5 Ways To Heal Your Broken Heart

Cuore infranto - Broken heart“What’s your process?” I asked. Kioshi just looked at me, her eyes flat, tears on her cheeks. “How do you move through the pain to the other side?” Kioshi shrugged. Her heart was broken and it was a recent pain, large and consuming. Her healing needed a kick start and she needed support to discover what would help get it going. I tentatively offered a few suggestions:

  1. Try to take some time just for yourself. This person has been a natural part of you for some time. Absence is going to feel wrong and very strange for a while. For now, indulge in things you really enjoy– just for you. Go to a movie, read a new book, or take up a new hobby you’ve always wanted to explore. New experiences cause the brain to secrete endorphins, those feel good hormones. You could use a little “feel good” right now.
  2. Take care of yourself by eating right, getting enough sleep, and plenty of regular exercise. Physical activity gives your mood a boost and increases your production of serotonin and dopamine, more feel good hormones produced by your brain.
  3. Try some laugh therapy. Pretending you aren’t hurt (also known as denial) won’t help, but smiling, laughing, and enjoying humorous movies or time with fun and funny friends, all help restore your sense of optimism and can actually trick your mind into producing a happier mood.
  4. Grow into forgiveness. As you move through your sadness and grief, examine what went wrong with the relationship. Take only your share of responsibility for what went wrong and allow the other person their fair share. Every pain has a lesson in it. Don’t be afraid of the pain or the lesson; you’ll survive. It may help your next relationship be a stellar one. When you are ready, forgive the other person.
  5. In time, move on. Only you will know when it is time, but when your heart has mended sufficiently, be open to new relationships. Remember it takes two years to learn a new job, get comfortable in a new town, and to heal from a painful broken heart.

Broken heart and thread on wooden background

As Kioshi thought about these ideas, she began to smile a little.  Her healing had begun as she let in the possibility of healing.

If you are experiencing the pain of a broken heart, try one, some, or all of these tips. Changes may happen slowly but they do happen.

Relationship Workshop: An Offer You Can’t Refuse

NLP Coaching

One of the most common issues that I see in my practice are relationship problems. Sometimes it is husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend, or same-sex partners. The problem might be associated with communication, anger management, intimacy issues, or boundary and equality problems. Few relationships are completely problem free.

Most of us did not grow up seeing good relationships well modeled. So few of us have any idea of how to create the kind of relationships we actually want and envision in our head. Some people take a lot of time to research methods that promise to improve relationships. Occasionally, they even find their relationships do improve somewhat. However, unless you are able to get your partner to join you in the research, whether that is reading a book, taking a course, or some other form of learning, it may be very difficult to get the cooperation needed to effect real change in the relationship. The best improvement in couple’s relationships occurs when both halves of the couple are engaged in the learning.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you an opportunity to get a jump start on improving your love relationships. On Saturday, April 18, Gwen Laws, CMHC will provide a 4 hour relationship workshop to teach couples many practical ways to improve their relationship. Among other things Gwen will help couples learn to understand the different ways that people express their love and how to read your partner’s “love language”, teach you how to fight “fair”, and discover how to increase your connection with and the attraction between you and your partner. This is a hands on workshop intended to send you out with new skills to improve your love relationship.

Come learn how to improve your relationship in substantial and practical ways. I am delighted to share with my readers this wonderful opportunity for real time, in-person learning. I’m offering you or someone you know a discount for this amazing workshop. Contact me through this website and I will send you a unique code for $5 per individual or $15 per couple off the price of registration.

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. So learn how to get a great start on your new love relationship before problems arise or become entrenched. Come learn ways to make a great start on your new beginning. Contact me through the contact form today.

marriage workshop flier

Love Is A Choice

Valentines Card with love lettering

This coming Saturday will be Valentine’s Day, a day in America synonymous with love, hearts, cupid, and candy, but mostly LOVE. It’s a day for which people in America spend $1 Billion on cards, $4 Billion on jewelry, and much more on chocolates, fancy dinner out, and flowers. In addition, it is a day on which roughly 6 million couples become engaged. In terms of both the amount of money spent and its popularity, Valentine’s Day is second only to Christmas. The modern version of Valentine’s Day is celebrated by 62% of Americans. No wonder it seems like “love is in the air”.

