Domestic Abuse and Women – Know the Signs and Get Help

Nearly one-third of all women in the U.S. will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives.  This epidemic causes physical, mental, and emotional harm, for both the women abused and the children who witness it. Understanding the signs, and being able to recognize them in your own relationship or others, is key to being able to get help.

What Is Domestic Abuse and What Leads to It?
Domestic abuse is any abusive behavior—not just physical violence—perpetrated by someone against an intimate partner or family member. Anyone in a household may be a victim, but women are most often affected. The abuse may be physical violence, sexual violence, emotional or psychological abuse, and even financial or economic abuse, using money to exert control over someone.

What causes someone to commit domestic abuse is not always understood, but the desire to control and have power over the victim is considered a primary motivator. Substance abuse can also be an important contributing factor, although it is not a cause or an excuse for domestic abuse. Even prescription drugs, like narcotic pain killers, can lead to abuse and addiction that ultimately contribute to domestic violence. Drug recalls are important in limiting access, but there are also illicit drugs and alcohol that can lead to abuse and violence.

Signs of Domestic Abuse
It can be difficult to recognize domestic abuse in your own relationship, especially when it does not involve overt violence. Some signs your partner may be abusive include feeling afraid of your partner, feeling as if you can never do anything right, outbursts, being put down verbally, being limited by your partner when it comes to seeing friends and family or hearing or spending money, being threatened, or being physically harmed by your partner. It is often easier to see the signs in other women, but it is important to be able to recognize them in your own relationship. 

Asking for or Offering Help
The consequences of domestic abuse can be devastating and far-reaching, ranging from physical injuries to substance abuse and addiction, and even to death. This is why it is so important to get help if you find yourself in this situation, or to offer help if you know someone going through it. Getting help is hard, though. You may feel afraid to anger your partner or to lose your children. The only way it will stop is to get help.

You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline, at 1-800- 799-SAFE, but you can also reach out to someone you trust, like a friend. If you see someone else being abused, reach out. Your efforts to help may be rebuffed, but be persistent and non-judgmental. Offer to listen and to help, with the kids for instance, or with a place to stay. Domestic abuse has reached epidemic levels, but being aware and being prepared to help make a big difference.

Thanks to "team at"

How to Survive Caring for a "Challenging" Elder and Recognize the Early Signs of Dementia! Part III

Guest blog by Jacqueline Marcell
Author of Elder Rage, or Take My Father... Please! How To Survive Caring For Aging Parents
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Elder-Proof the House to Reduce Frustrations

There are things you can do to make navigation in the home easier for elders.

1. Even out the ridge on the floor in front of a doorway to make it easier for a wheelchair to get over.
2.Strategically placed grab-bars (even in the shower) will help to reduce falls.
3. Remove throw rugs as they are a hazard and easily tripped on.
4. Put glow tape around the perimeter of doorways so they are visible at night.
5. Place motion-sensing night-lights on the floor of their bedroom.
6. Put colored tape on the edges of stairs so they can be clearly seen. Adult Day Care is the Answer

Relying on the professionals at an Adult Day Care turned out to be the answer to getting my parents out of bed 23 hours a day "waiting to die," and giving them social, physical and intellectual stimulation during the day, so they'd sleep through the night. Yes, it was no small feat to get my father to go, but gradually, once he got into the swing of it, he really enjoyed it. Then, you can spend quality time with them in the evenings and on weekends and you will not be so burdened with their care 24 hrs a day.

Hiring Caregivers

When your loved one needs more care than you can provide, it is time to hire a caregiver.

Questions to ask when hiring a caregiver:

1. Does the person live close by; have a car, a valid driver's license, and current insurance?
2. Has he or she had elder care experience and can you call several references?
3. Is the person willing to be photographed and fingerprinted so you can do a search on his or her background?
4. If you're hiring through an agency, is that agency a member of state and national organizations that you can call to check on them?
5.What kind of background checks does the agency do? (If they refuse to give this information to you in writing, they probably have not done any background checks.)

A Success Story

A year later, after turning around a seemingly impossible situation, I knew it was all worth the horror and heartache to hear my father say he loved me again.

I felt so compelled by what I had lived through, I wrote a book so that others won't have to struggle as I did to figure out how to manage their elderly loved ones. The result: Elder Rage, or Take My Father… Please! How To Survive Caring For Aging Parents.

It's written with humor and I guarantee laughter out loud, as you learn everything you never wanted to know about eldercare but were afraid to ask. After the success story I include 70 pages of self-help, answers to the toughest questions, valuable resources and a renowned dementia specialist's chapter on medications. I'm honored to have 40+ prestigious endorsements including: Hugh Downs, Regis Philbin, the late Steve Allen, Dr. Dean Edell, Robert Stack, Dr. Bernie Siegel, Dr. Nancy Snyderman/ABC News, Duke University Center for Aging, Johns Hopkins Memory Clinic, Dr. Eric Tangalos/Mayo Clinic, Dr. Rudy Tanzi/Harvard Medical School .

How to Survive Caring for a "Challenging" Elder and Recognize the Early Signs of Dementia! Part II

The 10 Warning Signs of Dementia

1. Recent memory loss -- your loved one may ask you the same question over and over, look at a beloved granddaughter and ask her name, or forget that they just told you that story and tell you again.
2. Difficulty performing familiar tasks -- such as tying a necktie or shoelaces, or being unable to do the knitting they have enjoyed for many years.
3. Problems with language - using the wrong word or unable to remember the right word to use.
4. Disorientation of time and place -- mistaking a time period of hours for days, or giving incorrect directions in the town they have lived in for many years.
5. Poor or decreased judgment - for example, while babysitting they may completely forget about the child they are supposed to be watching.

6. Problems with abstract thinking -- inability to balance a checkbook, adding becomes difficult or they may insist that a one-dollar bill is a 20-dollar bill.
7. Inappropriate misplacing of things -- you might find the wristwatch in the sugar bowl, the iron in the microwave, or a hat in the freezer.
8. Rapid mood swings -- switching from tears to anger for no apparent reason.
9 Changes in personality -- you may notice a tendency toward fear and paranoia.
10. Loss of initiative -- your loved one may not want to get out of bed, withdraws socially or says they don't want to live anymore. Behavior Modification Techniques
Once the brain chemistry is properly balanced for the dementia, often-present depression and possible aggression, you will be able to start behavior modification techniques on a challenging elder if they are still in the very earliest stage of dementia.

As amazing as it sounds, the use of tough love coupled with rewards and consequences worked to turn around the most obstinate man on the planet: my father, even with the onset of dementia. By being 100% consistent, never rewarding his bad behavior and using lots of praise to encourage good behavior, he finally changed his negative life-long behavior pattern of screaming and yelling to get his way. He learned that he could (as Mom would say), "catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

How to Survive Caring for a "Challenging" Elder and Recognize the Early Signs of Dementia!

Guest blog by Jacquelie Marcell
Author of Elder Rage, or Take My Father... Please! How To Survive Caring For Aging Parents
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Caring for a "challenging" elder can be one of the hardest things you'll ever do. I know -- I went through a year of hell before I figured it out.

I had been the light of my father's life -- but with the onset of dementia he turned on me, doing and saying things that I would have never believed he could do. Having no experience with elder care, I just didn't get it. I thought it was just due to his bad temper of a lifetime and his need to control, which it was, but it was also the very beginning of dementia that intermittently made his actions even more illogical and irrational than ever before.

When he threw two little dilapidated hand towels at me, screaming and swearing at me for throwing them out, I was stunned and sobbed my heart out. With the knowledge I have now I'd say, "This seems illogical, this seems irrational. Red flag -- it is!" And I'd haul him off kicking and screaming to the Alzheimer's Association's best recommendation for a geriatric dementia specialist to be evaluated right away. I'd know not to waste time with his regular doctor who didn't specialize in dementia.

Recognizing Dementia Symptoms Before It's Too Late
The stereotype of a person with dementia (Alzheimer's is just one of many types) is that of someone who doesn't know what they are doing. That's Stage Three, but there is a long road before one gets there.

Dementia starts very intermittently and is generally ignored by families who think that these strange behaviors are just a normal part of aging: Stage One lasts two to four years; Stage Two lasts two to ten years; and Stage Three lasts one to three years. In the beginning, your loved one may have a raging temper tantrum and then suddenly be as sweet as pie. Because there are usually long periods of normalcy in-between, the tendency is to want to forget about the irrational incident instead of seeking treatment immediately.

Statistically families wait four years before they reach out for help -- usually after a crisis. By that time, however, the person has gone through Stage One and is starting into Stage Two already, which usually requires full-time care.

Getting medication for your loved one as soon as you recognize the early warning signs of dementia can slow its progress for two to four years doctors say, saving your family a lot of heartache and money. It will also save our society the burden of caring for so many elders who have progressed into Stage Two sooner than need be.

Consult a geriatric dementia specialist for the medications that may slow the progression of the dementia: Aricept, Exelon, and Reminyl.

How to Recognize and Shed Toxic Friends

Guest blog by Debbie Mandel
Author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

To feel happy and healthy we need to seek out what specifically brings us joy. High on the list is friendship. Instinctually, we gravitate to positive people to trigger positivism within ourselves. We look to our friends to interpret the big picture for us, to help us find a solution to dramatic problems that overwhelm us. We trust them with our secrets and often take their advice. However, over the years friends change and we change as well. Each decade reveals buried treasures of personality and personal growth. Careers, finances, status and intimate relationships undergo transformations. Our friends remember us way back when… And what if we should succeed? Jealousy, the green-eyed monster, slings its barbs, chipping away at our ability to trust. Et tu, Brutus? Here is how to recognize a toxic relationship and how not to fall apart. 

If your friend speaks to you sarcastically, and most of the remarks though they are housed in humor are basically insulting, eroding your self-esteem or your goals to move forward, this is the first sign of toxicity. Be alert and don’t ignore it. Put up your invisible shield of light to protect your heart.

If you are sick with a chronic and serious illness, have lost your job, or are getting a divorce and your friend keeps asking you for the smallest, most intimate details about your condition, this is a sign of well-meaning toxicity. While you need to separate your identity from that of your plight, get back into life, your friend sees you only as the problem and is fascinated by it as though watching a house on fire, yet doing nothing to put it out. This is a clear signal to alert your friend that you would rather not talk about it. Your friend sees you as an object of pity while you need empowerment to heal. Eventually, you will need to free yourself from this friendship.

