Gratitude for the Small Things Grows Your Relationship


Do you give your loved one credit for when he or she “tries” to show their love or caring? Gratitude for these small steps can create a beautiful chain of more happiness and connection in your relationship.

Maybe it is not exactly what you had hoped for but it is a try or an effort toward what you do want. It is easy to get into a state of wanting it exactly the way you want it and standing firm that you will not be content unless it is that way. I am not saying you should give up on what you want or need, but that you should consider the “process” of getting where you want to be in your relationship.

Some Things to Consider as Loved Ones “Try” to Show Their Love and Caring:

  1. It does not have to be perfect. When you expect perfection and your sweetheart comes up short, it is a set up for dis-contentment or unhappiness. Maybe you want or hope for more. And that can come. But in the moment you can acknowledge the try or effort toward what you wanted or hoped for. Maybe you want a sharing of chores in the household. Your husband chooses to help with dishes one night. It may not be all you want, but it is a start. 
  2. Search for the parts in the try that feel good to you. Be mindful of what is being done or offered to you. It is Valentines Day and your husband brings you chocolates home. You like chocolate but you had hoped for something new and different. You can still enjoy the chocolates, savoring each piece knowing your spouse was thinking of what he knew you liked and was trying to please you. 
  3. Let your loved one know you appreciate what they did do. This will bring more of this your way and beyond. You have been telling your wife you would like to carve out more couple time away from the kids. You are thinking in your head a weekend away. She sets up a 2 hour date night. You choose to thank her for carving out this special one on one time to be just with you. 
  4. Let the good stuff from the try or effort sink in and stay with you. Let it nourish your inner self and know you are cared for. Let it be a part of you, not letting it slip away. Keep it as a touchstone to remember and build on.


Moving Toward More of What you Do Want:

  •  Do express your needs and desires. Do so in a calm, respectful manner, letting your partner know how this specific action will help to make you a better couple and increase happiness for both of you. Avoid demanding or insisting.
  • When these things occur let your happiness show, telling your partner how this makes you feel and express your thankfulness. This does matter. Your visible reaction and encouragement helps your loved one to know it is worth it.Plus it makes them feel very good as well. And it increases your chances of more connection.
  • Do illicit and ask your loved one what it is that THEY need or are hoping for in your relationship. Try to work toward these desires if it is a healthy request that could strengthen your relationship.

Let the small acts of love take root in your heart for they can grow and fill your soul with happiness and joy.

Professional Disclosure: This blog is offered as educational information and is not offered as professional therapeutic services. This is not intended to serve as treatment. For professional help contact your local mental health professional. Strom Individual and Family Therapy is not liable for any action or non action you take in regard to this article.



Multi-Tasking Versus Single or “Mindful” Tasking

multi task yoga woman

I used to be so very proud of myself for being such a good multi-tasker and at some levels I still am. It is needed and valuable when the situation fits, but many  times single tasking or “mindful” tasking is better. Our daily hectic life styles make if feel like we have to multi task. Lets take a look at both. And then see how we may integrate these different approaches in our daily, realistic lives.

Definition of Multi-Tasking: Performance of multiple tasks at one time. (Merriam-Webster)  A person’s ability to do more than one thing at a time. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Multi-Tasking: Ability to getting more done within a time frame. Potentially achieving more with the time you have. It can be a helpful tool if you are in certain emergency situations.

Cons of Multi-Tasking: Not fully being able to focus and give full attention to something or someone. The risk of not doing something well, but only partially doing a task. Errors and mistakes increase the more you are multi-tasking. It can leave you feeling stressed, overwhelmed and not completely connected to the projects or people you are working with. You may find yourselves more blunt and less patient with others as you multi-task. What you do accomplish may not be your best.

mindful animated man with lots thoughts and dog with simple thoughts

Definition of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Bearing in mind: aware. (Merriam Webster)  Giving attention. (Cambridge Dictionary)

Pros of Single or “Mindful” Tasking: Giving your full attention to something or someone allows you to use your full intellect and emotions to accomplish what you want to do. Focusing on one thing at a time gives you the ability to give something or someone your best. Weather it is communicating with someone who you care about or completing an important task for your business. This full focus can allow you to potentially save time if this is your goal.  Focusing on one thing at a time feels less stressful and more peaceful. Our bodies are not really intended to be in a “red alert” multi-task framework for long periods of time.

