and, for example, look after his or her things?
The short answer is, by not doing it for her.
Parents have the strong impulse to protect their children in every aspect of their life. We might feel in control and capable as parents when we take care of everything that the child needs. But there is a time to step back from this, and this time is earlier than we usually think. Even reminding the child of his duties won't do any good. She will feel as if she would do it to make you happy, and not because she really wants to do it.
Let me give you a few examples of what a child can take care of himself or herself at what age. A newborn will scream when he is hungry. A baby is looking away when she doesn't want eye contact any more. A toddler can clean up toys in the evening. A preschool child can dress herself completely. A school beginner can do his homework by himself and look after his belongings in school. A nine year old school child can decide what hobbies to pursue, what friends to have and how long to watch TV. A fourteen year old adolescent can do her own laundry and cook something simple for herself.
I am not saying that you shouldn't care at all about any of these things. You can always show interest and express your opinion. But stop the overly nagging and concern. This kind of concern, which quickly leads to the expression of disappointment, kills all initiative within the child.
Your children differ from you. They have a different approach to and a different perspective on life. Listen to their point of view as often as you express yours. Let go, relax, lay back and simply enjoy their presence.
How to build self-confidence in children
As a parent, we want our children to be happy and successful in life. We want them to be able to achieve their goals by being self-confident, go out into the world and make the very best out of what they have. If a child is very shy towards others, if we feel that a child is being bullied often by others, doesn't speak a lot or doesn't want to try out new activities, we might be worried that their self-confidence might be too low.
There are two sources of self-confidence. One source consists of our achievements. One might play an instrument excellenty. One might be a very good football player. One might be very good at languages. Others recognize and appreciate these abilites and we get praise, and maybe even prices and money.
The second source is way more essential. I will call it self-assurance for now. It's the mix of how well we know ourselves and whether we are able to accept and integrate what we know about ourselves. If a person has a high level of self-assurance and is not succesful at a new task, she will tell herself: „Oh well, I am not good at this but I can still learn it. I know I'm good at many other things.“
The world has seen many people with a high level of self-confidence because they were succesful in school or at their job. But as soon as this success faded, they felt like they weren't worthy anymore.
How do we build strong self-assurance in our children? Certainly not by praising them all day long. We do it by explaining their behaviour and feelings to them. By giving them words for their feelings and experiences. Showing them that, no matter how they feel or what they achieve, they are appreciated for what they are. When a child cries, we don't blame them for crying, but we say: „I can see that you're very upset right now. I can imagine you're upset because....“ or: "I have no idea why. Can you tell me?" That way, a child learns what is happening to him. It can integrate that aspect into his personality.
Whatever aspect of our children we condemn and reject, will become a constantly condemned and rejected part within the now still small, but soon-to-be grown person that our child is. This will cause the child to feel estranged and confused and make him struggle with himself his whole life.
What part of your child's personality do you like? What part do you dislike? How do you react to your child when it shows feelings and behaviours that you don't like? It is a very rewarding part of parenthood to get to know your child well and always stay curious and interested in him or her. Chances are that we see the reflection of parts of ourselves that we struggle with in our children. Being curious, accepting and acknowledgeing towards our child will not only help the him to become self-assure, but it will also help us to live in peace with ourselves.
What is our plan for the weekend?
A new year has begun. The family is back from the holiday, and the daily routine is returning. Every parent has this question on the back of his or her mind: how am I going to spend time with my children in a good way this year? We might have planned our days for office hours, household tasks and even half an hour for playing with the children. Maybe a trip to the playground. Maybe joining in Playmobil or Barbie. Get killed by the pirates 100 times or having to dress that Barbie exactly like the daughter tells us to. Those 20 minutes can feel like eternity and like an unwanted duty. How can we be together in a relaxed and fulfilling way?
By not filling the calendar for an afternoon or two, or for a whole day on the weekend. The parents don't necessarily need to do what the children want (Barbie and Playmobil) and the children don't necessarily have to be quiet and dress up nicely to go and visit family.
When I was taking a walk in the beautiful castle garden near Munich, Schleißheimer Schloss, I discovered a bench with a dedication from a brother for his 40-year old sister. It was a quotation from Lao-Tse, a chinese philosopher: „Doing nothing is the most difficult occupation and at the same time the one who demands the most powerful mind.“ I liked this quotation because ist reminded me of a shift of paradigm in our society. Doing nothing had been considered asocial for a long time because it was unproductive and, as a result, worthless.
But even in times like today, where we begin to appreciate techniques like meditation, we feel quite restlessness and bored by just doing nothing. Also, we want to have a good story to tell our colleagues and friends on monday. At the same time, the most beautiful things emerge from planning nothing and doing nothing. This is also true if you enroll in it as a family.
In unplanned, free time, this feeling called „home“ and „family“ emerges. Resting, playing, sleeping, eating, laughing and talking. Watch the children together and simply enjoy their presence.
Writing a parents' last will
November is a month that chastens me. It is getting colder in India and really cold in Germany. On the sunday before Advent, the protestant church commemorate the dead. This fits in with my topic for today: the parents' last will. Of course one can ask: „Why should I have such depressing thoughts and make everybody anxious?“ The thought of my children being without me brings a fear to the surface that, in some way, all parents have.
I have written a parents' last will. I first heard of the idea talking to a friend, a single mother, being threatened with the youth welfare office taking her daughter by someone who didn't like her. First of all, there is reason to have a little trust in the youth welfare office. Secondly, it seemed reasonable to write a parents' last will myself.
A parents' last will reflects their wish who to be the guardian of their child or children until they are of full age if they, the parents, aren't capable of being it themselves any more. Be it because of an accident, sickness or death.