With all the sweets, candy, flowers, and jewelry abounding and people getting hitched, it’s easy to believe that this is one of the happiest days of the year too. That is not always the case, however.

You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin”

In my therapy practice, I see a significant number of individuals and couples who are suffering in their relationships, marital and otherwise. Many people come into therapy in great pain, their heart aching, and their mind racing to find their way back to “that lovin’ feelin’.”I often hear the lament, “I just don’t love my (wife/husband/partner) any more. What can I do?”

Among the first things I try to help people sort out is what they really want from their relationship. If they really do want to reconnect with their partner and heal the wound between them, my goal is to help them see that love is not just an emotion.

Love is the result of many specific choices. Love is a series of actions leading to the commitment and attachment of two people to each other.

Increasing Love

Many of the people with whom I work have learned that relationships often experience ups and downs. It’s not hard for them to then see that with some effort, specific actions lead to more ups than downs. Then it is logical that more positive energy between them and reorienting their goals to the same purpose will bring about increased feelings of affection, connection, and commitment. Some would call this LOVE.

Dr. Helen Fischer, a biological anthropologist, says that love involves three separate brain systems:

  1. Sex drive
  2. Romantic love
  3. Attachment

When you meet someone that you find appealing and attractive, a part of your brain, deep at the base of the skull releases dopamine, a hormone that is a stimulant intended to produce wanting, craving, focused attention, and motivation. When this happens, you begin comparing that person’s characteristics with items from your love map*.

A love map is a theorized template for the ideal partner, buried somewhere in our subconscious. It includes things like physical characteristics, such as hair and eye colour, height, body build, as well as non-physical characteristics like level of education, temperament, experience, sense of humor, etc. Items from your love map converge with other elements such as timing, yours and the others’ availability, etc., and if everything aligns, presto: you’re falling in love.

Infatuation vs Love

Sadly, American culture is so permeated with notions of romantic love, strongly tied to sex drive, that people often mistake feelings of infatuation with the deeper levels of love that include attachment. This romantic notion leads many to believe that they are finished with a relationship when they no longer feel the heady buzz of infatuation, especially if there have been wounds or slights within the relationship.

If, on the other hand, the relationship is essentially whole and the partners are willing to work together to mend any offenses given or taken, feelings of romantic connection can be relatively easily restored, leaving the individual or couple free to consider the importance they give to attachment and commitment.

Red Rose Flower isolated on Black background

You Can Love Stronger Than Ever

When they are willing to learn and make the needed effort, most couples can return to the intense feelings of being in love that were present in their early relationship. In fact, many who improve their communication skills and develop their relationship support “muscles” find that the relationship can be stronger and more passionate than ever!

Well, Valentine’s Day is close on the horizon. If you are in a healthy relationship, I hope you’ll make the effort to continue to woo and win the object of your love.

If your relationship needs work, this is a great opportunity to make a start on rebuilding what you want it to be like.

And if your relationship is hurting, let Valentine’s Day be a gentle reminder that it is never too late to rescue something you value and never too early to learn the skills needed that will increase love, romance, and attachment with each little choice you make. If you need help to heal please reach out for help, give me a call. LOVE is too precious to let it go.

I hope you choose Love.

Communication: Is it better to shut up or shut down?

Access denied concept.

Do you ever notice that your partner seems “quiet” or withdrawn and ask, “What’s the matter?” only to hear him snap back at you, “I’m fine.” Do you continue in confusion saying something like, “Well, you seem angry or upset or something.” Again you might hear your partner reply, “I’m NOT angry. I’m fine” and their increased volume or change in their tone tells you that your guess hit close to the mark.

If this sound all too familiar, you are not alone and for many couples this pattern of dealing with tough emotions through denial can lead one partner to shut up and shut down. The result is ultimately a loss of emotional connectedness and the ruin of intimacy.

