Jill Baumgarner

Pillow Talk: After Sex Conversations to Have to Feel Bonded

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

“Sex is good. Pillow talk is better. Sex is easy, intimacy is difficult. It requires honesty, openness, self-disclosure, confiding concerns, fears, sadnesses as well as hopes and dreams…”

Hara Estroff Marano, author & Editor at Large of Psychology Today

Talking after sex matters. Science and societal wisdom agree that the post-sex period of heightened emotion and willing vulnerability is a precious time that builds intimacy and deepens your ability to connect well … in and out of bed.

How can you capitalize on the psychological and physiological need for attachment? What exactly do you talk about to continue to feel bonded?

Consider the following post-coital conversations as a pillow talk guide to get you started:

Pillow Talk Praise: Admire Your Partner’s Sexual Prowess

How can your lover resist you when you acknowledge their efforts to please you?

As long as the conversation is positive and comfortable, detail how lovely a time you had. Encourage your partner to keep doing that thing with their tongue. Remark that you appreciate how attentive/ energetic/ creative they were.

Ask what you can do to increase their satisfaction too. Keep things light and playful. Prepare for more physical fun now that you’re a little clearer on what each other likes.

Express How being Together Makes You Feel

Who doesn’t feel good about being valued?

Make the most of the floaty post-sex high to talk each other up. Say the loving, complimentary things you used to say at the very start of your love story. Compliment the angles of his face or the curves of her body.

Remind each other that you know each other and like what you know. Honor the roles in you play in each other’s lives. Verbalize how much fun it’s been to work alongside each other as friends and parents. Celebrate the relationship you’re building with specifics, memories, and stories until you drift off. You’ll wake with a lovely sense of togetherness.

Share More of Yourself Between the Sheets

What better time to share more of yourself?

The moments following sex are often a safe, quiet time in which to go deeper into a conversation that you might forgo amid your daily responsibilities. If you find you’re awake and snuggled in, why not take some time to talk about what you usually just daydream about.

When is the last time you dreamed out loud together? Check in on ideas or plans that have changed or evolved in your minds. Invite your partner into the dreams or goals that preoccupy your thoughts.

Open Up about Your Vision for Your Relationship

What’s more reassuring than knowing for sure how your partner sees your future together?

Sex can be deeply intimate and signal a willingness to take your relationship further. Thus, sex and discussions about the future in bed can create close emotional ties that last long after the glow of the physical act fades.

If you have a strong indication that you both want to build a long term relationship, lay back, hold each other, and talk it through. You are both deliciously vulnerable and in a position to capitalize on the sense of trust and mutual satisfaction created physically not long before.

Not Comfortable with Pillow Talk?

Are you struggling with the idea of cozy conversations after sex with your partner? Is there something inside you, or between you, that holds you back?

It may be worth exploring your reluctance and discomfort with a trained couples counselor. Recent research shows that your after-sex moments are key periods for building a solid connection. Don’t lose that special opportunity for deep, emotional connection with your partner.

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Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Jill focuses on sexual health in her clients’ relationships by opening up the lines of communication to achieve enhanced intimacy. For guidance on harnessing the spark in your relationship, contact Jill at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her online through the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

 

Keep the Spark Alive in Long-Term Relationships: 9 Tips for Initiating Sex

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Early in your relationship, the thought that you might need tips for initiating sex were probably the furthest thing from your mind. There was a lot of sex and subsequently, a lot of talk about sex. Yet, over time, both the sex and the conversation surrounding it tend to slow down.  Realistically, it’s not surprising that lust cools and intimacy shifts as the relationship matures. But, if a couple is not communicating about their sex life, it can spell trouble.

The Stages of a Sex Life

Wait…there are stages?

The first step in keeping the sexual spark alive is recognizing that this spark can and often does fizzle after a period. We like to think we’re different. Our entire connection will be the proverbial “honeymoon phase” and we won’t need to talk about it to keep the excitement alive.  A more productive approach is to commit early to open communication about all things, including sex. If you accomplish this, there can be a healthy pattern to the stages of your sex life. For example:

  • Anything Goes. the dizzying early days when lust feels like a new discovery.

  • Finding a Rhythm. When you realize this is not a fling and settle into your own personal sex vibe.

  • Rhythm Becomes Routine. As time passes and responsibilities increase, you lose that spontaneous feeling.

  • Resisting the Cliché. “We will not become that couple everyone talks about!”

  • Acceptance. Okay, you sometimes are that couple but recognizing this creates room for…

  • Reinvention. With enough trust and lust, this process can always stay fresh.