If your friend tries to monopolize your time, possess you and limit your contact with others, by making you feel guilty of abandonment, then that friendship has become parasitic. Do not become enmeshed. Declare your independence.

If your friend is narcissistic, rarely complimenting you, tugging at your heart strings as to what you can do for her, calls you when it is convenient for her- even late at night, never remembering what is going on in your life, then be aware that you are being used and drained. Establish your boundaries, so that her soap opera does not become your soap opera. After awhile the same old story becomes redundant and boring. Friendship needs reciprocity.

To close the door on a friendship, gradually wean the two of you off one another. Speak less frequently on the phone. Meet for lunch or dinner with others, not alone, so that you can position yourself next to someone else in the group. Express your feelings honestly and try not to vent. Explain what is wrong. Listen to the answer- what is said as well as what is not said. See if you can salvage the relationship by clearing the air. Adopt a wait and see attitude. If the transgressions continue, let your friend know that it is not working for you.

As we get older, we have fewer friends and more acquaintances. We see with experienced eyes. We tend to expect more from our friends; perhaps we expect too much. Nevertheless, reserve judgment and forgive, but move on. Tap into your gut feelings. Just because you have a history with someone, doesn’t mean you need to keep on repeating it. We outgrow many things during the course of a lifetime and take many detours. During the course of our journey we make new friends and exchange our gifts with them. 

Valentine Tips

Guest blog by Dr. Jane Drew

Start practicing these tips now and create your best Valentine's Day ever!  And if you're
not in an intimate relationship right now, these tips will be priceless when you are. 

1. Little Things Are Big
Everyday kindnesses build good will in a relationship. Here are examples of thoughtful acts: pouring a cup of coffee, opening a door, clearing the table, saying "thank you," noticing small changes, smiling, looking directly at your partner, etc. Do these things often. You will feel wonderful because you're being generous to your loved one and he or she will feel cared for. These "little" things increase the size of your emotional bank account! 

2. The Magic of Touch
The largest organ of our body is our skin. Something magical and primal happens when we are touched with care -- we feel loved and connected. Remember to put your hand on top of her hand, put your arm around his waist. Just as passionate kisses convey your attraction, gentle kisses on the cheek convey tenderness. Holding hands, foot and back massages, a pat on the leg are demonstrations of your caring. S*e*x is a way to feel both deeply bonded and restored from the stresses of life. 

3. Look for the Best in Your Mate or Date
Studies show that in good marriages a person tends to have an overall, very positive concept of their partner. For example, when a man is rated on various strengths and qualities by his friends and by his wife, the happy wife rates the husband higher than the friends rate him. Look for and focus on the things you love and value in your mate. It makes everything better!

4. Keep the Foundation Strong
There is no doubt about it; we all live very busy lives these days. It's easy to let work, children, the house, the Internet and social engagements fill up every waking moment. However, if you want your relationship to stay strong, you must carve out time for one-on-one time together. How can you do this? You could take fifteen minutes to talk and connect when you both get home from work. You could have a weekly date night, go for a walk, play a game, or sit and talk by the fireplace. But you must keep the foundation strong or, without noticing, the house could weaken and crumble. 

5. Make It Safe
Both partners need to feel safe when they speak. When people are upset, this isn't easy... but here's a plan for how to listen and be heard. Agree to have one person be the listener and the other the speaker. The speaker shares his frustration a few sentences at a time. The listener repeats back only what the speaker has said. The listener keeps asking, "Is there anything more?" until the speaker is completely finished. Then trade places where the listener becomes the speaker. This helps both people slow down and feel understood. Both of you can then see
the other person has a different, but valid point of view.

6. Don't Assume - Check It Out
It is easy for all of us to see a behavior, hear certain words and assume what our partner meant by it (and usually it's not good!) I suggest that you check out with your partner what he meant rather than assuming he didn't call because he didn't care. Try saying something like this (in a calm tone): "I noticed you didn't call last night when you said you would. I felt
disappointed because I wanted to talk and connect. Would you tell me what happened?" 

7. Really Know Your Partner
Everyone wants to be known and loved for who they are -especially by their loved ones. To learn about your mate, pay attention to the details! Know his joys, likes, dislikes, fears and stresses. Find out about and remember the major events in her life. Know how he likes his coffee; know her favorite TV show. Pay attention to how he feels about his boss. One excellent way to get to know your partner is by playing a game called Let's Connect! (See information below.) Each of the eighty cards in this game has two or more questions or mini games... you'll have fun and know your partner much better.

8. No Criticism - No Blame
I've never met anyone who doesn't feel hurt by criticism; it's the human condition. So what can we do when we're frustrated? Stuffing our feelings in doesn't work either! Use this method: "When you... I feel..." In the "when you..." say what the person has said or done. In the "I feel..." use I-statements and talk about the feelings that came up for you -- feelings such as sad, hurt, frustrated, lonely. You are being vulnerable and letting your partner know what is going on with you. The purpose is to inform and become closer. You can also ask for what you want - just make sure it's not a demand (demands just don't work!)

9. Stay Connected
Being loved and connected is easy during pleasant and good times; yet it's even more important during hard times. The connection can be lost when we feel hurt, get too busy or bored. The "silent treatment" erodes connection. Notice when there's a disconnect, then do or
say something to reconnect. Use the speaker/listener method in #3 to ensure safety. If you are upset and need some time away, say, "I need to go out for a walk, but I will be back in 2 hours. I'll come find you and we can talk then." Your partner then feels connected and knows you'll be back to work it out. 

10. Create Your Own Rituals
Couples need a sense of shared meaning. Rituals are a great way to feel a sense of belonging and create meaning. The family gathering every Sunday for dinner is an example of a ritual. Create your own family traditions and customs for holidays. Toasting a loved one with a glass of champagne can be a birthday ritual. I suggest daily rituals with your partner. For example, hug and kiss before you leave for work. Every night before you go to sleep, you could ask each other, "What was the best part of your day?" 

Who Can Benefit From Gestalt Therapy?

Guest blog by Hanna Dolgin

Many methods of psychotherapy exist, with diverse theoretical understandings of the human personality and of what constitutes "mental health." For many people, the term "therapy" carries with it an association of illness and impairment, since it is used in the medical context (as in chemotherapy and physical therapy). Therefore, they think seeking psychotherapy is an admittal of being 'sick' or 'unbalanced' in some way.

Complex theories aside, Gestalt therapy is, in fact, a method of cultivating awareness of one's self in the moment. This awareness allows a person to become conscious of their internal process of thoughts, emotions, perceptions and sensations, which go largely unnoticed in the course of daily life. This internal process has a determining effect on our choices and on the outcomes of those choices, which make up our life. 

Many times, people act without realizing what makes them feel compelled to do so. For example, Julie may have had a dissatisfying conversation with her friend Jane, finding her to be distracted and unsympathetic, and then gone to the fridge to look for something to eat, even though she had just finished eating.

If Julie were aware of her emotions and physical sensations, she might find out that she is feeling the emotion of sadness, but is actually experiencing a feeling of fullness in her stomach. This awareness would help Julie make a more appropriate choice for her organism, such as seeking a way to release her sadness, for instance by expressing it to a supportive person. If no supportive person were available, Julie could internally understand and accept her own sadness. She might then choose to soothe herself by taking a hot bath, or she might choose to release energy by engaging in a physical activity, such as running or dancing. There is no one 'correct' way to handle a situation. When a person is aware of what she feels and needs, she will find what's best for her under the circumstances. 

Let's say that Julie's mother says: "Go see a movie, you'll feel better!" and Julie obediently goes to a movie. She may feel better after seeing a comedy, or may decide that her problem is insignificant after seeing a movie about a war or natural disaster. Another possibility is that she may find herself unable to get into the movie. If she is aware of her experience, she may realize that this movie isn't what she needs, and decide to leave before the end of the movie, and do something else.

Julie's state of mind will most likely have an effect on the way she interacts with the people she comes into contact with. If she is still feeling sad and disappointed but is unaware of what caused it, she may withdraw from others, feel lethargic or something of the sort. This, in turn, may cause her boyfriend to wonder why she isn't her usual lively self, and he may think it is due to the fact that he forgot to buy her flowers, or that perhaps she's losing interest in him. (As you see, things can get unnecessarily complicated.) 

When we are aware of our internal workings, we can communicate more effectively, first of all with ourselves. Julie can communicate consciously to herself: "I feel very disappointed and sad that Jane was so unsympathetic when I was telling her how my boss put me down in front of my co-workers at the meeting. I will tell her, at an appropriate time, how I feel. "

Julie may tell her boyfriend "I'm not in such a good mood tonight." When he asks why, she'll have an opportunity to tell him and hopefully get his support. This will also save him from trying to guess why, and from attributing her lack of enthusiasm to some imagined shortcoming of his own.

The above is a short and relatively simple example of how awareness, or the lack thereof, can play out in daily life. However, when people are unaware, they usually accumulate "heaps" of interactions that affect their lives and the lives of those they come into contact with, creating a tangled web of actions and reactions.

As a result, they may feel out of control, as though "things just keep happening to them". They may not know why they are having difficulty in their relationships, why they can't seem to control their eating habits, why they are having trouble sleeping at night, etc. This is because, as a result of their lack of awareness, they are missing crucial information regarding their motives for acting as they do, and their contributions to the situations they find themselves in.

If one is unaware, how does one go about gaining awareness? The way we learn is through practice. In a Gestalt therapy session, the therapist serves as an awareness coach, and gently assists the client by asking questions or setting up experiments that direct their attention to their experience in the moment. Through the therapist's training and experience, they have become more sensitive to their own internal process and can help their client regain access to her or his own. Gestalt therapy can be an invaluable tool in gaining the ability to monitor ourselves "in real time," thus having more internal clarity about our motives and desires. This allows us to make choices that are more in line with our deeper needs, and are more likely to bring about their fulfillment. Gradually, we can transition from feeling 'acted upon' by life's circumstances, to feeling that we have greater power to create our own reality and be active participants in the great dance of life.

