Mentality: The “Spring Clean Your Relationship” Edition (March, 2009)

It’s Springtime. Time to Clean Out That Closet Full O’ Relationship Clutter.

Ahh, March. It’s that time of the year again. Can you believe it? Have you been crossing your fingers hoping for a little bit more cold weather?

At least the annual rituals return: Spring Training, outdoor activities, St. Patty’s, March Madness, and spring cleaning (who, me?). Are you carving out some time to clean your mental closets, too, as well as your shed and closet? What about the other parts of your life – physical, emotional, work, financial?

I like to see this as the 1/4 way time through the year to assess and see how things are going in my life. I tend to get my annual physical around now, check the credit scores out and make sure I’m not a fraud victim, take the car, you know, stuff like that. Life’s maintenance work. It all seems to get worse when I put it off, you know?

Do you have Spring maintenance rituals for yourself? How about taking a temperature check on your relationship or marriage? How is that going these days for you? Not in one currently, you say, and want to be? I say take inventory of the things that you need to get yourself in one.

This edition’s “Mentality” includes:
– Retail Therapy 101 & an interview with a woman who knows (what you don’t) about your woman’s shopping habits
– Office affairs, and why it starts with the heart

So, what’s the biggest issue you’re currently struggling with these days? Would you like to see it appear in a future edition of “Mentality”?

E-mail me with the one elusive problem that is getting under your skin, and that you’d like to see addressed at I’d like to write about the things that matter most to you, so send me your ideas. That’s why I write this thing – for you.

(Read more about Jason’s story here:

Retail Therapy 101: Playbook for Guys
It might still be the recession, but she’s shopping like it’s 2007.

Do you like killing two birds with one stone? What if you could better your marriage or relationship while saving some money (and sanity)? What guy wouldn’t want to?

For the answers, we seek to understand a common form of self-help – retail therapy. The term was coined by the Chicago Tribune in the 1980’s to describe our culture in this way: “We’ve become a nation measuring out our lives in shopping bags and nursing our psychic ills through retail therapy.”

Retail therapy is shopping with the intention to feel better, or to temporarily alleviate stress, depression or emotional pain. We hide what is wrong in our lives with shopping, and is no different from any other drug when abused and used excessively.

Christy Miller is a Scottsdale-based image consultant, closet coordinator and owner of Desert Flower Does Workable Wardrobes ( and knows what women are really seeking behind the compulsive drive to shop and collect closets full of clothes.

“Women live for affirmations,” says Miller. “We need to hear that we look good.” She observes that “men are visual beings and women are very aware about this. Men need to compliment us, let us know we look good, even if it is small or big, but those compliments are what we feed on – the positive affirmations.” Miller thinks that women that (listen up here, guys) feel good themselves directly affects their positive self-worth.

For Miller, retail therapy is no different from other forms of addiction for women. “It’s just like a drug, that quick fix, (to) feel good shopping for an item that will make them feel good,” she says. “But when they get that fix and have bought and get back home, that fix is taken care of. Once women pay…they most likely leave the store having mixed feelings because they had their ‘fix’ but now the guilt comes along and this is again, just like any kind of addiction.” The thrill is over, and the problems are still there.

So, how can we as men help? Not saying anything at all will keep you in the same place in your marriage – stuck and in the dark. Addressing the issue by simply saying, “You know, I feel really concerned about our finances and about us. Let’s sit down and talk about this.” It can be that simple. Including the “us” makes it better than just “you,” where she feels less alone because it’s just “her” problem. Validating her beauty and her as a person will give her self-esteem that doesn’t come from the stores.

If there are deeper issues that aren’t being addressed, then it might be time to seek marriage or couples counseling to work on the real issues. There’s more to your wife or girlfriend’s unhappiness than meets the eye.

The Office Affair Prevention Manual
Most likely, it’s more about thy heart than about thy loins.

Have you been in a compromising situation at work with a co-worker or boss, and secretly thought about cheating on your mate? Has your office set-up made it easy to have an affair, even if you didn’t act on it? Forty-three percent of workers in the United States say they’ve dated a fellow employee, according to a CNN poll, but exactly how many of those have been married people is not as well understood.

So many more hours are dedicated to the office these days. It makes it much harder to nurture what we’ve got at home with our mates, and to take care of the relationships we already have. Because we spend much time in an close environment like work, there is much more opportunity for work-based relationships to become personal, and then to develop into intimate or sexual relationships. If we end up spending more time in the office than in the home, the rift that separate spouses becomes greater, which encourages infidelity.

But here’s the key: the drive to have a sexual relationship is most often an expression of what’s missing in the original relationship or marriage. We’ve got to fix the problems in the marriage, because this is the foundational solution.

Office affairs are disastrous times three: your job is compromised, your marriage is compromised, and you have to experience the inner hell everywhere you go – work and home. Something has to give, and it’s bound to until some action is taken, by you or someone else.

Here’s four tips to help keep your marriage and prevent you from getting into an office affair:

1. Diagnose the problem in the first place: is there something missing for you in your marriage or relationship? Are you able to hunt down the problem with old-fashioned honesty and self-reflection? Would this require a hear-to-heart with your beloved, before you act on any impulses that you might regret later?

2. Recognize emotions as they are: if you are feeling attracted to someone at the office, make a note of that in your mind. Attraction, or lust, is normal, and everyone experiences it, but when you act on it, it becomes something else.

3. If you love your woman, put yourself in her shoes: Develop empathy for your mate, and ask yourself what they would do or think about any planned infidelities.

4. Get help: seek out professional counseling, either couple or individual. Choose someone you feel most comfortable talking with and can confide in with your secrets.

Until next edition, guys! Enjoy the beginning of Spring, and see you in April.

Counselor for Men
“The Man That Men Will Talk To.”

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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