The Importance of Powerful Relationships

This is the perfect time to evaluate the ties that bring us together

What many of us — most of us — miss so profoundly these days is connection. Connection with others: bonds that bring us together and reaffirm our purpose.

In “normal times,” so many of us were too busy. We couldn’t — didn’t — wouldn’t — take time to invest in what turns out to be imperative alliances that build us up, that build others up and that build up the community around us.

And now, in the absence of many of those daily connections and powerful relationships we might have taken for granted, hope is not lost.

In this absurd time, we have been given a gift: the opportunity to reflect on the significance of the rapport we enjoyed and the support we had for each other.

In this chapter of èBella èXtra, we offer insight from relationship experts about being better partners, friends, family members and loved ones.

Today, it seems, we are ready to recommit to each other in more powerful and productive ways for the common good — at a time when we need it most.

 
 
 
 
 

in this issue

 
 

Pande-mania: The Struggle to Keep Your Cool

Six steps to manage conflict in otherwise unmanageable times

The ongoing pandemic has heightened conflict in relationships, from families to couples, and from work associates to friends and neighbors. Licensed Clinical Psychotherapist Erin Wiley says the pandemic has undoubtedly intensified everyone’s level of fear, worry, concern, disappointment, sadness and anger.

“It’s just like a computer running with a virus in the background: It can affect all parts of the operating system. People’s upset feelings, when they are not aware of them, influence decisions and emotions and behaviors subconsciously,” Wiley says. “We have all lost things like graduations, weddings, funerals, income, security and the ability to solidly plan for the future. That causes people to be more on edge, more irritable and more confrontational than before.”

People are grieving losses and a sense of normalcy. This contributes to conflict surfacing in relationships.

“The pandemic has certainly put people together in their homes more than ever before,” Wiley says. Then there’s “the strain of loss of income; the isolation inherent in the inability to connect with family, friends, coworkers and neighbors; concerns over getting sick; decisions about children’s education; fear of the future … these all have turned up the heat on latent relationship issues.”

The biggest conflict for families is people with differing ideas on how to behave during the pandemic.

“There are lots of interfamily conflicts I have been hearing about in therapy. Family members who won’t visit others because they feel unsafe around them; family members not respecting boundaries around children and infants; families upset about social media posts.”

From a therapist’s perspective, Wiley endorses stepping back to examine our emotions before engaging in any type of response.

“In this way, we can ensure we are at least making decisions that are self-aware and not purely reactionary. We have to give room for people to think differently than we do. We can even think they are foolish and misinformed. But engaging in constant battle to prove our point is a waste of time and energy, when all we can ultimately control is ourselves. Do your best to live within your belief system. When you can’t find compromise with friends and family members, take a break,” Wiley advises.

Six Steps to Manage Conflict in Relationships

1. Listen to and validate the other person’s point of view: It is the best first step. It disarms people’s anger to feel truly heard, especially when two people have very different beliefs or feelings on an issue. 

2. Try to find common ground: emphasize anything that is similar or that you can agree upon. This can lead to a faster resolution and better compromise.

3. Let it go: Remember that people do not have to agree. Most of the time, it isn’t worth the fight. Ultimately, we need to learn to let go of control of others. We should seek to be kind and respectful above being right/winning.

4. Become a proficient apologizer: When you do mess up and things get heated or unkind, don’t hesitate to apologize. All that means is that you are acknowledging that you did something hurtful, not that you are a bad or weak person. The healthiest people apologize easily (it takes lots of practice to get there) because they see nothing wrong in admitting they may have done something (or are being) hurtful to someone else.

5. Work on emotional management outside of conflict: Find ways to process your emotions and healthy outlets for your stress. Take care of yourself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, so that you can be as balanced as possible when conflict does arise. 

6. Walk away: Remember that you do not need to be in relationship with friends or extended family with whom you are having constant clashes. You can walk away from arguments, debates and conflicts —and the people who bring them. You do not owe it to anyone to be in their space if it is too upsetting for you.

 

You are allowed to have time and space for your mental health.

 

Erin Wiley, MA, LPC, LPCC, is a clinical psychotherapist and leads a team of 20 therapists. Her most recent area of research involves the regulation of emotion as it pertains to mental health. Learn more at https://erin-wiley.com/

It’s Showtime!

Naples Players presents drive-in movie nights and more

The Naples Players (TNP) has announced a 7-month outdoor entertainment season, including TNP Drive-In Movie Nights beginning Sept. 8.

