Helping Your Children Get Through the Crisis of Divorce

Divorce is never a simple matter logistically or emotionally. And when there are children involved, often the hardest part is to put your own emotional issues aside in order to do some very difficult parenting feats . Here are some ways to help your children get through this crisis as painlessly as possible:

It all starts with communication-Telling your children about your upcoming divorce may be one of the most challenging things that you’ll ever do. Stick to what’s relevant to them. Some children may react with anger, disbelief and/or sadness; while others will react with relief. This depends on how they experience the climate at home and both of their parents—together and separately—during this era of time. If possible, make it a point for you and your spouse together and calmly to talk to each child separately. This will enable you to speak to your kids at an age appropriate level. In other words, your kindergartener and your pre-teen need things to be explained differently. The most important thing to communicate is that your child is in no way, shape, or form responsible for the breakup or any of the turmoil associated with it. Just as you may experience some loneliness once the initial shock of your divorce has subsided, even if you are the one initiating the divorce, your child may experience guilt from an irrational belief that somehow he or she is to blame. So as difficult as it may be, please put your own needs aside and be as reassuring and nurturing as possible.

Keep the kids out of it-Children can easily be swept up into their parents’ conflict during divorce, especially with things like custody battles. I can think of nothing more destructive to do to a child as to use them like weapons against your spouse. Children, who become as pawns in battles between their parents, often hold deep resentment toward both of you; and this can result in permanent consequences that are likely affect their own relationships later on. Try your best to come to a civil agreement about how to effectively co-parent and split time with them as well as any other issues regarding your children.

Keep things stable-Resolve to keep life as normal as possible and with a reliable schedule of visitation with the non-custodial parent. It’s not the quantity of time you spend with the child, but the quality and consistency. It’s important for your child always to know when they will next see the parent they don’t live with and how to get in touch with them in between visits. Both parents need be available, even when they aren’t physically present.

It’s a tall order, but focus on making your divorce as painless for the kids as possible. Each child will react in his or her way. For some, it will be much less traumatic, while for others—who experience your divorce as their entire world coming apart— some counseling may be necessary to get them through the crisis. But there is no better time to be mindful of loving them unconditionally and making sure they know that you are always available to discuss whatever is on their mind, regardless of your relationship with your (soon to be ex) spouse. More tips and strategies can be found in my book, Can Your Relationship Be Saved? How to Know Whether to Stay or Go.

Stop Anxiety In Its Tracks

Believe it or not, fear can be a good thing. If our ancestors didn’t feel fear and react to it properly, they wouldn’t have protected themselves when they saw a dangerous predator coming after them, and we would not have survived. Thus, the survival mechanism of fear has thankfully survived, or the human species would not have. In our modern society, we rarely— but sometimes— need our fear responses to save our lives, such as when a dangerous person meaning harm is stalking us. Nevertheless, when this happens, we can fortunately use the fear response to fight or flee.

Physiologically, anxiety is identical to fear, resulting in symptoms that may include shortness of breath, sweating, blushing, muscle weakness or tension, butterflies in your stomach, or constriction of the throat and chest. Fear, however, is about something specific which usually makes it rational, appropriate, and helpful in many ways. Anxiety on the other hand, is not connected to any real danger or life-threatening event. Anxiety—as opposed to fear— generally stifles you from taking any action and sometimes causes you to avoid things you wish you could do.  Oftentimes, anxiety provokes feelings of shame, while fear is rarely shameful, as it is a protective mechanism. Whether yours is minor worrying or more severe  (such as feelings of panic or losing control), if you experience your anxiety as interfering with your ability to function in your daily life, it might be time to take some steps to get it under control. While you may not be able to control what’s happening with the people, places and things around you: you can absolutely learn to control your reaction to an external event.