9 Tips for Initiating Sex & Keeping the Spark Alive in a Long-Term Relationship

1. Open the Lines of Communication

Being clear and honest is sexy. Put aside assumptions and embrace direct discussion.

2. Redefine “Sex”

It can feel demoralizing if you experience long gaps between sexual encounters. Take a look at how you define “sex,” and remember that there’s much more to intimacy than just that one act.

3. Practice Seduction

In many relationships, one or both partners may feel they are taken for granted. Practice seduction. It makes things stimulating again.

4. Don’t Put it Off

If you have social plans, why wait to get frisky afterward? Don’t risk being too tired, full, drunk, or cranky. Do it when the opportunity feels right.

5. Take a Mini-Vacation

If you’re in the position to plan a getaway, make it happen.

6. Use Tech to Tease

We have these fancy devices with us all day. Why not use them to remind your partner that they make you hot? A mid-day text is a sweet way to build some suspense.

7. Don’t Pine for the “Good Old Days”

What you looked like and how you got down “back in the day” is of no concern today. Find what feels right for who you are right now.

8. Lots of Compliments

This is connected to the practice of seduction, mentioned above. Verbalize your appreciation and feel the sexual tension rise.

9. Be Patient

There is no blueprint or magic formula. Relationships require our full and constant attention. Be patient, trust each other, and reap the rewards.

Getting to the Root of the Issue

Sometimes there are unspoken, underlying factors to consider when it feels that the spark has left your relationship. Relationships are complicated and issues other than your sex life impact all aspects of your connection.

If it feels like the thrill is gone, you might want to ponder if the thrill is just being obscured by other things happening in your relationship. Perhaps there are things, such as hurt feelings, unresolved resentments, lack of intentional time together, busy schedules, etc., that are influencing your feelings about sexual intimacy with your partner. Many couples seek professional assistance by committing to meeting with a professional counselor to help them identify barriers that are keeping the sexual spark from igniting. In a safe and non-judgmental setting honest discussion can bloom, unhelpful patterns are exposed, new approaches are suggested, and additional tips for initiating sex explored. The result is a sharper awareness of how to stay intimate as your relationship evolves through the years ahead.

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Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern works with both couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin who are looking to regain the spark in their relationship. If you and your partner are ready to enhance sexual intimacy and restore an emotional and physical connection, call Jill at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How to Communicate Your Boundaries While Talking Politics

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

You know how it goes.

Something major happens in government, media, or on the global stage. Then, the next day (after a night of cable news and scrolling through Facebook headlines), you may find yourself with coworkers, or out for a drink with friends, or having dinner with your partner or another family member, when the political topic comes up and the conversation starts to get heated.

Passionate opinions fly, points of view clash, and tension spills over as you each try to make the other person see your side of things.

Sound familiar?  

We Don’t Talk Anymore: Why is it so hard to talk about politics without putdowns?

If there was ever a time when broaching a political discussion at the dinner table or at a social event was taboo, it is certainly a mindset that has been long forgotten. Today, topics of current news, politics, and religion are a pretty standard talking in many homes and social circles. While it’s true that the occasional friendly debate between family and good friends can be mentally stimulating, and even fun, discussions of politics have a reputation for quickly crossing the line from civil to contentious. Unfortunately, the evolution of social media and our recent elections seem to have struck, played, and frayed everyone’s political nerves.

Having a conversation about politics that is both passionate and civil is something many of us have little experience with, especially when the topics are close to home and emotions are running high. With social media sites acting as primary sources of news for many of us, controversial posts or hurtful comments by friends might be more prevalent in our newsfeeds. Due to the removed nature of posting a comment online, versus saying it in-person to someone directly, many of us have become more comfortable expressing our opinions about the current state of public affairs. While it’s important to stay true to yourself and your personal values, a lack of restraint when discussing controversial topics and opinions doesn’t always play well in the real world.

How Boundaries Help

All of this leads us to the need for boundaries. Boundaries are a must, especially when talking about politics or any sensitive subject. They go a long way in preserving relationships of all sorts, including those at work or relationships more intimate in nature.

A person’s emotional investment in a topic or area of life deserves respect. Not because you agree or support that point-of-view, but simply because we all want and need to operate freely and reach our own conclusions.

Boundaries that are clearly communicated, and held firmly, help preserve basic human dignity. This is important because we’ve seen too often, that respect tends to wither in the heat of passionate positions and in the absence of agreed-upon guidelines.

People can quickly resort to anger and relationship-damaging behavior if they don’t consider their individual limits and communicate them very clearly before jumping into political talking points.

How Can You Communicate Boundaries Effectively (before things go off the rails)?

Accept and Allow That It’s OK to Disagree.