Cons of  Single or “Mindful” Tasking: You may feel you are not getting enough done. You have all this “stuff” going on and you are only doing one thing at a time. You may wonder am I doing all I can. At times you may feel you have no realistic choice but to be doing multi things at once.


An Integrated Approach to How We Manage Our Time

As I was writing this, it occurred to me, you can truly only do one thing at a time. It is HOW you choose to do each thing or interact with each person you have in front of you. You do have CHOICES as to how much time and focus you spend on something. And you do have a choice on which thing you focus on first.

Yes there are some realities of performance on a job or making sure all the basics happen at your home or with your children. It may be at times you make a choice to spend less time on something and it be a bit less  perfect. Or you may choose to take time for a conversation as you feel it is more important in the long run than something else you are working on.  It is really all about choice and what you choose to focus on and for how long. And what you view as most important to you.

As a therapist, I would have to weigh in on mindful single tasking as to relationships. Doing more than one thing at a time as you spend time with your partner or child normally does not work well. And of course there are exceptions. But in general without attention and focus, relationships suffer and problems develop.

multi task versus serial chart

So in summary, my take on this issue is . . 

  1. Decide each day what is most important and focus on that.
  2. Be ok with letting go of stuff that does not really matter.
  3. Multi-task when you must, but limit this to when it really has to happen.
  4. Do be MINDFUL or give full attention whenever you can.
  5. Remember your relationships will grow and strengthen with full attention and focus.
  6. Let your mind rest and “be with” whatever you have chosen to focus on, letting go of all the “other things” that are waiting on your “to do” list.

Good luck in finding the best balance with how to manage your time for yourself, your professional life and your personal relationships. Keep in mind you are more than your “to do” list!

How to Listen So Your Loved One Feels Loved

listening couple

Of all the things that I hear most about as a therapist that is folks feeling like they are not being listened to. I hear this from adults and children alike. From couples to parent-child relationships. We ALL want to feel listened to. It makes us feel safe and protected. It makes us feel LOVED. And who doesn’t want to feel this way when we are with our loved ones.

So if I had to pick out one thing that would be at the top of my list for good relationship building, it would be to LISTEN with your heart and soul.  For seeming so simple, it can feel a bit elusive. Most of us have had experiences where some one says to us, “You are not listening!” Or it may be on the other side of the coin and we are feeling our loved one is really not hearing us or getting what we are trying to say.  Let’s take a look at the HOW TO of REALLY GOOD LISTENING.


1. “Be There” if You Want it to Count.  First up you have to BE THERE for good listening to take  place. Of course, we have to be there physically, but we have to really be there on an emotional level as well.

  •  PHYSICALLY being in the same room, being fairly close, being turned toward, being eye to eye and being in a stance that indicates you are giving your full attention and focus. This would also mean we cannot be looking at our iPhones or on our laptops or watching tv, or face booking etc. We have all gotten a bit obsessed with being “plugged in”. We have to “unplug” to really hear each other.
  • EMOTIONALLY being open to putting yourself on hold and hearing what your loved one has to say, being non-judgmental without seeing their feelings as “right” or “wrong”, but just feelings, being open to feeling what it might be like to be in their shoes.

2. Listen without Interrupting, Avoiding Advise Giving. This one is not easy. Many of us struggle with this one. What we have to remember is if we interrupt, it feels like we are not listening. And when we give advise, it might feel like we do not feel our loved one can figure it out on their own. Of it may feel we are discounting their feelings. In other cases, we may be asked for our thoughts and opinions and of course in this case we can share our thoughts for their consideration. Some folks really want this and if so enter in without being overbearing.