The movie nights will feature two movies each month, projected onto a 33-foot screen, using a state-of-the-art projection system, with movie soundtracks broadcast over short-range FM radio to the cars in attendance. The events will be held at the newly refinished 50-car lot at 300 8th St. South in Naples.

The experience is TNP’s latest initiative in providing programming while coronavirus concerns linger.

The series begins with a two-night screening of the musical movie, “Grease” (Sept. 8-9). Next in the lineup is “Jurassic Park” (Sept. 22-23). Movies begin promptly at 8 p.m. Concession and nonalcoholic refreshments will be available for purchase.

General admission is $45 per vehicle. (For current TNP season ticket holders, admission is $20 per vehicle, and free admission will be offered on “Season Ticket Holder Nights.”) Space is limited, so ticketing in advance is required.

To learn more about the series and TNP’s season of live music, theater, art and other events, visit naplesplayers.org or call the box office at 239-263-7990.

Hurricane Pantry Must-Haves

Presenting a random list of foods to stock up on … or not

by Kathy Grey

For those who’ve ridden them out, we know that the hardest thing about a hurricane is preparing and waiting. Part of the prep involves food and water … and, in this case, things that resemble food and water.

For this undeniably unofficial list of must-have “hurricane food” items, I queried my friends. To my great disappointment, no one had SPAM on their list, but here’s what they said would be …

On the Menu

Most of my friends are fans of water, canned tuna and chicken, crackers, Chef Boyardee ravioli, peanut butter and jelly, mixed nuts, baked beans, cereal and granola bars. A couple of them thought smoked oysters and ramen would do the trick. Coffee, wine, vodka and beer were second on the list behind the beverage known as water. And chocolate was on almost everyone’s list.

 

To keep the digestive tract moving right along, there were recommendations of oranges, dried fruit, applesauce and fruit cocktail.

And then, there were a few who cannot live without their personal favorites.

Julie, for example, whose husband is Italian born, must have pasta, tomatoes and garlic.

Martha thinks cake takes the cake.

Cindy can’t imagine emerging from the debris without smoked oysters and ramen, and Michelle’s list includes Jameson whiskey and Pringles.

MaryAnne must have popcorn, and Rick takes it up a packaged notch with Cracker Jack.

Leah leans into canned corned beef hash and marshmallows.

Paul prefers chickpeas and Amy’s lentil soup, and Gail lists SunButter, hot pepper jelly, gluten-free bread, lima beans and vitamins.

With these lists of food, we think vitamins is a great idea.

But Wait! There’s More!

Gail and Paul offer these prepper tips for surviving the hot, humid, electricity-devoid days that follow a hurricane.

Gail loves her freezer, even when it’s not working. “Fully cooked and pre-frozen chicken thighs make great sandwiches,” she says. She’s also a fan of slices of previously frozen cake slices — maybe not from her cousin Billy’s 2015 wedding, but it might do in a pinch.

 

Paul is a car buff, so his auto-centric hack is heating prepared soup on top of his car. His other passion is cooking everything from the freezer — probably not all at once — on the charcoal grill. Fair warning: you’ll need to have charcoal. And a grill.

This concludes our lightheartedly serious admonition to get ready for whatever might blow our way, because the risk is real.

Our list is unofficial, but it certainly isn’t SPAM.

HOMETOWN HERO

See a Need, Fill a Need

Multitalented, multilingual Haris Domond is big on community support

Haris Domond’s mother instilled in him the philosophy of “see a need, fill a need,” so it’s hard for him to say no to community service, resulting in a robust schedule as a leader on multiple community nonprofit boards.

“There are so many organizations that need someone to serve,” the Naples resident says. “I’m very active in the giving of time, and I have a beautiful wife who supports my never being home.”

His nonprofit work includes serving on six boards: Healthcare Network, Healthcare Network Foundation, Haitian Community Alliance, Rotary Naples Bay, South Florida Parent Center and Naples Church of Christ. He is currently board chair for Healthcare Network and Haitian Community Alliance and is immediate past president of Rotary Naples Bay.

In addition to his many volunteer commitments, Domond works full-time in Collier County’s traffic operations department and will soon celebrate 18 years of service. As if that was not enough, he also works as a certified mental health counselor, practicing since 1993. Through his work with Collier County Counseling, he helped establish the first multi-language Batterers’ Intervention Program in the county, focusing on domestic violence, substance abuse, anger management and parenting programs. He has also worked with The Shelter for Abused Women & Children and the Council for the Betterment of Collier and Lee County.