Shutting Up and Shutting Down

It may be clear to you that your partner is avoiding talking about something, but the truth is your partner may be doing more than simply avoiding a discussion. He may be denying some particular emotion that feels too risky to share, either with you or himself. In time that denial can shut down emotions.

When you are afraid to share something with your partner, denying the emotion avoids conflict for a short time. Sooner or later, however, your brain will find a way to act out what you are avoiding, often in ways that cause emotional pain, the very thing being avoided in the first place.

Emotions provide information

Your emotions allow connection between you and your partner. Even your so-called “negative” emotions, such as anger, shame, and guilt, provide important information to you. They can be a source of rich discussion and deep growth for you and the one you love.

We are all communicating all the time. In fact, you can’t not communicate. Your words, posture, facial expression, and tone are constantly conveying information and just as it is impossible to not communicate, it is also impossible to not relate. The question is, what are you communicating and does it bring you closer or create distance?

For example, have you ever given your partner that “come hither” glance that says, without a word, that you want to be close, and closer? Or flashed that almost imperceptible little frown that conveys a certain disappointment? It takes only 100 milliseconds for your face and body to transmit to your partner the emotion you feel but it will take your partner’s brain a full 600 milliseconds to respond.

There are more really good reasons for you to deal with difficult emotions too, besides the fact, that no matter what your words say, your face and body have been broadcasting the truth for 500 milliseconds before a response is even possible.


Communication of difficult emotions creates trust

First, you learn that you can trust your own ability to “read” your partner’s emotions. Second, discussing things honestly builds trust. Telling your partner that you are not angry, when in fact you are, prevents the two of you from learning how to support one another. When you admit to your partner that you are, in fact, feeling the difficult emotion they identified and then continue to discuss for increased understanding, intimacy grows; you learn that you can trust each other with vulnerable emotions.

Denying emotions can kill a relationship

Studies show that denying emotions can be as harmful to a relationship as raging is. Most children deny their emotions some of the time because they feel vulnerable. We all did it as children and it worked for our survival then. If you continue to deny your difficult emotions in your adult relationships, it usually indicates that you feel unsafe and over time it builds distance between you and your partner. And if you are denying your emotions often, that may need looking at too. What about your feelings or your right to have them are you trying to avoid?

That’s the danger you face by denying your painful emotions. You keep yourself safe (read “comfortable”) in the short run but put your relationship at risk for the long-haul.

It can be scary to share your feelings of anger, shame, and guilt but by doing so you teach your partner what you need to feel safe. It can open the door to compassion, being more fully known and understood, and strengthen your loving bond.

In the final analysis, you must decide which is more important to you: a few moments of discomfort or a lifetime of connection.

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Create Family Connection With Traditions


I love the autumn in Utah. The colours are all so beautiful and no fall passes without me making the effort to get up into the mountains for a drive to see the leaves once they have “turned”. I was raised in southern California and there was no fall foliage there. So when I moved to Utah with my two young children, I began taking them with me every fall for a drive up the canyons to see the colourful leaves and collect pinecones. I have driven over the Alpine Loop or to the Upper Provo River Falls to see the fall colours most of the years I have lived in Utah. I do it because it enlivens me and do it with family or friends because it brings me a feeling of continuity and connection. That is the function of traditions in binding people together.

My childhood Holidays

In my own childhood, my mother, my brother, and I drove to the home of Mom’s sister 50 miles away to enjoy a family dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. Entering our Aunt Mary and Uncle Carl’s home was a magical experience. They always had their absolutely perfect Christmas tree gorgeously decorated, and the smells wafting from the kitchen made my mouth water the instant I set foot through the door. Thinking about it now makes my mouth water again.

Creating New Traditions

When I moved to Utah, I wanted to develop some traditions that my children could keep from year to year as they grew up and created families of their own. Naturally, each generation tweaks those traditions to include variations of new family members, different locations or circumstances, etc.

The Purpose of Traditions                                                 

Families, including the children, need traditions to give them a sense of their cultural heritage, to help them sort out change and provide comfort and security. Traditions convey what is valued in a family and participation in traditions helps each member of the family know that they are important.

