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“Best Friend Marriage” – Exploring How Labels May Limit Our Relationships

Is this fad of labeling relationships as a Best Friend Marriage is causing more harm than good.?Across the media, you’ll see famous couples, the ones that stay together, saying they’re married to their “best friend.” I’ve even said it myself. But I think it would be beneficial to delve deeper into this present fad of labeling relationships and see how close, lasting relationships are made and maintained.

Perhaps the confusion stems from there being so many types of love or relationships that have a sexual element…marriage, living together, life partners, committed relationships, best friends with benefits, hooking up or one night stands.  People are trying to describe their secure relationship as one that works. So they’ve hit upon the idea that being “best friends” is the highest form of praise. However, it wasn’t that many years ago when a dog was man’s “best friend.” Surely we can do better than that.

When you met your life partner, it was sexual attraction that brought down the barriers, so that you let this new person get close to you. However, relationships based solely on sexual attraction rarely stand the test of time. That expectation is unrealistic. There’s just nothing sexy about discussing bills or hanging out in the bathroom because you have the flu.

It’s only natural this highly charged sexual euphoria evolves. We should welcome this new phase in our lives. Because in its wake, (if you’ve been mindfully attending to yourself and your partner) you will discover a richer relationship based on trust that allows each of you to self-actualize.

One problem I see is that people become consumed by being what their partner wants them to be. Eventually you don’t know who you are any more. If you view your mate as your best friend, it may even make you think there’s no need to find friendships outside the marriage. Or you unrealistically expect your partner to fulfill ALL of your emotional and spiritual needs. Conversely, other people start to question what’s wrong because they have a happy marriage, but they consider someone else to be their best friend.

Another problem I see is that people think a best friend should accept you as you are unconditionally. In my mind, marriage is about bringing the best out of the person you marry. You push each other. You challenge each other. You encourage each other. You change each other.

Because not every spouse provides that kind of close relationship, you may not feel it’s enough to say “my husband” or “my wife”. You want the world to know that this person truly is the best, so you say, “He’s my best friend” in order to differentiate him from the deadbeats. I get it.

Rather than getting hung up on labeling your relationship as a “best friend marriage”, let’s focus on mindfully crafting a relationship that allows each to grow, explore, and become the best version of you possible.

A deep sense of security leads us to describe our life partners as our “best friend”. Yet this term “best friend” seems to be too limiting. There still needs to be a sexual component that maintains physical closeness and attachment. Yes, like friends you love doing things together; you love talking with each other intimately; you depend on each other. But there’s a closeness that transcends being friends. You have shared history, shared lives and shared dreams. You fill each other’s most intimate needs and desires.

Does that mean marriage, for you? I’ll leave that for you to decide. The key characteristics of any close relationship are mutual giving, mutual valuing, mutual respecting and mutual joy. Did you notice the word “mutual”? A close relationship has to be a two way-street. That’s how you get through life’s storms. You have each other’s back.

A lot of people don’t think they’re ready for the responsibilities of a long-term, loving relationship. The commitment of marriage scares them. This awareness means you’re open to achieving greater personal growth. I’d love to help you on this journey. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Why Looking for Happiness in Marriage Won’t Work

Expecting a constant state of happiness in marriage is unrealistic, because happiness is so dependant on changing circumstances. Marriage provides a secure union that promotes growth in each partner individually, and as a couple, which will ultimately foster great personal happiness.  You’d think with a headline that seems to criticize happiness in marriage that I don’t think much of marriage. You’d be mistaken. As my sweetie and I have recently celebrated our wedding anniversary, marriage is on my mind. What I am objecting to is the idea that the goal of marriage is happiness.

We’ve all read books or seen movies with the fairy tale promise of “And they lived happily ever after.” This creates the unrealistic expectation that finding the love of your life will make you happy forever. Not!

Let me just say that many of my clients are in committed relationships, without being married. I deeply respect their choice. The principles of marriage that I speak about today, can apply to all loving partnerships.

A successful, loving relationship, starts long before you ever meet your life partner. It begins with knowing and loving yourself. A practice of mindfulness will help you identify, acknowledge and accept your needs, desires, goals, values, and outcomes you want from life.

A loving relationship can’t be one-sided, focusing solely on your needs and wants. It takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to see your potential partner for who they really are, through the rosy glow of sexual attraction. It’s only when you know their needs, desires, goals, values and how best you can fulfill them, that you can be a good partner.