He speaks four languages — English, Spanish, French and Haitian-Creole — because it makes him a better counselor and communicator.

“It’s a passion, maybe a sickness,” he says, laughing. “I want to help as many people as possible. I find if you can speak to people in their own dialogue, they are more willing to have a conversation. As a therapist, it creates a sense of camaraderie.”

Self-described as “jovial” and “intimidating” at 6 feet 4 inches tall, Domond was born in the Bahamas, moved to Miami when he was 8 years old and credits his mother with his giving nature.

“I can never remember her cooking, and not making more than needed in order to share with others,” he says. “My mom knew there was a need. We were a community home. If somebody needed, my mom made it happen. If she couldn’t help, she had friends who could.”

Haris Domond

 

He lived up to her example in 2008 when he took in a family member’s six children, ages 2 to 12, caring for them for a year as he and his wife cared for their own three children, Lune, Haris Jr., and Kezia.

The family moved to Naples in 1992 when his oldest daughter was 3, hoping to provide a better life for his children.

“Everyone knows everyone,” he said. “I love this area.”

Knowing everyone may be how his board leadership roles began. When his youngest daughter, Kezia, was delivered at Naples Community Hospital, she was the biggest baby in the hospital at 13 pounds, 4 ounces and became a bit of a community celebrity.

His care for the community is as big as his personality and his babies. “I like to be involved with people doing good things to help others,” he says. “Over time, you don’t know how many families you have impacted.”

Friendship: A Job Description

Keeping relationships strong amid pandemic and politics

By Shasta Nelson

We’re more isolated than ever, having been forced to change the way we spend time with friends. But causing far more damage than six feet of separation, is how judged and judgmental so many of us are feeling.

Ironically, at a time when we crave support, we’re feeling strain. The chances are high that we aren’t approaching every topic in the exact same way. And that gap leaves too many people feeling anything but close.

Here’s what’s powerful, though: A friendship isn’t as dependent upon a commonality or a shared world view as much as it’s dependent upon how we’re left feeling in each other’s presence. The definition of a healthy relationship is where any two people both feel seen in a safe and satisfying way. We accomplish that by practicing three relationship requirements:

1. Positvity. Do we leave each other feeling good? Do we enjoy each other? Do we express empathy, appreciation, validation and hope? Do we know we’re accepted?

2. Consistency. Do we spend time together in ways that leave us both feeling like we can rely on the other? Do we have a history of shared experiences and repetitive interactions? Do we feel safe reaching out? Do we know what to expect in each other’s presence?

3. Vulnerability. Do we both feel seen? Can we share who we are and what we think? Do we feel we “get” each other?

 

We don’t have to agree, but we do have to both feel safe (the outcome of consistency) to share who we are (the outcome of vulnerability) in a way that leaves us feeling good (the outcome of positivity).

And it’s that last one that I fear is in the shortest supply. If we could do one thing right now to protect our friendships from strain, it would be to increase the positivity in our relationships: expressing empathy, cheering for each other after making a hard decision, thanking our friends for being brave enough to share with us, stating out loud how much we want each other to feel safe and reminding each other how much we love each other. 

Our job description as friends, as hard as it is during this time, is to ask ourselves, “How can I show up in such a way that this person feels better about themselves and their lives for having interacted with me?”

Positivity isn’t only crucial because we’re all collectively craving more good emotions in our lives. It’s also the foundation for the other two relationship requirements: interacting and opening up authentically.

 

From The Washington Post to TEDx stages, Shasta Nelson is a leading voice on healthy relationships. Her research can also be found in her three books, including her most recent, “The Business of Friendship: Making the Most of the Relationships Where We Spend Most of Our Time.”

 

For more information, visit www.shastanelson.com/the-business-of-friendship.

Good news about pandemic family life

Creative ways to maintain a stronger family bond now and post-pandemic

By Jason Sabo, Ph.D.

Some of the changes forcing families to spend time together because of the pandemic — with stay-at-home, work-at-home and virtual learning — can have positive impacts. This can be an opportunity for our resilience to shine through and to show our children how to make the best of even the worst situations.

 

We are not always in control of our circumstances, but we are in control of our attitudes. Within this pandemic, I have seen many families dealing with stressful situations. However, I have also seen a great deal of resilience, both by parents and children. I have seen families adapt by eating more family dinners together, rediscovering “old school” board games, going on family walks and taking trips to local parks.