What specific things in your life trigger anxiety? Make a list of the things that trigger  you on a regular basis.  It can be helpful to write down events that occurred the past week that might have set off your feel anxious feelings. Using one item from your list, think about these questions to figure out what you’re telling yourself that may have created your anxiety and then to challenge your thinking. When this situation occurred, what thoughts were you having? What feelings or emotions did you experience? What were you telling yourself at the time? Were you in any real danger? What is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you as a result of the event. Finally, how likely is it that this worst thing will happen?

For example, if you felt anxious when your boss called you into his office, maybe you had the thought that you were going to be fired. It’s possible that you then felt nervous and helpless. Perhaps you told yourself “I won’t ever find another job and therefore I won’t be able to support myself or my family.” In this case, while being laid off might be extremely stressful, it’s not life threatening. If your mind tends to jump to the irrational worst-case scenario, like having to live on the street, this is your anxiety talking since chances are it’s probably quite unlikely that would happen. Begin to practice writing these questions and answers down as you experience anxiety-provoking situations throughout your week, and/ or try this exercise with other items on your list.

What can you tell yourself instead of those things that create and worsen your anxiety? What are some new ways to think about them? A good question to ask yourself is what is a more realistic, rational attitude I could substitute in this situation? For example, if you think you’re going to be fired, you can consider that your boss might have a question for you or even want to praise you for your work. And even if the worst scenario becomes reality, where’s the evidence that you can’t survive it? When you look at your list at a later point after the anxiety has subsided, ask yourself, what does my irrational side say and what does my rational side say? Can I choose to listen to my rational side instead?

Ask yourself what you’d advise someone else whom you cared about do with similar thoughts. If another person thought they’d be fired because they were called into a meeting or that if they were fired, it would be catastrophic , would you agree?  If you’re able to think about it rationally for someone else,  you can certainly do so for yourself.  Another option is to say STOP to yourself aloud or silently when you begin to have worrisome thoughts. While this may seem silly, this simple technique can help shift your attention in the moment away from worrying.

Once you are aware of those things that trigger anxiety, it’s helpful to have a “to do” list on hand you for when you begin to worry. For example, when anxious feelings start, one simple strategy you can try is a deep breathing exercise. Imagine your legs are two giant air balloons. As you inhale, imagine your legs filling up with air. As you exhale, imagine all of the air leaving your body. Try this, breathing in to the count of five and out to the five as many times as necessary to feel the anxiety dissipate.

If you can’t seem to reduce your anxiety, ask yourself if there is purpose your anxiety is serving?  Maybe your anxiety keeps you in a relationship or at a job that you’re afraid to leave. If so, face those issues head on, until you are operating according to your choices—not your anxiety!

As you try these various techniques, notice which ones work best for you. The more you practice a particular strategy, the easier it becomes to gain mastery over your anxiety. Feeling more relaxed something you can achieve. If your anxiety continues to affect your life negatively, I encourage you to seek professional help. For more action steps to reduce your anxiety, download my complimentary audio program Overcoming Your Anxiety.

Is an Affair the Disease or Just a Symptom?

I’ve rarely had as much reaction to any of my blogs or articles as there was to an article I posted here last week: Can an Affair Make Your Relationship Stronger? While affairs certainly don’t always have a positive result, the point of the article was to offer another option and help couples heal from a crisis that often prematurely ends marriages and love relationships.

Many incorrectly thought that I was promoting or justifying affairs. To call me pro-affair is like calling a dentist pro-tooth decay. People come to my office when they are in crisis and I help them to heal, pick up the pieces and become empowered once again by identifying and then making the best choices for moving forward in their unique situation. It’s that simple. My perspective is based on many years of clinical experience, where I’ve seen every possible outcome. And among some of the saddest I’ve seen are situations where someone reacted to the news or discovery of his or her partner’s affair by immediately and without further discussion, ending the relationship and burning all bridges back to it—only to deeply regret it, later.  I have also seen more than one situation where someone who would have sworn that their marriage or even their life was ruined by a spouse having an affair, come in many years later to deal with issues around having an affair themselves with their next spouse.  Hopefully, they get the irony.