The traditions of the autumn and winter holidays convey connection and that what is being done has great meaning. These hands-on demonstrations of love are embedded deeply in the memories of children, and bind children to their parents, and families to those who have gone before as well as those who follow.

Repeat Actions to Create Traditions

The repeated behaviors of a family become habits and when they are associated with something meaningful they become traditions. To teach your children and the rest of your family that family is important, create meaningful traditions in which each person’s participation is valued and expressed.

My son now lives in Arizona where autumn has little meaning; my daughter resides in Wisconsin. They both have their own lives with traditions they have created for themselves, but I know that they, like me, have memories that may be stirred at a moment’s notice by the smell of pumpkin pie or a live Christmas tree. And when my brother asks me every fall, with a nostalgic tone of voice, “Hey Sis, do you remember Mince Meat Pie?” I swallow my drool and say, “Yes, of course I do.”

Create traditions for your family and start today!

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Remembering the Halloweens of My Past

One of my readers recently suggested that in my blog I share a bit more of myself, make things more personal. I find that easy to do when my subject matter is about family and the traditions of the holidays. Halloween is next Friday and has always been one of my favorite holidays. The “little Lura” inside of me has always liked and still enjoys dressing up and playing make-believe. Some of that enjoyment goes back to my youth when my mother, a 6th grade school teacher, would share with my brother and me some of her theatrical abilities by occasionally dressing as a witch to hand out candy to the trick-o-treaters, or by reciting spooky poetry to us.

black crow at halloween d034a345fdeb2716294d8d78ac2ee007

The poem she did the best at Halloween was “Little Orphant Annie” by the Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley. I share the poem with you here and encourage you to read it out to your children as we get close to one of the funnest, spookiest holidays of the year. I hope you can create the same wonderful, spine-tingling thrill of that holiday for your children that my mother created for me.


by: James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)

To all the little children: — The happy ones; and sad ones;
The sober and the silent ones; the boisterous and glad ones;
The good ones — Yes, the good ones, too; and all the lovely bad ones.

LITTLE Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,

An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,

An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,

An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;

An’ all us other childern, when the supper-things is done,

We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun

A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,

An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you

Ef you




little orph annie thUA33N545

Wunst they wuz a little boy wouldn’t say his prayers,–

An’ when he went to bed at night, away up-stairs,

His Mammy heerd him holler, an’ his Daddy heerd him bawl,

An’ when they turn’t the kivvers down, he wuzn’t there at all!

An’ they seeked him in the rafter-room, an’ cubby-hole, an’ press,

An’ seeked him up the chimbly-flue, an’ ever’-wheres, I guess;

But all they ever found wuz thist his pants an’ roundabout:–

An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you

Ef you





Little%20Orphant%20Annie_png-675x550An’ one time a little girl ‘ud allus laugh an’ grin,

An’ make fun of ever’ one, an’ all her blood-an’-kin;

An’ wunst, when they was “company,” an’ ole folks wuz there,

She mocked ’em an’ shocked ’em, an’ said she didn’t care!

An’ thist as she kicked her heels, an’ turn’t to run an’ hide,

They wuz two great big Black Things a-standin’ by her side,

An’ they snatched her through the ceilin’ ‘fore she knowed what she’s about!

An’ the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you

Ef you






An’ little Orphant Annie says, when the blaze is blue,

An’ the lamp-wick sputters, an’ the wind goes woo-oo!

An’ you hear the crickets quit, an’ the moon is gray,

An’ the lightnin’-bugs in dew is all squenched away,–

You better mind yer parunts, an’ yer teachurs fond an’ dear,

An’ churish them ‘at loves you, an’ dry the orphant’s tear,

An’ he’p the pore an’ needy ones ‘at clusters all about,

Er the Gobble-uns ‘ll git you

Ef you




                      Happy Halloween!

Do Electronic Devices Come Between You and Those You Love?


Each week people come to see me to get help dealing with a wide variety of issues, often relationship or communication problems. Sometimes I see an individual and sometimes it is couples. I usually ask them about the circumstances that cause their problems.