Give yourself room to accept that your relationship allows for dual perspectives and realities.  In any relationship, it’s important that you quickly come to grips with this truth: You both have your own subjective reality and you both have equally valid perspectives.

Being in a relationship, with your partner or anyone else, is not about asserting how right you are  or wrong they are, but how much you value each other’s right to free thought, speech, and expression. Throughout your discussion, clearly state that you will listen and engage if your interaction is fair and reciprocal. When you sense you no longer have a voice, feel free to stop the discussion, walk away if you must, and share the reasons why. Agreeing that you disagree is certainly a more positive way to get back on track with your relationship with the other person, than continuing a fiery conversation that could damage your connection and friendship.

Respect Your Own Need to De-escalate and Drop Hot Topics Until Tempers Cool

Directly and firmly step away if the conversation becomes too heated. Dropping your political points for another discussion, or stepping out for a breath of fresh air, gives you the recognized ability to put on the brakes when you feel it’s necessary.

If you find your discussion partner is following you around the room trying to re-engage, you have the right to more obviously set a limit on the intensity of the conversation. Call a timeout, state that you can’t continue to have an escalated discussion with them and seek out a change of scenery to aid your peace of mind. If the relationship is important to you, tell them that the relationship means more to you than trying to win them over to your perspective.

Call Out Tendencies to Demonize, Degrade, or Dismiss Each Other

In the course of political conversations, you may realize that you and the other person in the discussion have extremely different worldviews, many different conclusions about where the world is headed, or very different ways of seeing the same politician. As bothered and irritated that may make you both, personal attacks as a result of your differences do too much relationship damage.

Don’t let boundary-breaking disrespect slide by unacknowledged. Especially without attempts to repair the relationship. Stopping to address name-calling, derogatory language, or put-downs lets your conversation partner know that passionate politics isn’t a pass for bullying and offensive behavior.

Insist on a Sense of Humor

The discussions you’re having are serious. The needs of the world, your country, and your community are great. For many, they are overwhelming. It can be easy to think that your ideas need to be heard and taken seriously. Your discussion partner likely feels the same way. You may also find that you continually reach a communication impasse.

Humor (not sarcasm or “hostile humor”) has a way of soothing tensions, relaxing that sense of “nose-to-nose” conflict, and re-opening your listening ears to each other.

Be the first to smile, make a humorous observation, or in some way interject a bit of fun into your exchange. This honors the conversation and both of your opinions, while still allowing you to communicate boundaries regarding tone and healthy perspectives.

Limits and Political Conversation Can Coexist… (if you’re careful and conscious)

Having different political views from your partner, family members, and co-workers co-worker, can be frustrating, even infuriating at times! When you feel strongly about certain social issues and governmental leadership, it can seem like the differences are too great to support worthwhile interaction.

Don’t give up on political conversations, just reconsider how you have them.

Learning to set boundaries from the outset can alleviate tension, promote confidence, and affirm the relationship, priming your minds for a less emotional conversation and a more thoughtful, engaged discussion.

Politics is only divisive if we allow it to be.

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Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. For more ideas on productive communication and help navigating the political climate, please feel free to contact her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

 

Mantras for Meditation: 8 Statements to Boost Your Self-Esteem

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Everyone has their own mantras for meditation. Words and phrases you tell yourself routinely. Some serve you well…others, not so much.

What about you? How well do speak of and to yourself?

Are you a friend to the rumpled person in the bathroom mirror? Do you soothe your inner employee after a misstep at work? Are you kind and supportive to your inner self when a friend or loved one lets you down or walks away?

Too many of us are complicit in kicking ourselves when we’re down. We automatically, and often unconsciously, undermine our own self-esteem with put-downs, routine criticisms, or everyday disapproval. We feed negative self-talk in our minds so often that authentic self-confidence is hard to come by when we need it.

Fortunately, we don’t have to go on this way.

Self-talk is changeable.

Your self-perception can be bolstered, and negativity overpowered, with some well-chosen words and intentional thoughts. Your personal, internal script can encourage positivity and self-love, which can be called to mind whenever you need them.

What are these magic words? We call them “mantras.” And better than magic, the happiness they can bring you won’t disappear. They do the most mental good when you focus on them, meditating on your own kind thoughts until they drive away any tendency to beat yourself up or question your worth.

How do you know what to say?

Take some time to think about what you want and how you want to experience your life. What matters, what gets in your way? Allow yourself the freedom to say out loud what you long for and what inspires you.