The many reactions I received ranged from profound gratitude toward me for this article’s perspective and insights to intense rage, and literally everything in between. I even received a call from the CEO of, the web’s largest dating/hookup service for people looking to start affairs. The reason I first agreed to speak with him was to capture “the devil’s” point of view, but surprisingly, I found an important piece of common ground with him. We agreed that affairs are usually not the “disease” that infects marriages or love relationships, but a symptom of bigger issues that loom under the surface.

For me, the key word here is “usually”. The affair, whether sexual, emotional or both, is usually a symptom when sex in your primary relationship is going downhill either in frequency or quality and neither partner—especially the one who feels it the most and reacts with infidelity—sees fit to address it with his or her partner. The reasons for this can include the common decrease in desire that often occurs as time goes by, a more serious desire discrepancy between the partners (where one wants much more sex than the other), a sexual dysfunction, fear of commitment, unresolved anger, feeling ignored, a gradual emotional distancing or some ongoing problem in the relationship that may not even be related to sex or passion at all—in other words a communication or conflict resolution issue— that is being ignored. As you can see, any of these issues (or a unique combination of them) can then take on a life of its own.

On the other hand it’s the “disease” when the partner who strays is acting out his or her sexual addiction (which is actually an addiction to the dopamine high that is typical of the initial passion experienced during the highly charged romantic phase of the beginning of most relationships) or simply strays because he or she can.

My wife, Dr. Arlene Goldman is also a psychologist. She specializes in couples and sex therapy; and treats many couples in the aftermath of an affair by one partner. Her approach, even when one partner is clearly a sex addict, is often to help the couple reframe their crisis as a blessing that triggered the help needed to mark the beginning of a much better relationship on many levels. To do this, however, she emphasizes that the partner who had the affair needs to accept responsibility for the pain he or she caused the other; and both partners need to acknowledge their roles in creating and maintaining the climate that existed before the crisis escalated. This has been my experience as well.

The point is that I’m not here to judge, but to help those who seek help! I have seen all of these things play out in many relationships; and it’s quite sad to see a relationship go up in flames partly because of the angry thinking that preempts any desire to forgive and at least try to resolve the issues in order to move on. Many strategies for healing, addressing your options and evaluating your relationship can be found in my book Can Your Relationship be Saved? How to Know Whether to Stay or Go.

So for those of you who took offense at me even addressing this issue, I hope that you can use this information to sooth some of your painful and unhealthy angry feelings; and let me suggest that to do otherwise would be to help ignore what for too many is the elephant in the room. Of course, in some cases trust cannot be rebuilt after infidelity occurs within a relationship.  No behavior can be undone and thus we can’t always control the consequences.  But my best advice is to step back and address the situation with the mindset to focus on the best long-term solution to this crisis for everyone it affects.

How Many Frogs Must You Kiss to Find Your Prince (or Princess) Charming?

Have you been on what feels like hundreds of dates, but found no one who fits the bill? While this might at times feel discouraging, the truth is if you were willing to accept almost anyone, you probably could have a relationship tomorrow.  Think about it-if the only thing you chose about a person was their gender, how long would it take to find your next relationship?  You could probably be in some kind of a “relationship” this time tomorrow.  But thankfully, this isn’t the case for most people.  While we all have certain criteria we want in a partner, mindfully fine tuning just what this is, can be the key to finding what you want and feeling empowered until you do!

Realistically, finding the right relationship is a numbers game.  The more stringent your requirements are for a partner, the fewer are the people who will be able to meet them.  This is a mathematical truism. As an extreme example that characterizes the thinking of many singles I’ve talked to over the years: if your “must have” list includes someone who’s won a Nobel Prize, speaks 6 languages, and has green eyes, there might only be one person in the world—if that— who fits the bill. And he or she might be already married!  So unless you’re willing to wait until this mythical person gets divorced and you somehow miraculously meet—and then you may not even like each other— the obvious solution is to reconsider your what you’re looking for.

