Infidelity Weight Loss Program?

A website to facilitate marital infidelity in the UK has released a report suggesting that infidelity is good for one because it promotes weight loss.  They claim that the majority of their users have shown an overweight loss, but their data cannot be used as causation data because we do not have a direct link between the act of infidelity leading to the weight loss. There is merely a correlation between infidelity and weight loss–it possible that there are other explanations for the weight loss that coincide with the infidelity.

A number of health and relationship experts have suggested that the stress of the affair is actually the cause of the weight loss. However, I think their blanket dismissal that there is something positive going on is as unscientific. Stress as frequently leads to weight gain, so why the trend toward weight loss in this sample. In their responses they have almost all put a moralistic spin on their argument (instead of a strictly scientific one).

Clearly the website has an agenda (business) in spinning the results they way they do, but so do the relationship experts (morality). The argument put forth by the website that the affairs reduce the discomfort of an unhappy marriage is as plausible as the relationship experts’ claims. I find it equally feasible that a satisfying sex (love?) life–including simply increased novelty–can promote better health. In fact there is a lot of scientific evidence to support this claim, to which many of these same experts would refer in their advice giving.

I do not promote infidelity–largely because of the stress that it can cause, but also because it is incongruent with the morality and self-concept of most of the people who engage in infidelity. However, I also define infidelity as a violation of the expectations of the relationship, and NOT non-monogamy. It would be interesting to see in what ways stress and sexual satisfaction each independently mediated the relationship between “infidelity” (and possibly non-monogamy) and weight loss.

Check out the discussion on the Huffington Post here

Sleep Hygiene

Sometimes counting is an insufficient way to distract the mind enough to sleep.  I advise my clients to engage their minds more deeply.  Sometimes I recommend they count by threes instead.  Another suggestion I make is to come up with a neutral category of things and then come up with examples of that category in alphabetical order.  The trick is to engage the mind in something that is neither too upsetting nor too taxing, but taxing enough to prevent the mind from wandering.

Relationships Take Work

I used to avoid saying that relationships “take work,” preferring to say they “take effort.” The notion that relationships are work feels discouraging. The notion that relationships take work also challenges the storybook fantasy of “happily ever after.” But like work, the effort that goes into relationships is rewarding. What one gets is not a paycheck, but more frequently intangible rewards.

 I think we also need to recognize that “happily ever after” does not mean “happily ever after for all of the time.” My partner and I have been together over 10 years and we would both describe ourselves as “happy” in the relationship. But neither of us would interpret that to mean that we are happy all of the time. We argue, we annoy each other, and we even offend one another sometimes.

 We also make sure that tensions do not linger. We have had some arguments that lasted overnight. We even recently had a conflict in which we disagreed for nearly a week (that one was a little scary actually). We each fought to bring about a resolution during that interval, gradually achieving successful understanding. Throughout this process we strived to maintain respect for each other. We each also had to admit that we were wrong in part of our own perspective. We did not fully see eye-to-eye in the end and we each had to make some compromises.

 Compromise, concession, and admitting one was wrong are all part of the work that goes into the relationship. So is enduring pain. Relationships involve heartache; it is unavoidable. We, as humans, will make mistakes that hurt one another—unintentionally, thoughtlessly, or selfishly. I tell my clients that loving means being willing to be hurt. And not just hurt by a break-up, but that hurt will occur along the whole way. And sometimes we will be the one to cause it.  Sometimes we hate our “job” in the moment, but also recognize the need to do it in order to receive the reward.

 We also do not take each other for granted. We each deliberately express appreciation for the things that the other does—whether special or mundane. Rarely a night goes by when we do not sincerely express appreciation for the other having made dinner. We resist taking our love for/from our partner for granted. We also deliberately make each other feel special, whether that be a small gift, doing something nice, leaving a love note to be found–for no specific reason. The other day I had a bad day and the next day when I came home there was a homemade red velvet cake (my favorite). Our romantic celebration for Valentine’s Day was foiled, for a variety of reasons, but when we talked about it, we both acknowledged that we celebrate the romance of our relationship throughout the year.

 The fostering of the romantic and loving relationship seems more like effort than work, but the ways in which restrain ourselves and are patient and diligent during times of distress are just as important effort, that part just feels more like work because it is not inherently rewarding in the moment. The romantic gestures which we make throughout the relationship act as a great reminder of why we endure the tensions and occasional heart breaks. Fostering a loving feeling makes putting up with one another during tension easier.

