Author Archives: Karen Dean Fritts

YOU Are The Author of YOUR Book!

418206_10150636347334871_576049870_8852236_1039361083_nLet’s take a moment to consider our continuing Adult Development.  First and foremost, Development NEVER Stops!  Not until we take our last breath.  There is a great deal attention given to Early/Child Development.  We often neglect the fact that as adults, we fluidly pass though various developmental passages.  Unlike babies and small children, we don’t grow in size, yet we continue to grow in many exciting ways.  Newest research supports how plastic and flexible the brain continues to be throughout the entire Lifespan.

We are constantly “morphing”.  Hopefully, we are quite different than who we were a decade ago.   Mid-life (from forty to sixty-five) is a time of tremendous transition and change.  Even at the older end of mid life, it is a time of assessing one’s occupation, relationships and quality of life.  Most adults are dealing with aging parents.  This reminds us that life is finite. Somewhere around now we begin to notice that our body is not the same as it was at thirty!  Little aches and pains quietly appear. At the same time levels of appreciation often rise as we begin to count our “Blessings”.

Adults in the forties, fifties and sixties begin to refine and accept themselves as they juggle families, jobs, and money.  This can create some restlessness, confusion, or anxiety.  The Refining may actually create RE-DEFINING. A big change may occur!  In certain respects, the teenager and the person in mid-life are experiencing many things in common.  Both are searching for meaning within their own changing worlds.

I think it is important for all of us to remember that our lives and our development is a continual journey with ever changing life segments similar to chapters in a book.  We are the common thread.  With each stage or Chapter deeply connected to what came before, we as “THE AUTHORS” of our Life can be full of new surprises.

What is Emerging in your most recent Chapter?

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A Partial Look Before You Leap

Knowing yourself is every bit as important as knowing your beloved.  People expect to BE happy but since statistics tell us one out of every two marriages ends in divorce, what THEN happens?

Here are some questions to ponder before you say “I Do”.

  1. First and foremost, do you KNOW YOURSELF well?  Do you pay attention to your “inner voice”?  Answering questions candidly, even if it makes you uncomfortable will be the most helpful.
  2. How would you describe a Happy Marriage?  How did you create your personal definition?  Romantic novels and movies create unrealistic expectations of long-term healthy relationships.  What was your mother and father’s marriage like?  Are you trying to duplicate it or pick exactly the opposite?
  3.  Are you getting married to be “married” rather than single?  Are you lonely or frightened and hope that marriage will make these feelings go away?   Are you settling for a relationship where there are red flags and doubts but you feel like this is the best you can do?
  4.  Most often after a year or two in the relationship most people will identify things that are distressing, uncomfortable or disappointing.  Please, pay close attention! Ask yourself, is this really O.K. for the long haul?

Marrying with the hope of changing your partner or thinking that a bad habit will disappear or get better “once we are married” is almost always a fallacy.  This trait or issue will not disappear  (it most often gets bigger) unless the bearer of the problem is intent on making a significant change.  Residing quietly in every relationship are the clues that will be the potential problems.  And honestly, they are ALWAYS present early on.  We often do not let ourselves see them or admit to them because they might disrupt the goal of WANTING to be married whether or not the right applicant has been found.  Remember, we bring our ‘Best Sunday Self’ to the beginning of every relationship’.  However, it is guaranteed that our (less than perfect) ‘Every Day Self’ will emerge within 18 -24 months of marriage.  This is not necessarily a bad thing if, our ‘shiny best self’ is not too different from our ‘everyday’ real self.   If the differences are glaring, then disappointments and trouble will start to brew.  Issues over Money, Sex, Partnership/Parenting Expectations, and major cultural differences are the common areas that ‘Relationship Erosion’ takes place.

Do you feel comfortable and truly LIKE your intended spouse?  Of course, no one is perfect and there will always be differences.   How do you resolve the small ‘upsets’ that occur early in relationships?  Enduring relationships require a ‘good enough’ initial match and then a willingness to continue a collaborative conversation throughout the years.  The ceremony and certificate is the first hundred yards of a marathon.  In time, life, and love, will most definitely have its highs and lows. If recurring issues are not worked out…they will return again in one form or another.  Effective Listening, Non Defensive Conversation and Willingness to Compromise are required in order to smooth out the occasional bumps.  In a healthy relationship, these little “glitches” simply get “metabolized” or worked through…allowing the couple to return to a comfortable, stable and pleasant married life.   Research has found that in “The Resolution” of the occasional discomforts that accompany two people making a healthy life together is the glue that creates the strongest and most lasting love! Long Live Lively and Lasting Love!

Author: Dr. Karen Dean Fritts, Ph.D., LMFT

Nourishing Love

‘Keeping Love Alive and Well’ is similar to nourishing a garden. Gardens, like people thrive with Victoria Faith Huntley“tender loving care”.  This means we must actively ‘cultivate’ with our partner.  Left untended, a garden or a relationship will be less beautiful and in the worst case it may whither and die.  Grab your garden apparel and get ready to show off your green thumb!