So what realistic criteria does your next partner have to meet in order to have a chance with you?  Be very clear to yourself about what’s really important.  This doesn’t mean having low standards, only ones that are acceptable to you and attainable by you.  Make a list of the traits and characteristics that are non-negotiable, consider each one individually to make sure that it meets that “realistic” test.

So instead of asking, “how many people must I screen before finding the ideal relationship?”, ask yourself, “what’s really important to me in the relationship I am seeking?” This way you are clear about your choices. And that’s the main message here: Be clear on what you want. That way you are most likely to find it. But most importantly, until you do, know that you’re living this part of your life according to your own choices.

The Dark Side of Perfectionism

Do you find that setting standards too high by trying to do things too perfectly is a source of stress for you?  While doing your best is certainly a virtue, perfectionism— that is settling for nothing less than perfect— has a major down side. The problem is that many people mistake perfectionism for working their hardest, or trying to do their best.  But these two things are really not the same at all. Perfectionism is a bad habit and one that you can quickly kick!

In the real world perfection is an impossible standard to meet. It can potentially keep you in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction, because it’s the demand that you do better than your best. Is this likely?  Striving towards perfection is also like aiming for a moving target.  And when you miss, it it’s likely that you negate what you have accomplished and berate yourself for what you didn’t.

Thus, it’s not hard to see how to the extent that you’re perfectionistic, you’re probably setting yourself up for failure.  The irony of perfectionism is that you usually end up performing worse, because you inevitably hit a wall, put yourself down, and then fail to do your best because of the self-generated negativity that follows.  What do you tell yourself when you can’t do something seamlessly?   Maybe you think, “I must be flawless,” or “If I don’t do this perfectly it means I’m a failure and I can’t stand failure.”  This type of black and white thinking can be quite consuming.  For example, the public speaker that’s concerned with executing a perfectly flawless presentation will usually be so self-conscious, that he’s unable to be as animated and engaging as he could be.   Another classic example is in sexual performance.  The anxiety that comes from being overly concerned about performing perfectly well is a leading psychological cause of erectile dysfunction. For you, a similar pattern might be evident in the work you do; in parenting or any important goal you set for yourself.

The best way to conquer perfectionism is prevention.  When you see perfection for what it is, this cycle can be broken. If you’re truly giving it all you have, that’s the best you can do. Notice if you have a tendency toward black and white thinking. If so, see if you can move a few inches inside the grey area.  For example, if you’re telling yourself “if I mess up at all, I’m in idiot,” try replacing this thought with, “As much as I’ll try not to, everyone makes mistakes” or “I did everything I could and that’s the best I can do.” Removing negative thoughts from your life will allow you to approach any obstacle from a place of fearlessness and empowerment, where you can truly perform at your highest potential!

Can an Affair Make Your Relationship Stronger?

If you’ve recently found out your partner has had an affair (or perhaps you’re the one who has), your first reaction might be to assume it’s inevitable that the relationship will end. With the emotional rollercoaster you might be experiencing, this can seem like the only logical outcome. And if you’re someone who usually plays by the often black and white rules of society (or relationships), it may be difficult to see it any other way. In some cases, an affair will put the spotlight on certain differences that are irreconcilable. But on the other side of the pain, lies the possibility that an act of infidelity can actually make your marriage or love relationship stronger! Step one is to get past the rage, the finger pointing and the blaming. Then, there might be something to learn that can reignite your relationship and remind you of the reasons you got together in the first place. Think of this as the wakeup call.

If you were the one who strayed—as difficult as it may be—don’t lose sight of the reality that it’s unfair to compare an affair and primary relationship. An affair is usually conducted under idealized circumstances: no financial issues and no kids to worry about. Obviously, none of the mundane aspects of life like income taxes and household chores are a part of the mix. If someone gets the flu, you simply don’t get together that week. The frustrating or stressful elements of day-to-day life simply don’t exist. In a way it’s like comparing normal life to a vacation!