What You Need to Know About Your Parents

Guest blog by Dale Atkins and Nancy Hass
Author of I'm OK, You're My Parents: How to Overcome Guilt, Let Go of Anger, and Create a Relationship That Works

To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child. For what is man's lifetime unless the memory of past events is woven with those of earlier times?--Cicero

The key to handling your parents is understanding them. Sometimes, especially when they are annoying you, the very idea of that is repellent. You don't want to understand their motives; you want to grumble about them, shrug your shoulders helplessly about how impossible they are, assure yourself that they're crazy. 

That's a completely natural reaction, but it's not useful. The only way for you to improve your chemistry with them is to know what forces shaped them. Just as you are shaped by your past (the humiliation of having your heart broken by that achingly beautiful girl in junior high school, the jubilance of overcoming a learning disability, the pain of your parents' divorce), so too are they people with a past every bit as poignant, surprising, and important as yours. You need to know that history in order to: 

...understand that when they try to manipulate, control, or demean you, they are often acting out dramas from their past that have little to do with you; 
...formulate an effective way to deal with them based on their vulnerabilities, sore spots, and "points of entry"; 
...develop empathy for them so you no longer feel threatened by them and can relate to them as an adult; 
...find common ground that will make it easier for you to create a more meaningful relationship, a relationship of equals. 

How to Dig Up the Dirt...It Can't Hurt to Ask 

As you read this, you may be thinking, I couldn't possibly just come out and ask my mother about her childhood. That would be too embarrassing for her . . . and for me. But you may be dead wrong. Your parents may be much more open to direct questions than you think. Many of my clients judge their parents' approachability by their own childhood standards of privacy, fear, and taboo. Because their childhood was scary and full of family secrets, they assume that their parents will be shocked if asked about their childhood. 

But these two things are not necessarily related, especially not in your parents' minds. Many parents enjoy answering questions about their childhood. To begin with, they're getting older, and as the human brain ages, it tends to favor long-term memory. That means your parents may now remember, perhaps fondly, details of their childhood that they thought they had forgotten. Also, if your parents are the types who demand a lot of attention, asking them these questions will help satisfy that need. They probably enjoy talking about themselves (Who doesn't?) and will be flattered by your interest. You may be surprised at how quickly and fully they open up -- provided that you deal with them skillfully. 


Choose a comfortable setting for this discussion, a place where they will not feel defensive. 
Think about what kind of interaction they handle best -- are they better talking "off the cuff," or do they need time to organize their thoughts and words? 

Be gentle. 
Be nonjudgmental. 

If it will help draw them out, be willing to share some of yourself. Major caveat: be sure you don't one-up them, bring up uncomfortable things from your childhood that involve them too directly, or monopolize the conversation. Remember, this is about them, not you. 
Ask follow-up questions. Don't let them drop an intriguing detail and then move on. If your mother says, "It was really hard for us because my parents were so poor and there were six kids," you reply, "That must have been tough. What was the hardest thing you remember about being poor?" 

Gently dig for stories, not just impressions. Specific anecdotes tell the important truths. Your father may say his own father was a disciplinarian, but what did that mean? Try to elicit a story that demonstrates how strict your grandfather was with your father. Remember, the story he chooses to tell is the one that is the "money," the one that will tell you a lot about what discipline -- or lack of it -- means to your dad. 
Probe for the opposites. If your dad just talks about negatives ("My mother was very cold; she never said she loved me"), ask if there were positives too ("Did you have any surrogate-parent types in your life? Did you get love elsewhere?"). If your mother only speaks in glowing terms ("I was a superstar in high school"), gently ask if there was any downside ("Did you feel a lot pressure to perform?"). 

How to Get the Ball Rolling 

Always begin with a neutral, nonthreatening observation or question. Then steer the conversation toward the topic you're interested in. 

Here are a few opening gambits you might adapt to your situation. 

"Dad, I've always been jealous of how well you X (shave, cook, organize the bills . . . ). Did your father teach you that?" 
"Mom, I was looking through some old photos of you and Aunt Jean, and you guys looked so cute and happy in your poodle skirts. And Grandma looked so young and proud. Were things as happy for you back then as they look?" 
"You know so much about the Civil War, Dad. Were you interested in it when you were a little kid. No? Then what were you interested in back then? What were you like back then? It's hard for me to imagine. I'd love to have met you then. What were you like as a kid?" 
You may find many keys in their childhood. Perhaps you don't have the expertise to analyze all their answers like a trained therapist (Her mother yelled at her a lot, so that's why she sometimes pulls that martyr crap with me), but you can reflect on their answers, and that may give you innovative ideas on how to deal with them. Many clients who delve in earnest into their parents' pasts find a cache of unrealized dreams and aspirations: a father who dreamed of being a professional athlete until a knee injury sidelined him forever; a mother who wanted to go to college but wound up pregnant at seventeen. You may think that you're the only one who had your dreams thwarted, but maybe that's not true. Be careful -- you may discover that your parents are much more like you than you think. 

Here's a good example from my life. My father was a navy pilot during World War II, stationed in the Pacific. After the war, he and two friends wanted to stay in Hawaii and start a small cargo-shipping company, but my mom, who'd been raising my older sister at her parents' home on the mainland, didn't want to move that far. Dad was an easygoing guy and agreed to come back to New Jersey, but I know he always wondered what would have happened if he had stayed in Hawaii. That little company his pals started became one of the biggest in the Pacific Rim. 

Disappointment colors people's lives and can have a profound effect on their families. It can be painful to find out about such things, but it's crucial that you do so if you ever hope to see your parents as fully realized beings. 

Knowledge of their past will give you empathy for them. You may find that their childhoods were much more similar to yours than you thought, that they echo the chilliness in your youth or the overpowering expressions of concern that made you feel smothered.

Or you may be surprised to find that their impressions of their own childhood are in direct conflict with what you've heard from other family members or what you experienced in watching them deal with your grandparents. (I've had many clients whose parents describe their own childhood as idyllic, though the clients themselves remember volcanic fights between the parents and the grandparents.) 

This is all grist for the mill of your empathetic imagination. Remember, just as you want to be respected for your memories of childhood, they too are heavily invested in their childhood stories, despite the fact that those memories may not be entirely accurate.

As you explore the past with them, you may even find buried clues that will help you help them get in touch with some of their more tender, vulnerable memories and experiences. 
Copyright © 2004 Dale Atkins and Nancy Hass

We Must Stop The Cycle of Violence

Guest blog by B. J. Mitchell

For years our society has turned a blind eye to the crimes against women and children that occur behind closed doors. The old saying that "a man's home is his castle" has been taken to mean that whatever happens in the home is no one's business and should not be interfered with. Gradually, some states have passed strict laws that require any person who works with children to report to law enforcement any sign of abuse to a child. That is a major breakthrough in the battle against domestic violence.

Unfortunately, there are millions of children who have no visible bruises but who regularly suffer emotional and psychological abuse. They are warned (usually by mom) never to tell a soul about the abuse, and they never do. They suffer in silence and then grow up to abuse their dates as teens and their own children as adults. Thus, the cycle of violence continues and grows. Teens from abusive homes are 25 times as likely to abuse their dates than those from non-abusive homes. These children are not identified and for them there is no help available.

The statistics are horrifying, but largely go unrecognized or unacknowledged: 62% of teen mothers are prior victims of sexual abuse, primarily from step-fathers, mother's boyfriends, family members, and other they trust; 66% of children of teen mothers are fathered by adult men, 20 years or older; 33% of teen girls are in an abusive dating relationship before they are out of high school; 50% of dating women suffer physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from their dating partners; 35% of women who are killed in the U.S. are murdered by a boyfriend or husband, 25% of them are 15-24 years old. And so the violence continues, spiraling upward as millions of children grow up thinking that violence and abuse are a normal way of life. 

My own childhood was marred by emotional and psychological abuse by an abusive, alcoholic stepfather. I had no visible bruises or scars, and I would never, ever have told anyone. The person with visible bruises, my mother, would have been mortified at the thought of friends, neighbors, or even family knowing what she was suffering. I never spoke of it until, in my senior years, I sat down to write a proposal designed to help children who won't tell. My proposal is centered on a community listing of counselors and psychologists who agree to accept anonymous phone calls from children who are in abusive homes. The counselor would help them cope with their environment and counsel them on how to distinguish between abuse that is non-life-threatening and that which is bad enough to advise the child to talk to a counselor about it openly so they can get some protection from law enforcement. 

When I began to work with my pastor to set up such a program, I ran into objections from a church official who feared that my program would undermine the law requiring disclosure. In order to continue my effort to reduce the cycle of violence, my church will be working with children who have at least one parent already convicted of child abuse, so there can be no fear of hiding anything from the police.

One person, one church, cannot change the face of an incredibly abusive society, but if it were to become a pursuit of many people in many churches, change would eventually come. Details of the proposed program can be found in a children's fable titled The Huckenpuck Papers: the tale of a family's secret and a young girl's search for self esteem, by P.J. Pokeberry.

Weaving the Fabric of Our Friendships

Guest blog by Joy Carol
Author of The Fabric of Friendship: Celebrating the Joys, Mending the Tears in Women's Relationships

Have you ever lost a friend and didn't have a clue what happened? Have you and a friend had a disagreement that got blown out of proportion and suddenly you no longer talked to each other? Have you been shocked when a friend stopped communicating with you? At some time, most of us will experience a complication or miscommunication with a friend that may leave a scar on our hearts.

Alice and Ginger were inseparable best friends as they grew up. But when they were in their 40s, they had a conflict that tore their friendship apart. "Ginger and I were very close; we shared secrets and problems," explained Alice. "Not a week went by that we didn't talk. Then Ginger started acting strange. When I sent her e-mails, she didn't answer. If I called and asked to have lunch, she said she was busy and would get back to me. But she didn't.

"One day in the supermarket, I saw Ginger: 'I'm confused about what's going on. Is something wrong?' She just shrugged her shoulders and walked away. Over the next weeks, she ignored me. I finally reached her on the phone and was told we were no longer friends that she didn't want me around. I had no idea what had happened. Eventually I gave up on our friendship, but it was devastating. It left an enormous hole in my life." 

Undoubtedly this kind of break is very painful, especially if one friend decides to end the relationship without providing an opportunity to discuss what happened, what was misunderstood, or what could be changed. Losing a friendship can be as upsetting as experiencing the death of someone close to us. Yet, we rarely speak about it, nor do we feel comfortable discussing how we might deal with such losses. 