3. Acknowledge and Reflect What You Think They Have Said. Try to summarize what your loved one is talking about and to check out if you are getting what they are saying. This helps to do this fairly frequently along the way as it can be hard to reflect if too much is said. This is different from interrupting. Normally interrupting is to give our opinion. Reflecting is letting the person talking know you are really hearing them.

4. Ask How You Can Help. Doesn’t it feel great when someone asks how they can help. We know we are cared for and our loved one is there to support us. So by all means do ask.


Special Notes:

  • Not Able to Listen due to the environment, time or emotional state you are in. Be honest and open and let your loved one know you really want to hear what they have to say, but you are exhausted and want to give it your full attention when you are in a better state. Do follow-up as soon as possible.  Your children are all around you and you feel distracted, so suggest a concrete time to sit and talk when it is more private. Maybe you are very upset with the issue at hand, so you ask for a break to cool down. The main thing is to be concrete with a set time for later if you must delay.
  • Avoid Answering Your Phone or Getting Side Tracked with Other’s Interrupting. Doing this will show that your top priority is your loved one. This will go a long ways to a person really feeling listened to.
  • Remember when you listen to your loved one, they will reciprocate. Thus the basis for healthy communication.

So LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. It is the foundation for all good relationships!



PRAISE That Makes Your Relationship Stronger and More Connected

couple with woman smiling

So what kind of praise can make your relationship stronger and more connected? I would say hands down, “Descriptive Praise”. It is the most powerful kind of praise as to making a connecting impact. We all like to be praised or hear the good stuff about us. But there are specific ways to give praise that is most helpful and carries the strongest punch. This is “DESCRIPTIVE PRAISE”. And the cool thing is that it can be used for all of your relationships.

What is Descriptive Praise?

Descriptive Praise is different from traditional praise, which normally is expressed with a “Good job.” OR “That was great.” OR “Wonderful”  Traditional praise is evaluative in nature. Descriptive Praise is when you describe out in detail what you have seen or heard or feel and then it is left open for the receiver to take it in and praise themselves. The sender comes across as really seeing and noticing all of the small details of what has occurred which has so much more impact. Some like to add a summation after the description of the details of what has occurred to give it a more powerful effect.

Who Can it Be Used With?

I first heard about “Descriptive Praise” when I read the book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. Later I saw the authors speak when they came to Tulsa.  I then became involved in teaching their group workshop materials and have found through the years that “Descriptive Praise” is applicable for all relationships: Parent / Child and Couples. Actually for any relationship.

What Are the Specific Benefits of Descriptive Praise?

  • A closer connection with your loved one who feels very acknowledged and really very seen and heard.
  • The receiver will feel good about their behavior as it has been witnessed by a loved one or someone who they know and care about. It can be a self-esteem booster.
  • It gives the receiver an opportunity to look in detail at what they have done and praise themselves. This is a very healthy kind of praise.
  • In regard to parent / child relationships, the detailed nature of descriptive praise helps to wire the brain with what parents may feel is behavior that they wish and hope their children to continue.

Examples for Your Consideration

couple eating salad and smiling

Couple Examples:

“I see you have made supper for us tonight. And look at all that chopping and pre work you have done to make our veggie soup. You even made a fresh green salad to go with it. You are really taking care of us! Thank you.”

“I was so busy and I know I told you I was going to throw in a load of laundry, but I forgot. Looks like you did it for me. You saw I was over my head and came to my rescue.”

“I loved my Valentine’s present. You noticed me looking at those pretty scarfs and went back and bought me one. You were really paying attention to what I like. That makes me feel so special.”

child and parent talking and smiling

Parent / Child Examples:

” You picked up your room. All the books are on the shelf. The clothes are in the hamper. Your papers on your desk. And legos in their special Lego bin. That is what I call being organized.”