Instead, ask yourself what it was that you needed or weren’t getting in your primary relationship that may have led you to the choices you made. Whether it was emotional, physical or something else, identifying the aspect(s) of your relationship that drove you to look elsewhere to meet this need can be invaluable information going forward. For example, in most relationships for sex to be optimal, both partners need to work on it. This certainly doesn’t mean the relationship is bad or has run its course. Maybe your drive to seek sex elsewhere can illuminate the fact that this is an area that needs attention. Perhaps you’ve not been feeling validated in the areas of love or sex and that drove you to seek a connection with someone else.

And if your partner was unfaithful, obsessing about that “other person” is only going to deepen your pain. Sure you can blame and live in a state of victimhood; and you may get lots of support in the way of sympathy to reinforce your rage. But my best advice to you is to look at the affair as a symptom of some ongoing issue that is or was not being addressed. So now is the time to have a civil and thoughtful discussion about what needs to change and/or be worked on now. Chances are there was an elephant in the room you both knew about, but tried to ignore. I can’t tell you what it is, but urge you to take this opportunity to address it. In my book, Can Your Relationship Be Saved? How to Know Whether to Stay or Go, I offer many strategies for identifying and resolving these issues and making your relationship what it could be when you are able to get through a profoundly difficult crisis such as this— together.

You can give your relationship a new life and even make it far better than ever with the commitment of both of you to do this, by either by yourselves or with the help of a couple’s counselor. With some hard work and that commitment, it’s absolutely possible to regain trust and have a fresh start.

What Is Perhaps The Most Powerful Word in the English Language?

I’ll spare you the tease. That word is NO!

The ability to be assertive and say ‘no’ is a communication skill we all learn at a very young age.  If you’re a parent, you know better than anyone that once this word enters a child’s vocabulary it’s used very often.  However, as an adult, ‘no’ is often much more difficult to say.  As life gets busier and obligations increase, the ability to say ‘no’ is increasingly more important.  If you can learn to assert yourself, it can be the difference between chronic overwhelm (aka, not having an enjoyable life) and spending far more time with the things you enjoy and that fulfill you the most.

Between keeping up with your email, your career and family, your friends and your relationship(s); the many requests for your time that you receive on a regular basis can feel daunting.  Perhaps the kids need you to drive them and their friends to the movies, your neighbors want you to walk their dog and your boss is pleading with you to  take a work project home to complete in order to meet a deadline.  Perhaps you agree to take on more than you can handle, merely because you don’t want to be rejecting or somehow become scorned by someone’s wrathful reaction.  The fear of being rejected by others is one that we become most sensitive to in adolescenceBut when this fear is too prominent as an adult, it can certainly hold you back.  The key to being able to pick and choose what you can and cannot take on, is remembering that when you say ‘no’ you aren’t rejecting the person, you are simply rejecting their request. For example, if someone asks you to lend them $100, you might say ‘no’.  But if that person were to ask if you could pay him to do some yard work for you, you might agree to this.  So by saying no the loan, you were merely rejecting an undesirable request. A more attractive request—paying money for yard work you need done—where there’s a benefit to you could be one you might easily accept.  In this example, as with most requests you probably consider, it’s less personal than practical. The problem is, we tend to easily forget that.

Being able to carefully consider and mindfully choose which obligations or requests you take on from the people in your life, will allow you to feel empowered and positive about the things you decide to say “yes” to.  When you are unapologetically the one who’s in charge of your life and your decisions, you will get a level of respect that may have previously eluded you.   In reality, there are so many things coming at you today that weren’t there just a few short years ago. This means that managing your schedule is far more challenging than it was before. Most importantly, strive to feel great about how you choose to spend your time, as time is the one asset we have, that when lost—we can’t get it back. So who can you say NO to today?

