Author Archives: Shana Parker

About Shana Parker

Couples Coach, Licensed Psychologist, a well loved wife, proud mother, and writer.

Essential Relationship Skills

As a psychologist I have been teaching relationship skills like the Art of Listening to couples for a long long time! You know what they say about you teach what you have to learn. Then I discovered there was one (ok at least one) issue I had not learned to listen deeply to my husband about. It had to do with money. Whenever this came up and he was annoyed I would try to hear what he was expressing. I knew that was so basic and important. But after a few rounds I would feel that tightening in my belly. I could not really tune in to what he was expressing at any deep level. I wanted to defend myself. Has this ever happened to you? Have you had the same argument over and over and wondered how are we ever going to get through this to feel like we are on the same team again? Finally I stopped, tuned in to his hurt and upset about not being fully appreciated for all he did. That was the beginning of a new dialogue and such a relief to feel close again when talking about this.

If you would like to get some support in learning how you can turn a recurring fight into a deep connection, you can download my five-week streamable course: The Art Of Listening. Check out this 4-minute introduction to see if this could be valuable for your relationship.

Ho Ho Hum-bug: Santa Has the Holiday Blues

Ho Ho Hum-Bug: Santa Has the Blues.

By Shana Parker

While shopping at the mall last week I overheard Santa on his hot chocolate break saying to an elf, “while I tend to be one of the more upbeat people I know even I cannot compete with all that glitter. I get sad around the holidays.”

“I know,” said the Elf, “It’s supposed to be a season of joy. Its supposed to be a season of beautiful decorated trees, loving harmonious family dinners, and unlimited abundance. But no one has a picture perfect life.”

“All I feel like saying right now is ‘Ho Ho Hum-bug!’” Santa confided, getting whip cream on his beard.

His wise Elf continued, “the truth is Santa, almost everyone has sad, upset feelings at Christmas time. There is no way to compete with the picture perfect ideal we see on line and in commercials everywhere. We all have had loss, disappointment and lets face it- reality in our lives.”

“What makes the sadness and melancholy worse,” the wise Elf continued, “is when it bubbles up, we go into comparing our emotional state to some artificial picture of feeling all warm and fuzzy and come up short. Then we judge ourselves, our lives, even our worth. We think we should all be- well to put it bluntly- jolly.”

“So what?” Santa groaned. “How am I gonna go back to my post and look happy?”

“I’m glad you asked!” said the Elf. “Here is what Mrs. Elf has said to me over the years that has helped when I feel blue around Christmas.”

“Mrs. Elf  says:

  1. Tell the truth to yourself about what you are sad about during the holidays.

For me it’s usually about people I miss. I especially miss those people who have died, or moved away from the North Pole. I also feel sad that I don’t have more money to spend on people I love. And sometimes I even feel lonely because I don’t have more friends and family to celebrate with. Now that sounds strange I know.

  1. Really let yourself feel your sadness and notice it will come like a wave and then it go back out to sea.

If you don’t let yourself feel it you will just get all clogged up and you won’t be able to feel the joy when it comes.

I found myself crying when I unpacked the decorations yesterday and found an angel someone gave me to remind me of my little girl who had died. After a few minutes I put on some carols and my heart felt lighter.

3. If you have someone to share it with then tell him or her how you feel and you won’t feel so alone with it.

I always tell Mrs. Clause how painful this season is for me and why. Then a friend and I always commiserate about how commercial everything has gotten.

4. Get a mental or actual photo of yourself when you were younger.

Now  imagine putting him or her on your lap- as though you were Santa- and tell them ‘its ok to be sad.’ Your grown up self can be there for them. And ask is there something they need from you?

I was surprised to find that my younger Elf self said he wanted me to find his favorite cookies at the store and after eating a few give some to the shelter for homeless families.”

5. Most important remember- even Santa gets the blues.

And after you have let yourself be sad for as long as you need to, then find 3 things you are grateful for.

Like I always say Life is both dark and light. So why shouldn’t Christmas be like that? Lets not make it worse by pretending it shouldn’t be!”

When the Elf finished talking  I heard Santa say “Ho Ho Humbug” and then he started to laugh.

I ordered another hot chocolate so I could watch him as the kids filed up.

A tear fell as I watched. I couldn’t tell if it was joy or sorrow.

Secret of a Great Relationship

The Secret of a Great Relationship is right here.

We have all read the headlines:

Five best ways to make your relationship a success.

Three things you need to do to stay close.

The most important way to keep love alive.

Yes all the advice makes sense! But “why?” many people ask, “can’t I DO it?”