Ready to learn a few mantras and meditation statements? Modify these as you see fit, and then memorize to make your mind your friend again:

8 Powerful Self-esteem Mantras for Meditation

  1. I love myself. I am beautiful. My spirit is unique. There is just one me.

  2. I am enough, worthy of friendship and love, just as I am.

  3. My value is not diminished by my imperfections or the perceptions of others.

  4. I am deserving of good things, happiness, and joy. It is okay to want them for myself.

  5. I can choose to think uplifting thoughts. I appreciate the power of my own self-talk.

  6. My mistakes and failures make me stronger, braver, and wiser.

  7. I am becoming the person I want to be. I work toward honesty and authenticity.

  8. My decisions are my own. I stand behind my words and deeds. My path is my choice. 

  9. I choose the people who surround me. I welcome in those who love and respect me, and respect themselves.

Using your Self-Confidence/Self-Esteem Mantras

Over the next few weeks, select one of these mantras for meditation, or create one of your own. Try to make it a part of your self-talk, replacing negative thoughts a little more each day.

Of course, if you sense the mantra isn’t affording you much support or healthy benefits, give yourself permission to change things up. Some mantras fit best at certain times in your life and some won’t match your unique style or personality. That’s okay.  Seek the words that affirm you and make you feel loved. Even a line of poetry or favorite song will do.

Remember, what the outside world thinks of you is just opinion. Often perceptions by others reflect who they are and what is happening in their lives more than anything else. Use your mantras to define yourself and who you know you are. You have that right. Enjoy it!

Finally, if you need help finding mantras that bringing you joy and encouragement, you may want to reach out to a therapist for support. Together you can work on ways to treat yourself well and infuse the kind of self-appreciation into your life you’ve always deserved.

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Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with clients at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin to explore their own personal growth and regain a positive self-perception. To learn more about how to create an effective internal script for yourself, give Jill a call at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

How to Make Your Date Nights More Mindful

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

No matter how long you and your partner have been together, the benefits of a regular and refreshing date night can do your relationships a lot of good. Especially if you can come together mindfully and mentally ready to focus on nourishing your relationship. 

Mindfulness can be one of the loveliest gifts partner’s give each other. The practice of being present can help you get the most out of your date nights. Finding ways to remain aware and in tune with each other will fuel a deeper sense of connection, confidence in your bond, and anticipation regarding upcoming dates.

Enjoy an overall boost in your individual enjoyment and the wellbeing of your relationship. Consider the following ways to incorporate mindfulness in your date night routine:

Know Yourself & Elevate Your Energy

Pay attention to your emotions, attitude, and energy. They directly impact your enjoyment, ability to engage and mutual experience.

If you are feeling frustrated with your partner or are overwhelmed by work responsibilities, the date will probably not go well.

Take some time before the date to be quiet and still. Observe the tension in your body and the flow of your thoughts. Breathe deeply and allow the negative energy to dissipate. Inhale calm, exhale negativity. Concentrate on the positive aspects of your relationship. Let go of negative self-talk. 

You may even want to track your emotions and thoughts with a journal. The practice of being honest with yourself fosters an increased tendency to be open and honest with your partner. The better you know and understand yourself, the better partner you can be.

Practice Present, Conscious Communication

Date night is an excellent opportunity for meaningful, mindful conversation. Use the time to get a clear picture of your partner’s feelings and needs. Try the following to support and encourage closeness and caring interaction:
Ask questions like, “how do you feel right now?” and “what do you need from me?” Really listen and consider the responses with interest and compassion.

Avoid making assumptions or passing judgments about each other’s perspectives. It’s easy to think you know your partner so well that you can read their mind and emotions without much effort, however this practice can lead to shallow connection over time.

Instead, be intentional about taking the time to be curious and observant of your partner’s passions, needs, and perspectives.  Put away your smartphones and other distractions to focus in.

Expand your Options, Take your Time & Pay Attention

To truly enjoy date nights, slow down and pay attention to the moments you’re sharing. This is often better accomplished by choosing dates that are less passive and more prone to active engagement.

Fewer movies and more dancing, visits to an art museum, or picnics along a hiking trail will give you opportunities to enjoy one another. You can see each other in new ways, observe each other in various contexts, and continue to learn about each other’s preferences, hidden talents, strengths, and weaknesses.

Set Reasonable Expectations, Relax, and Enjoy!

Often partners don’t recognize that they have overblown expectations for the one night they set aside to connect. While date night is great for the emotional health of your relationship, don’t put too much pressure on yourselves or each other to solve all the unresolved issues of your union.  Allow date night to be a tool by keeping the following in mind:

  • Don’t try to accomplish too much. Reserve this time for connection and refreshment of your relationship. Enjoy the date for what it is and move forward.

  • Balance your expectations. Go on your date expecting to have fun and deepen your friendship. Share your wants and needs but don’t make demands. Keep communication open and supportive.