If you’re mismatched, you both will quickly become dissatisfied, frustrated and angry. It’s a terrible feeling to know you’re “alone,” while sharing the house with someone you thought was your soul mate. So how can you ensure that you’ll achieve the best outcome?

You can’t depend on, nor expect, someone else to make you happy. Happiness comes from within. Expecting a constant state of happiness in marriage is unrealistic, because it’s so dependent on changing circumstances. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not the real purpose of marriage. Marriage provides a secure union that promotes the growth of each partner individually, and as a couple. Therefore, rather than looking for happiness in marriage, I recommend you work on creating a growth-centered marriage.

Marriage exposes your limitations, weaknesses, and vulnerabilities. You’ll be confronted with uncomfortable truths, especially around the intimate topics of sex and money. And when your plans are thwarted, adjustments will need to be made, which can severely challenge your commitment to each other. Through the best and worst circumstances in life, you’ll be called on to support and satisfy another emotional human being. No easy task!

For me, married life is sometimes painful and difficult and absolutely wonderful. To have my sweetie by my side through all the ups and downs is a delight. He has my back and that makes me feel secure. Marriage stretches our comfort zones and pushes us to our limits. As a result, we have found happiness, not in marriage, but in being the best people we can be in our married state.

When you love your partner you work on supporting, not pleasing, your partner. Yes, there’s a time for making sure your partner is comfortable and worry-free. But there is a danger of becoming overly accommodating as this could cause you to shield your partner from challenging and uncomfortable opportunities for growth.

True lovers dedicate themselves to each other, holding the well-being of each other as a sacred trust. You work at bringing out the best in each other. And that’s what leads to happiness.

If that’s the kind of happiness you desire, look for ways to improve yourself first. When you create harmony between body, mind and spirit you have more to give to others. My free 7-Point Wellness Assessment is a great place to start in this self-exploration. And if you’re up for some 1:1 coaching, so am I! Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Successful Women Avoid These Insidious Mental Energy Zappers

Successful women manage their mental energy like they manage their bank account. We make deposits into our mental energy “piggy bank,” by doing what we can to attract positive energy, including getting plenty of sleep, exercise and healthful food. Then we avoid these common mental energy zappers. By the end of the day, do you often find that you haven’t accomplished what you want, and you feel absolutely exhausted? You see other women living the life you want, and you wonder, “How do successful women do it? What do they know that I don’t?”

A key to their success is that they manage their mental energy like they manage their bank account. We all have to make deposits into our mental energy “piggy bank,” by doing what we can to attract positive energy. This includes getting plenty of restorative sleep, invigorating exercise and healthful food that support physical and emotional health. Then we have to wisely withdraw or spend the limited amount of energy that is in our personal energy “piggy bank”.

Problems arise when you have a constant drain that you’re not aware of. These unnoticed energy zappers can come from internal or external sources. And the only way to stop them is to become aware of them and make a conscious decision to stop them. A practice of mindfulness will help you become more fully aware of how successful women avoid these most common energy zappers:

  1. Successful women don’t give in to worry over things that likely won’t happen. We default to worst-case scenarios, as a means of protecting ourselves. But this can easily get out of hand if you don’t mindfully dismiss them. When you develop the ability to think three stages ahead, you’ll be able to discern which fears are worth responding to, and which are not.
  1. Successful women don’t get caught up in the drama. Women by nature are interested in other people. But successful women understand the danger of getting caught up in making someone’s drama their own. It takes a lot of insight to know the difference between real need and drama. If it’s only drama, it’s important to have pre-set boundaries that prioritize your well-being and keep you from being drawn in.
  1. Success women see distractions for what they are and avoid them. Learn to give your mental energy to only the things that have a significant impact on your life for the long-term. It helps to designate specific time blocks for crucial tasks, and then prioritize the rest. You will have to learn to say ‘NO!” To restore harmony try changing some simple routines in your life. For me, that means making my bed every morning. It sets the tone for the day and helps me develop discipline, which spills over into other areas of my life.
  1. Successful women know the difference between mindfulness and ruminating. Mindfully reflecting on your behaviors and interactions can help you improve. However, replaying certain scenarios or issues in your mind again and again is a waste of your energy, because this only leads to self-recrimination not self-correction.
  1. Successful women don’t compare themselves to others. Concentrate on showing up and doing your best. Get rid of the desire to be perfect. And try not to fixate on being right all the time. Avoid comparing your first attempts with someone’s finished product.
  1. Successful women don’t give weight to the opinions of anyone they wouldn’t switch places with. If you don’t want to be like them, why listen to them? It’s not important that everyone likes and agrees with you.
  1. Successful women understand the importance of self-care. You can’t perform your best if you’re tired, dehydrated, undernourished, or experiencing an imbalance in your life. So there’s no reason to feel guilty about taking care of yourself.
  1. Successful women know that the world needs their brilliance. You don’t have to justify yourself to those who are critical or cynical. You can’t serve everyone, and obviously the cynical are not the ones who need your services. Concentrate on the ones who do.
  1. Successful women train themselves to observe without judgment. While it’s important to overcome patterns of negative thinking, you can go overboard on positive thinking, because you’ll fail to see the realities of life. Learn to observe without wanting life to be more or less than it is.
  1. Successful women focus on what they want to grow. What you put your energy into is what will grow. Be cautious about becoming involved with something, because others expect it of you. Society tells us to care about many things that don’t really matter. Be your own person and don’t let others dictate what your life will be.