The circumstances of the pandemic have created an unexpected reset, allowing families to simplify their lives in many ways.

Jason Sabo, Ph.D.

Changing circumstances, closer bonds

Any time we change the “normal routine,” there will also be changes in other areas; sometimes good and sometimes not so good. Psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner developed the Ecological Systems Theory to explain the interaction between children’s environments, terming the different environments as “ecological systems.” Children typically find themselves in various ecosystems, ranging from home to the larger school system, and then to the most expansive system, which includes society and culture.

Each of these ecological systems interact with and influence each other in all aspects of children’s lives. Think of it like throwing a rock in a calm pond. Each ring stands for a different system. Multiple rocks thrown in the pond (stressors) create ripples. The more ripples, the more stress. Occasionally, a boulder is thrown in the pond, which throws everything off. This pandemic is a giant boulder. It has affected every area of functioning. A new normal has been slowly created.

A survey conducted in the United Kingdom shows that even amid such difficult circumstances, most families have risen above the stress to become even closer than before. According to a survey conducted by MumPoll of 2,000 British parents, four out of five believe their families have formed an even stronger bond.

Empowering the Young

Children have more control of their time, allowing them to manage more of their day. This can encourage independent behaviors, such as preparing snacks, doing chores and resolving sibling disputes when parents must focus on work.

There are many ways to help children learn to be more independent and accountable. I encourage parents to buy their children’s “snacks” at the beginning of the week and allow the child to ration them throughout the week. Oftentimes, children will eat all of them the first day. The rest of the week will be a reminder of the lesson. Generally, the following week they make snacks last longer.

It is also important to have a list of daily expectations. When possible, pair internet use with accomplishing expectations. For example, most phone providers have services included that help parents manage internet/data usage, taking the physical battle away.

In my house, we have found creative ways to encourage physical activities. Our children are allowed two hours of electronics each day. They can add an hour of electronics time for each mile they run. My 13-year-old ran 24 miles the first week! (We had to change the system after that!)

Pitching In

Involving children in the work of the family helps their self-regard and responsibility, increasing self-esteem.

I personally believe children of all ages should have household obligations/chores. I see many parents who take care of everything for their children, which can result in children being inadequately prepared for life and taking care of themselves. The goal is giving our children the skills necessary to handle whatever life throws at them. This will change with age. At an early age, it may be hygiene or how to dress themselves. As they get older, it may be the ability to self-regulate, be disciplined or to solve problems.

It is important to set expectations. These expectations can include making their bed, putting their clothes away, doing dishes, sweeping and taking out the trash. As children get older, they can have more responsibilities, while keeping in mind their number one responsibility is education.

Extra Hours

Children have more time to rest without commutes to school, work and after-school activities.

Many children have an additional three hours of sleep that they would have spent on the bus or in transit. However, it is important to avoid the tendency to wake up, roll out of bed and turn on the computer. Parents are encouraged to treat every day, especially days children attend virtual school, as if children were going to physical school. They should get up, take a shower, eat breakfast and dress appropriately. This is a big part of respect for both themselves and others, and keeping a routine so important to children’s stability.

Being forced to halt busy lives and spend time together in quarantine has made many consider what’s important, including children, family and our community.

As children return to school, how can parents support any gains made in family life by simplifying? The trick is achieving balance through a blend of unstructured play, child-centered organized activities and rich parent-child interactions.

1. Put academics first. Ask children about their day at school (or virtual school). Ask them to teach you about a lesson they recently learned.

 

2. Maintain healthy boundaries on electronics. Most children are not automatically good at setting limits with electronics. Set limits and stick to them.

 

3. Choose activities wisely and include your child in selecting their activities. Children are much more willing to do things that were their idea.

 

4. Don’t overcommit. Pay attention to potential warning signs that a child is over-scheduled, including a change in sleep patterns, a change in appetite, irritability, lethargy and a drop in

grades.

 

5. Enforce family time. Make it a priority to have family dinners or family game nights. If you have multiple children, give them each an opportunity to select the game/activity. Remember, as parents we set the mood. Be excited and encouraging about the activity.