  • Smile, laugh and play together.

Let the date ebb and flow easily. Don’t focus on controlling each other or the activity. Make space to relax and see where the date takes you.

Take Time to Reflect

After your date nights, take some time to reflect on your time together. Use your journal to reflect personally. Share with a therapist as a couple. Reflection and sharing with an objective counselor can provide insight and improve your connection, shoring up the foundation of your relationship as you go along.

Date nights are only meaningful if you and your partner are actually engaged and intentional about tuning in mentally, physically,  and emotionally. Use mindfulness to take care of yourselves and refocus on each other. The more self-aware, relationship conscious, and curious you can be, the more enjoyable your date nights will be, and your relationship will blossom.

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Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples and individuals at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Jill specializes in helping couples restore intimacy and communicate effectively with one another about feelings, needs, and desires. To schedule your appointment with Jill, contact her at (512) 270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Aim to Please: How to Talk to Each Other About Sex and Satisfaction

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Discussing sex with your partner should be a great experience. At the beginning of a relationship, it usually is.

People are always changing, though. Which means your desires and needs will change, too.

The longer you’re in a relationship the more likely there is a need to talk to each other about sex. Though for many, this can be an awkward moment. Sort of like walking on egg-shells.

While you certainly want to communicate your sexual needs, you may also want to avoid insulting your partner on their sexual prowess. It’s a delicate balance.

Despite the sensitive topic, following a few guidelines will help you to have a healthy conversation.

Get Out of Bed

When you talk to each other about sex, be sure you do it in a neutral location—not while you’re in bed. The goal is to make your partner feel safe, secure, and open to being vulnerable.

Instead of surprising your partner with this discussion, tell them ahead of time what you want to talk about. Preface the invitation with your desire to talk about something that’s been on your mind regarding your sex life.

Handle One Thing at a Time

Because there’s often a risk that a sexual discussion could go poorly, you may be tempted to talk about everything all at once. Trying to discuss every little thing about your sex life is not the best  approach. It can be overwhelming for your partner. Plus, the chances are not great that you will come to any conclusions.

Therefore, follow the “short-and-sweet” rule, sticking to one topic per discussion. For example, if you’d like to talk about your partner taking the initiative more often, simply focus on that one aspect of your sexual relationship.

Remember the Basics

As you head into this discussion about sex, keep in mind the basics. It’s not exactly about tackling a sex topic. It’s more like laying the foundation of your sexual relationship.

Talk about things like what initiating sexual intimacy means to your partner or what time of day they enjoy sex the most. Your partner’s natural life rhythm can greatly influence their sexual desires, so keep these facts and their concerns at the forefront of any discussion.

Take the Positive Approach

As with any discussion attempting to motivate change, the temptation is to focus on what you don’t like. Basically, you end up complaining. Avoid this approach, by all means.

Rather, offer your partner reassurance by telling them what you do like about your sexual relationship. Go as far as to discuss a certain action like the way they kiss you or caress your skin.

Only after you encourage and uplift your partner can you talk about any suggestions or concerns you may have. Keep in mind, too, that you need to leave room for them to give their point of view and be open to their feedback.

Be Incredibly Tactful

While sex is undeniably a very physical act, its impact runs far below the surface of your body. It is emotional, mental, and intangible. Further still, each person has their own unique relationship with sex.

It’s important to acknowledge that your partner could have different ideas about sex than you do. Possibly even a complicated history that affects how they feel about it.

For this reason, dedicate yourself to being as tactful as you possibly can when you talk to each other about sex. If you have trouble finding the right words, pause the conversation.  Search your mind diligently for them. Protect your partner from misunderstanding you and inadvertently hurting their feelings.

Obviously, sex can be a wonderfully intimate expression of the connection between two people. If you struggle with discussing it, take some time to determine why. Otherwise, your relationship may struggle as well.

A therapist’s objective support and guidance could make it easier if you find that you have difficulty with this subject on your own. Consider seeking out a therapist who can facilitate a discussion about sex and help you to reconnect intimately with your partner.
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Jill Baumgarner, MA, LPC Intern, works with couples at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin, helping them restore intimacy, sexual spark, gain communication skills, and find peace in their committed relationships. To schedule an appointment with Jill, contact her at 5121-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

5 Affirmations Happy Couples Give Each Other Often

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

We are regularly bombarded with images and messages about “true love.” They all seem to add to something like this:

  • You have one true soul mate out there
  • When you meet, it’s love at first sight
  • From there, well… it’s happily ever after

Sure, this is an oversimplification but, by how much? Each of us, through no fault of our own, get some very unproductive messages about relationships. Movies, books, and social media often present us with the image of what a relationship should be. This can result in big problems when real life doesn’t follow the fairytale script.