You have good intentions. You have read, for example, that appreciating your partner is really important. So why when he comes home and just wants to watch TV do you blow your stack? Or why, even though you have read that listening to your partner is essential, when she wants to  express her disappointment in your sex life, do you shut down and withdraw?

Here is the secret: awareness. When we have not learned to be aware of the different parts of ourselves then our responses are like the elementary school classroom kids- when the teacher has left room! Or as a great educator Robert Assagioli says “when the conductor of the orchestra is absent, no one is in charge of the harmony of the whole.”  How we often act does not have the harmony of the relationship  in mind but only ourselves. This happens not because we are flawed but because we have not learned to be aware. We don’t have a conductor.

I have been working with couples for over 30 years and I have heard many many stories of how the orchestra sounds when the conductor is on a holiday. That’s why I have created a course for couples to learn how awareness facilitates their capacity to make choices that lead to intimacy and the relationship they have always wanted! Join me to learn the secret of awareness that allows you to finally DO what has made sense in theory.

Christmas in the Trenches

I sat reading the New York Times this morning sipping a home made latte (yes I’m in Boulder, CO), in front of the warmth of the fire in the wood stove. My husband was comfortably  in his chair, our pup cozy in her little bed. Yet through the window of the Times I glimpse another piece of reality:  a turbulent, violent and enraged world.  Full of hate, danger, and fear. Full of a humanity who has forgotten their humanity. We have all had those moments: allowing rage to be the dominating force of an interaction, even with someone we love.  And we have all had the opposite- the grace filled awareness of the person we are angry at- as someone who is, in fact, like us- very fragile and human regardless of their point of view.

At the Christmas Caroling party a few days ago a good friend sang what has come to be a tradition in the group “Christmas in the Trenches.” The WWI Christmas Eve true story which is a poignant moment 100 years ago as written and sung by John McCutcheon. An evening men at war had rediscovered their shared humanity.

As reported in the song the next morning “The question haunted every heart that beat that wondrous night whose family have I fixed within my sight?”


It is said that all the soldiers from both sides that participated had to be split up into different battalions to dissipate the good will and allow for the continuation of war.

So what does this have to do with you and me and our relationships at home, close to our hearth and heart? If you are very still you will notice the anger that arises at home comes about for the very same reasons it does on the world stage. Our anger is often a result of parts of ourselves with unmet needs. The process of creating relationships that foster deep loving and lasting connection demands we learn to understand and work with our own anger in ways that develop self compassion and compassion for others. Then  perhaps the world will follow.


Relationship Help for the Holidays

Its obvious that this new born turtle could not have survived without the crack in the picture perfect shell! Lets use this metaphor to embrace the cracks in the pictures we hold for the holidays. While the holidays have so much promise for relationship dreams fulfilled and hearts at peace, there is the shadow to this that I think most of us have experienced.

If it’s an ordinary day I seem to be able to embrace the ups and downs and the intimacy and distance with those I love. Nothing needs to be perfect. Love can include moments of embrace and moments of disagreements. A not quite perfect conversation with my husband is ok on a regular day. I can trust that we will find our way back to deep connection even if I feel less than fully understood or taken care of. But let that same conversation happen on a holiday when I have a picture of the “perfect everything” and it screams of disaster. We can’t help but have pictures of how the holidays should be. We live in a culture swarming with holiday images of the perfect surprise gift, the perfect family, the perfect smile, and the perfect meal.

I have a suggestion for this year. For Christmas or Hanukah this year give the gift of accepting imperfection. Allow what is to be enough. Sounds new age I know! But really love is big enough to include all of it! The imperfect gift, the family fight, the crooked smile, the burned potatoes can be wrapped in acceptance which allows more love to be experienced. The holiday burden of needing things to be perfect is too rigid to let the love that is there to flow. This includes forgiving and accepting your own imperfections as well as others. (Of course I am writing this to myself.)

So right now pick someone you love and just feel the appreciation you have for the fact that they are in your life. Feel that warm receptive place for them in your heart. Now give yourself this gift: promise that you will invite yourself back to this feeling even in the midst of some crack in the holiday picture of perfection. When the wrong thing is said or the wrong gift is given or you find yourself doing all the dishes while everyone else has left the kitchen. Even if you feel you have blown it by not getting it right, by not having known what to say or what to give. Even if they have disappointed you, or angered you, allow yourself to find the love in the midst of the crack in the picture perfect holiday. Remember what Leonard Cohen said “there is crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.” I think of it also as that’s how the love gets in.