 We genuinely enjoy each other’s company—but not always—because we work at the relationship. And that is our paycheck for the work. We each feel fully emotionally supported. We each have someone to call in emergencies—even if the other cannot always fulfill that need, generally the other is there. We each have an easier financial situation because we can pool our resources and cut our expenses. We each have the reward of feeling loved (that one is a biggie).

 For neither of us did all of these things come easy. We both have stumbled along the way. We have each had to guide the other in what we needed sometimes. My boyfriend still struggles to be as romantic as I am. I continue to struggle to be more useful around the house. But we each have learned (and continue to learn) the skill set for our job. And we each feel rewarded for the work we have done.

OutSmart Relationship Essay

I have a piece published in the February issue of OutSmart magazine. I address the problem that I see in my practice of people looking to others to complete them, sometimes as an excuse not to work on themselves.

I also relate this need to be in a relationship to a sense of “validity” for gays and lesbians.

Forgiveness Requires a Wrongdoing

You cannot forgive someone for a wrongdoing until you acknowledge that is was not “okay” for them to have done it.

He or she may have done it for reasons for which you can be compassionate. You do not have to hold it against them or carry the hurt forever, but the wrong needs to be recognized as having occurred as a wrong.

Writing Might Help Your Relationship

There is a lot of research that supports the idea that being in a long-term relationship is good for one’s overall health. However, the research has been primarily conducted with married heterosexuals, so we do not know how well these findings apply to other forms of relationships. Additionally, as these researchers point out, the quality of the relationship matters more than simply being in a relationship or not.

 As we maintain a relationship, some of the satisfaction can fade as our perceptions of partner(s) are affected by the tensions of the relationship, specifically the conflicts and shared responsibilities. We begin to incorporate those experiences into the idea of who are partner is. This is worsened by our inability to look at the tension from an objective position—our inability to take our personal feelings out of the interactions.

 In this study, the researchers examined ways of reducing (eliminating) declines in marital satisfaction, particularly by promoting a more objective perspective of the tension in the relationship. The effects appear to not be immediate, but substantial over time.  Might be worth considering.

Acting Against Depression

When someone is depressed, engaging in behaviors which will counter the depression is difficult to get oneself to do. This article lists some pretty basic stuff that most people “should” be able to achieve.  However, I think the article is a little better at goal setting than helping with the threshold motivation to achieve the goals. Frequently in depression, achieving a goal is not motivation enough to pursue it, so I like to employ some very basic reinforcement methods.

 If a client is likely to respond to the challenge of keeping at something, then a “gold star chart” might be useful. Basically, by receiving a gold star for each day that each of the 12 things on here are completed can disrupt a person’s sense that ‘they can’t” because the progress is made apparent. This works well if you like “proving” that you can do something or feel good about sustained behavior. I feel better about myself when I know that I made it to the gym a certain number of times a week—it makes me feel that the body building I am doing is real and meaningful (sometimes even more than the growth I see).

 A similar system, frequently used with children, is a token system. In this method, a token is given to the depressed person when he or she completes the items listed in this article. Then when the person accumulates a certain number of tokens, he or she receives some reward. This helps the person feel like they are working toward something that has more immediate gratification than simply being mentally healthy—which can feel so far away it is not worth striving for.

 A more direct reinforcement schedule can also be helpful. In this case, the person receives a reward for having engaged in one of the 12 behaviors listed in the article. Initially the person needs to be rewarded for a predictable number of occurrences of the behavior to establish the behaviors, and then to prolong the behavioral engagement, the reward system needs to be unpredictable but frequent enough to remain short-term gratification. While working on my dissertation, we employed this in my household through my partner allowing me to do a particular fun thing after I completed a certain number of hours of work on my dissertation.

 If you find yourself or know someone who is experiencing depression try these systems of reward/recognition (or a combination of them) in order to make the reward less long-term oriented, and therefore feel more achievable. If you are the one experiencing the depression, enlist a friend or family member to help you carry through the system. Ideally, one ought to try to institute these behaviors at the earliest signs of depression. If you know you are prone to depression, then watch for the signs and enact one of these systems early or even consider keeping the system active constantly.