Maybe it’s a young man who is having problems at his job or a middle-aged Mom struggling with her children leaving the nest. Or it might be a couple who find they are fighting more often than they used to. Whatever the problem is, it takes time for them to fully open up.

The Last Piece of the Puzzle

With some embarrassment, one of the last bits that my clients share, that final piece which makes sense of their problems often has to do with how electronic gadgets have gotten in the way of their relationship. Recent research provides some interesting information about how electronic gadgets are impacting our relationships.

A pervasive problem

For instance, 75% of the world’s population has access to mobile devices and 3 out of 5 smartphone users in the US don’t go more than an hour without checking their gadgets. Moreover, with email and technology at our fingertips many companies expect their employees to stay connected 24/7. That young man I mentioned with job problems found his schedule had been changed and he was late for his shift at work because he didn’t check in late at night.

  • 19% of smartphone users take their phone to church or places of worship
  • 12% say their smartphones get in the way of their relationships.

My middle-aged Mom found that she was spending so much time on her phone that it began to impact her time with her family members.

  • 33% of people with smartphones use it while on a date, but not necessarily with their date partner
  • 20% of Americans age 18-34 use their smartphone for non-relationship issues while having sex.

That’s bound to cool down the relationship.

The last couple who came in because fighting had increased in their relationship said that at least 50% of their communication took place via texting, while they were both in the home on the same floor!

A common factor

Of course, there are issues in each of these relationships related to missing connections with each other, but it is hard to miss the common factor they share: the impact of electronic devices on lives and relationships.

Suggested solutions

Some experts recommend creating device-free zones in our schedules, such as no electronics during mealtimes or all devices turned off at 10:30 at night. Some professionals even suggest “device fasting” where all electronic devices are avoided for at least 24 hours once a month.

Given the many ways that electronic devices are a part of life and the amount of time most of us devote to being “on” our devices, some changes do seem in order. For anyone who routinely uses a cell phone or other connective device, it’s pretty hard to imagine going without them and, in fact, it may not be a practical reality anymore. However, for the sake of our relationships it is clear, we do need to make more effort to connect with those we love without the distractions of our electronic devices.

Share your creative solutions

Share your creative solution to maintain balance in your relationships in the comments.  And be sure to share this blog with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Subscribe today and as always thanks for reading my blog!

The 6 Books I Most Frequently Recommend


There is a joke about me in the circle of my close friends. It can be captured by the phrase, “I have a book,” which refers to suggestions  I frequently make to people about some book or other that I have read that has to do with the subject under discussion. As a counselor, this comes in handy when it comes time to help a client do some therapeutic work outside the session. Here are the 6 books I most frequently suggest to my clients.

Click on the book title to go to the Amazon page featuring the book.

Healing the Child Within by Charles Whitfield, MD

In 1987 Dr. Charles Whitfield offered a modern explanation of the inner child. This short, easy book shows how we can acknowledge and heal the wounded child within us. Current brain research demonstrates the validity of Dr. Whitfield’s understanding.

10 Lessons to Transform Your Marriage by John Gottman

This is one of Gottman’s best books! In clear simple terminology is THE definitive book on how relationships can be enhanced through the right kind of communication, even relationships that are in deep pain.

5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

Every person has a different style of how they want to be loved. Sadly, most of us give love the way we want to receive it. Chapman explains in this short simple book what the 5 love languages are and how to determine your primary and secondary love language. A great book to read together as a couple!

Co-dependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself by Melody Beattie

The updated second edition of Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself is filled with the personal experiences of the author along with exercises and self-tests to help the reader understand a sometimes confusing concept. This book is a great beginning to recover a lifetime of healing, hope, and happiness.

Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts by Stephanie Carnes

Discover hope and healing as you do the exercises in this workbook about recovery following the disclosure of infidelity or other evidence of sexual addiction in your partner.