Feed The Relationship:  Respect, trust, appreciation, generosity of spirit and deed are basic and vital ingredients in your ‘Garden’. These components are akin to rich planting soil.  Begin each day with renewed kindness.  Make it genuine!  Faking it feels awful and phony and creates mistrust and tension.  Being consciously ‘kind and aware’ of your responses and behaviors like any good habit takes repetition and lots of practice.  Relationships are a complicated dance…”It takes two to tango”.

***The old saying, “Catch your Partner Doing Something Right” and tell him or her about it.

Actively reduce and work toward eliminating criticism and negativity.  They do nothing but cause erosion and decay.  Contempt and defensiveness are ‘Relationship-Killers’.    Accentuate the Positive!

Water the Relationship:  Communication is so important to the foundation of all intimate relationships.   Men are often less comfortable putting thoughts and feelings into words.  Be patient and ‘invite your partner to think about what has been talked about, give him some time to mull it over and ‘check back later’.

***Men may need more time to absorb information, especially if it is about ‘feelings’ and is emotional.  Badgering your partner to talk generally ends up with more silence.  Extended silences turn into withdrawal.  Withdrawal feels awful and is contagious…this becomes a vicious cycle.

***Do not expect your spouse to be a ‘mind reader’.  If you know what you want, make sure you express yourself…and do it clearly without anger and accusations.  Communicating can also take place on many different levels.  Simple eye contact, a warm nod, or knowing smile can speak volumes without uttering a word.  If you see an attempt made…do not ignore it.  Reinforce any pleasing behavior!  Positive reinforcement really works!

***Expressing interest by asking questions is an excellent way to express caring.  However, do this only when you can be a good listener.  Nothing feels worse than having someone ask us something and then “half” listen while being disinterested, distracted or preoccupied.

Provide Sunshine:  Think of sunshine as the ‘pleasures’ of marriage.  Make sure you ‘plan fun’.  Who does the planning?  Who cares? Do not keep a tally.  It is the result that counts.  Just make it happen. Date night, no matter how simple, are good antidotes for difficult days.  The sweetness produced in one evening can last for days…but not forever.  It is imperative to ‘create’ more fun again and again!

***Is either one of you using money as an excuse to avoid having fun?  Why?  Fun does not have to be expensive or take up a huge amount of time.  Create a ‘wish list’ that represents each of you and see where there are some crossovers. The sky is the limit…it is only a list!  Couples can be very different and still enjoy each other immensely.   Sharing dreams and exchanging ideas without fear of judgment are what happy couples learn to do with one another.

Eliminate the Weeds: Finally, yes, you are going to find some weeds growing in the garden.   Weeds are like the problems and disappointments that are bound to occur in any relationship.  They are to be expected.   They will exist in the most magnificent of gardens.  Simply, get out there and take care of them.   Don’t ignore them because they will multiply in time…and choke out the flowers.

•Perfect Gardens Exist Only In Paintings-

•Perfect Relationships Exist Only In Our Dreams-

•Weeds Are Never The Problem, Neglect Is!


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The Art of Listening

People attribute their relationship problems to a lack of, or poor communication.  But, what active-listening-notexactly are the elements that make or break communication in a relationship?

The answer is simple.  We have FEELINGS that ‘bump’ up against logic.  Research shows when people are angry, fearful, deeply sad, or even overjoyed, our listening can be selective at best.  How do we listen if we are full of feelings? Think about a time when you were upset with a partner, friend, or work associate.  Were you effective at telling them what your distress was about? Were you effective at listening to their reply? One beneficial skill of listening is taking turns, like we were taught to do as children.  If you know that you are going to get “A TURN,” it is easier to relax, take a deep breath, and CONCENTRATE on what the other person is saying, not on what you are going to say next!

If you notice you are rehearsing your reply, forget it, you are not listening.  Simply give yourself a gentle nudge and refocus.  If you are talking to someone familiar, you can even say, “forgive me, I wandered for a moment and I really want to listen to you.” We have all had the experience of speaking and the listener has a blank stare on their face, or worse yet their eyes are wandering all over the place.  You can tell by their expression they are not listening.  Challenge yourself to be a better listener from here on out.  You may be surprised by what you hear.

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Am I Depressed?

Depression is a feeling of sadness, sometimes called the ‘Blues’, usually accompanied by depression_1-ad78d208bfd0907a122c249a74cd8f6ff184705e-s6-c30fatigue, lethargy, and various degrees of withdrawal from daily living.  Some depression is caused by loss, such as divorce, death, illness, a move, job change, or retirement.  Any change can create a mild shift of mood.  Usually feelings of sadness or “off balance” are a reaction to a specific life event.  Frequently, with time and the ability to talk about and express the emotions, the depression will lift.  Other depressions that seem to be long lasting without being triggered by a life change are due to deeper more complicated conflicts that may require professional help.

