Delaware Relationship Therapist: Why Touch Matters in a Relationship

September 2, 2015

Delaware Relationship Therapist on Why Touch MattersHolding hands. Tousling hair. Hugging.

What may seem like insignificant gestures of fondness and affection can play a major role in determining the health and longevity of your relationship.

Touch is one of the most important ways to nurture a relationship as an intrinsic part of the human bonding experience. Without regular touch and affection, human beings can fall victim to loneliness, tension, anxiety, and even illnesses.

Alternatively, touching your partner regularly has a variety of powerful benefits, including:

Developing intimacy. In the initial stages of a relationship, humans use touch to express interest and get to know one another, often experimenting to see how much of their touch will be welcomed and returned. As couples grow increasingly comfortable and develop intimacy between each other, they begin to touch each other more.

Keeping intimacy alive. For more established partners, continued touch can strengthen the relationship bond by promoting trust and mutual feelings of pleasure.

Improving communication. Oftentimes, touch can be more effective at communicating emotions than words alone. A kiss can sometimes say a lot when you cannot find the right words, and a hug can often express love, appreciation, and reassurance more clearly and succinctly than speech.

Providing comfort. When you or your partner are sad, upset, frustrated, or stressed, touch can be wonderfully comforting and therapeutic. Gestures such as hugs and hand squeezes trigger receptors in the body to ease stress and enhance relaxation.

How to Increase Touch in Your Relationship

Want to harness the power of touch to boost intimacy, improve communication, and promote trust? Happily, there are many simple ways you can increase touch in your relationship.

  • Make it a habit to share a 20-second kiss and full-body hug every time you meet and part with your partner
  • Try holding each other in bed while lying still
  • When your partner is stressed, treat him or her to a foot rub or neck massage
  • When you are walking or sitting near your partner, hold each other’s hands

For more advice on increasing touch and boosting intimacy in your relationship or marriage, consider talking to a Delaware relationship therapist. Your therapist can provide you with valuable techniques for incorporating touch into your daily lives, as well as teaching you other tools for enhancing intimacy and relationship satisfaction.

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6 Ideas for Summer Dates from a Delaware Relationship Counselor: Get Active with Your Partner

August 2, 2015
Summer Date Ideas from Delaware Relationship Counselor - Kayaking

Want to improve your mood, health, and relationship all at once? Then make a commitment to regular summer dates that involve physical activity.

Together, you’ll benefit from the release of endorphins, improved mood, and better health. If the activity is outside, even better: time spent outdoors can enhance your mood, improve your attention levels, and strengthen your immune system. (Just make sure to use your sunscreen!)

By doing it together, you’re more likely to stick with it. A study from Health Behaviour Research Centre at University College London in England found lifestyle changes – exercise or otherwise – are more successful when couples do it together.

“Perhaps, as they say, 'a problem shared is a problem halved,’" said study co-author Jane Wardle.

So what do you have to lose? Get out and active with your partner today with these 6 summer date ideas from a Delaware Relationship Counselor.

  1. Take a bike ride. Don’t already own bikes? Rent some instead! If you find you enjoy it, you can always invest in a bike later. Head to a nearby park together with frequent stops to explore, or use it as your mode of transportation for a lunch date at a restaurant. (Another idea: get a tandem bike for added couples’ fun!)
  2. Go on a scenic hike. The slow pace makes it easy to enjoy the exercise while still holding a conversation. Make a commitment to explore a new hiking trail in your area each week. Bring along a healthy picnic lunch to enjoy when you stop for a particularly beautiful vista.
  3. Try partner kayaking. If you're looking for an upper-body workout, this is a great activity, but it isn't an easy one. It will, however, encourage you to get "in sync" literally! You'll have to work together to coordinate your strokes if you want to get anywhere. The accomplishment can help you feel more like a team.
  4. Explore a farmer’s market. It’s the least intense “workout” on our list, but the right farmer’s market can involve fair amounts of walking, get you outdoors, and encourage healthier eating habits. Then bring those fresh meats and veggies home and grill out for dinner together for more time enjoying the summer heat together.
  5. Play a game of golf. Enjoy the challenge of the game together while also relishing in the walks between holes. If you have a competitive nature, consider not keeping score to keep the focus on just spending time together and living in the moment. Or for a less expensive (and maybe less intimidating) option, go miniature golfing instead.
  6. Start a geocaching adventure. This outdoor activity involves looking for “hidden treasure” using GPS, your mobile device, or other navigation to find containers throughout your community. Working as a team to make a “discovery” will bring a sense of surprise and fun to your relationship. You can learn more about this idea on

Of course, these are just a few ideas! Put your heads together and see what other fun outdoor activities you can come up with. If you're having trouble working together, contact a Delaware Relationship Counselor for help.

