August 19, 2014

How Couples Counseling Can Help Your Marriage

From Louis Laves-Webb

How Couples Counseling Can Strengthen Your Marriage

July 28, 2014

13 Ways to Keep Snoring From Ruining Your Relationship

Is snoring destroying your relationship?
Is snoring ruining your life?

Being kept awake all night by the sounds of a bull moose caught in a lawn mower can drive you crazy. An occasional night on the couch may not be a big deal. But when the snoring goes on and on, all night long, night after night, people get desperate. Around the world, the spouses of snorers have resorted to separate bedrooms, divorce, and even murder.

Sleep deprivation has serious physical and mental repercussions. It can lead to memory loss, poor judgment, reduced cognitive functioning, heart disease, high blood pressure, loss of sex drive, depression, premature aging, weight gain, worsening of existing medical problems, and a shortened life span.

It isn't just the snorer's spouse who is getting hurt. Snorers' sleep cycles are often disrupted, and they may be waking up many times during the night, even when they are not consciously aware of what is happening. They experience all the same harmful effects of sleep deprivation as their spouses. Additionally, snorers may suffer from sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition in which breathing stops for brief periods during sleep, and then restarts, often with a loud choking or snorting sound.

Snoring is caused by restrictions or obstructions to the flow of air to the mouth and nose. Common causes are poor muscle tone of the throat and tongue, bulky throat tissue resulting from weight gain, excessive muscle relaxation due to drugs or alcohol, and the underlying structure of an individual's jaw and airways.

There is hope. In many cases, snoring can be reduced or stopped altogether. Here are some of the approaches suggested by sleep experts.
  1. Change your sleep position. Snoring is more likely to occur if you sleep on your back, because this position worsens the effect of relaxed tongue and throat muscles. A body pillow may make it easier to sleep on your side. Sewing a tennis ball or other uncomfortable object to the back of your sleep shirt will discourage rolling into the wrong position during the night.
  2. A neck support pillow may reposition your head and neck so that the throat can stay open.
  3. Avoid alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol acts as a muscle relaxant, making it more likely your jaw will drop open while your tongue and throat sag.
  4. Lose weight. Dropping just 10-15 pounds can make a huge difference in the amount of excess tissue in the throat.
  5. Open your nasal passages. Congestion or a narrow nasal cavity may be blocking your air flow. A steamy shower, saline spray, or nasal strips may improve the situation.
  6. Remove allergens and irritants. Keep the bedroom well vacuumed and dusted. If your pillows are washable, wash them at least once a month. Otherwise, regularly run them through a fluff cycle in the dryer to remove hair and dust. If your pillows are a few years old, it may be time to replace them. Keep pets off the bed. If you suspect that you have chronic allergies, see your doctor for testing and treatment.
  7. Raise the head of the bed a few inches. This can be done with a foam wedge under the mattress, or with blocks placed under the feet of the bed frame.
  8. Anti-snoring mouthpieces are designed to be worn at night. They either reposition the jaw or hold the tongue in place. These come in a wide range of styles and materials. At the higher end are customized devices made by dentists or other specialists.
  9. Chin straps may be more comfortable and affordable than mouthpieces. They are designed to keep the jaw in place during the night.
  10. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Dehydration increases the stickiness of mucous, which in turn may intensify snoring.
  11. Exercise. Some experts think that tongue and facial exercises can firm up the slack muscles that contribute to snoring. Exercises include inflating balloons, hyperextending the tongue, and grinning widely.
  12. There are various medications that purport to help snoring. As a last resort, there is surgery. These treatments are not always effective, and should be considered only after consultation with a doctor.
  13. Only a qualified doctor can diagnose sleep apnea. Not all snoring is caused by apnea, and apnea does not always cause snoring. If you are suffering from chronic fatigue and ongoing sleep disturbances, a medical checkup can help you find out exactly what is happening.

  National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute
  Snoring Insights

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July 21, 2014

Privacy and Secrecy

Privacy and Secrecy
Our local newspaper publishes a low-quality advice column. Recently, a woman wrote to the columnist about an incident in which she had picked up her husband's phone and attempted to enter the password. (The wife admitted that her husband hadn't given her the password; she had figured it out by watching him.) Her husband jumped up and knocked the phone out of her hand. The wife believed that her husband had overreacted and that his behavior was suspicious. In response, the columnist berated the woman for snooping and violating her husband's privacy. Yikes!

Let's be clear. It is sad that the wife couldn't (or thought she couldn't) just ask her husband for his password. However, the husband was completely out of line. Striking his wife's hand to keep her from using his phone borders on violence. It's an act that indicates either tremendous guilt or tremendous paranoia. None of us should have anything on our phones (or in our wallets, or on our computers, or shoved into the back of the closet) that must be kept secret from our spouses.

Of course, people -- even married people -- are entitled to privacy. Unfortunately, too many people blur the line between privacy and secrecy, using the first as an excuse for the second.

Privacy includes the right to spend time alone, to pursue your own hobbies and interests, to have some time to relax or work by yourself. You are entitled to have your own thoughts, feelings and opinions. You don't have to tell anyone who you voted for, how much you weigh, or what you dreamed about last night. It is reasonable to expect some quiet time while you work a crossword puzzle or trim your toenails. It is normal to need a little solitude, to be yourself by yourself.

No matter how intimate and safe we feel with a partner, we need some boundaries that help define who we are as individuals. We need physical and psychological space to refresh ourselves after dealing with the demands of the world. Private time, personal interests, freedom to think and to express our individuality -- these are needed to build and maintain a healthy sense of self.

At the same time, we are social beings who need connections with others. Close relationships provide the emotional and social support we need to have a high quality of life. Friendship and love bring us great joy and encourage us to fulfill our human potential.