Sometimes when a friendship ends, we feel guilty, as if we did something wrong. We may pretend that the break never occurred. If someone notices and asks us what happened, we nervously answer, "we had a disagreement." And, like Alice, we try to change the subject. 

In contrast, when a relationship with a spouse or a lover ends, it's expected that we talk about it and cry about our pain. We're allowed to complain openly about the problems of infidelity, financial troubles, alcohol or drug abuse, and any other difficulties that caused the relationship to end. If we turn on our radio to a popular station, we hear songs about sweethearts getting away, about broken hearts scattered on the road of love. But such is not the case with friendship. Why is it so different? 

In strong friendships, we feel accepted, supported, and loved. These relationships are enjoyable and beneficial. Often, however, the experience of friendships can be confusing and complicated. They can be encouraging or debilitating, trusting or disloyal, joyful or painful. It's baffling that some friendships have the power to sustain people even more than their families do, while others can devastate and destroy.

When friendships shatter, there are other dimensions to consider. Possibly we feel grateful, even flattered, when people choose us as friends. So when a non-obligatory, non-family relationship ends, we may feel like a failure. Perhaps we believed friendships were less complicated and more stable than family or love-related relationships. Consequently, if we reveal that our friendships have ended, we are admitting that we drove our friends away because they saw our defects. Thus, talking about an "ex-friend" causes us to feel vulnerable and inferior.

Usually friendships develop because of shared interests or common values. We choose friends because they appeal to us or they represent the person who we long to be. So when we find someone we think will be our "special friend," it's an exciting and stimulating time. We hope the relationship won't be burdened with problems, and it's only natural that we expect our friend to be supportive, reassuring, and dependable. Consequently we endow friendships with a naïve and unrealistic trust that friends will be available to us as long as we need them. 

But there is no real basis for thinking friendships should last forever. In reality, there are many reasons why they end. For starters, friendships are just as complicated as family or love relationships. Unspoken feelings and needs, envy, competition, personal ambition, unresolved anger, and lack of boundaries can easily wreak havoc on relationships. Friends do move away emotionally and physically from each other into realms of life that might not be familiar or comfortable for both people. Occasionally we discover that our friends are totally different than the people we thought we knew. Sometimes our friends-or we ourselves-find something new and more exciting than what the friendship has to offer and move on. The reasons are myriad.

Without a doubt, the disintegration of a friendship can be painful and sometimes devastating. This loss can leave an empty space in our lives that is difficult to fill. It's unlikely that we'll find another person with the same temperament, personality, even the imperfections, that attracted us and brought about our relationship. 

However, it is possible and beneficial for us to learn how to have healthier relationships, so we won't run the risk of being disappointed, disillusioned, or hurt. Karen, a medical technician in her mid-twenties, explains how this can happen. "Isabel and I met in college and became close buddies; we had so much in common. We laughed and cried our way through boyfriends, exams, graduate work. We were always there supporting each other. We pledged to speak honestly with one another, even when it was difficult.

"At one point, I felt like Isabel wasn't there for me, that she had let me down. But I didn't want to tell her that she had hurt me. I wasn't accustomed to telling women anything negative. Soon I started drifting away from Isabel. I imagined how I would 'punish' her by leaving her. Then I came to my senses. I didn't want to lose her, because she had been a wonderful friend for a long time. How could I replace her friendship? 

"For a while, I avoided saying anything to Isabel. I was afraid I might say the wrong thing and make matters worse. Finally I realized how important it was for us to talk about what had happened and to work things out. So I got the courage to speak with her. I tried not to make her feel defensive, not to accuse her of letting me down, but to tell her that I felt let down. 

"Isabel was more open than I thought she would be. In fact, she was relieved that I opened the door to resolving our problem. This encounter actually strengthened our relationship. Now we're more willing to express concerns and air problems that come up rather than let them simmer under the pretense that all is well. I'm confident that in the future we will share openly our feelings and needs. Certainly my unwillingness to say what I felt almost caused our friendship to fail. I doubt we will ever be in danger of that happening again."

As Karen and Isabel's story points out, developing reliable, workable relationships requires a great deal of effort, courage to be honest, patience, and compassion-for our friends and ourselves. If we add doses of maturity and wisdom to the mix, we will be on our way to more satisfying friendships.

To enrich or improve the quality of our relationships, it's helpful if we recognize and understand what makes friendships more wholesome. Although there are many components that make up an authentic relationship, these three are especially important: 
1. Know and accept ourselves for the people we are
2. Be realistic about what "friendships" are
3. Learn to communicate our needs and feelings in healthy ways

1. Know and accept ourselves for the people we are

To have solid friendships, we first start by becoming familiar and comfortable with ourselves. Self-awareness and self-esteem are key ingredients in all relationships. If we know who we are, either we are satisfied with our own resources and talents, or we can try to improve and enhance them. When we have positive feelings about ourselves, we won't frantically cling to relationships for our self-worth. 

Another valuable benefit of self-acceptance is that we are less sensitive and defensive about criticism, disapproval, negative comments, or rejection. Small problems roll more easily off our backs, and we aren't as emotionally concerned about how we are perceived. We can recognize if harsh comments aimed at us are deserved or if they are misdirected or projected from someone's negative feelings about themselves. 

When we feel comfortable with ourselves, we can laugh at some of our silly reactions and less-than-wise endeavors. An "armor" of humor can protect us from a lot of anguish and grief while giving joy to others. 

2. Be realistic about what "friendships" are

Like life itself, friendships and friends are not perfect nor are they consistent; they have both good and bad qualities. When we know and accept ourselves, we are able to let go of unreasonable assumptions about what friendships should be, and we can appreciate friends for who they are with their strengths and weaknesses. Often what we want to believe is a "friend" really isn't, and it's difficult to determine whether someone is a real friend. True friends are there through good and bad times; they accept us when we aren't our best; they easily handle changes in our relationship; and they are open to talking over things that go awry. Some "friends" are women we've grown accustomed to having around, even though they might not be very caring or supportive. Others are essentially givers of pain and negative energy, but we still think of them as "friends." We need to examine this last category and decide whether to move on. 

Another unrealistic expectation is that our "best friend" can be all things for us. But that's not possible, nor healthy. No one friend, sister, spouse, or parent can be everything for anyone. Often women are disappointed and sometimes dumped, because a "best friend" couldn't meet their needs. Having a variety of friends will keep us more balanced and help us meet our diverse needs. As in every aspect of life, it's better not to put all our eggs in one basket. After all, most friendships do end at some time. Friends move, die, become ill, or get involved in all-consuming activities or relationships that don't allow time for us. So cultivating new friends is a good strategy.

By evaluating and recognizing friendships for what they are, we will find that some relationships are worth putting energy into and others are not worth pursuing. Occasionally no matter what we do, friends exit our lives without our ever knowing why. Such ex-friends may not be brave or mature enough to explain their reasons. Rather than stewing about that or endlessly struggling to reclaim the friendship, it's better to cut our losses and move on. With a more realistic perspective about friendship, we can approach relationships in a wholesome manner and enjoy them for what they truly are.

3. Learn to communicate our needs and feelings in healthy ways

Women who have self-worth are more capable of being truthful about their needs and feelings. Many women, out of their desire to be accepted, appear confused about what they want or need. They say what they think others want to hear. If we inform friends who we are and what our limits are, they likely will enjoy and respect the authentic us more than the counterfeit one. Also we can steer clear of being used by stating a firm no rather than a wishy-washy yes. Of course, we too need to respect our friends' limits and needs.

On the other hand, we may miss opportunities for growth, because we are too easily hurt. The potential to learn something about ourselves can be blocked by overreacting to critical comments or being thin-skinned. If we can openly consider our friends' suggestions and criticisms, we may learn something about ourselves. 

Although airing problems may seem risky, it's better than heading down the road of failed friendships. Talking about difficulties in non-accusatory tones and clarifying misunderstandings without inflicting guilt are healthy ways to resolve complications. Relationships become more workable when we use straightforward words that communicate what we mean rather than "beating around the bush." Friends appreciate not having to guess what we're saying. However, whenever we speak frankly, kindness should be practiced. Brutal honesty is cruel and damaging-and unnecessary. 

Finally, as singer Janis Joplin said, "Don't compromise yourself. You're all you've got." If we know and accept ourselves, are realistic about what "friendships" are, and clearly communicate our needs and feelings, we will have stronger, more wholesome friendships. 

What If I Find It Difficult To Trust My Spouse"t To Trust My Spouse

Guest blog by Shannon Eldridge
Author of The Passion Principles: Celebrating Sexual Freedom in Marriage

I’ll never forget the sound of Tonya sobbing uncontrollably over the telephone as we talked about the many ways she was driving her husband (and herself!) nuts. She would intercept every magazine that came in the mail and cut out every picture of any woman whom she perceived as even possibly “prettier” than her. When I asked her why she felt that need, at first her reply was, “Isn’t it my responsibility to keep my husband from lusting after other women?” 

“No, Tonya, it’s not your responsibility. You can’t control anyone but yourself, and your husband can’t be controlled by anyone other than himself. You realize that, right?” I inquired. 
“I guess, but I still feel as if I have to control his environment. When we’re at dinner parties, if he leaves the table to go to the bathroom, I go to the bathroom too, just in case there’s some other woman along the way that wants to try to talk to him,” she confessed.
“How does your husband feel about you following him to the bathroom?” I asked.
Tonya admitted that it probably drives him crazy, and that the fact she would even feel the need to do such a thing drove her crazy too. We talked quite a while longer about the great lengths she would go to in order to “control his environment.” Basically, this guy didn’t make a move without his wife knowing about it. And both were panicked over what it might mean if any of her suspicions were ever confirmed.

“Have you ever heard of a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy,’ Tonya?” I asked, going on to explain that sometimes we create the very behavior in someone else that we are trying so desperately to control, simply by being so controlling. When someone gets the message loud and clear, “I don’t trust you. I can’t trust you!” then guess what? They begin to believe it themselves. They are brainwashed by their own spouse into thinking, “I’m untrustworthy.” So then they simply act in accordance with what they believe about themselves. We can create the very unstable relationship that we fear most—all because of our own insecurities!