Such a last will will not determine the courts' decision in the future, but it has to be taken into consideration.
The legal framework is not complicated. The last will doesn't have to be notarized; it can be data in the computer or printed out. You can download a form on the internet or just write it completely by yourself.
In a parents' last will you name a guardian as well as a replacement for him or her. You should take a few things into consideration like the financial and social situation he or she is in; the place of residence (especially when your family is living abroad or binational!) and of course the relationship to your child or children. You might not choose the grandparents but rather a relative or friend your own age because of the timespan they really can provide for your children. It might not be easy to make this request. On the other hand, surprising and meaningful conversations might take place.
Along with the guardian you can express your wishes for your childs future, like the choice of the nursery (nursery below the age of 3?), school and education (Montessori?), religion and faith, maybe food (vegetarian?).
It will also be interesting to talk to your spouse about it. Does he or she want to contribute? Does he agree with the choice of the guardian? What matters to him concerning the future of his children? My husband and I wrote an additional letter to our children. How much we love them, what exactly we love about them; what we experienced together so far and what our wishes are for their life. We want to update this letter from time to time.
I will say it again: it might appear weird to have these thoughts. But it is worth it. Writing down these things, you become really grateful that nothing has happened so far. You are reminded of the really important things in life. You gain a different perspective. And of course, the parents' last will will be very useful for a future guardian and the children if the worst case happens.
And when the parents' last will is written, I will wrap gifts for my children and look forward to seeing their bright eyes and the candlelight in the house and I am very sure that we will stay together for a long, long time to come.
When a mother has her first day at school
I am not the only parent experiencing this in summer 2015: my first child recently had his first day at school. Besides that, we also moved, but this couldn't distract me too much from the fact that my child had his first day at school.
I have the impression that, for my son, this event didn't mean more than going from one institution (Kindergarden) to the next (school), he just let it happen. For me as a mother, it meant a big chance. At the celebration of the first school day I was moved, proud, and a bit sad. Finally I let him go into the world.
I feel that child care workers at nurseries are a lot different from teachers. They love small children, I love my children, that fits. Children at nursery have (mostly) this protection, they are small kids, and one can't be angry at a small kid for a long time. One can't be mistrusting or unforgiving. With school children, it's different. They've come a long way and they've had their share of experiences with other children and adults, most likely some of them rather negative. They already keep things to themselves. It can be difficult to talk to them and more easy to suppose negative motives or to blame them. One exspects from them a clear and explecit answer when being asked by any grown up at any time.
I knew all of the child care workers of my son very well. Of course I met his teachers as well. But I will get to know a lot less about how they feel about working with my son. Plus, he has much more teachers who spend a lot less time with him. The chances for a conflict that can't be appeased by a trusting relationship are higher.
After the first serious school day, I dismissed Jesper Juul's proposal to give your child an alarm clock and leave the rest of the school business to him. (Nevertheless, I keep this strategy in mind, just in case.) My son invited me to accompany him and give him hints. And although there has been already frustration over homework, our pride is stronger. The first little blockletter „a“! The first number „8“ drawn from his little hand. Just wonderful.
He gets little stamps: „Well done!“ and: „Keep going like that!“. I'm happy about every little stamp. Although, somewhere inside I wonder what happens when it wasn't good, and the general discomfort with this category: „good“. My child ist my child, the exact same way he is. I get to know him, every day a bit better, every day anew. Nothing is good about that. Nothing is bad about that. Everything about that is love. (At least when I'm not stressed out myself.) That is the priviledge of a mother - and everybody else who can switch into the "mother-mode".
Due to my job and my specialized literary, and if nothing else, because I was a school kid once, I perceive things from a certain angle, I have certain concerns, a certain attention. Here, before my eyes, a very new career begins and I have the honour to be there. The most beautiful thing about this is my huge trust in this little human, who just turned six years old, and who is telling me: „Mom, stop it already, it's normal, I'm simply going to school now.“
What is it now?
Getting angry when your child annoys you doesn't help - but what does?
Our children's and adolescent's wishes are often inconvenient. At least that's our point of view. They're too slow in the morning. On the highway in the car or in the supermarket's waiting line, instead of being patient a little longer, and after that a little longer still, they start complaining or crying. Instead of being satisfied with one cookie or one goodnight story, they want more. Instead of being grateful for one more hour at the party and for the car ride home, they complain that others were allowed to stay overnight. „Thanks, mom, thanks, dad, I don't want anything anymore and I'm totally satisfied, calm and happy.“ - said no child ever.
On the other hand: Isn't it true that we are really annoyed by the traffic and don't see why we should stop-and-go forever? Don't we start our worst face expression when someone tries to take a place in front of us in our waiting line? Don't we have to have the whole box of chocolates, the whole bottle of wine, the third movie in a row from time to time? Don't we dream of one day in another life, maybe without spouse and children? At least leave church when the beloved mother has gone forever. What are our thoughts going to bed at night? „Thank you, lord, thank you, world, that I have a roof over my head and air to breathe?“
Children have the same needs as we do. They just can't suppress them the way we can. We expect them to join in our activities the way we do, and support whatever our plans are. Sometimes, we can't see that these plans are quite stressful. The purpose of life surely isn't eating 20 cookies instead of one, but what is it then? Our children just say out loud what we are thinking: it's boring, it's useless, or it's happening too fast. Let's not tell our children that they should become what we are. Instead, let's ask the big questions once again: why? How fast? And for whom? And this time, we include the children in the answers.
„Yes, you're right, this car ride takes forever and is really boring. Let's see how it feels to take another stop and run around a parking isle a few times. I will chase you. Do you want to join me?“