Like these successful women, are you ready to create a personalized approach for avoiding energy zappers that are holding you back? If so, I’d love to partner with you. Please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

Feed Your Ambition & Catapult Your Leadership Career to Success

Feed Your Ambition & Catapult Your Leadership Career to Success“It is a grand thing to rise in the world. The ambition to do so is the very salt of the earth. It is the parent of all enterprise, and the cause of all improvement.” ~ Anthony Trollope 

There is an ingrained, cultural bias to think it’s wrong to feed your ambition, if you’re a woman. Women with ambition have gotten a bad rep…they’re called selfish, b**chy, pushy, and unlikable. For example, there was a very revealing study conducted by the Columbia Business School. Half the class received a case study about a venture capitalist named “Heidi”; and the other half received the same case study with the name changed to “Howard.” While everyone in the class judged the content to be equally important, the ones reading about “Heidi” said she wasn’t likable, whereas the ones reading about “Howard” said he was likable.

It also illustrates the fundamental challenge to women’s leadership…qualities traditionally associated with leaders (assertive and authoritative) are not traditionally viewed as attractive in women. Both men and women are making judgments from this outdated paradigm. It’s time for a more expansive worldview that begins with finding the answer to this question:

How can you maintain joy and balance, as you feed your ambition?

While there’s a place for networking and finding support among “women’s only” groups, this exclusivity can reinforce the gender divide. A more integrative approach allows women who have extraordinary leadership qualities to do extraordinary work within any organization. Women don’t have to try to be like their male counterparts. They simply need to nurture and recognize their leader within and make that their strongpoint.

As I practice this within my own life and career, I’ve formed deeply meaningful leadership connections with men and women. At present, I’m partnering with Nando Raynolds, and we’re training both men and women over at our Institute for Professional Leaders website. I’ve also partnered with Louise Santiago to lead an annual all-woman retreat in Mindo, Ecuador.

Would this have happened if I was pretending to be what I’m not? No. These connections are based on being our authentic selves and bringing our unique talents and gifts to the table. We’re successful because our focus is on being the best leaders we can be, not making an issue over gender.

While the world, in general, is still dismissive of women with ambition, there are shifts in accepting people who feed their ambition in an authentic way. I recommend reading an inspiring article about three very ambitious women, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, and Tory Burch. Here are three very transformative messages I gleaned from their struggles and successes that will help you feed your ambition in a sustainable way:

1. Feed your ambition, by believing in yourself. If you see an opportunity, don’t hold back. Trust your instincts; learn all you can about your topic; and create a step-by-step plan for making it work. Don’t take no for an answer.

2. Feed your ambition, by deeply knowing you deserve success. While it’s helpful to look for role models, don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to them and putting yourself down before you even get started. This is where the issue of deserving it or not rears its ugly head. If you put in the work, you deserve the success. Believe that with all your heart, because it’s true.  

Stop worrying about what others will say. Don’t ask for permission or be apologetic. Erase from your vocabulary hesitant words like, “Is this Okay?” “It’s not as good as I’d hoped.” “I wish it was better, but…” If there’s room for improvement, make it! Don’t apologize for a job half done. Finish it. Polish it. Make it shine! However, beware of stalling out on the fine line between being a perfectionist and being good enough to put it out there into the world. You can adjust and tweak as time goes along.