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Delaware Relationship Therapist: Forgiveness in Relationships

June 28, 2015

Delaware Relationship Therapist: Forgiveness in RelationshipsWhen we form a loving relationship with someone, we open our hearts and make ourselves vulnerable. We give our partner the power to make us feel on top of the world, but also to hurt us where we are most sensitive. Your partner will inevitably hurt you during the course of your relationship, either intentionally or otherwise. It could be a careless comment about your weight or profession, or it could be a more serious offense, like committing infidelity.

We can’t control our partner’s words or actions, but we can control how we respond to their behavior. So when your partner says or does something that hurts you, how will you respond?

For many of us, the natural choice is to retaliate, exact revenge, or hold a grudge. But this kind of negative response can be harmful to both your personal well-being and the health of your relationship. Harboring negative feelings towards your partner can cause anxiety, raise your blood pressure, and even decrease your life expectancy. In the end, holding a grudge or plotting revenge against your partner hurts you a lot more than it hurts them.

Alternatively, if you respond with forgiveness and let go of bitterness and animosity, you may not only feel happier and healthier yourself, but improve your relationship. When you forgive your partner for a wrong, you allow your relationship to heal. You are able to take on a new perspective, moving beyond your feelings of the moment and looking towards the future.

Tips on Relationship Forgiveness

To help couples partner through the process, I’ve listed some tips on relationship forgiveness below.

Consider the value of forgiveness. Think about how focusing on the harm causes unnecessary suffering, and all the benefits forgiveness may bring. For instance, you won’t feel anxious or unhappy, and you won’t be constantly obsessing over the incident.

Make a decision to forgive. When you’re ready, make an active decision to forgive your partner. Commit to letting go of your negative feelings and moving past the incident that has caused you so much pain.

Empathize. Reflect on things you may have done wrong, and try to understand why your partner may have acted the way they did. There may be outside events or pressures that contributed to the offense. Rather than excusing the action, this new way of thinking may help you understand your partner better and see them as a human.

Healing. During the process of forgiveness, you may feel a sense of emotional release and new meaning in our relationship. After forgiving your partner and moving on, you may feel happier and stronger in your relationship than ever before.

If you are trying to heal from an emotional injury in your relationship, don’t hesitate to give the Delaware Relationship Therapist a call. I can help to guide you and your partner through the forgiveness process and provide you with support through discussion of sensitive concerns.

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Relationship Advice: How to Ask for Personal Space

June 21, 2015

Relationship Advice: How to Ask for Personal SpaceInundation. It’s a technical psychology term that you may not have heard of but have probably felt before.

In plain English, inundation is the feeling of being crowded or intruded upon by another person. Under inundation’s influence, it may seem as though another person is cutting into your space, life, or freedom. There are many different situations that may cause you to feel inundated, from people standing too close in line to family members who demand too much of your time.

While it’s easy to imagine how strangers in a crowded store, doting mothers, or irritating coworkers could make a person feel inundated, few of us ever imagine that our partners could make us feel this way.

A common misconception with romantic relationships is that married couples who are in love should become one and cease to be separate individuals. Many couples mistakenly believe that spending every single waking moment together is proof of the strength of their love and the health of their relationship. Often, couples have difficulty confessing to themselves or each other that they still have need for personal space.

But all human beings need a certain degree of space, privacy, and freedom—even the closest of romantic partners. In fact, personal space is vital to the success of a healthy relationship and active sex life. Without it, you may end up feeling resentful, irritated, and even angry at your partner.

Of course, a request for personal space can be an extremely sensitive subject. It can be a challenge to communicate your needs without hurting your partner’s self-esteem or causing a fight.

Below are some tips for getting the conversation on personal space going in a way that doesn’t end in conflict or hurt feelings.

Be specific. Telling your partner that you need space without providing an explanation may be interpreted by your partner as a sign of trouble. Explain to your partner exactly what you mean by “more space,” whether you want some time to spend with your friends or family, to pursue a hobby, or just to unwind after work.

Reassure your partner. Even the most confident partners can end up feeling confused, hurt, or jealous after you request a bit more breathing room. Reassure your partner of your intention to spend time with him or her as you request time apart, making it clear that your need for personal space is not a threat to your relationship.