” You came home and got a snack and went straight to your room to work on your home work. You chose to get your homework done early. You were thinking ahead.”

“You were mad at your friend and you choose to use your words instead of hitting him. You know how to control yourself.”


I hope you will give descriptive praise a try with your loved ones. It may feel a bit wordy but I think you will find the effort very much worth your time. I know your loved ones will love it and you for it!

My ending example. This one is for you 🙂 “You saw this blog title and decided this article was worth taking a look at. So you took your time and read it through. You are open to new ideas to improve your relationships. You take time for what is important to you.”

So how did that feel?


Source for the original descriptive praise concept: How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish.

Love From the Inside Out

 self love woman with word love on hand

Which is more important loving yourself or loving others?  That should cause some discussion. I think the other question is  “Where does self-love start and does one need to love themselves to be able to love others in a healthy way?”

Love starts when we are infants. How we are raised and what messages we are given about ourselves has a profound affect on how we view ourselves and if we have a good self-esteem and if we truly love who we are. Our life experiences outside of our home also plays a part in how we feel about ourselves. This affects our relationships. How we feel about ourselves will affect our choice of partners and friends, etc. It will color our view of relationships. If you did not have an optimal childhood there are ways to work through all of this and have a healthy relationship. Being with a healthy person in your relationship can help with some of the reparative work.

To sum up some of the main ideas on the issue of self-love and love of others:

  1. Love starts with loving yourself.  If you question whether you love yourself or even like yourself, then it is time to look at this and begin a love affair with yourself. This is something that cannot be taken away from you.  It is the ultimate gift we can give our self. When we feel good about ourselves just the way we are. it opens up this wonderful space to be really HAPPY. If you have had a difficult childhood, this may mean getting some help to work through this. But it can be done.
  2. If you want others to show their love to you, starting with showing your love is a good way to get this two-way flow going. When we are open with our love and support for our loved ones, then this tends to flow back to us. If it is not flowing back, then it is ok to let folks know what you need. This may be different for different folks. Many of you are probably familiar with the Five Love Languages. The basic premise is that we have a dominant preference for what makes us feel loved. For some it may be receiving gifts. Others it may be acknowledgement and praise. For some it might be acts of service (ex. helping). Then there are those that feel loved most when they are physically touched. Some thrive on quality time.  And then lastly, it may be that you are multi-faceted, like me – I like all of these!  The main point of all of this is that we can lovingly and respectfully tell our loved ones what we need.
  3. Back to loving yourself. This is where it starts and ends. You must love yourself just as you are unconditionally to feel good about yourself. Plus. if for some reason others are not giving you the love you need you can not only communicate your needs, but you can have the basic foundation piece in place “LOVING YOURSELF” which will always serve you well. You might be wondering what does this really mean, loving yourself? For me loving my self is to live authentically, choosing my work and activities to match up with what I am passionate about and what I believe in. And it means good self-care along with caring about my happiness and those I love. You will have your own definition that fits for you.

couple face to face black and white photo

Loving “from the inside out” is loving yourself first, thus allowing your love to then be given to others in a healthy way. Remember you are unique and lovable just the way you are!

love yourself on a beach

Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, Stonewalling and Their Antidotes

A36W5JEnd the most destructive patterns in your relationships: CRITICISM, DEFENSIVENESS, CONTEMPT, and STONEWALLING. There are antidotes to these very common patterns or interactions that occur in relationships. Researcher and Therapist,  Dr. John Gottman, PhD calls these destructive interactions the 4 Horseman of the Apocalypse.  At a recent training in Dallas, TX this last weekend I was able to complete Level 1 of the Gottman Institute’s Bridging the Couple Chasm.  Drs Julie and John Gottman’s approach for couples counseling is a research based program based on 40 years of scientific research. I am summarizing the information on these destructive patterns and their antidotes.