The most common signal of depression is sleeplessness or constant fatigue.  People who suffer from depression may fall asleep each night only to awaken in the early morning hours unable to fall back to sleep.  A general lack of enthusiasm often accompanies a depression.  Disinterest in sex, friends, and family is common.  Overeating or under eating, actually extremes in any direction may be a masking the discomfort.  A lack of self-esteem with feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, and hopelessness are pervasive.

Again, many depressions clear up spontaneously, however, if you identify yourself within this description AND it has been a long time since you felt good, perhaps it is time to take some action.  Mobilizing yourself is the first positive step toward dealing with depression. Depression responds well to appropriate treatment.  There is NO DOUBT; the acknowledgement of how you feel and getting help is a sign of strength and healthy determination to improve the quality of your life.

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The Workaholic-Versus The Hard Worker?

Do you qualify as a true workaholic?  A person who works long hours, loves their work yet hinh-2-1387335650370MAKES and HAS time for pleasure and leisure IS NOT a WORKAHOLIC.  A true workaholic suffers from a driven-ness and a compulsion that dominates their life.  There is a frantic quality in their daily behavior.  If not frantic, then totally preoccupied.  Either way, it is hard to find a way ‘to get in front of this person’ in a meaningful way.  A sense of rushing and busyness, constantly thinking or talking about work, a reluctance to take time off from work and MOST importantly, a severely diminished and impaired social life are the hallmarks of Workaholics.

Interestingly enough, ‘Workaholic’ behavior is the only addiction that members of our society actually brag about.  Unfortunately, small business owners tend to have a high incidence of ‘workaholism’… they feel solely responsible for the success of their business.  As a result, they become indispensible and actually become prisoners to their work.  Technology although spectacular, has created another major problem when it comes to taking a needed break.  Texting, e-mails, websites and all our devices beckon the workaholic.  Control is a big issue for the workaholic.  Feeling out of touch with the business becomes terribly uncomfortable.  These overly “hard workers” are truly lost without this addiction.  It is the only way they can recognize ‘who they are’.  Beneath the driven behavior is often a frightened and lost Self who is uncertain of their value…without the Addiction.

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Daring For Success?

So often I hear people talking about not taking risks because they are frightened of failing.   success_street_signHere is a surprise!  There are many who are as afraid of success as of failure.  Why would anyone be concerned about succeeding?  Actually, succeeding stirs up many sleeping issues.  For most of us, one set of feelings and thoughts about “Who We Are” are predominant over the other.  We get very “comfy” with how we see ourselves.   Breaking out of our self-definition is the challenge. It may be more familiar to think and feel, “No, I can’t – it’s no use, I am not a person who can ——”.  Treading on the unfamiliar territory of positive thoughts and actions of succeeding might feel odd or even feel silly.  However, going against what feels familiar (especially if it is negative and harsh) is the fist step toward exploring other possibilities that might result in a newer updated version of YOU!   Can it hurt to try something new and different from what you “always do or say”?

Remember, to succeed or to fail is strictly BETWEEN YOU AND YOU. Using expectations of others as a guide for the outcome of your life will keep you OUT of the driver’s seat and having the rewards (and hard work too) of creating and directing YOUR life.

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The Formation of The Pleaser!!

ar124586171973294A child around the age of two begins their explorations into the bigger world.  Parents often mistake the child’s need to practice independence and autonomy as disrespect, stubbornness, or selfishness.  Not  True!   At two, a child’s ‘rebellion’ is not disrespect but rather an attempt to listen to new and emerging messages. The little person is having an explosions of  sensations, feelings, and ideas.  It is their first tiny attempt to exert an “itty bitty” Separate Self.  All humans begin what is known as “The Practicing Stage”.   And we keep on practicing don’t we?  Children must try out their independence in a variety of ways.  Some ways of being don’t work so well and they get “extinguished”, others become part of the personality.

Hmmm, you ask,  do we just let  a child  do their own thing?  “Isn’t  some guidance and limit setting necessary?”  Of course!   However, OVERLY compliant children grow up to be overly compliant adults.  Such people have only the foggiest idea about what THEY want, feel, or think. Their only guide for living is to please others and to do exactly what is expected.  I hear so many adults describe themselves as “Pleasers”.

In order to change, adult Pleasers, have to “re-find” themselves.  Humans are born with the capacity for independence and autonomy.  How we are encouraged and supported during our early efforts to separate will vary tremendously.  It is, however, never too late to pay attention to YOU.   We generally know what we want and need even if it is only a quiet inkling (that we keep to ourselves).  Making room by taking YOU seriously is what creates the process of change.  Simply tune in and turn up the volume!   You will be surprised at what you find.

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