Success is Such an Elusive Word

“Success” is a very elusive word, simply because it means many different things to different people.  Believe it or not, I’ve met some of the most successful and high achievers you could imagine in my psychology practice who actually consider themselves “failures” because they’ve set certain—often lofty— personal goals that weren’t met. Think about the most recent presidential campaign.  Would you consider Mitt Romney a success or a failure?  Some would focus on the fact that he lost the race, without acknowledging the many successes he’s had in his life and career. I can’t tell you how he views himself, but can only hope he doesn’t make this all too common overgeneralization.
Thus, the definition of success is truly in “the eye of the beholder.”  What for one person constitutes having achieved everything they’ve ever wanted might be seem like a gross underachievement to someone else. One way of defining success might be to set specific and realistic goals and then try your best to reach meet them. Then make sure you confine the labels of success and failure to the goals themselves, never to you as a person!    Of course, there’s no way to know if you’ve achieved your goals unless you’ve clearly defined them in the first place. So that’s job one. It’s also possible that your personal goals correspond to various eras of your life, from infancy to adulthood.
Some might consider their life successful if they’ve created an arrangement in which everything is provided for them and with no demands or challenges to worry about.  However, a pampered and carefree life might feel like the ultimate success to some, but a devastating admission of inadequacy for others.  Success could also be defined as a life without any rules or inhibitions, where a person gets whatever he wants whenever he wants it.  For instance, a criminal probably considers himself successful to the degree that he gets away with it his crimes.  These examples merely illustrate the idea that success can mean very different things to different people.
Individuals who are “rule followers” might consider themselves successful when they are able to stay within certain black-and-white boundaries, without drawing any negative attention to themselves.  For them, conforming and behaving as expected and defined by another person, group, political or religious affiliation often means they’ve they achieved success.   Some consider themselves successful when they have achieved affirmation, acceptance, approval, fame, and/or recognition (e.g., winning an award) from others.
For many in our society, success is a result of skillfully keeping roles and relationships in balance and free of conflict, earning a certain amount of money and meeting their obligations.   For some, success is the satisfaction obtained when they are able to do what they really want to be doing and which  provides the most fulfillment. A very lucrative but mundane career may not feel as successful as having a job that inspires them by tapping their creativity in an area they’re passionate about.
Finally, some feel truly successful only when they have made a desired impact on someone or something greater than t hemselves.  This happens when you see others benefit from the help and support you’ve sent their way.  For example, even some of the most financially successful business people define success by the impact they’ve had on others, such as employees, customers/clients, or the larger world.
So which of these markers best describes how you define success in your life?  Contemplating this question is a great jumping off point for setting goals that are in line with your mission and desires. Just remember to assess your degree of achievement against yourself and no one else.  In other words, remember that the only valid comparison is between where you are now and where you potentially could be—never between you and someone else. If you feel that you’re not where you’d like to be, hopefully the descriptions above can help you visualize what success might look like for you in the coming months, years, or even ultimately. Then do whatever feels right for you to achieve it.


Discover Ingredients for a Fulfilling Relationship

Whether you are in a long-term relationship or you’re looking for one, you’ve probably noticed something rather obvious: that not all of us are looking for the exact same things in a love relationship. Most of us have unique priorities when it comes to what we value most in this as well as every major aspect of our lives. But certain ingredients— that stand the test of time— usually characterize the most fulfilling marriages and love relationships. So whether yours is in a difficult period right now, or you simply want to make a good relationship even better, remember the acronym TOUCH:

T stands for tenderness and talking. Tenderness can be expressed both physically and emotionally. Think of this as how you express kindness and caring toward one another. This sounds simple and quite obvious, but isn’t always easy when you’re in the middle of life’s challenges. Communication is also a key. Talk about the issues that concern you; and make it a priority to resolve conflicts before they grow larger.

O is for openness and objectivity. Expressing your thoughts and feelings when they occur can increase intimacy and closeness. Allow yourself to be vulnerable at times. True intimacy is about letting your partner know about parts of you that are most difficult to share. During conflict, being objective can often save the day. It may be easier to stand with your own perspective, but the bigger challenge is taking a step back and looking at your problem almost as if you were a third party. Then, it’s much easier to go into problem solving mode. When neither of you are willing or able to do this, you’re likely to hit an impasse resulting in more accumulated  “baggage” when there’s a disagreement.

