3 Ways to (Really) Have Happier Holidays

It’s that time of that time of year, isn’t it? Christmas is fast approaching, and for many, the nor’easter of financial stress, family conflict, and migraine-inducing holiday preparations is becoming more intense. As the lines at stores get longer, the holiday travel more hectic, and the planning for festivities more frantic, St. Nick is the only one who’s got time to check his list twice. Amidst the yuletide chaos, much of the holiday spirit is lost, so much so that we frequently speak of Christmas as a season that must be “survived” or “saved.”

On (Emotional) Shackles & Freedom

Today, of course, is the Fourth of July, the holiday during which America remembers its adoption of the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1776. We celebrate that after declaring our independence from Great Britain, we at last gained hard-won freedom after the long years of the Revolutionary War ended in 1783. Though that war is over, Americans still battle in many conflicts throughout the world.

 

A different kind of conflict, however, churns within each of us, regardless of nationality: Each of us fight for our innermost desires and longings to be recognized and understood in our most intimate relationships.

Your Need to Be Emotionally Intimate with Your Partner—And Your Need Not to Be

Have you ever wondered why people seek intimacy in relationships? What is it about emotional intimacy, anyway? Why is feeling connected with a deeply loved partner so much better than just about anything? As a marriage counselor, I know that partners in an intimate, committed, long-term relationship yearn to know and to be known by each other, and yet for so many couples, such intimacy is elusive. Why is cultivating this kind of connection so hard? Because as much as you want to be connected and close to your partner, intimacy is also profoundly frightening. To understand why, we need to consider our need for intimacy first.

Piglet on the Couch: Anxiety as Inner Conflict

Some months ago, I stumbled across “Winnie the Pooh,” a 2011 film featuring many of my favorite childhood friends, while wading through the vast waters of Netflix’s streaming library. My delight upon being reunited with these characters inspired me to integrate my training as a therapist with my affection for Pooh and his friends by writing about Eeyore, Ashdown Forest’s sad, gloomy, and lethargic grey donkey. In that post, I explained that depression results from one’s inability to manage depressive feelings.

Eeyore on the Couch: Depression & How Therapy Can Help

A few months ago, I was surfing the vast wave of entertainment in my Netflix streaming application when I discovered a veritable gold mine of nostalgia: “Winnie the Pooh,” a 2011 film featuring many of my favorite childhood friends. In the long years since I had last seen them, I was delighted to find that Winnie the Pooh’s appetite for honey had not waned a bit, that Tigger was still nearly manic with unbound energy, and that Piglet was still occasionally conquering his fears despite being a “very small animal.”

Me & My (Fragmented) Self

Curiosity about the goings-on in my hometown of Holland, Michigan prompted me this morning to visit the website of the city’s newspaper, The Holland Sentinel. As a former paperboy for the Sentinel, I recalled slinging newspapers in the crisp cold of Holland’s winter streets bathed in the hushed light before dawn. As I scrolled through the headlines, I stumbled across Holland’s police log. My first perusal of its records for February 21-22, the most recent posting, showed little of interest. Animal complaint. General public assistance. Traffic. Motorist assist. A closer look was more troubling, however: destruction of property; larceny; miscellaneous crime; more larceny; fraud.

 

Sex, God, and Our Longing for Intimacy (Part 2)

Just as spirituality is an expression of our desire to experience an authentic, meaningful relationship with God, sexuality is the expression of our innate desire to connect with others and to know and be known intimately and completely. Certainly, in our closest, most satisfying non-sexual relationships, in knowing the other we discover more fully who we are.

 

For instance, a woman supports a recently divorced friend by meeting her at a coffeeshop for lunch, and her friend tearfully tells her that she has always been a calm, steady presence in her life. A groom exchanges a silent look with his best man that communicates the depth of his appreciation and love after many long years of faithful friendship. In such relationships, we encounter ourselves while encountering the other in unexpected and sometimes challenging ways that solitary self-reflection does not afford. However, even in these relationships, we, to quote the apostle Paul, “know only in part” (1 Cor 13:12), and we long to know and be known fully.

Why We Hurt

Conflict is inevitable in all of our relationships, and romantic relationships are no exception. Partners in intimate, long-term relationships will surely step on each other’s toes, thereby causing each other emotional pain. Couples need to able to repair painful rifts when they happen in ways that cultivate intimacy, vulnerability, and emotional safety. How might couples do this?