3. Feed your ambition, by owning your success. We’re taught that it’s not polite to brag, so we hold back from speaking about our successes. Here’s a much healthier mindset to adopt: it’s not bragging; it’s sharing information that can help others to succeed too. Become more mindful and notice what internal shifts and external actions led to moments of success, whether small or large. Then you can turn these steps into a success story that has real value for those who listen to you. This, in turn, grows your own confidence immeasurably.

Are you ready to feed you ambition? Within days, my colleague, Louise Santiago, and I will be traveling to our annual retreat entitled: “Women, Wisdom & Presence – Evolving our presence in the world.” Make plans now to join us next year. Together, we’ll be exploring how to recognize, name, and support the leader within you. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

How to be a Good Partner in a Relationship – Time-Tested Tips That Work

These time-tested tips for how to be a good partner in a relationship will work for you and your partner as you work together to build a life-long, loving relationship.“A healthy relationship will never require you to sacrifice your friends, your dreams, or your dignity.” ~ Dinkar Kalotra 

Happy Anniversary to me and my sweetie! Today, August 22nd, is our 26th. It hasn’t always been easy. On the contrary, we’ve had our share of challenges, because neither of us knew how to be a good partner in a relationship. At times, we didn’t even know if we were going to make it. It has taken courage, vulnerability and a lot of mindful determination to cultivate a healthy, lasting relationship.

We both come from emotionally impoverished homes, so we started with unhealthy ways of getting our needs met. Today, we share a loving relationship mostly because we have worked persistently to understand and appreciate each other and fight fairly. It will continue to be a daily effort and a life-long journey.

One very significant thing I’ve learned is that I can only change me – I can’t change my sweetie. Nor do I want to. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things that irritate me, but I’ve discovered how to be a good partner in a relationship. Rather than waiting for your partner to initiate change, start with yourself. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how easily your partner follows. Let me share some other discoveries…

Practice acceptance not judgment. Your partner is who he or she is. When you truly value your partner’s unique qualities and gifts, you build your partner up. Being overly critical really hurts, so that’s something to be avoided.

Look for the positive. The more you focus on something, the larger it becomes in your mind. If you focus on positive things, you’ll have fewer irritations. If you do need to call attention to a negative aspect, do it in a positive way. Commend first, and then state the source of friction as a shared problem, looking for how both of you can contribute toward a solution.

Be more giver than taker. People who give are happier. And it encourages your partner to reciprocate in kind.

Show appreciation and gratitude. Gratitude is more than a feeling. It needs to be expressed in thankful words and actions. “I appreciate this about you” or “I’m so glad you…” are phrases that need to be spoken often.

Work as a team of “we.” “Me, you, I, yours, mine” are words that create division and an adversarial atmosphere. But when you speak and act as “we,” you’re a team, working toward a common goal. It’s important to have shared goals and routines. Regularly eating and talking together helps create a happy relationship. And look for ways to help each other every day.

Apologize often. If you’re always trying to be right, you’re going to lose your loving relationship. Apologizing is a way of acknowledging that you understand the way your partner feels. “I’m sorry I made you feel…” can solve a world of problems.

Be realistic about the ups and downs. You want your partner to be there for you, so look for ways you can always be there for your partner. Celebrate the good times and work together to get through the hard times.

Practice vulnerability. This one is hard, because we’re so afraid of rejection. To achieve real intimacy, you have to be willing to be vulnerable. Successful communication with your partner involves picking the right time and the right words. A quiet, relaxed time allows you to open up slowly to your partner. In that way you can test the waters. If your initial revelation is met with acceptance and love, then you’ll feel like you can open up further. Set the stage with comments like, “I really need to tell you how I’m feeling about something, and it’s not easy for me. So I don’t need you to “fix” anything, I just need you to let me get it all out. Okay?”

Keep the playfulness and novelty alive. You may think you know each other well, but let me assure you there’s plenty left to discover. And nothing brings that out like making time to play together. Try new and exciting activities together. Keep your sense of humor and don’t take life too seriously.

Show affection. Humans thrive on touch, and communication is improved when we incorporate the power of touch. Daily hugging, kissing, or hand holding are important. Look for ways to perform little acts of kindness.

Give your partner space. Find that sweet spot where you both feel close, without feeling smothered.

Fight fair. Set boundaries of when and how you’ll discuss disagreements. Yelling, hitting, name-calling or character assassination has no place in a loving relationship. Practice active listening and be willing to compromise.

To be a good partner in a relationship takes being a good communicator. Most of us have not been taught how to do that. If you’d like to learn how to express your feelings in ways that build strong relationships, please contact me and schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation (in-person, by phone or via Skype).

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