Truth be told, I’ve talked with numerous “Tonyas” in my life-coaching practice, as well as many “Toms” (the male version). Their tactics have included:
• Forcing their spouses to go to counseling in spite of their unwillingness to do so, sometimes to deal with issues that only exist in their own heads.
• Following their cars to see if they go where they said they were going after work.
• Stalking Facebook pages, text messages, e-mails, etc.
• Privately asking their spouses’ coworkers to comment on his/her office behavior. 
• Enlisting a friend to “spy” on them at the fitness center, or worse, to even pretend to flirt with them simply to see how they’d respond.

My best advice to anyone who feels compelled to go to such great lengths to “follow up” on a spouse’s faithfulness or “set a trap” to catch him or her in the act—professional help is definitely needed, but you may be more in need of it than your spouse! And if you indeed discover that there is an issue that warrants your concern, I hope you’ll both get counseling rather than just expecting your spouse to deal with his or her issue alone. It takes two to tango in any dysfunctional relationship dance.

Marlene has experienced both extremes – being externally motivated by a controlling husband, and being internally motivated thanks to a trusting husband. She shares these words of warning and encouragement:

“I’ve travelled for business on a regular basis for the last twelve years. The first five of those years I was in a controlling, manipulative marriage where I was expected to phone at a certain time each day, my suitcase was scrutinized to see what I was packing and if I had a bathing suit with me. I would do laps in the hotel’s pool, but the interpretation was that I was trolling for men. I was grilled on who I met with, whether they were male or female, what I wore . . . you get the idea. 

“The behavior certainly didn’t motivate me to honor his demands and, in fact, did become a self-fulfilling prophecy, eventually leading me into an extra-marital affair. Don’t misunderstand—I’m not saying my husband’s actions were responsible for my affair. Clearly that was a choice I made myself, out of low self-esteem and a need to find affirmation. I contrast those first five years with the past two years since I’ve remarried and I’m so grateful that my new husband gives me the benefit of the doubt. I’m highly motivated to let him know I arrived safely somewhere and to text him throughout the day to let him know how things are going. He trusts me completely and, as a result, I respond in kind and honor his trust. The responses the two different behaviors elicit are night and day. Everyone needs to understand that negative actions result in negative responses.” 

Do you have this kind of unwavering trust in your marriage, or might there be some “self-fulfilling prophecies” in the making? If the latter is a truer statement, what do you think your own relational insecurities communicate to your mate—1) I have a high enough self-esteem to expect my spouse to be fully committed to me, or 2) I have such a low self-esteem that I automatically assume that no one would ever be faithful to someone like me? Your answer to that question will most likely reveal a lot more about yourself than it does about your spouse.
Before you let your own personal insecurities ooze out and ruin the very fibers of your relational rug, consider taking the high road. See if you’re able to make the following declarations to your spouse:

• I believe in you 100 percent and I trust you completely.
• Although you’re a fallible human being, I know your conscience will be your guide. I trust you have the Holy Spirit guiding you.
• I don’t feel the need to go behind your back to check up on you, and that feels really good. 
• If I have any concerns about your marital faithfulness, I will ask you with complete confidence that you will be honest with me, regardless of what the answer may be.
• As we continue “putting all of our emotional eggs in each other’s baskets” from day to day, I have no doubt that you’ll treat my heart as carefully as I will treat yours.

Always remember that a person is innocent until proven guilty, and keep your personal insecurities in check as your own issues to deal with, rather than turning the tables and letting them evolve into relational poison. And as you put this kind of stock in your spouse’s character and integrity, I believe that it will yield a tremendous amount of compound interest! Your spouse will undoubtedly want to rise to the occasion and prove incredibly worthy of your trust.

God, please show me how to inspire rather than require
sexual integrity from my spouse such that I never create a “self-fulfilling prophecy.” Help us trust one another completely, or at least trust the Holy Spirit inside one another. Help us to be as faithful to each other as You are to us.

Twenty Four Buckets

Guest blog by Wickham Boyle

Through the magic of email I received the draft of an article by Noeleen Heyzer, director of the United Nations Development Fund for Women, litanizing what it takes to care for a single AIDS patient in rural Zimbabwe. The message is a clarion call intended to coincide with the conference on AIDS being held this month in Barcelona. The essential message was daunting, stupefying and pointed fingers at all the civilized world for withholding
medicines and even simple running water, further exacerbating the impoverished economics of the sufferers. But beyond those facts was a simple truth; when one women was asked what it took to care for an AIDS patient on a daily basis she calmly replied 24 buckets of water.

This is not 24 light plastic buckets that are filled from a faucet in the bathroom; getting water is a physical commitment. Often a well is not any closer than an long walk from the house. Water is a rare commodity in many parts of Africa and most often it is the women who, in our vernacular, schlep for it. 

Sometimes in summer when the wash from American children who can not abide being dirty or sweaty from camp cloths or spilled ice cream reaches a critical state, I get testy. Why is there so much wash, why are there so many showers, why are the lights left on and the air conditioner turned up to freezer level so we can live our normal insulated lives? I complain about the too much quality of my life as a woman balancing work with the care and joys of a home, but I am stopped in my tracks by the shockingly simple truth that
it takes my counter part in Zimbabwe 24 buckets of hard won water to care poorly for an AIDES patient in her country.

I have lived in Africa. I spent time in countries where streets in a capital city have no street signage because only ten percent of the population is literate, so why waste time with signs. I have witnessed poverty and learned the techniques that allow some of us from the very first world to live or spend time in the most heinous conditions in the rural world. We have to become inured somewhat to the terror or else we could not work and function. We would weep and watch. So one learns to move through what you see and focus on the small tasks at hand.

Seventeen summers ago I was pregnant with my first child, and caring for my first friend to die of AIDS. As I grew more rotund with my daughter, my sweet Greg withered. We knew so little of AIDS then. The hospital rooms were marked with a logo resembling a nuclear attack site and care givers were encouraged to wear protective garb. Somehow I felt divinely protected and so did nothing more than visit constantly wearing big, loose cotton dresses and carrying food. I made custards, pies, casserole and spooned in tiny portions. I rubbed his feet, the only part where there was enough meat left not to be annoyed by
touching. I did so little and in such modern circumstances and still I felt depleted by every visit and by all the crazy machinations I concocted in my head regarding a means to save my dearest friend, the man who was to be my daughter’s god-father.

And no now years later we know how the disease has spread, we have some methods to slows its growth, it is no longer a secret but a dirty shame on all our lips. Still the means to care for and cure seem eons away.

I imagine the woman carrying water at day break does not jump start a chart that ticks off one bucket and keeps a count until around midnight she collapses on her mat finished for the day with bucket 24. Often she will be roused in the middle of the night to serve some need with the howls of fearful animals echoing in the background. No well at that hour. 

To honor and support all the work that woman do in fighting this crisis is my only choice today. To remember my friend as his summer birthday rolls around is a bittersweet joy. And to be mindful, deeply mindful of the water I drew for this coffee, the faucet that flowed to wash my hands and the two loads of wash that lie folded on my clean kitchen table is to celebrate a daily life, sadly beyond many women’s imaginings.      July 10, 2002

This Thanksgiving, Be Thankful He's Not the Cheating Kind

Guest blog by Ruth Houston
Author of Is He Cheating on You? 829 Telltale Signs

This Thanksgiving, any wife whose husband isn't cheating on her has a lot to be thankful for. Faithful husbands are in short supply. Most wives assume their husbands are faithful. But only 1 wife in 4 can truthfully make that claim. 

Infidelity has reached epidemic proportions and now affects 80% of all marriages today. According to statistics, 3 out of 4 husbands are cheating on their wives. So be thankful if your husband is not the cheating kind. 

An estimated 38 to 53 million women are victims of infidelity. In one study, over 65% of the cheating husbands admitted to having had more than one extramarital affair. Studies also indicate that 2/3 of the wives whose husbands are cheating on them (approximately 26 million women) have no idea their husbands are having an affair. The wife truly is the last to know.

In the face of statistics like these, you can see why a faithful husband is indeed something to be thankful for. 

4 of Many Reasons to Be Thankful

Though many husbands are having extramarital escapades, there's still a small minority of men who are not the cheating kind. Despite the prevalence of infidelity, these faithful husbands remain true to their marriage vows. If you're fortunate enough to be married to one, this Thanksgiving you have at least four things you can be thankful for:

** Be thankful your marriage and family are still intact.

** Be thankful the time and energy you've invested in your marriage have not been in vain.

** Be thankful you don't have to deal with the mental and emotional trauma that infidelity brings.

** Be thankful you don't have to agonize over the decision of whether to end your marriage or struggle to get it back on track.

And if you're not sure whether or not your husband is the cheating kind? Then be thankful you read this article.

The Rules for One Night Stands

Guest blog by Melinda Gallagher, M.A., and Emily Scarlet Kramer
Author of A Piece of Cake: Recipes for Female Sexual Pleasure

The number-one piece of advice women give to each other is to know yourself and the context, and be sure of what you want. Set boundaries on one-night stands, boundaries that are both emotional and physical. To have a good casual encounter, you have to protect and assert your own needs, along with respecting what your partner wants. 

After all, what's the point of getting down if it doesn't feel good? If we could be assured that our orgasm would be a priority, then it would seem that casual sex encounters would look a lot more attractive to a lot more of us. A sexy smile can last only so long, and once the romp begins, we are looking for the skills to match our attraction. 

During her first one-night stand, Jennifer (24) hit the jackpot. It was the holidays and most of her college friends were out of town. All alone in the big city, she decided it would be fun to hit one of her favorite wine bars for her first solo bar experience. After a few glasses of wine, she strolled over to a group of five men who had just come in after work. Feeling confident and independent, she decided she would try going home with a stranger for the first time. After about an hour of speaking to one guy whom she was particularly attracted to and felt comfortable with, she asked him if he'd like to leave with her. He responded by grabbing her arm and pulling her out the door. 

Without exchanging names or any personal information, they got in a cab and drove uptown to his apartment. Once inside, he slowly undressed her and laid her on his bed, then took his clothes off. He was a very good partner: He was verbal, which she found terribly exciting, and was careful to take his time, making sure she was sated. Jennifer swears he went down on her more than ten times. After their romp had concluded, she got dressed and slipped back into the night, feeling just a bit guilty because he kept asking her to stay. The next morning, she still couldn't believe what had happened. She never would have imagined something like that was within her command. 