Talk about your experiences. You and your partner should share your personal experiences with each other, using the tales of your solo escapades to inspire conversation and learn new things about one another. If you explore new activities, places, and experiences as individuals and as a couple, you can strengthen and revitalize your bond.

Bring in an expert. If you are having difficulty communicating your need for personal space to your partner, you may want to bring in an expert to offer relationship advice. A therapist can act as an impartial coach as you navigate this touchy subject, and provide you with effective tools and strategies for both honoring your time apart and treasuring your time together.

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Delaware Relationship Counselor: How Parenting Styles Can Impact Your Marriage

June 17, 2015

Delaware Relationship Counselor: How Parenting Styles Can Impact Your MarriageWhen couples decide to have children, a lot of issues tend to come up. Is it the right time in your life and career for kids? Do you feel financially secure enough? And simply: are you ready?

These are all good questions to ask, but often people in long term relationships ignore a big one: how do each of you plan on raising your kids? This not only relates to the belief systems that you want to instill in them (religious or otherwise), but also the way you plan to interact with your children on a day-to-day basis. In other words, what will your parenting styles be?

Generally speaking, there are three main ones: hands-off, affirmative, and authoritarian.

If you were to create a visual chart of these three styles, hands-off parenting, where you avoid imposing structure on the kids and let them make their own decisions, is pretty much the polar opposite of authoritarian parenting, where your word is essentially law and the kids are expected to follow your rules or be punished. Affirmative parenting, in which kids are given choices and encouraged to think for themselves, but where the parents are still the ultimate authority, is somewhere in the middle.

Problems Caused by Different Parenting Styles

As you might imagine, if one of you takes an authoritarian approach while the other has a more hands-off style, it can be confusing and negatively impact your children’s relationship with both of you. But differing parenting styles can go beyond your relationship with your children to harm your marriage as well.

How so? Well, when parents have vastly different styles of interacting with their kids, they often end up feeling frustrated and even undermined by their spouse as their decisions are frequently called into question or even rescinded. Fights can happen more often, and it’s not uncommon to feel more of a distance from your partner.

The way to combat these issues is to talk about big picture issues so you can achieve a couple's answer. Naturally, this won’t solve every disagreement, but it can help with a lot of them. And for those times when you do find yourselves at odds, the best way to handle it is to step away together and come to an agreement in private so you can present a united front to your kids.

No one is saying that this is easy though, so if you find yourself in need of help, feel free to give the Delaware Relationship Counselor a call.

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Delaware Therapist – Spring Cleaning: Sharing Household Duties

April 20, 2015

Delaware Therapist - Spring Cleaning: Sharing Household DutiesAs spring comes to Delaware, the air grows warmer, flowers begin to bloom, and many families embark on spring cleaning projects.

Historically, spring was the best time for dusting because the weather was warm enough to open up windows and doors, and insects and wind were less of a concern. Today, families continue the time-honored tradition by cleaning their homes from top to bottom, getting rid of clutter, and making repairs.

Cleaning, maintenance, and household duties should be a shared responsibility between you and your spouse during spring and throughout the rest of the year. If one partner bears the burden of cleaning, cooking, and household chores, he or she may end up feeling bitter, frustrated, and underappreciated.

To prevent conflict and resentment, you and your partner should work together to devise a plan for sharing household responsibilities that you both feel is fair and feasible. Below are ideas and tips to keep in mind.

Discuss likes and dislikes. Talk about which household duties each of you particularly likes or dislikes, and then assign tasks accordingly. For instance, if your spouse hates doing the dishes and you hate taking out the trash, you could volunteer to take charge of the dishes if he or she promises to cover trash duties.

Keep an open mind. Remember that your partner might have a very different perspective on what needs to be done around the house and who is doing their fair share of the work. Listen to your spouse, keep calm, and be open to ideas and suggestions – even if you disagree.

Avoid accusations. If you accuse your partner of neglecting housework or make bossy demands, your partner may become defensive and resentful. Instead of trying to order your partner around, pose your needs in the form of requests and suggestions.

Praise the good. After finalizing your plan for sharing household responsibilities, make sure to show your appreciation when you notice your spouse following through. If you praise the good things your partner does rather than focusing on their shortfalls, you can make them feel valued and encourage them to continue to help.

Struggling with housework conflicts or other communication issues? Consider talking to a Delaware therapist who can help you “spring clean” your relationship with personalized advice and innovative techniques.

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Walt Ciecko, Ph. D., BCB
605 Wynyard Rd
Wilmington, DE 19803