Dr. Julie's Blog

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Two Easy Suggestions for Making Valentine’s Day Special

Many people dismiss Valentine’s Day as a Hallmark holiday. But, let’s think about this for a minute. It’s a lot more than just a money-making scheme for a big corporation. Valentine's day has been around since before the Middle Ages. If it has been celebrated in some way for the last several hundred years, don’t you think there might be something to it? 

A little history

Pope Gelasius declared February 14th to be St. Valentine’s Day in 498 (yes, over 1500 years ago). The oldest surviving Valentine’s Day poem was written in 1415. In the 18th century, it became popular to exchange small tokens of affection and handwritten notes. Pre-made cards became popular about 1900. Today Valentine’s Day is the second largest card-sending holiday of the year, following Christmas. This is probably why it is thought of as a Hallmark holiday, but as you can see, it pre-dates Hallmark, by a lot.

Valentine’s Day has remained important because it gets...

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28-Day Rekindle Your Relationship Challenge

Once the honeymoon phase is over and familiarity begins to dominate your relationship, it can start to feel stale and boring. Relationships take work but sometimes you just don’t know what to do. All you see is that things don’t feel right and you’re at a loss as to what to do about it. When this happens, it can feel like you’ve hit a roadblock.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is plenty you can do to rekindle the spark that brought the two of you together in the first place. 

To help you out with this, I’ve put together a 28-day Rekindle Your Relationship Challenge designed to give you simple activities to rekindle the spark in your relationship. The challenge activities are fun and designed to reconnect you to your lover. 

In the challenge, you will receive a daily email with your challenge action of the day and a short explanation of why it works or is important for your relationship.

There’s no obligation and if you miss a...

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Lying and Truth Telling for Effective Communication Guide

What lying is and how to tell the truth

Connie could tell something was wrong. Her boyfriend of 5 years seemed more distant but denied anything was going on. When she asked what was wrong, he said everything was fine. Then one day she found a stack of papers he had left out on the counter. The papers were a new rental agreement he had just signed for an apartment in another city. He had not mentioned he was planning to move out and he wasn’t moving to their dream city, Chicago. Why would he rent an apartment, especially without telling her? 

When Connie confronted him, he said he rented the apartment to be closer to work. But as Connie told me more details of their recent interactions and his behaviors it became clear to both of us that he was leaving the relationship. At one point during my conversation with Connie she looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “I just wish he’d tell me the truth.”

The truth. What is the truth of the situation? It...

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Does He* Know He’s Hurting Me?

I hear this question a lot from clients and on social media and my answer is not what you’d expect. Here’s how I think about it.

The questioner is in a relationship with someone who repeatedly violates boundaries and treats her in highly disrespectful ways. Treatment could be anything from name-calling to hitting, blaming to criticizing, threatening to trivializing. Whatever the behavior, it is repeated and it hurts the questioner. 

Invariably the questioner has told the partner that the behavior is hurtful and not okay. 

The question, “Does he know he’s hurting me” is a reasonable question if one assumes that people who love each other don’t intentionally hurt each other. 

So, what is going on?

Reasoning through this we will see something like this:

Assumption: 

People who love each other don’t intentionally hurt each other.

Facts: 

He tells me he loves me.

I love him.

He’s hurting me.  

I’ve...

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One Thing That Makes it Hard to Avoid Toxic Relationships

Everyone I’ve worked with who finds themselves in a toxic relationship has problems with setting and maintaining healthy boundaries. It’s one of the reasons people end up in toxic relationships and then have a hard time leaving.

What is a toxic relationship?

It’s a relationship where one person violates the other person’s boundaries, values, and identity on a regular basis. These relationships are verbally, emotionally, and sometimes physically abusive.

When I talk with people who are in toxic relationships common themes emerge.