Unfortunately, we may not all be lucky enough to come upon a partner with mad skills. Frankly speaking, many men do not know their way around female pleasure, and in the case of an unfamiliar body are either clueless or careless. This is when we have to take matters into our own hands. It's up to us to let the new boy on the block know exactly what we need, even if he's going to be around for just one night. Casual sex can be an opportunity to demand that male partners get with the equality program by putting our orgasm on the same level as theirs. 
Copyright © 2005 Melinda Gallagher, M.A., and Emily Scarlet Kramer

The Gift of it really possible?

Guest blog by Karen Kah Wilson, Ed.D.PCC
Author of Transformational Divorce: Discover Yourself, Reclaim Your Dreams, and Embrace Life's Unlimited Possibilities

Traumatic, sad, depressing, stuck, unwanted, frightening, lonely, angry, impossible, back-sliding, stressed, isolated, overwhelmed, unlovable, confused, lost, shame….these and many other words had crossed my mind during the beginning stages of my tenure divorce. And then, one day, after a long cry and an "anxiety attack" I started to laugh. The "deer caught in the headlight" image of myself had gotten boring, stale and unproductive. And more important than that, it wasn't reflecting the whole truth of my life since the divorce! I took out an untouched journal that one of my married friends gave me in chicken soup fashion saying that it "would help." (Then she ran back home hoping that the "divorce virus" that I was carrying was not contagious.) I made the following list of things that I had done that I would never have done if I were married:

· Learned how to start and use the lawn mower
· Went on a vacation to tennis camp on my own (ordered room service to my heart's delight)
· Got long acrylic fingernails and painted them red
· Painted my bedroom lavender and hung romantic Victorian curtains
· Bought new expensive sheets for my bed with a 300 thread count (I had never heard of thread counts before)
· Fixed the clothes washer after flooding the basement 3 times (lint was clogging the drain, who knew?)
· Got a make-over at the cosmetic counter
· Spent time with women friends
· Started meeting cool men (why did I think I wanted him anyway?)
· Got in to debt and out of debt
· Celebrated holidays with the kids "my way"
· Survived a major snow storm and shoveled the driveway on my own

Welcome to a new take on divorce! One which realizes that whether we were the one who initiated the divorce or were informed that it was happening; all kinds of new directions are possible when one life stage ends. No, it is not easy, and the road to happiness may be long and sometimes frightening, but, think of it as a fresh start and give yourself permission to laugh as you face situations that you had never confronted before (like eating at a lovely restaurant on your own and being ignored by waiters) and achieving new accomplishments (like tearing down the wall in your basement and making a meditation room.)

At this point in the presentation I share with my clients, they look at me with a confused stare. I have a smile on my face and they are feeling grief, anger or worse, fear. I understand these emotions well as a psychologist, divorce coach and divorced woman. What I didn't understand at the beginning of my divorce journey, however, was that after an initial time period where we struggle to come to grips with the reality that our lives are going to change, what we feel is actually a choice that we make, a very important choice. If I had understood that back then, my life would have taken a different turn. 

Until recently, when an expert talked about how to navigate the obstacle course of any emotional turmoil, they would make recommendations based on their experiences or the experiences and impressions of others. This, naturally, caused the public to wonder what is the truth, what can really help me? Lately, new technology has allowed researchers to examine what happens in the brain during emotional moments. This has lead to a new "science" of feelings and some clear, scientific recommendations about how we can really help ourselves when we feel emotionally trapped. I found that a basic understanding of these new discoveries helped motivate me to take action. Here is a "lite" explanation of feelings and the brain:

The amygdala versus the neocortex
When we are struggling with the many challenges that confront us during divorce, two key parts of the brain vie for control within us. First is the amygdala which is responsible for our primitive survival instincts. It is activated by fear or fearful thoughts. This may include thoughts such as not having enough money, losing custody of our children, never finding love and companionship again. This fear causes us to respond with fighting, fleeing or freezing. Sound familiar? I remember many nights of sitting "frozen" in front of the television or in my bed. I know women with whom I work are "caught" by their amygdala when they report that they are "stuck" in their life and not able to make any changes. These women are depressed, resentful, angry (the fight response), sleep a lot (the flight response) and think about their worries and fears over and over again. I was interested to learn that the more we are engaged in fearful thoughts, the more this type of thinking becomes a habit. We can become trapped in a cycle which breeds more and more negative thinking. Does this sound familiar? Do you feel stuck with the negativity of your life?

The hero for this situation is the part of our brain that is responsible for thought and high level intellectual functioning called the "neocortex." When you give yourself permission to think about your choices and push yourself to envision a productive, meaningful future, then the neocortex is in charge instead of the amygdale. You are now able to take action and make things change in your life. 

In summary, we have a choice-we can think of ourselves as victims of divorce or as powerful women who are ready to take steps (even small steps) towards creating the life that we want. This is not an easy process, but it is an essential one. A process that can lead you to a life where you are happier than you have ever been before.

It all begins with a vision of a joyful future. Remember that as long as you are caught by constant negative thoughts about how you are not living the life that you want, the more you are activating your amygdale and staying stuck in fear. Try a different direction for your thoughts. For example, consider this: if, in five years, you were able to create the ideal life, the life that you have always dreamed about, what would it be like? Allow yourself to imagine your ideal house, job, mate, social activities and other life aspects. This is your dream make it audacious! This dream and the freedom to take action toward this dream is one of the biggest gifts of divorce. Why?

When we are married we have to make compromises. That is normal and a part of being a good partner. Now, that you are on your own, the possibilities are limitless! You can focus on what you want and orient your life around a strategy designed to bring your fondest wishes into your life. Creating this new, wonderful life does take planning, patience and perseverance. It will be like running a marathon--a long 26 mile jog, up hills and down hills. With the right pacing you can cross the finish line a winner.

Divorce can transform your life. Imagine yourself on a long and winding road. Behind you is the life that was-your marriage. Ahead of you lies open road -- terrain yet to be explored. Possibilities. That is my favorite word about this time. Your life is full of possibilities if you allow yourself to stay positive and focused on what you really want. 

While not knowing what is going to happen can be a bit frightening, having no pre-determined plans to clutter your future can be considered the most cherished gift of your divorce. Having the opportunity to start most segments of your life without any expectations, a time that can be focused on you and only you is an amazing gift. Gather together the support that you need, friends (old and new), family, a coach, and start moving toward your dreams today. Transform your dreams into a beautiful reality. The gift of this time is yours to enjoy. Accepting the gift and appreciating its potential is your first step. Reach for it and begin!

The Confident Seeker

Guest blog by Patricia Soldati

Self-confidence can make or break a job or career search. With it, you trust your own abilities and have a general sense of control in your life. Without it, you’re frustrated and stuck – until you learn that developing it – and keeping it – is really within your own control. 

My clients are young and older, male and female, rich and not-so-rich. They are planners, engineers, marketers, filmmakers, community activists, designers, social workers and sales managers, to name a few. Their goals range from moderate, in-place change to “just help me find a job” to significant career-change. 

As a result of this experience, one thing is abundantly clear: a diminished sense of confidence tags right along with everyone who seeks out a new opportunity or a meaningful career. It’s a nasty little irony: just when you need it most, your personal power slips right out of your grasp. 

No one is immune, even though it often feels like you are the only one who is vulnerable. Whether your search is one of choice or through the force of downsizing, or whether you hold a fancy title or not, a landing in a new job or career is intimidating for all there is to learn...the choices...the financial insecurity...and the ultimate uncertainty of all: “Will I really find what I’m looking for?” 

It chips away, making your voice weaker, your actions heavier. You wonder “Will they like me? Will they hire me? Can I continue to please my boss?" 

Lack of self-confidence is not necessarily related to lack of ability. Rather, seekers who lack confidence depend excessively on the approval of others in order to feel good about themselves. They tend to avoid taking risks because they fear failure. They generally do not expect to be successful. They often put themselves down and tend to discount or ignore compliments paid to them. 

By contrast, self-confident people are willing to risk the disapproval of others because they generally trust their own abilities. They tend to accept themselves; they don't feel they have to conform in order to be accepted. 

How is Self-Confidence Developed?
Many factors affect the development of self-confidence. Parents' attitudes are crucial to a child’s sense of self-worth, particularly in the child's early years. When parents are accepting, children receive a solid foundation for good feelings about themselves. If one or both parents are excessively critical or demanding, or if they are overprotective and discourage moves toward independence, children come to believe they are incapable, inadequate, or inferior. 

However, if parents encourage a child to moves toward self-reliance and accept and love their children when they make mistakes, he or she will learn to accept themselves and will be on their way to developing self-confidence.

Playing A Stronger Game
Does this mean this mean that, as an adult, you are doomed if you weren’t blessed with the perfect childhood?  No, of course not. It does suggest, however, the wisdom of examining any beliefs you hold that negatively influence your confidence. For example, believing that you must have approval from every significant person in your life is a perfectionist and unattainable goal. It is more desirable to develop personal standards and values that are meaningful to you and not dependent on the approval of others.  Similarly, if you wallow in “the past has done me wrong”, consider that, as an adult, you can become aware of those influences and make a choice to move beyond the ones that no longer serve you. 

And here are SEVEN more ways to step into your power: 

1. Develop a strong personal foundation. Clean up unfinished business that chips away at your sense of self; understand your inner gifts and talents, and articulate the values that are most important to you. 

2. Create an empowering environment. Eliminate the people and things that take your energy and power from you.

3. Let go of obligations -- even if only for a few hours. Do something that inspires you.

4. Physical self-care. This always precedes personal power. When you are feeling low physically, everything else will fall a little flat.

5. Remember a pride story. For an instant confidence boost, recall an event or an accomplishment that you are quite proud of. Ask “What inner qualities did it take for me to achieve this?” to tip the confidence scales in your favor. 

6. Give up old hurts. They keep you in victim mode.

7. Create thoughts that transform. When negative thoughts take hold, acknowledge them...and replace them with a positive affirmation.

When you tap into your personal greatness, your world opens up. It is easier to take new steps and assume risks. You are mentally, physically and emotionally expanded – which radiates to those around you. You are centered, clear-headed and able to focus on moving forward. 

Most important of all – remember that it is a process. Our confidence will rise and fall – what’s important is that you know how to gain it back.