Criticism Ø :  Attacks on Personality or Giving Negative Attributes   →     COMMUNICATE WITH A GENTLE START UP: “I Feel, About What, I Need”

Defensiveness Ø : Self-Protection with Righteous Indignation or Playing  Victim    →     TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: Accepting Your Part in the Problem

Contempt Ø : Addresses with Superiority     →     SHOW APPRECIATION and RESPECT: Positive Communication and Admiration

Stonewalling Ø : Emotional Withdraw    →     PRACTICE SELF SOOTHING: Staying Connected Emotionally

Becoming aware of these 4 horseman: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt and Stonewalling is the first step. Then trying to replace them with their antidotes is the next step.  Best wishes in your quest to have more healthy communication. It can lead you to a happier, more fulfilled relationship.

You can go into the Gottman’s website to find John and Julie Gottman’s books, cds, cards, etc.

happy couple

Write an Old Fashioned Love Letter

thumb(10)In today’s fast paced technology world, we sometimes forget about the lovely feeling you get when someone writes you a hand written note or letter.  Yes, it takes more time than a quick text or email or a face book entry.  But it is a something that feels special and is more treasured than some of other avenues mentioned above. This is not to say an affectionate text in real time cannot fit the bill at times or that a longer email cannot have it’s place. And I know for those who are avid face book users, a public show of love may feel very nice.

But, a LOVE LETTER is so very sweet and lovely all in it’s own right. A LOVE LETTER is something that can be kept in a special place and re-read and treasured for years to come. So consider sending a love letter to your sweetheart. The taking the time to find a piece of stationary or a blank note card and the additional time it takes to write the letter WILL be appreciated.

Here are a few possible things to consider as you write your LOVE LETTER to your special loved one.

  • Consider what you put your love letter on. It can be a piece of fun stationary that shows your personality or your loved one’s personality. Or a blank note card with a picture on the cover that is a fit for your loved one or something that makes you think of the two of you.  It may be you decide to be creative and think about something a bit more outside of the box, so to speak.  I know of a person whose love letter was written on the back of a Whole Foods sack, her favorite store as a heath food girl and then put in a small wooden box with a very pretty heart  on top. She was delighted.  Of course, really any paper or note card will do, but this extra step is a nice touch. But it is the words that count.
  • Hand write your note if at all possible. If you really have to word process it on your computer, do so. But the hand written part is part of the novelty of the old fashioned love letter.
  • Let your loved one know how special they are to you. Tell them what it is that you appreciate about them. You will have your own words.
  • Date your love letter. For it will be kept and years from now it will be glad you did.
  • Send your letter in the mail if you can. This makes it even more fun. Or you can put it in a special place in the house where they will find it. Or put it in the front seat of their car. Etc.

Note: There are quicker, shorter versions you can do of the love letter. It can be on a sticky note and put on his or her bathroom mirror. A simple “Good morning beautiful, I love you!”.  OR “Have a wonderful day, Love You!” Again, you will  have your own words and your own special places.

love letter

Have fun writing your love letters!!!  Your loved one will love you for it. ♥♥♥

Can Technology Hurt Your Relationships?


How to balance our technology and our relationships is a complex issue. I feel it is one that is worthy of exploring and contemplating for all of us. As a therapist I see some of the issues that arise for couples and families in regard to technology. My post today is just to encourage us to think about our technology and how it might affect our relationships. This includes both family and couple relationships.

We live in a technology driven world and my guess is that it will continue to be more so in the future. So for me it is about trying to find  BALANCE and MINDFULNESS to use technology wisely. We all have a choice as to when and how we use our technology. 

Some of my concerns revolve around when we choose to use our technology so heavily that we are not interacting with our children or spouses or partners in a way that is needed to stay connected. It is ironic that technology is so many times today associated with social connection.  But with parents saying their children are spending all their time on Facebook or texting and couples expressing the same concern about each other, it raises questions about balance and limits and healthy relationship boundaries. So ….  let us all remember that we have a choice if we take a call, respond to a text or Facebook. We can decide how much time to spend on these activities and the many other technological activities we participate in …. surfing the net, watching endless TV, etc.