Healthy Relationship Quiz- Story

Is this your communication style?

Have you taken the Healthy Relationship Quiz?  If not go to a previous BLOG Post and see how you score! Here is a snapshot from one of the 3 levels. Can you guess which level it’s from: Silver, Gold or Platinum?

Nicole’s Story:
For years whenever my boyfriend Jason and I would get into a disagreement about something and we were in the thick of an argument or conversation he would seem to disappear. He would just stop talking and I would get furious. I would yell “What is wrong with you?” That would make him more silent. Finally I decided I would try to understand why this made me so mad and why he went so silent.

Since I didn’t think I could do it myself I decided to learn some new skills. I finally had some way to tune in to my experience at a deeper level. What a relief to find a way out of this pattern that created continual upset.

This is what our conversation changed to after I learned to communicate more from my heart.
“You know Jason, I was tuning in to why I always get so mad when you go silent during our conversations. Remember the last time when I said ‘why can’t you speak to me?’ in that accusing tone? Well I decided to look a bit deeper into why that made me so mad when you are quiet and I realized that I get worried that you really don’t care! And instead of saying THAT I have been covering it up by getting mad which pushes you away.”

“Wow, Nicole, now I get it! I could never figure out why you got so upset when I was thinking. Next time I’ll say something- even if its just- give me a few minutes to see how I feel.”

Would you like to solve a pattern that creates unhappiness and learn how to stay closer to your partner? Sign up for the couples course and learn the skills you need.

Healthy Relationship Quiz- story

Have you taken the Healthy Relationship Quiz? 

If not go to a previous BLOG Post

and see how you score!

Here is a snapshot from one of the 3 levels. Can you guess which level it’s from: Silver, Gold or Platinum?

Rebecca’s story:

Rebecca was teary, sitting there next to Robert in my office. She recounted the moment she knew she had had enough. All her life she had blamed herself for everyone’s behavior. If her father was  mad she must have done something wrong. If her mother was disappointed she must not have been good enough. And now Robert her husband, had humiliated her at the party by getting drunk and calling her a bitch. It had happened before.

“I use to  ignore it and then I would start to flirt with one of the single guys to try to feel I guess, some little bit of of power or assurance that I was attractive. This has been going on for a few years. As a result of this deep disappointment in myself and my marriage I  was either withdrawn or bitchy way too much of the time. When I tried to ask you (she said looking at Robert)  what was wrong with you- you would ask what was wrong with me.”

Robert shifted uncomfortably  in his seat, his copper colored tan making creases in his furrowed brow.

“So what changed?” I asked.

Rebecca went on “I was listening to a podcast while cooking dinner 3 weeks ago and the speaker was asking if you died tomorrow what would be your biggest regret. And the light went on.  I realized I am in a marriage in which I don’t  feel respected or loved just like my parents marriage! Yikes. So later that night  I said to Robert I need you to come to therapy with me because I want us to stay together but I need us to change how we are together or I’ll have to go.”  He saw the truth in what she was saying. He too had a well of discontent he had not known how to express directly. His way had been to get drunk.

And 18 months later they are pregnant. they are committed to talking about anything that is bothering either of them.  And they have skills to create the intimacy they had always wanted!

Now I have created a couples skills course   You can learn the secrets of psychotherapy in this course.

Just want more sex?

Recently college campuses are revising their “consent” to sex  laws to shift from “she didn’t say no” to “she has to say yes.” Brilliant really. Even CA passed a new law Senate Bill 967 mandating this type of consent for any student receiving financial aid. I think this will be the new trend.

The spectrum from raped to ravished is also the spectrum of evil intent to full body devotional love. No one is pretending the rapes that occur out of evil intent will be much influenced by this law. But for the spectrum in the middle- those moments of animal desire accompanied by denial, self centeredness and unconsciousness which are so common, this new cultural requirement can bring a momentary  possibility for sanity. A thread on which to climb out of automatic animal pilot and into witnessing the interaction and having a glimmer of choice could now be available. Tuning in to your partner to notice for real if she (he) is scared, mute out of ambivalence, shame, confusion or drunkenness. There are many instances of just wanting more sex without noticing the reality of whether there is connection.  Stepping out of the imaginary picture of what is happening and into the reality of the “lights are on but no one is home” vs. someone is answering the door and giving you an enthusiastic “Yes  I’m home-  come on it!” While that may not lead directly to ravishment it will more clearly avoid the place on the spectrum closer to rape.

And speaking of ravished -of full body devotional love- what is that? And where can I get some?