  • They believe they are responsible for how their partner treats them
  • They try to anticipate their partner’s response to situations to avoid fights
  • They rearrange their social time to avoid upsetting their partner
  • They lose contact with friends and family because their partner doesn’t like them
  • They feel confused as to why their partner gets upset with them when they are trying so hard to be loving and give their partner...
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The Process of Improving Self-Worth and Confidence + *Free* Building Self-Worth Worksheet

Have you noticed that when you feel disconnected from a primary partnership it naturally generates questions of your value? It’s common to wonder if you matter or what’s wrong with you.

As children, we don’t naturally know who we are or what we are capable of. We learn who we are through conversations with adults who tell us about ourselves. These adults, our parents, teachers, relatives, and strangers, make statements such as “Look at how smart you are!” or “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” or “How hard is it to clean your room?”

If you think honestly about how you regard yourself, it is probably an outgrowth of how the adults in your life regarded you as a child. Feelings like “others don’t appreciate me” or “it’s hard to find love so I might as well put up with what I have” come from a sense of not being valued.

At the same time, it’s easy to imagine how feeling better...

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The one thing that can break the ice after a fight

Have you ever been arguing with your partner or family member and realized you didn’t want to be fighting? You wanted to stop but you didn’t know how to get your point across without continuing the fight?

We’ve all be there and it feels like being caught in quicksand. The more you talk, the worse it gets.

Instead of talking, find the right moment and give your partner or family member a hug.*

 First, find the right moment.

This is important because if the argument is currently happening, your partner isn’t going to be receptive to a hug. But later, after things have cooled off, go up to your partner and ask for a hug. No reference to the early disagreement, no explanation. Just ask for a hug.

As a matter of fact, I recommend hugging your partner (and other family members) multiple times per day.

The magic of a hug lies in the neurochemistry that happens when you hug someone. Both people in a hug release oxytocin, a neurochemical responsible for bonding....

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Four Life Lessons From My Dog

Meet my German Shepherd, Echo. He’s loyal and bonded to me. He is also protective and shows good judgment about other people. His favorite activity is to catch or fetch balls I throw for him. He does it like it’s his job — with intensity and passion. Echo sets a good example for us all. Here are just a few good things he demonstrates daily.

1. He likes to work and does his job with passion. Even the little jobs, such as catching balls, “hunting” flies, and encouraging me to take a break. Are you doing your jobs with passion? Do you appreciate the meaning of those small everyday, annoying tasks? These small tasks are often the result of abundance in our lives. For example, if you own a car, there is maintenance involved. The annoyance of having to change the oil in the car wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have the resources to own the car in the first place. Appreciate the small, annoying things in your life and do them with passion (or...

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19 Things Emotionally Resilient People Do

One afternoon in late November, my husband and I were sitting in an exam room waiting for the neurologist to return. Fred had already had an extensive neurological exam and, sitting there in silence, I could see the worry and fear on my husband’s face.

Eighteen months earlier he had started having muscle twitches in his arms and chest, but the neurologist at the time couldn’t find anything else wrong and diagnosed him with “benign muscle fasciculations.” Likely temporary, minor muscle twitches — nothing to worry about.

Now Fred was having problems enunciating words. Whatever was wrong must be serious. As I watched the neurological exam, I could tell that my formerly strong husband was having significant problems with his arms, hands, and tongue. What could be going on?

It took about 15 minutes before the neurologist returned, this time with another neurologist who started doing more neurological testing. After about 10 minutes they both sat down and the...

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How Shifting Your Focus Can Change Your Life

I worked at the Portland VA Medical Center for 5 years. There were a lot of good things about that job, but as with any large bureaucracy, there were a lot of things about it that were inefficient, ineffective, and blocked progress. There were policies and ways of interpreting policies that favored some people over others and the institution over patients and staff. There were initiatives designed to make the system better, but which appeared to be designed to be a gold star in some manager’s cap, not a meaning change to the system. But I digress…

Sometime during my 4th year, I knew it was time to leave. It had become clear that I was behind the curve salary-wise and running out of options for finding the kind of work that would really challenge me. I wanted to do more work with women and working exclusively with women in the VA wasn’t an option as there were too few female patients to make that a viable focus. I also wanted to be my own boss, which meant having a...

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