 

6. Introduce new expectations or changes in routines before school starts. Do not wait until the night before school starts to begin new routines. As the new normal is being defined, it’s important to realize that this, too, will be a change and will require understanding. Parents need to help children make transitions by staying in touch and encouraging communication. Children must be aware of expectations and be involved in the process. Set family goals and individual goals for the new school year.

 

Continuing the “we’re in this together” family bond and setting up positive routines during the pandemic will help to positively redefine the post-pandemic family.

 

As site supervisor at Lee Health’s Pediatric Behavioral Health Practice, Jason Sabo, Ph.D., specializes in child and adolescent psychology as part of Kids’ Minds Matter, Golisano Children’s Hospital’s philanthropy-supported effort to expand area pediatric mental health services. kidsmindsmatter.com.

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Ready for Love

Singles are getting more serious about relationships in pandemic times

Key indicators show that more singles are looking for long-term love and more meaningful relationships, as their mindsets have evolved throughout the pandemic, from seeking short-term flings to many seeking a life partner. 

Relationship expert and matchmaker Maureen Tara Nelson cites a study that shows 77% of singles are now looking to settle down with a significant other, versus 55% prior to the pandemic. Interestingly, the number is higher among millennials, who have moved away from the “you only live once” mindset to seeking more meaningful relationships.

Here, Nelson answers a few of our questions.

 

èX: Why do you think more singles are looking for long-term love than ever before?

 

Nelson: Pre-pandemic, many singles were enjoying their single lives and not necessary looking for a committed relationship. They had many different opportunities to find companionship and sex, and that was enough for them. Then came the coronavirus pandemic, putting many singles in lockdown.

Being confined to their homes 24/7, singles had lots of time to think of their singleness. Many were lonely. Many called our matchmaking service, saying, “I do not want to die alone.”

Being isolated put singles in a position they never felt before. It was not a good feeling for most. We heard everything from, “Life is too short,” to, “I need to do everything in my power to find the right person now.”

 

The idea of settling may have been something that singles were okay with before, because they knew the person they were dating was most likely not the one. They were happy dating someone for right now.

The only positive thing I have personally seen with singles now — since the pandemic — is the desire to put in the effort to find the right person. Many singles know that the scariest time in history, for most of us, brought about an awareness of living the rest of our lives alone. That is not a good feeling. The light at the end of the tunnel is that the rise in long-term relationships is up considerably, due to wanting to love someone and to be loved, and not wanting to waste any more time on settling.

èX: Why is the number of millennials seeking romance particularly high?

 

Nelson: Millennials have always been the largest group of singles that were not ready to settle down yet — or that was their mindset before the pandemic. But things have changed for all of us, especially for the millennials. In pre-pandemic days, these young singles were focused mostly on partying, hookups, enjoying dating multiple people and what type of career they should have. When the pandemic hit, these millennials were no longer able to go out to bars and hook up. Because of stay-at-home orders and social distancing, many had to be home all the time.

Naturally, this group, which is used to having huge social lives, had to surrender to only Zooming their friends, which got boring very quickly. One advantage for all millennials, due to the pandemic, is that they had to grow up faster than before. They had the same feelings of being lonely as all singles felt during this very difficult time. Soon, they realized that if they were lucky to find romance, and with one person, they could isolate together and be able to reap the benefits that a romantic relationship brings to all.

I am seeing double the number of singles in this age group come into our service because they are now ready for a commitment and romance.

èX: What is your advice for people who want to date during the pandemic?

Nelson: Dating is getting easier than it was when the pandemic hit. However, it still comes with many precautions we never had before, such as wearing masks, socially distancing and knowing a lot more about the person you are dating.

It used to be that you would discuss if your partner ever had any sexually transmitted diseases before taking your relationship to the next level of intimacy. Now you have to ask about their COVID-19 history as well.

“Lucky” are those who have already had it and have the antibodies, but you still need to do all the responsible things that come with our new ways of dating, as stated above. If you haven’t had the COVID-19 test, you should both get tested before you even kiss.

Gone are the days of walking hand-in-hand down the street and kissing on the first date. We do not know how long this new way of dating will last, but it is very important to be safe for both yourself and your partner.

It is also important to mention that even though things are harder now, when it comes to dating, because so many singles are looking for love more than ever, it is still possible to find a loving relationship, and we are finding it even takes less time for singles to commit to one another.

 

For 25 years, and with a focus on people who are ready for love and commitment, relationship expert and matchmaker Maureen Tara Nelson has found love for thousands of singles. To learn more, visit www.mtnmatchmaking.com/.

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