In close relationships, the boundaries of privacy are different than they are with strangers or casual acquaintances. Typically, we disclose more personal information to people we trust and feel close to. The more we share, the closer we feel and the stronger our bond becomes.

Secrecy means hiding something. It often includes misdirection and lying. Within any kind of relationship, secrecy means withholding or misrepresenting information that is relevant to the relationship, or information that the other person has a legitimate interest in knowing.

The reason for secrecy is usually simple. People don't want to face the consequences of their actions. They don't want to deal with the other person's response, the likelihood that the nature of the relationship will be changed, or the possibility that it will be terminated altogether. They don't want their behavior to be exposed, and they don't want to face their own shame.

While a healthy degree of privacy is part of a balanced social life, secrecy distorts relationships. The secret-keeper has changed the terms of the relationship without the knowledge or consent of the partner. The partner is deprived of the right to make informed decisions about matters that may profoundly affect his or her life. Depending on the nature of the secret, the partner's finances, health, reputation, or emotional well-being may be at risk.

Concealing the truth creates problems for the concealer as well. A lie often requires more lies to maintain the cover-up, and each lie increases the chances of discovery. The liar has to remember the story, and often finds that it is no longer possible to speak freely about certain subjects for fear of letting something slip. The relationship suffers from a loss of openness that is usually noticeable and frustrating to the other person, who may gradually begin to feel that something is seriously wrong.

When the truth comes out, as it usually does, things get much worse. Often it is the lie, not the original deed, that causes the partner to end the relationship. Once someone has deceived us, we may find it impossible to trust them again.

So why did the husband in the story want to keep his phone away from his wife? Maybe he didn't want her to find out how much time he spent playing Angry Birds. Maybe he had lost the rent money to online gambling. Maybe he was sexting with an old girlfriend. Maybe he was childishly possessive of his electronic toys. Maybe he didn't want her to see the receipt for the birthday gift he had just bought her. And why couldn't the wife just ask him for his password or ask him to let her use the phone? Had he refused in the past? Was she suspicious of his behavior? Was she deliberately being provocative?

No matter what the explanation, this is a couple that needs to have some serious conversations about honesty, trust, and respect. Let us all have those discussions sooner rather than later, and come to an understanding before we find ourselves coming to blows over a phone.

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July 9, 2014

A Frank Talk About Sexual Rejection

There are thousands of articles on the web about the problem of couples who are in conflict because one wants sex and the other doesn't. The writers offer many possible explanations and propose plenty of solutions. Maybe they have naturally mismatched sex drives, maybe there is conflict in other areas of the relationship, maybe someone is being too sensitive or too demanding, or maybe someone is a prude or a brute. There could be a hormone problem or some other medical issue, or one spouse could simply be overworked and exhausted. Experts suggest helping with the chores, improving communication, having regular date nights, getting more sleep, getting a medical checkup, agreeing to a schedule, sending the kids to Grandma's, turning off the TV and the cell phone, and getting marriage counseling.

Comments from both the deprived and the decliners indicate that all these problems -- and more -- play a role in sexual avoidance. But there is one issue that is mentioned regularly -- if not quite as often as some others -- and yet is usually ignored by the advice-givers. A lack of basic hygiene on the part of one's mate is a surprisingly common theme among sexual refusers. Face it -- if you look dirty and smell bad, your partner's first instinct will be to turn away. And yet it seems that many folks simply aren't aware that they have a problem.

We see this issue in the workplace, too! And, while co-workers will complain to the person who takes the last cup of coffee without starting a new pot, the one who is always late, or someone who fails to pick up a ringing phone, it seems that nobody wants to tell the unwashed that they are, well, unwashed.

So, for anyone who has been frustrated by the huge amount of personal space everyone around them seems to need, it's time to consider this embarrassing and oft-neglected (yet easily solved) possibliity.

Potential clues:
  • Your partner has complained about your body odor or your bad breath.
  • Your partner makes a wrinkled-nose face and cringes when you get close.
  • You can see dirt or grease in the creases of your skin or under your nails.
  • Your underwear is discolored. Your shirts have armpit stains.
  • The sheet on your side of the bed is gray or brown where your body touches it.
  • People frequently urge you to have a mint.
  • Nobody wants to hug you, sit near you or stand next to you.
  • Everyone seems to be holding their breath.
  • You can smell yourself.
What to do:
  • Take a shower every day. If you shower in the morning and work hard all day, you may need another shower when you get home.
  • Even if you aren't visibly dirty, stale perspiration or odors acquired from the environment (like smoke, cooking odors, and chemicals) can cause an unpleasant odor. Use a deodorant, and wear fresh clothing daily.
  • Brush your teeth. This is important for your health, your appearance, and your kissability. If brushing isn't doing enough, add mouthwash to your routine.
  • Practice good bathroom habits. If your underwear is always stained and streaky, try using more toilet paper or moist wipes.
  • If removing your shoes makes people gag, consider shoe treatments (such as sprays and powders) that will kill the germs and prevent odor. Own two pairs of shoes and alternate them.
  • Remember the details. Are your nails clean and trimmed? Have you washed and combed your hair? Are there nose hairs that need attention? Do you need a shave?
  • Think about your diet. Certain foods, especially large quantities of garlic, can cause even a clean person to have a strong odor.
  • If you believe you really are clean, and yet you still have a bad odor, get a medical checkup. Some health conditions can affect your breath or the way your body smells.

"Beauty commonly produces love, but cleanliness preserves it." -Joseph Addison

"If you go long enough without a bath, even the fleas will leave you alone." - Ernie Pyle

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing - that's why we recommend it daily." - Zig Ziglar

"The gentlemen like it when a lady smells sweet." ― Bertrice Small