There is a very basic, yet powerful way to counter the “true love hype” in this age of social media, memes, and smartphones. What is it?

Affirmations!

What is an Affirmation?

An affirmation is defined as a positive assertion.                   

An affirmation is a conscious act. It is a mindful statement of truth.

We each have anywhere from 150 to 300 thoughts per minute. Most of the tens of thousands of thoughts we have daily are subconscious. The majority of these are negative, and most of the time we are not even aware of our negative cognitions. When we begin to pay attention and choose to mindfully be aware of the ticker tape of thoughts going on in our mind, we can then counter the negative thoughts with positive affirmations that are more helpful.

While everything else ricochets around your brain, an affirmation has a calming effect. It provides much-needed certainty among the many conflicting thoughts. Affirmations are helpful in relationship terms, as well as in individual. A steady practice of giving your partner and your relationship positive affirmations feels like a strong foundation against the changing, unpredictable winds.

When we affirm ourselves, our partner, and our relationship, we absorb the positivity. We feel it. We mean it.  We live it.

5 Affirmations Happy Couples Give Each Other Often

1. Our lines of communications are always open and always open to change.

Healthy communication is a foundational part of a happy relationship. Remember that good communication is a process — not a destination.

2. I love you as you are.

Too often, we stack up our partner against other people. Even worse, perhaps, is when we stack our partner up against some future version of them. We can love our partner as they are — while also supporting them as they evolve and grow.

3. I take responsibility for my words and actions.

No more defensiveness and passive-aggressive deflection. We will think before we act and speak and after we act and speak. If we make a mistake, we will repair that mistake and take responsibility for it.

4. I forgive when necessary and I apologize when necessary.

Hard times will happen. The goal is never perfection. When navigating rough waters, we will handle the struggle with maturity, grace, and love.

5. My respect and trust are unwavering.

No matter how our connection evolves — even if that connection dramatically shifts — respect and trust is non-negotiable. These are guiding principles for all our actions.

There’s Something Else Happy Couples Do

Leave nothing to chance. Accepting that sometimes you may need a bit of help is another way to affirm yourself, your partner, and your relationship.

Individually and as a couple, we must accept that sometimes we do better if we get outside help and support. This may mean reading books on healthy relationships, attending a workshop or weekend retreat for couples, or seeing a couples counselor. Reaching out for help with your relationship doesn’t mean your relationship is failing, it affirms that your relationship is important to you and you want to make it better and happier for you both.

The patterns we develop over time often mask what we choose not to see. To stay a “happy couple” means we must sometimes face some “unhappy” truths. We identify them, address them, and do the work to make different choices. All in all, there’s no other affirmation that shows love more clearly.
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Jill Baumgarner is a licensed professional counselor intern with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you and your partner want to find new ways to affirm your relationship, contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Revenge, Rage, or Restraint? What To Do With Anger After Infidelity

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

Recovering from an affair can be excruciating.

It doesn’t matter if you were the one betrayed or the one who did the betraying. Healing can prove to be a difficult journey. And along the path to healing, you will likely feel a great deal of anger after infidelity.

Sometimes, your anger might feel like a need for revenge and other times it could even feel like a rush of humiliated rage. While these feelings are natural, dealing with them in a healthy way might not come easily.

Here are a few tips on what to do with your post-affair anger.

Uncovering Your Anger

If you’re like most people, you probably agree that anger doesn’t often seem to need uncovering. Rather, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

You feel mad, right? Yet, there is more to anger than simply being ticked off.

Anger is often an expression of hurt. In terms of an affair, anger is usually the emotion standing center stage like a powerful singer, but it is not the painful emotion driving the song.

Emotions like fear, hurt, guilt, or inadequacy remain hidden behind the stage curtain, but they are the ones actually writing the harsh notes escaping your angry lips. In other words, anger is simply the emotion that upstages your other emotions most of the time. But those other emotions deserve more attention and anger needs more management.

So, how can you deal with the red-faced musician hogging the stage? How do you find relief?

Understanding Why Anger Isn’t the Problem

To be clear, anger is a normal reaction to an affair, both sides of an affair. An affair is traumatic. So, it’s only to be expected that intense feelings bubble up.

Feeling anger is okay. It’s all okay and it’s all natural.

Still, left unchecked by your internal management system, anger can forge a destructive path. It can be harmful to your mental and physical well-being, it can also be harmful to those around you, as you may say or do things in anger that ultimately destroy the relationship.

