Coping with Covid: We’re in this Together with Steven Ball

Once again, Neal is joined by psychotherapist, Steven Ball. With emotions running high, Neal thought it would be helpful to have Dr. Ball lead a meditation and address some of the key concerns most of us are feeling right now. This audio is from

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HIV & Covid: History Repeats Itself with Steven Ball

The response by the federal government to Covid-19 has been too little, too late, but this is not the first time our elected officials have ignored this kind of emergency so today, Neal is joined by Dr. Steven Ball, who was on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic. Steven draws many parallels between how the two crises were and are being handled. He tells us about support and therapy groups he used to hold for gay men living in fear of contracting HIV; why politics play a role; he explains why so many are in denial of the severity of Covid-19; using this time to learn about ourselves; maintaining emotional stamina; and accepting the changes this will bring to society in the long run. 

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Updating Mens Thinking about Relationships

It’s commonly understood in the publishing world that it is mostly women who read these sorts of blogs and books about understanding and deepening relationships. From the lens of the old school gender model handed down to my generation of baby boomers, we were taught that women are inherently more relationally focused and emotional. It then followed that men are more problem focused and practical and hence came the idea that “Mens are from Mars and Women are from Venus”. If we take that thinking to its’ logical conclusion, men would not even bother to read this type of blog. However, based on my years of clinical practice, research and just plain dealing with many adults younger than myself,I believe these out-dated paradigms are not actively practiced. I don’t have to look very far to experience how old school gender expectations are categorically loosening their grip as men invest more in both the emotional life of their primary relationship and in being a more active parent. So,I welcome all men, as this entry speaks to you directly.
I want to state the obvious that it is not a feminine or masculine trait to care about your relationship. It is human to want to feel connected, to experience a sense of belonging, and to want to be valued, and stimulated by the person you choose to experience life with. However, a common, almost cliché concern I still hear in my practice in guys ranging from ages 28 to 45 is a phenomena of brewing uncertainty and instability as their relationships move toward long-term partnership. Even though I am generalizing, this “fear of commitment” still remains quite a common pattern. Many guys start reacting to what they see as the “agenda” of their girlfriends or wives which can spark a feeling of powerlessness that causes them to want to distance from the pressure. And then, when the going gets even tougher, the old gender clichés which had been pushed to the back of the closet of their psyche, get dusted off and applied. The women are called “too needy or marriage driven” and the men are labeled as “commitment phobic” and “wanting to stay boys”. Clearly, it is time to put these old culturally reinforced stereotypes into the trash bin because they may no longer be true and are not helpful in moving toward couple satisfaction.

So, What are Men to Do?
1) The tension is not solely in the couples’ chemistry or gender differences or your significant other’s agenda. And your most practical, logical thinking is not necessarily going to help you out of this more unconscious, complicated process that we all go through. Each guy must understand and acknowledge there is an impact from his early attachment style that developed in his childhood with his parents which in adulthood organizes his way of experiencing himself and his significant other. When a power struggle brews use it as an opportunity to understand, and take “response-ability” for your part, so you can have more on an “ability- to -respond”.

2)The paradox is that one of the best way to draw these core building blocks of relationship and attachment out from your unconscious is through being in a relationship. So, rather than moving away, the challenge is to get closer. You move forward with the clear agenda of wanting to get to know yourself. This can lead to making more conscious choices about how you want to be in relationship as compared to reacting to your female partner who often has a clearer vision of what she wants. Know your vision of the intimate relationship that is right for you, instead of being passive and then feeling coerced or surprised when your partner fills the void of what you have left unexplored or unclear.

3)As most of you have experienced, we all present our best selves at first and once loves works it magic to brings us together, we relax as other parts of ourselves feel safe to come forward. It is not as some male clients have said” a bait and switch tactic meant to ensnare you” but a natural process that asks all of us to first be aware of this inevitability and then to tread carefully into more intimacy. Don’t be straight-jacked by limited male roles of past generations that locked them into a protective rigidity that blamed women for their too intense emotional needs that enabled men not to do the work of getting to know their own intimate needs. Women don’t need you like they used to. They are not dependent on you for their survival like they were in past generations. So it is time for both genders to think outside of the box of their own stereotypes. Strive to find the same courageous part of you that got you connected in the first place to be open at first to “not knowing” how to move your relationship forward. Then with the same investment in which you built your career, got your education or even learned how to build you house, invest the time to understand how to build your relationship from the foundation up.

4)I take the risk in sounding like a salesman, by stating the obvious-couple therapists have been trained to be experts in moving relationship forward and getting the best return for your investment in the same way that financial planners are experts in growing your portfolio. It might cost you upfront but usually the time and money creates a security you can’t find on your own.

Moving Away From a One-size Fits all Relationship

The more we let the participants of reality television into our homes, media and brain, the more we consume confusing messages about what to expect in intimate relationships. Many of these edited distortions of “reality” normalizes dramatic and destructive behaviors. They hook us in with the promise of getting a peek into private lives which in comparison to our relationships helps us feel not only acceptable, but superior.

The true “reality” is there has never before existed the societal freedom that allows two partners to shape their relationship to fit their psychological, social, familial and spiritual needs. Of course  the journey toward customizing your relationship  takes work many people don’t’ feel entitled to begin or know where to start .This blog will be about what you can do to find your pathway to your own unique brand of coupling .