Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jealousy of fiancé can develop into a self-fulfilling prophesy
Stress for Success
October 6, 2009

Dylan lives in fear of losing his fiancé. He doesn’t trust her and becomes enraged when she talks to other men. If he continues, his jealousy can become a self-fulfilling prophesy, pushing her away and ultimately losing her. Excessive jealousy in isn’t an attractive mate-trait.

Thesaurus words for jealousy include envy, resentment, protectiveness, suspicion, and distrust. Each is very stressful and emotionally exhausting. Far more menacing, jealousy is also the leading cause of homicide.

On the other hand, a little jealousy can be a good thing in a relationship. In small amounts it shows that you care.

Feeling inadequate fuels jealousy. You’re likely to project it onto your partner as anger through spying on him, trying to control him, and blaming him for how rotten you feel. But what you should do is look inside yourself for your own insecurities, which are what trigger your jealousy. After all, those most vulnerable to this toxic emotion are those who are the most self-doubting. Jealousy says more about you than about the perceived misdeeds of your mate.

Psychologist David Buss along with a Spanish colleague in a yet-to-be-published study found that jealousy is closely associated with two of the “big five” personality traits, both of which are influenced by heredity and environment in approximately equal proportions. Jealousy is:
* Positively associated with neuroticism (emotional instability), with tendencies toward anger, anxiety and depression; a common tactic used to discourage a partner from straying is increased vigilance;
* Negatively related to agreeableness (cooperative and compassionate versus suspicious and antagonistic); common tactics include yelling, insulting and undermining a mate’s self-esteem, cutting a partner off from friends and family, or threatening violence;
None of these tactics is likely to increase trust and intimacy, both necessary for a healthy long-term relationship.

“The formula for jealousy,” says psychologist Steven Stosny, “is an insecure person times an insecure relationship.” Insecure people tend to destabilize relationships and make them insecure.

To keep jealousy from wrecking your relationship family therapist Lori Gordon suggests:
* Nurturing your relationship to discourage jealousy in the first place;
* Deciding if you want to confront your mate with your suspicions; at minimum don’t obsess about them;
* Use “I” statement if you choose to say something:
o “I noticed that you’re coming home late,” versus “You’re always coming home late …”
* Focus on your mate’s troubling behavior (e.g., arriving home late) versus negatively judging him (you’re inconsiderate for not calling);
* Use this formula:
o “I notice …” (that you’ve arrived home after 7:00 three times this week.)
o “I assume that it means …” (you’re working later than you typically do.)
o “I wonder …” (why that is and if you’d tell me and whether there is more to it.)
Give your partner time to respond and see where this leads.

Finally, Dylan’s jealousy means he’s feeling unlovable. Instead of doing something that exercises power over her like yelling he’d be wise to do something that makes him more loveable to her. What a great idea!

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is a speaker and a Stress Coach. Her new book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, is now available at Go to her blog, for past articles.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Simple steps for finding great spouse
Stress for Success
September 22, 2009

In the 1990s I conducted a crazy, evening workshop, “How to Find and Keep a Mate.” In city after city my audiences consisted of hundreds of mostly disgruntled women and a few curious men. My approach to this topic was to pursue what gives you meaning and pleasure. By doing so you’ll put yourself in contact with like-minded people. And if you’re happy you’ll attract happier people. If you’re depressed you’ll repel some – or you’ll attract other despondent souls.

It seems the more you look for a partner the less likely you are to find one; thus my approach for this program. But here are some thoughts to use in your search:

  • Put yourself out there. Escaping through nightly TV is a recipe for meeting no one. What interests you? Tennis? Volunteering? Go do it, but not exclusively for meeting a potential mate but rather for your own good.
  • Consider on-line dating to see who’s out there.
  • “Love the one you’re with.” This 1970 Stephen Stills song was my anthem. I knew I didn’t want to settle down as I was soon entering the Peace Corps. I had seen too many (mostly) females turn every date into a potential candidate for marriage. What pressure! Think about it logically: if you date twenty people, and on average you’ll marry just two to three of them, then you’ll never marry the vast majority. Just enjoy their company and don’t try to force a relationship.
  • Sometimes good enough is truly good enough. Too many people have unrealistic, expectations of finding the perfect mate. They don’t exist! And even if you think you’ve found one it’ll take only a few months to discover their imperfections.
  • Broaden your horizons: Do you reject those who are less than perfect? Consider changing. If you only date those with advanced degrees, date someone with no degree or a lesser one. If you only date beautiful people, date someone who doesn’t rise to that standard. You may surprise yourself with whom you find enjoyment.
  • Write ten qualities that represent your values that you want your ideal mate to have (like humor versus which type of car does s/he drives). Are there deal-breaker traits, like not wanting kids? It’s important to know these ahead of time.
  • “Why would you want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with you,” asked my father of any of us kids who’d been dumped. It rang very true with me so when a boyfriend pulled away from me I’d give him space with no attempt to reel him back in. To a person they couldn’t stand my indifference to their distancing themselves. But I truly didn’t want to be with someone who didn’t want to be with me. Duh!

There’s much research documenting how healthy, close relationships protect you from the ravages of stress. The key word is “healthy”. Whatever makes you feel good about yourself is what’s truly healthy for you. Don’t settle for anything less.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is a speaker and a Stress Coach. Her new book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, is now available at Go to her blog, for past articles.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Changing something about yourself can be stressful
Stress for Success
September 1, 2009

Virtually everyone has something about themselves they don’t like. Whether it’s a habit like smoking or a perceived interpersonal deficit like defensiveness, we all have something we’d like to change about ourselves.

Forcing yourself to change probably doesn’t work. Last week I addressed an important reason why: ambivalence. While you want to change for certain reasons at the same time you don’t want to for others. Since all change equals stress any behavioral modification triggers your fear of the unknown. Until you consciously process these opposing forces you’re unlikely to make progress.

For example, you’re working very long hours to increase your income to pay your bills but also neglecting your family in the process. To make tough decisions about work/life balance it helps to identify and reconcile this tug-of-war: make more money and spend more time with your family. Becoming more aware of your mental conflict can create discomfort with the status quo, which can motivate you to figure out a better balance.

To support clarifying and challenging your ambivalence, apply Dr. Mary Ann Chapman’s advice, “The key to breaking a bad habit (remaining too sedentary) and adopting a good one (exercising) is making changes in your daily life that minimize the influence of the now and remind you of the later.” In other words:
* Minimize the immediate reward of doing nothing (the nonthreatening TV watching versus exercising);
* Make the long-term negative consequences of not exercising (carrying too much weight causing physical discomfort or depression and anxiety) seem more immediate;

Instead of excuse after excuse to avoid exercise, remind yourself how tired you are of being exhausted and emotionally stuck.

Another vital tool to help you change is becoming much more consciously aware of your disagreeable behavior. Observing yourself exhibiting this unwanted behavior is called mindfulness or the observing self. For instance, if you express your stress through over-eating, observe yourself as you stuff yourself. Don’t try to change it, just watch it. The derived awareness is a huge help in changing at some point.

Susan, a coaching client, observed herself overeating for a month. It put her much more in touch with the stressors that were triggering it. She learned that her main trigger was phone calls from her parents. Becoming mindful of this connection motivated her to replace eating with yoga after a parental phone call.

Mindfulness requires personal responsibility as well as cultivates it. It’s much easier to blame your weight gain on genetics or rationalizations like, “eating helps me cope.” But, observing yourself exhibiting this self-destructive habit drives home to you that you alone are in charge of what you put inside your mouth.

Most change is very difficult. To be successful you must be patient, persistent and above all conscious of yourself as you engage in your undesirable behavior. Scare yourself a bit with the negative consequences of changing nothing. With time you’ll hopefully become uncomfortable enough with the status quo to take the leap and make the desired change.

Jacquelyn Ferguson, M. S., is a speaker and a Stress Coach. Her new book, Let Your Body Win: Stress Management Plain & Simple, is now available at Go to her blog, for past articles.