Ten Suggestions for Creating a Lasting Love...All by Yourself

Guest blog by Susan Jeffers, Ph.D
Author of The Feel the Fear Guide to Lasting Love

The power is yours. Whether your relationship simply needs some fine-tuning or whether it is in serious trouble, you will be amazed at how much relationship-healing you can do all by yourself. And if you are not in a relationship, there are many ways of approaching members of the opposite sex in a new and welcoming manner.

So how do we begin? Here are ten suggestions:

1) Expand the purpose of your relationship. As I see it, a relationship has two important purposes-a Practical Purpose and a Higher Purpose. The Practical Purpose of a relationship is simply to have someone with whom to share our lives. Traveling the road together can be a joyous experience. But sometimes problems with money, sex, children, work and the like can make the journey together very difficult. It is for this reason that we need to have a Higher Purpose. 

The Higher Purpose of a relationship is to learn how to become a more loving person--despite what problems come up. It is our using all the problems as a vehicle for seeing what we need to work on within ourselves to keep love in our heart. Too often, without remembering our Higher Purpose, we begin longing for the initial bloom of love and the downward spiral begins. We blame our mate instead of realizing that this is a great time for learning and growing. Anger and resentment build. And for too many of us, we can safely predict that the end is near. 

If, however, we focus on the Higher Purpose, that of becoming a more loving person, the outcome can be very different. Problems can become a plus instead of a minus. We learn, we grow, we are filled with creativity, we take responsibility, we feel strong and our love for our mate grows. There is no question that it is through our Higher Purpose that we ultimately experience the exquisite beauty of real love. 

2) Handle the neediness. Neediness is an emotion created by fear and is one of the prime destroyers of love. It stands to reason that if we are feeling needy, consciously or unconsciously, we are always trying to manipulate our mate with the desperate hope that they will make us feel whole. Neediness causes us to protect ourselves at the expense of our mate, to close our hearts, to judge our mates and blame them for our unhappiness, to become angry, resentful and defensive. Not a pretty picture! 

But when we feel whole...when we feel strong...when we feel we are a part of the hugeness of life...we can be safely vulnerable always knowing … that no matter what happens, we will handle it all. In this way, our neediness disappears. We are fulfilled. And our ability to love with a sense of confidence and joy radiates throughout our being. We become a magnet to all that is good in this world...and that includes a truly wonderful relationship. 

3) Radiate a positive and loving energy. Science is actually proving that feelings are contagious. This means that if you think and act lovingly, your partner will actually "catch" that loving energy. You become a model that evokes love in your mate. And the whole nature of the relationship begins to move in the direction of love. 

Of course, the opposite is true as well. If you think and act un-lovingly, your partner will "catch" that un-loving energy. You become a model that evokes conflict in your mate. And the whole nature of the relationship moves itself in the direction of conflict. And you know where conflict leads…often to the end of the relationship. 

Bottom line: If you are feeling resentful, negative, disdainful and the like with your mate, work on changing your energy to one of love, appreciation, and caring. It can make all the difference in the world.

4) Pick up the mirror instead of the magnifying glass. What does that mean? The magnifying glass represents our symbolically pointing a finger and blaming our mate for our unhappiness. The mirror represents looking inward and taking responsibility not only for our actions but also for our REACTIONS to what is going on in the relationship. The mirror is self-awareness, and self-awareness is the first step toward positive change. A few examples:

The magnifying glass: I am angry he is not making more money.
The mirror: Why am I blaming him? It's my own fear that is stopping me from creating money all by myself. I have to work on my fears.

The magnifying glass: I am angry because of her taking time away from me to spend time with her friends.
The mirror: Is my life so limited that I can't function without her for a few hours? It's time for me to take responsibility to create more balance in my life so that I don't feel empty and needy when she is not around.

5) Become the mate you want your mate to be. First make a list of all the characteristics you want your mate to have. It could look like this: loving, thoughtful, warm, considerate, caring, appreciative, romantic, generous. Now for the big challenge...pick up the mirror and begin developing these qualities in yourself.

You may be someone who resists this challenge. But how can we ask our mates to be something we have been unwilling to be ourselves? Also, as you just learned, loving behavior is contagious. Just incorporating all these loving qualities within our own being can dramatically alter the thoughts and actions of our mate. Also, remember the Higher Purpose of your relationship...and that is to become a more loving person. This is a perfect opportunity to do so. Your goal? Maximum caring and minimum need. Powerfully loving, indeed! 

6) Validate your mate. We have to learn to notice and openly express thanks for the beautiful things our mate does for us. (And if you can't find anything to thank him for, then why are you there?) It makes our mate feel so good when we let him know the things we appreciate about him. And it encourages him to continue doing beautiful things. 

Remember that every relationship has its good and every relationship has its bad. By focusing on the bad, we starve. By focusing on the good, we thrive...allowing us to creatively and lovingly deal with the bad. So begin right now by appreciating all that your mate does in your life. Don't let another day pass before you say "Thank you for being in my life. I love you." Say it today...and say it often. 

7) Don't be passive when it comes to love. I think it's really important to keep in mind that love is an emotion but just as importantly, love is an action. The question you need to keep asking yourself is, "What am I doing to keep love alive?" Action is key when romance is involved. It's also a way of keeping us conscious! We need actions to help us keep our focus on how blessed we are to have our partner in our life. 

I suggest you do just do one thing daily as a way of honoring your mate and your Higher Purpose, that of becoming a more loving person. It may take time to push through any resistance you may be feeling, but keep pushing. Eventually you will get yourself on the side of love. 

8) There are times to "lie" lovingly. You sit down to dinner together and you want to complain about the fact that your mate was late coming home from work. Knowing that he/she is in the middle of a lot of pressure at work at the moment, it would be irrational and punishing to say, "It really makes me angry that you came home late today." Instead, with clenched teeth, if need be, let what comes from your mouth be loving, even if you are not feeling loving. Say something like, "I'm so happy when we are together. I love you." You will most likely get a loving response back. And the miracle of such an approach is that your own tension will melt and you will feel that beauty of the moment instead of being the one to destroy it.

9) Stop gender bashing. You've probably been guilty of telling (or at least laughing at) jokes about members of the opposite sex-even when your mate is in the room. Don't do that. What seems like "harmless" joking may actually be working against your efforts to move out of the realm of "selfish" love and into the realm of "real" love. When you participate in the bashing of members of the opposite sex, you are behaving in a hurtful and unloving way. Remember, if you don't love, respect and admire the opposite sex, you won't, by definition, love respect and admire your mate. 

10) Celebrate the wonderful fact that many of the old "selfish" reasons for being in relationships are gone. Women are learning how to take care of themselves financially. Men are learning how to cook, clean and care for children. Take advantage of the opportunity to nowbe in a relationship for much more fulfilling reasons than in earlier times. It's no longer about survival; it's about learning and growing together; it's about supporting each other's dreams; it's about the wonder of walking the walk and talking the talk. These are beautiful components of real love, in which men and women help each other to become whole. 

Yes, the power is yours. We can all make the decision to live our lives with dignity, love and caring, and to push through the inner fears that keep us from being a loving person. We all have that choice. No matter what the state of your relationship, it offers you an incredible opportunity for learning and growing. It is definitely worth all the effort you put into it. Why? A loving relationship feels sublime and brings you great joy; it makes life sweeter and easier. You delight in your ability to give to your mate; you feel abundant as you take in the love that he gives to you. Just sharing the journey with someone you love…it doesn't get any better than that. 

Taoism and Sexuality

Guest blog by Rachel Carlton Abrams, M.D

Taoism is a spiritual tradition that embraces our sexual desire and uses it within our bodies as a force for healing and spiritual growth. Desire is a rich and potent part of our human experience. The Taoists think of desire, called sexual energy or jing chi, as part of our life energy, or chi. To be passionate is to be full of chi. The English words "desire" or "passion" connote a feeling of yearning and fervor that includes sex, but they also reflect our strongest feelings about life. When we are passionate about anything--our family, our work, our spirituality, an important social cause--we are investing our chi in this experience. Our passion is what moves us to action and ultimately is what gives us joy. We are passionate about the things that matter most to us. 

We often speak of "getting horny" as if we were being invaded by some lewd, demonic (notice the horns) force. But the powerful energy of arousal is basic to our humanity. It is not, as conservative religious thinkers have taught, a dark force that separates us from God, but is the essence of what can compel us to live dynamic and fruitful lives. It is the fact that sexual energy is so powerful that has prompted most major religions to control and restrict sexual behavior, especially the behavior of women. Reestablishing our connection with our desire is part of recovering our personal power.

Once you have awakened your passion, or sexual energy, the Healing Love practices, as taught by world-renowned Taoist master, Mantak Chia, can teach you how to direct and refine your sexual energy so that you can benefit from its gifts. Though our modern world suffers from ignorance about sexuality on the one hand and blatant exploitation of sexuality on the other, Healing Love offers a several-thousand-year-old wisdom about how to live in our bodies as sexual beings and to use our passion to become the people we want to be. 

Taoist Secrets of Sexuality

Taoism is the foundation of Chinese philosophy and medicine. It is a comprehensive physical and spiritual system that helps individuals to reach their highest potentials. It is perhaps best known in this country as the basis for Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes acupuncture, herbal therapy, nutrition, massage, the energetic meditation called Chi Kung (pronounced "chee kong"), and the martial art called Tai Chi Chuan ("tie chee chwan"). The Universal Tao system was developed by Mantak Chia to teach Taoist meditative and exercise techniques to balance the body and increase and refine one’s vital energy, or chi ("chee"). The sexual practice, or Healing Love, is an essential part of this system. 

"Chi," the Chinese word for life energy, is the force within our bodies and within the universe that engenders life. The word itself has many translations, such as energy, air, breath, wind, or vital essence. There are 49 cultures around the world that understand the concept of chi in one form or another; examples include Ki (Japanese), Prana (Sanskrit), Lung (Tibetan), Neyatoneyah (Lakota Sioux), Num (Kalahari Kung), and Ruach (Hebrew).

"Western culture" and allopathic medicine, often called Western or conventional medicine, is one of the few cultures that does not have a similar concept, although it recognizes the role of energy at the molecular level. Western medicine is extremely effective for treating acute disease and traumatic injuries. However, I believe that it is, in part, the absence of this concept of "life force" that limits its effectiveness in treating chronic illnesses. Western medicine is just beginning to recognize what the Taoists have known for more than 2,000 years, that directing the flow of our life force, our chi, can improve our health and vitality.