In short, what you do with your anger remains the issue. Not the anger itself.

Accepting Your Anger After Infidelity

Changing the past isn’t doable. This means that erasing an affair or its fallout isn’t possible either.

But, changing the future is within your control. And, believe it or not, anger has a lot to do with that.

When it comes to anger after infidelity, it’s important to let it come to you as it will. Respect your feelings and adopt a self-validating approach to these uncomfortable emotions.

You feel them for a reason, so allow yourself to feel them completely.

As well as feeling and validating your anger, make a commitment to expressing it. The hard part is knowing how to express your anger in a harmless way for you and others.

How to Express Your Anger

Expressing your anger might feel like you’re doing something wrong. It might even feel a little forbidden. Yet, when expressed appropriately, it can be very healthy.

What does it mean to express your anger appropriately?

For starters, avoid reacting towards another person in the heat of an angry moment. In fact, intense anger often requires a release far away from other people.

If you’re dealing with a whirlwind of toxic pent-up emotions, write it out. You don’t need spell check or even worry that anyone will be read it. Just write what you feel. Feel free to burn it later after you’ve released what you needed to.

Many times, anger is so overwhelming that you have to physically release it. Things like screaming into a pillow, hitting an old couch cushion, or a brisk walk for few minutes all help to release that steam.

If you’re having a hard time dealing with anger after infidelity, do not hesitate to reach out for help from a counseling professional. A counselor who works with couples and individuals in the aftermath of infidelity can help you navigate this tough time, and support you on your path to healing and helpful expression of your emotions.
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Jill Baumgarner Headshot.jpg

Jill Baumgarner, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. She works with couples and individuals to help them heal after relationship infidelity. Contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

Is Your Second Marriage Doomed to Fail? Best Ways to Beat the Odds

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

When you marry the first time, there’s usually a special feeling that it will last forever.

When you marry for the second time, however, that feeling may not be there because you’re keenly aware of that your first marriage didn’t last.

Sadly, divorce statistics don’t paint a more encouraging picture for those who have been married before. Some 67% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

With those odds in mind, is your second marriage just doomed to fail? Not necessarily, if you are aware of possible obstacles that may arise, and tools to use to help beat the odds.

The Obstacles to Success

In general, second marriages face various hurdles that first marriages don’t. What are some of those?

Three formidable ones are:

  • Mistrust due to betrayal in the previous marriage

Many of those getting married a second (or third) time are unprepared to enter a new relationship when they do. Often, they are on the rebound, scarred by a previous betrayal, and simply have not allowed themselves enough time to recover from their ordeal. Without having reflected on their experience, and learned from their experience, they may repeat the same mistakes.

  • Living in the shadow of the former spouse

Those getting remarried to someone whose beloved former mate has died may find themselves in a dilemma, living in the shadow of the former spouse. On the receiving end, some feel like they’re constantly being compared to their new spouse’s ex-mate. On the inflicting end, others find they can’t stop talking about their former spouse, eventually causing resentment in their new mates.

  • Tension with extended family and friends

When two people unite that already have extended families and groups of friends, there are a lot more players who can make things stressful and challenging. Blending families, parenting strategies, divided loyalties, long-established activities—there are a number of opportunities for conflict and rivalries. Sometimes, it seems impossible to stay out of the crossfire. Under that kind of barrage, it’s no surprise that communication can break down and adversely affect their relationship.

How to Beat the Odds and Make Your Love Last

Clearly, a second marriage is not a casual undertaking. Despite the odds and obvious obstacles, though, many remarried couples have managed to find lasting love and happiness.

How can you achieve that, too?

  • Nourish trust

Open and honest personal communication between you and your new spouse is vital for nurturing the trust in your second marriage. During these talks, learn to be vulnerable and freely share your concerns and feelings with one another.

If your current spouse was betrayed by their former mate, you can take deliberate steps to demonstrate you’re different. For instance, although you’re not the one who committed the betrayal, you could agree to limit private communication with the opposite sex and with your former mate(s) letting each other know when you will or have had contact with them.

  • Create unity

It’s unrealistic to expect that either of you will simply forget your previous marriage(s). There are memories attached to every relationship we have in life. You can’t just erase them. What you can do, though, is create new and unique memories that build your new identity as a couple by regularly spending time together and focusing solely on each other.

If your new spouse needs to talk about their former mate, don’t hastily conclude that they’re comparing you to them. Instead, when you listen with compassion and empathy, you may learn that the conversation can help you draw much closer to your new mate.

If you’re the one finding yourself thinking or talking about your late ex-mate too much, try to focus on your current spouse’s endearing qualities. Reflecting appreciatively on what you love about your present partner can do much to help strengthen the unity of your new marriage.