Yes, technology can bring us together when used wisely and thoughtfully.  So won’t you join me in this journey to find ways to use our technology with thoughtfulness and care to protect what is most important to us – Our Relationships.  


How to Decide How to Spend Your Time Together

Everyone’s time is limited and we all want to make the most of our time together. As a family or as a couple we want to really have time to “be with” each other enjoying each other and the specific activities we choose to do together.


The dynamics on how to decide how to spend time together as a couple or as a family are more similar than you might think. Below are some things to consider as you try to decide what to do with the time you have to spend together either as a couple or as a family.

 1. Consider everyone’s interests and things they like to do. This may or may not be completely evident. If not, this could be a good family meeting discussion or a good couple discussion.

2. Consider how you decide what the family or the couple does together. Many families and couples find that taking turns can feel  fair and can help to eliminate some one from feeling like they never get to do what they enjoy or from feeling like they are being drug from one thing to another. This can also mean everyone has to build up some tolerance in being involved in an activity that is not their first choice. But participating in an activity that another family member feels passionate about can be very connecting and supportive. Remembering everyone will have “their time to choose” can help.

Choosing activities collaboratively in which you try to find something that everyone has some interest in can be a respectful way to honor each other’s time.

Communicating about “how to decide” can be a good activity in itself. You can decide what fits best for you and your partner or your family.

3. Consider the developmental level of children,  if this is a family activity. Is their attention span a match for the activity?  Is their activity level a match for the activity? Is it their best part of the day to participate in an activity outside of the home? Is the length of the activity right for the children?

 4. Consider if this is a couple’s activity, will we be able to communicate and spend one on one time with each other with this activity? Of course at times you may want to be involved in an activity that is a performance or activity that is not particularly interactive. Including time after to talk about and connect can be helpful in these kinds of activities.

 5. Consider the amount of time you have to do an activity together?  Choosing something that fits can make the time together more enjoyable. Feeling rushed can very much dampen your time together. On the other hand, planning a short activity is much better than not doing things together. Short bursts of time together can help you stay connected.

 6. Consider your energy level? Do you want something relaxing? Or do you want something stimulating? Or are you in the mood to learn something new? Do you want to stay close to home or venture out-of-town? Or would you just like to stay home and do something together as a couple or as a family? All things to think about.

Best wishes in choosing what is best for you and your partner or family!

mom daug 

Philbrook Second Saturdays – Family Hands On Art Projects for All Ages – FREE


I have always thought highly of Philbrook Art Museum and the programs they offer for the community. I got a recent email from them as a member about some of the upcoming programs. This is one they highlighted and one that I was not aware of. I called and visited with the Education Department and found that this is a program that has been offered for a couple of years and at this point is FREE to the public. ONEOK, Inc sponsors this program. You do not need to be a member of Philbrook. It is offered on the 2nd Saturday of each month.  I would suggest looking on the Philbrook website and click on the tab LEARN at the of the screen to get more information on this program and make sure it is still scheduled . Of course you can get information on other programs offered for families and their children at this link also. My understanding is that this program is open from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm and is come and go and is for all ages. Family friendly art activities, tours and scavenger hunts are possible activities on these Second Saturday events.

This is a wonderful opportunity to explore together fun creative art projects and to expose your children to Philbrook.  Art is so very therapeutic and a wonderful way to connect.   I might also note that the garden trails behind Philbrook are a fun treat for all ages. Enjoy this creative time with your family!

Special Note:  The trails behind the Philbrook are lovely and could also make a lovely Couples Activity. Plus, Philbrook’s restaurant overlooks the gardens and would be a nice special treat. I was told that Philbrook has some free entrance days. So check it out on their website. 



photos from The Philbrook Museum of Art