In The Multi-Orgasmic Woman you can learn to use your concentration and your breath to activate and move your energy; this practice is called Chi Kung. It involves both concentration exercises and simple movements to facilitate the flow of chi. Used throughout China and now widely practiced in the United States, Chi Kung is an ancient and effective practice for many health issues. I often refer to the Healing Love sexual practice as "Chi Kung for the bedroom."

Once you become aware of your chi, you’ll find that it’s rather easy to notice and feel it. Try this simple exercise. Briskly rub your palms together until you produce heat. Now slowly separate your palms until they are about an inch apart. You should feel a "cushion" of air between them that may feel like pressure, heat, or tingling. This sensation is the chi passing between your hands.

In all traditions meditative practices calm and focus the mind. The Healing Tao meditative practices do this by focusing on the movement of chi. The basic practice is based on circulating chi through a body circuit called the Microcosmic Orbit, which is like an energy superhighway in the body. The Microcosmic Orbit runs from your tailbone up your spine to your brain (the Back Channel) and then returns down the front of your body in the midline (the Front Channel). By using the focus of your mind, you can direct the chi up the spine as you breathe in and let it "fall" down the Front Channel to your abdomen as you breathe out. 

As you become adept at sensing and moving your chi, you will also be able to move your sexual energy, or jing chi, in the same pathway. The ability to expand and move your sexual energy is what allows you to increase your pleasure and intensify your orgasms, no matter what your current level of sexual experience is. It also allows you to transform your sexual energy into chi, or life force, which will give you a great deal more energy out of the bedroom as you live your life in the world. And when your chi is strong and your intention is clear, your chi is transformed into spiritual energy, or shen. 

The Healing Love practices are rich and powerful enough to do for hours each day, but flexible enough to energize you or help relieve physical or emotional stress in minutes. The sexual practices initially take some time to understand and feel in your body, but they can then be seamlessly integrated into lovemaking with astounding results: more pleasure, intimacy, and vibrancy than you’ve ever experienced. 

The Taoist practice offers a practical method to access and integrate the two most powerful healing forces in the world: real love and sexual energy. These practices can increase your pleasure and invigorate your body and soul.

Copyright Rachel Abrams 2005

Seven Types of Men to Avoid if You Are Looking for a Mate

Guest blog by June Marshall
Author of The Dirty Seven: Ladies Beware!
Watch her interview on The Woman's Connection YouTube Vlog

Where Have All the Good Men Gone?

If you are an intelligent, independent woman looking for a relationship with a man, it takes patience to find someone you can respect, whose heart is open to you, and you can be with without driving you up the wall.

Good mate-material is out there. But, while you are looking, don't waste your time and money on The Dirty Seven.

Underlying Problem: The underlying problem with The Dirty Seven is a kind of selfishness that makes them incapable of giving your needs fair play. They lack empathy (the ability to put themselves in your shoes).

Who are these Guys?

Don't give up your freedom and happiness for these guys. They will always put you and your needs second or last. Read on to see who they are and what you can do about them.

1. ScarMan: Talks continuously about his ex and the past, to the exclusion of everything else, including you. You feel like saying, "Hello! You are out with me!"

If you want to feel first in a man's heart, throw ScarMan back on the dating beach.

2. SideMan: Married or living with someone but looking for some excitement on the side, with no intention of creating a real relationship. 

Walk away and don't look back. He wants to use you. If it takes a lie, he will lie to get what he wants, without a thought for the pain he causes.

3. CrazyMan: Has so many quirks, a hospital wing of psychotherapists couldn't figure him out. He'll drive you nuts if you give him a long-term try.

4. GuyMan: Likes guys better than girls but pretends to be straight. The fact that he is lying to you about it is what makes him one of The Dirty Seven.

Let him go on his journey of discovering his true identity without you.

5. YAPpie: (Young And Poor) have the benefit of youth on their side but not much else: No money and no job prospects. You pay for everything and drive him around too.

Do less for him. He is a species of parasite that survives by living off of women and will move on.

6. OLMan: (Old Loser Man) is the YAPpie, grown older but not wiser. He has not provided for his future. He is looking to you to do that for him. He was lazy, selfish, and clueless in his youth and has remained the same in his old age.

Do not get involved with him until you find out where and how he lives. Go there with him. If he is penniless, especially beware of how he lives.

7. BagMan: Difficult children from different marriages some of whom live with him, multiple alimony payments, and lots of bitterness over past woes are just some of the baggage this man brings to the relationship. 

Give up on him before you are left holding the bag.

Good Guys

Good guys are out there and are worth taking the time to find. The good mate thinks about the "us" before he thinks about himself. The relationship is foremost in his life and he shows you that it is. His life is not about his miserable self, self, self and he wants to do something to make things better in the world instead of being a drain on the system.

He takes care of himself because he has self-respect. Money is not what motivates him. His heart guides him. He lives his life with passion and is not a wound-licking victim or an ego-driven control freak. He understands the territory of love and shares it with you. He appreciates and respects you and you feel a warm glow of happiness when you think of him. He is the exact opposite of all of the Dirty Seven:

· The un-ScarMan: He is not stuck in the past and is here with you, now. He wants to learn about you because he is interested.
· The un-SideMan: He is devoted to you and not lots of chicks on the side. He puts his whole heart into your relationship.
· The un-CrazyMan: He has enough reference in reality to be able to share your world with enthusiasm. He is balanced and rational.
· The un-GuyMan: He is honest about his sexuality and loves you because you are a woman with a woman's body.
· The un-YAPpie: He can support himself and does not expect you to be a Sugar Mama. He has plans and goals for what he wants from life and how he wants to contribute to others.
· The un-OLMan: He has had a life vision and continues to work on it, even when he is up in years. He can support himself and stays young-at-heart, though he has the wisdom that comes with age and experience.
· The un-BagMan: He might have some baggage, as everyone who has lived has, but he does not inflict it on you so that it takes over your life. He has handled it cleanly and fairly so that it does not keep coming back to haunt him and you.

Reclaiming Genital Dryness: Because Men Have Options, and Women Deserve Them, Too

Guest blog by Lauren Streicher, MD
Author of Love Sex Again: A Gynecologist Finally Fixes the Issues That Are Sabotaging Your Sex Life

You’ve, no doubt, heard the term “erectile dysfunction” or “ED.” But what you may not realize is that this term was popularized as part of a marketing campaign—not by doctors. 

Prior to 1998, men who were unable to maintain an erection suffered from “impotency,” a diagnosis that implies weakness and powerlessness. A guy who was impotent didn’t just have a medical problem; he was also a personal failure. And no way was he going to make an appointment to discuss his impotency with his medical doctor. Suddenly, in 1998, the impotent man disappeared, and the man with ED emerged. This man was handsome, successful and sexy. 

So who spread this new, mighty term? It was the people who had the most to gain from men admitting they had a problem: the inventors of Viagra. Pfizer launched Viagra and at the same time launched a genius marketing campaign that redefined impotency as erectile dysfunction. The condition was not only normalized, but it gave men the language to talk to their doctors about it so they could comfortably ask for a prescription.

And for every man who suffers from erectile dysfunction, there is a woman who suffers from vaginal atrophy. Women with vaginal atrophy as a result of hormonal changes that occur during the transition to menopause have vaginal walls that are so thin and dry that intercourse is either excruciating painful, or impossible. The condition is just as common as erectile dysfunction. But no one is talking about it, and most women are not getting treated for it even though there are many excellent options to alleviate the problem.

But, like men who are impotent, no women (even if they are familiar with the term) wants to have vaginal atrophy! But for the 50 million women who have vaginal atrophy and have lost the ability to have pleasurable, slippery sex, I have a solution. My version of ED for the women.

Introducing ‘GD’

Instead of having the use the term “vaginal atrophy” (which no one knows, can remember, or wants to say). I would like to introduce a new term to describe the changes that occur not only around the time of menopause, but from a number of medical conditions as well.

GD stands for “genital dryness.” Your doctor will not know the term GD, (not yet, anyway), but they will understand what you mean when you say you have “genital dryness” and you need a solution.

Thin dry vaginal and vulvar tissues affects 40% of postmenopausal women. But it’s not just midlife or older women that suffer from this problem. There are a number of other circumstances that can reduce natural lubrication in any age woman such as post partum and nursing mothers, hormonal contraception, women being treated for cancer with chemotherapy or radiation and medications such as anti-histamines, decongestants or tamoxifene.

The guys have it a little easier since most ED can be solved with a pill. GD isn’t always so straightforward, but you do have options: 

1. Lubrication is key. The right vaginal lubricant is an essential ingredient for turning “sandpaper sex” into slippery sex. Most drug stores have a dizzying selection of lubricants, but almost all are water based. While readily available and inexpensive, most water-based lubricants are gloppy, sticky and contain a propylene glycol preservative, which can be irritating. Silicone lubricants, on the other hand, are more slippery, last much longer and are non-irritating. 

2. Moisturizers are not just for your face. A lubricant is to be used at the time of intercourse to reduce friction. Lubricants do not alter vaginal tissues; they just make them more slippery. A long acting moisturizer, on the other hand, is intended to change the water content of the tissue (hence “moisturizer”) resulting in tissues that are more elastic, thicker, and with enhanced ability to produce fluid, that will in turn reduce friction. 

3. Estrogen is not the enemy. It would be nice if lubricants or moisturizers always solved the problem, but sometimes the ravages of menopause make the vaginal walls so thin and dry, that the only way to reverse the vaginal clock and make intercourse comfortable is estrogen. I know…estrogen. Everyone thinks breast cancer, blood clots, bad stuff. Keep in mind that the FDA required warnings and complications listed on the package insert have never been shown to occur as a result of using a local vaginal estrogen product. All vaginal estrogen products improve the thickness, elasticity and lubrication of your tissue. Personal preference, ease of use and convenience (not to mention what your insurance covers) dictate which product you choose. Currently, there are three types of prescription vaginal estrogen products: creams, a vaginal tablet, and a vaginal ring.

Every woman should come up with an individual plan with the help of her doctor. But, most important is that women take a page from the man with ED’s playbook and stop being ashamed.