  • Practice empathy

You may feel awkward around each other’s old friends and extended family for a time. Try to put yourself in the others’ shoes—both those of your family and friends and your new spouse.

First, show empathy when your present mate feels analyzed by your friends and family members. Moreover, show consideration for your spouse’s feelings when you spend time with old friends so that your mate doesn’t feel excluded.

And, second, show empathy for your family and friends, allowing them time to adjust to new circumstances. After all, your marriage situation changed, so your friendship/relationship dynamics could change as well. Some may not welcome that with enthusiasm.

Most importantly, don’t give up easily. The strength you need to make your second marriage last doesn’t develop overnight. You must approach the situation with a mindset of endurance and a firm determination to stay together.

Many people are proving that they have learned their lessons the first time around. Some have found that putting this knowledge to use with the support of an experienced couple’s counselor, has helped to be even more successful at building a happy and long second marriage.
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Jill Baumgarner Headshot.jpg

Jill Baumgarner, MA, is a licensed professional counselor intern with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. Her counseling focus is helping couples through challenging times in their relationship. Contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.

7 Ways Couples Counseling Can Make A Good Marriage Even Better!

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By Jill Baumgarner, MA

There’s a preconceived notion that only couples experiencing relationship issues should see a therapist. While couples counseling is recommended for anyone with marital problems, that’s not the only reason to schedule sessions.

Couples counseling is a great way to get to know your spouse on a deeper level while taking preventative measures to combat any potential problems. These seven benefits indicate that your marriage (no matter how troubled or enjoyable) can be supported by quality couples counseling:

1.   Improve communication skills

We all know that communication is a major cornerstone of every relationship, yet it seems to be something we all struggle with at times. This is, perhaps, because each of us has a different style of communication. You and your spouse certainly don’t have to agree on everything, but you should be able to appropriately relay your thoughts and feelings on a specific subject matter. In couples counseling, you will become equipped with the right tools to learn how to communicate effectively, solve problems, and understand the other’s point of view.

2.   Learn more about each other

This may surprise you, but whether you’ve been married 5, 15, or 55 years, there are probably still some things you have yet to discover about your partner. Sure, you may know their favorite clothing brand, how they take their morning coffee, or how to brighten their mood on a bad day, but do you TRULY understand your partner’s needs? Have you re-familiarized yourself with their love maps? Do you know their love language? Couples counseling will allow you and your spouse to connect and understand one another in an even deeper way.

3.   Practice assertiveness over aggression

No matter how healthy your relationship is, there are probably times when you get fed up, irritated, or even angry at one another. Couples counseling can help you to state your needs and get them met without engaging in repetitious arguments.

4.   Learn to acknowledge instead of avoid

Just as some couples handle conflict aggressively, others handle it passively. They like to bury their heads in the sand, pretending a problem doesn’t exist. Conflict is inevitable and is not something to fear. In couples counseling, you and your spouse can have a safe, unfiltered conversation about some issues you tend to slip under the relationship rug.

5.   Open yourself up to vulnerability

You and your partner love each other, right? Are you each other’s most trusted confidants? Perhaps there are still some things you probably don’t feel comfortable discussing with them. This could be anything from an embarrassing secret to unresolved trauma. While in couples counseling, you have access to an objective third party. You’re in a safe space. There, you’re encouraged to explore your deepest feelings, shared with one another, and receive support. By practicing this vulnerability in couples counseling, you’ll eventually be able to take home much-improved communication and empathy skills.

6.   Prevent change from hijacking your connection

The longer you and your spouse are together, the more likely it is that problems arise. While there is nothing inherently “wrong” with a problem, you want to be prepared to cope productively. As life is happening, a counselor can help you and your partner identify trouble spots, encourage strengths, and stay on course regarding your relationship goals. By acknowledging challenges and transitions with a counselor, you can move forward more successfully.

7.   Gain more mutual respect

Throughout the couples counseling process, you can come to understand yourself and your partner on a deeper level. You’ll understand why they react a certain way. You’ll gain insights into why particular responses or interactions really bother you. By understanding the reasoning behind your thoughts and feelings, you’ll be able to better respect each other.

Don’t shy away from couples counseling. It isn’t a sign that your relationship is on its last legs. You certainly needn’t wait that long. Take the next steps to better your relationship. Your marriage can benefit from having an encouraging counselor in your corner.
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Jill Baumgarner Headshot.jpg

Jill Baumgarner, MA is a licensed professional counselor intern with the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. If you are seeking to improve your marriage or relationship with your partner, contact Jill at 512-270-4883, ext. 108, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling page.