The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize It and How to Respond by Patricia Evans

This is the third edition of a classic best seller. Learn how to identify “subtle, insidious put-downs that can erode your self-esteem to full-out tantrums of name-calling, screaming, and threatening that can escalate into physical abuse.” And even better, gain an understanding of how to cope with such behaviors to stop them and begin your healing.

Share which books have been the best to help you redefine yourself and make your life work better in the comment section.

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Life and Love: What Are They Really All About?

I often counsel my clients to focus on gratitude. It helps them to work with optimism and positive energy to accomplish more of what they want in their lives. I encourage these clients to think about the priorities in their lives and decide intentionally where they wish to put their deepest energy. For most, their hand-written list begins with family at the top or very near it. Spouses, children, parents, and then on to other things like friends, jobs, etc. Seeing their lists gives me a better idea of where to focus my efforts to be of help to my clients.

I don’t choose their priorities for them.

My goal is to help them bring their energies into harmony with their values; that is what this list is all about. First it helps them to define their values and second it helps me to see where the choices they make and behaviors they exhibit either support or are in conflict with their values. It has been said that acting in conflict with one’s values brings only confusion and unhappiness. This is the convergence that many people struggle to understand.

If family is the MOST important thing in one’s life, then one’s behavior can only support that value by giving the greatest amount of love, understanding, and encouragement to those we love. You may not like nor agree with aspects of those you love. It isn’t always simple and often not the least bit easy. It can require enormous humility and tolerance on the part of an individual. Life will often throw unexpected surprises into the mix just to complicate and test our abilities, when we least expect or want the challenge. It is in our efforts to love under such challenging circumstances that we prove ourselves.

What do we truly value?

To see a short story of a family acting on their deepest values under some incredibly challenging circumstances, click on the title of the video below. It will take you to the video on youtube. (All non-youtube playback has been disabled by the owner of the video.)

This is what life and love really are all about.


Get What You Want In Your Relationship


Debbie and Brian (not their real names) sat down on opposite ends of my sofa for their first session of couples counseling. Brian wore a baseball cap pulled low on his forehead. His mouth was stretched into a straight line and he stared at the floor. Debbie was a thin woman who stiffly grabbed a fluffy sofa pillow to hold in her lap. Her eyes darted around the room, from Brian, to me, to the door, and back to Brian. I knew from Debbie’s call to set the appointment that this couple was struggling and this would be the first counseling they had ever tried.

I introduced myself and asked, “How can I be of help?” Brian snorted softly as Debbie, tears falling, looked me in the eyes and said, “I never do anything right for him and I’m getting pretty tired of always being the one who’s wrong.”

“I’ve been complaining for years about the same things, over and over, and she just does whatever she wants without thinkin’ about me or anybody else!” retorted Brian. Although his voice was soft and slow, his anger was clear.

Less than five minutes into our first session, it seemed clear that Brian and Debbie lacked many communication skills and apparently neither of them was getting much of what they wanted from their partner.

There are many ways we communicate our wants. Some ways work really well and other not at all. However, since communication is a learned skill, we can unlearn what doesn’t work and pick up new skills to improve our communication. I always like to teach my new clients at least one helpful thing on the very first meeting. The following are a few tips I shared with Brian and Debbie during our first meeting:

1-A complaint is not the same thing as telling your partner what you want. A complaint feels negative and tends to put your partner on the defensive. It’s hard to hear what your partner wants when you feel that you have to protect yourself.

2-Be clear with asking what your partner wants or when telling him/her what you want. Hints and beating-around-the-bush often leads to guessing and can be confusing and misleading.

3-Don’t expect your partner to read your mind. “If you love me, you’ll know what I want,” is a romantic notion, magical thinking. Clearly asking for what you want makes it much more likely that you’ll get it.

4-The best way to increase the likelihood that you’ll get what you want in your relationship is to focus on the positive. Praising your partner for meeting your expectations feels good to both of you and gratitude builds good-will and the increased chance of a repeat performance.

By the time Debbie and Brian finished their last session with me they were sitting side-by-side and holding hands during the session. Of course there were many things we worked on, but the success they discovered by being clear, direct, and positive showed them that it is possible to get more of what they want in their relationship.