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Do You Have a Meaningful Relationship?

Our lives consist of so many relationships. How to navigate through them all in a healthy, meaningful way, though, is a skill.

Where did you learn how to have those meaningful relationships?

Most likely from your parents or maybe other significant people in your life around you growing up. Maybe watching your grandparents? Growing up, you were surrounded by many people that ultimately helped mold you into the person you are today. Those relationship examples before you probably provided you with a lot of good models, however, you may have grown up also witnessing some negative examples of how to not only treat others, but also how to view yourself with others.

With all of these examples in front of you, ultimately you learned (good or bad) what different relationships were all about.

The two main people in your life were probably your parents. Think back on what you saw between them. Did you see two people who could negotiate through problems effectively and showed kindness and affection while talking? Or did you witness yelling, arguing, even silence, or maybe anxiety between two people who did not get along? Whatever your background was in front of you as a child, these examples helped to create your roadmap in how you view relationships today, how you parent, how you start and end the day, and how you interpret meaning into your interactions.

Your relationship perspective began when you were a child, and continues to play out in your life today. What are your relationships like today as an adult? Are you married? Do you have a good relationship with your partner; is your partner your best friend? Have you ever asked yourself why is my relationship not going so well or how come we continue to argue about the same topic, over and over again? Is your life repeating the same patterns with your partner that you witnessed as a child from your parents?

The relationships with whom you choose to let into your personal world are very important. I want you to think about all the interactions that you have, daily. Every interaction is a reflection of you. How you choose to talk, respond, and react to others is revealing of your personality as well as how you witnessed relationships from your past.

Are there parts of your personality that you do not particularly like? Now is your chance to work on yourself. Don’t wait for someone in your life to tell you the impact you are having on others in a negative way. Be proactive and look inward. I know, it is really hard to look at ourselves. Most people don’t want to think about themselves, let alone any negative feelings that may emerge from impacting others around them. When I think about my actions and thoughts every day, I purposely work on being intentional within every relationship I have. You may ask, what is “being intentional?” Being intentional is how you react to yourself and to others by both your inward dialogue as well as the outward expressions that others see. Intentionality does not mean that we express everything that we feel, think, or believe. You are purposely trying to slow down your thinking to situations that are presented. You stop and think, “How can my reaction help this situation or hurt it?” In a relationship, being intentional takes work. After time, it can become second nature.

Here are some tips to consider in being intentional:

  1. I want you to think about every interaction you have with your partner in a new way.
  2. Be kind.
  3. Be curious; ask questions.
  4. Be thoughtful.
  5. Have an interest in your partner’s world.
  6. Have an interest into who they are as a different person than you.
  7. Slow down with your thoughts and reactions.
  8. Try to express your thoughts into more than just body language, while doing steps #1,2,3,4,5,6,7

I had to learn this skill. It takes time and patience, but I know you can achieve it in your relationships. I learned how to be intentional during my former 19 year career at NASA, Johnson Space Center, while working as a flight controller in the Mission Control Center. When faced with crisis emergencies involving our nations’ astronauts and mission flight directors, I had to stop, slow down, and assess the situation. There was always emotion involved internally when being part of such an intense situation, but any negative interactions with a Flight Director or one of my colleagues was not going to ameliorate the crisis. I had to learn how to help the other flight controllers and Flight Director in the room, by first helping myself to focus my thoughts, while maintaining my reactions, so that I could then understand the situation. In otherwords – I had to breathe! Similar to what we are told when flying on an airplane – “place the oxygen mask on yourself first before your children” If you don’t have a lot of oxygen going to your brain, you certainly can’t think in a calm, rational manner and won’t be able to help anyone else!

I think of John Gottman’s book entitled, “How to Raise an Emotionally Intelligent Child.” If your child is in a panicked, hysterical state – does it help your child for you to be hysterical also? Or would it make more sense to be intentional and try to remain calm, so that you can listen and understand how your child is feeling; helping them to talk out their feelings. The same thing pertains for adult relationships. If a spouse is upset at you, it can help tremendously to be intentional and listen. Try and understand how they feel by asking them questions; be curious. Help them to describe their emotions. When someone is upset at you, it can be hard to hear, just like looking inward at ourselves as I mentioned previously. During those times of upset, if you can view them as opportunities for connection or closeness, then being intentional becomes easier. Your whole focus is on the other person. How they are feeling. If each of you are being intentional with each other, then you know you always have each other’s shoulder to lean on. You don’t have to worry about whether there will be a “dart” said toward you or whether your partner is really listening to how you feel; You are caring for one another.

How difficult is it to care for one another during tumultuous times? Research by the Gottman Institute, demonstrates that there truly may be a lot of difficulty in being able to focus on each other during an argument. Especially if our heart rate is increased. Instead of listening, one person may be thinking about their next sentence or how they need to express their point of view. Being intentional is a skill that allows you to slow down and put your partner first.

I specialize in helping couples and families become intentional with both inner thoughts as well as outwardly reactions and expressions. I have a natural, calm presence, without any judgement. I believe that any situation is manageable through caring and understanding. Here at the Center for Relationship Wellness, I will help you look at your relationship patterns and focus on slowing down to think about how you are personally contributing or contaminating to your relationship. Working through issues can be intimidating and stressful, however, together we can help your relationship evolve into something more positive and meaningful.