U is for understanding. This is also known as empathy —not necessarily agreeing—with what your partner is feeling, but knowing and understanding it.  Asking questions and showing genuine compassion regarding what your partner needs can help you know what kind of comfort and support to offer each other.

C is for chemistry and comfort. Who knows how chemistry develops, but it’s an ingredient that can lead to great sexual, sensual, emotional, intellectual and spiritual connection. While passion in your relationship is important, so is the ability to be together during the ordinary and mundane moments of daily life.  So strive for a healthy mix of chemistry and comfort as one more way to keep your romance alive.

H stands for honesty. This is another prerequisite for intimacy. But be careful about being so brutally honest that your message is lost in anger. The goal here is never to build resentment, but trust!

So together, take an inventory of your relationship; and commit to adopting or reigniting these ingredients as a roadmap to fulfillment for both of you!


When Dating, Keep Your Eye on the Prize

If you are dating or new to the singles scene and thinking about dating, let me ask you this: What are your goals?  Are you looking for a life partner? Companionship? A fun sexual relationship?  Close your eyes and take a moment to focus on this. When an answer comes to you, read on.

If you’ve had difficult dating experiences, dating can feel like a hassle; and thus it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing it in the first place.  Meeting new people and trying new things can be very satisfying and fun, especially when you’re feeling the best about yourself, doing things you enjoy, and—particularly when it feels like a hassle— reminding yourself of your own unique goal. Feeling good about yourself while dating is not always easy.  Most have found themselves—sometimes even routinely— in less than perfect dating situations.  There’s no need to put yourself down when you hit a few road bumps.  Instead, reach within to access internal sources of strength to make your dating life the best it can be.

Dating works best for you when you are feeling good about yourself.  One reason dating can sometimes be difficult might be because of the negative messages you tell yourself that interfere with your ability to feel your best when connecting with a new person.  What are the negative messages you tell yourself that take away from feeling your best?  These messages may be related to what you believe dating will be like (“I won’t have fun” or “It will be a waste of time.”)  Other messages may be related to the singles scene (“there are no good wo/men out there.  Everyone good is already taken!”) Negative self-talk also can be about fear of rejection (“I won’t be able to handle rejection”) or feeling not great about yourself (“I am not attractive enough”). Whatever flavor  of negative self-talk you participate in, you no longer need to fall victim to the voices inside your head. For every negative message you hold there’s a positive one you can access to make dating even more enjoyable!

It is natural to have “collected” some negative messages through bad dating experiences and when these messages sound a little bit too loud, it is time to consider using some tools to turn those speakers down.  Think about some of the beliefs or attitudes you have about yourself that get in your own way; and make a commitment to attack them forcefully and head-on!

A very effective way to defeat that negative voice in your head is to  write down a list of these self-defeating beliefs, words, or attitudes that affect your ability to feel good while dating.  Include all of the ways that you put yourself down.  Next, read each item to yourself one by one and come up with a positive affirmation that opposes the negative message about yourself.  Challenge those negative  beliefs  by asking yourself , “Is this completely true?”  For example, if you tell yourself “I am not attractive enough,” write down all of the evidence against this statement.   If you listed “there is no one good out there”, remind yourself that you are out there dating, aren’t you?!  If your fear is about your ability to handle rejection, write down “Nothing really consequential will happen to me if I am rejected and— in fact by being rejected—I may even prove to myself that I don’t need to fear rejection in the future.”  If you are sure you won’t have fun or will be wasting your time, you can add to your list “I may even meet someone I’d like to see again(!).”

After coming up with your positive affirmations, or pieces of positive self-talk, write them down on index cards to keep around your home, in your wallet or in your car.  Don’t only look at these before attempting to go out to meet someone or going on a date!  Look at these affirmations regularly or at least on a daily basis so that they become your new thinking habits. As you practice internalizing these positive and factual messages, eventually you’ll almost certainly find that the positive ones become automatic and triumphantly replace those obsolete negative ones—permanently!

Remember-you are dating for a reason!  Have fun!