Like the Skin Horse says to the Velveteen Rabbit (pardon my editorial license)
“Ravished isn’t something you can learn. Its a thing that happens to you. When you spend a long time getting rid of all the parts of you that aren’t the real you, the ways you protect yourself, and begin noticing how amazingly awesome your partner is and how beyond blessed you are to be able to penetrate her or open to him- then you can begin to feel what devotional love is like.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Velveteen Rabbit.

“Sometimes” said the Skin Horse for he was always truthful. “But when you are ravished you don’t mind being hurt because you know you are loved. Not just for sex but Really Loved for all of you for all time.”
It doesn’t often happen to people experimenting or exploring. It usually takes the courage to say ‘you are mine’ so the moon’s light reveals the one heart you have become.”

2. Healthy Relationship Quiz – Story

Have you taken the Healthy Relationship Quiz? 

If not go to a previous BLOG Post

and see how you score!

Here is a snapshot from one of the 3 levels. Can you guess which level it’s from: Silver, Gold or Platinum?

Jessica’s Story:  

I remember the first time we made love. We were in a fancy hotel because we had met again at the conference. The fading light of the warm summer day was casting shadows in the room where we hadn’t turned on any lights. After talking for hours he initiated sex by calling me a princess  and pulling me onto the queen size bed. After we “made love” he jumped out of bed and after doing a little dance more aptly called a jig he sung out  “isn’t it great!” I knew he really meant “Aren’t I great.” At that moment I choose the relationship instead of myself. Not really a healthy choice.  I thought “if I tell him the truth- that he has basically no clue how to please a woman and that I had barely begun to get turned on” that it would be over. I had only two speeds in those days- attack or withdraw. While I held the relational facade- coy sweet smile- I was as shut down as a town preparing for a hurricane. This choice of mine to pretend would have to change soon if I wanted to see if there was potential for a real relationship. I knew that I could never know if he really cared about what I needed if I didn’t tell the truth.

Do you need more skills to create the relationship of your dreams. Here is a course for you!

Healthy Relationship Quiz: Are you showing up for your man?

Healthy Relationship Quiz: Are you measuring up with your man?

What is a healthy relationship and what are the signs of a healthy relationship?
This is a survey for women to understand how to have a healthy relationship.
Just like 3 precious metals Silver Gold and Platinum- we can be at different levels in our relationships skills. We can always learn the skills to grow to the next level if we want to!

On a page list the numbers 1-10. Answer YES or NO for each of these 10 questions.

  1. When your partner comes home from work you almost always stop what you are doing to greet him.
  2. You can easily think of three things you told your partner in the last 24hours that you appreciated about him.
  3. In a recent time when your partner was talking about something that made you upset, you made a choice to hear him out before disagreeing or interrupting.
  4. When what your partner did hurt your feelings you resisted the temptation to withdraw from him  or attack him but instead you shared your hurt feelings.
  5. The last time you made love you can remember one thing you did to let him know what you liked that you might want more of.
  6. In a recent fight you stuck to expressing yourself in non-blaming ways that talked about how you felt not what a jerk he was.
  7. In the last week you asked your partner to do something fun together- whether it was a small thing like a walk or a big thing like start to plan a trip.
  8. You can remember a time you were willing to give up being right or closed down in favor of staying connected.
  9. You can remember a time when you skillfully stood up for yourself because to not do that would cause resentment and create distance between you.
  10. In an effort to be more fully understood there was a time recently you told the truth about something you were either scared to share, ashamed about or just would usually have hidden.

Count up your YES’s. Are you wondering about how to have a healthy relationship?

If you answered yes to all these questions congratulations- you are at the Platinum Level -fully blossomed skillful woman demonstrating the signs of a healthy relationship. You have learned how to have a healthy relationship and are using your skills. If you still want a deeper connection sign up for the 5 week course for couples at

If you answered yes to 5 -9 of these questions you are at the Gold Level. You know how to stay connected a lot of the time. You demonstrate many of the signs of a healthy relationship. It would be good to add a few more skills to your repertoire – exploring in yourself what it would take to get to yes on more of these questions. You can learn how to have a healthy relationship at

If you answered yes 0 to 4 times then you are at the Silver Level. You have not yet opened to your potential to connect with your man. The good news is you are curious about this. There are many things you do that create distance even though that is most likely not what to be close and feel loved. Not to worry most everyone starts here! All it takes is the awareness that you want more and a willingness to take some action. You can get support to learn skills to have more intimacy and a healthy relationship starting today. See what I have created for you to learn how to have a healthy relationship.