Women in the Workplace: One’s Definition of a Work\Life Balance

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2014, 57% of women participated in the labor force.  Of those women, 69.9% were mothers.  Since 1975, the rate of women in the workforce and working mothers has risen from 47.4% to 70.3%, which implies that women continue to work after having children.

The Department of Labor of the United States of America, in The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993(1993), clearly recognizes the needs of working women. According to this statute:

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 states that “it is necessary to balance the demands of the workplace with the needs of families, to promote the stability and economic security of families, and to promote national interests in preserving family integrity. The lack of employment policies to accommodate working parents can force individuals to choose between job security and parenting. Due to the nature of the roles of men and women in our society, the primary responsibility for family caretaking often falls on women, and such responsibility often affects the working lives of women more than it affects the working lives of men. Employment standards that apply to one gender only have serious potential for encouraging employers to discriminate against employees and applicants for employment who are of that gender.” (The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (1993).

A woman has the privilege to actually choose between work and motherhood. Social conditioning, however, entails that the woman put home before career and that society treats women differently.  Social expectation affects the decisions women make about their careers. They are subjected to many different demands and are often expected to play several roles that may be conflicting. Caring for a family often means that many work-life conflicts emerge for women. A woman may face simultaneous pressures from both work and family roles. These conflicts are often intensive, and a woman’s response may result in the reduction of employment which in turn leads to a restriction in career opportunities and advancement.

How Women Can Help Themselves

According to Powell and Greenhouse (2006), women may not receive any formal help from their employer to manage their work−life balance and if they want to strike any balance between work and their lives outside work, they must find their own ways of doing so. Women must have a desire to take control of their own work−life balance and have self-initiative, representing their own individual effort aimed at securing this work−life balance with being goal-oriented.


There are different kinds of unofficial techniques or behaviors that a woman, as an active manager of her own work−life balance can use in being proactive.


According to Wrzesniewski and Dutton (2001), in order to gain control over work and their identity in the workplace, women must be able to clarify their bosses’ expectations about the workload that they can handle and also manage spouses’ and friends’ ideas about how hard they need to work.  A job may have at least some aspects objectively defined by the organization, however, work−life balance must be constructed subjectively by an individual.


A woman may need to consider controlling the length and timing of her working day by managing when her work actually begins.  A woman must also define her own terms in making decisions about the job she wants to work in. She must make choices about her employer, job or work projects based on the hours she thinks she will have at work.  A woman may want to move closer to her workplace in order to reduce the amount of time she spends travelling to and from work every day.


Some women will craft their own definitions of work−life balance, framed in terms that they believe are possible for only them to achieve.


For some people, cognitive techniques such as reframing and defining what work−life balance means to them or compromising an ideal work−life balance in return for future rewards are significant aspects of changes in their behavior.

How Employers Can Help

The modern work environment needs to consider the special needs of the working mother population, changing its orientation from male dominance to gender neutrality and parenting friendly behavior. The joint family and the nuclear family unit both need to adjust to the needs of the working mother so as to allow a healthier family to develop.  In order for organizations to retain talented women, they must continue to establish family-friendly human resource practices such as flextime, job sharing, telecommuting, assistance in finding daycare or providing onsite daycare, as well as suitable nursing areas. Organizations can cope with the increase in stress by creating programs to promote work-life balance, especially for employees with families.  Organizations can also make sure that mental health services are included in their health care plans through employee assistance programs.


From a Student’s Perspective

I am a working mother of three children.  I am now working toward my second career later in life with a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy at the University of Houston-Clear Lake.  Twenty years ago, however, I started working professionally when I was just 19 at Johnson Space Center\NASA in Houston, Texas.  I trained the astronauts on the communication equipment onboard the Space Shuttle, was a flight controller in Mission Control and later became the deputy facility manager of Mission Control for the International Space Station.  All the while, having three children, going to school for my Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, and managing my household with my husband of 16 years.  Looking back, how did I do it all?  I remember “swapping” my kids when they were little in the parking lot of Johnson Space Center with my husband as one of us came to work for graveyard shift, and the other one was just getting off.  Those were really hard times, but I will tell you, I had to know myself very well to manage any stress from my job or in being a mother at home.  Knowing myself meant, knowing my own boundaries, knowing my limitations.  Knowing what I was and was not willing to settle for – which meant pay, job hours, flexibility with duties, my own alone time as an individual, and what my priorities were for our family.  I have seen many successes over the years by just wanting to have that genuine interest in myself as a woman and in wanting it all with my career and as supermom.  I HAD to discover what my work\life balance needed to be for me.  My advice for women today would be – Make individual goals for yourself and with your family, and do whatever you need to do to achieve your own definition of success.  Think it through and set both short and long term goals.  Talk with your employer about your struggles, if you are comfortable, so that they know what you are trying to handle in your life.  Talk with your partner.  Make hard situations become simple by planning ahead and as I always say – “Break down any stressors in your life into manageable pieces that can be solved.  You can do it!” – I learned those critical thinking skills from working in Mission Control as a flight controller!

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Retrieved from US Bureau of Labor Statistics (2015).


Retrieved from the US Department of Labor (2015).