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  • Writer's pictureNatalie

The Hallmark Syndrome Strikes Again

Yesterday, I received an email from a company imploring me to use their new app as part of my practice. The concept was intriguing, so I did what any intelligent woman my age would do…I asked my daughter to research it for me. By the time she replied an hour later, I’d already envisioned how this app would increase traffic to my practice tenfold, add a physical health aspect to the mental health services I already provide, and help me get ahead of the competition with a technology-based advantage. I could hear an earlier retirement knocking at my door! Then my daughter’s research landed in my messages. The app developers clearly didn’t understand HIPAA law, the U.S. healthcare system and privacy in general, or the basic language of the end user. They wanted a quick, big return on a little investment. Boom! And so did I. The Hallmark Syndrome strikes again!

In clinic, I use the Hallmark Syndrome to refer to a client’s dreamy perspective on a relationship without considering the real-life facts and hard work involved. No, I’m not a buzz kill on love, but I do believe romance thrives and endures when it’s based in reality. I find that our emotional human nature tends to lead us to create a deceptive fuller picture than might actually exist. Our brains fill in the gaps in the absence of reliable information because we hope for what we “know”– the attractive partner, the idyllic town, the predictable storyline, and the perfect ending. When I detect the Hallmark Syndrome taking control of my clients, I ask them to step away from the cliff of the bedazzling good looks and intoxicating cologne (or perfume) and consider the following:

· What do you think is important to you in a relationship? Write your answers down in detail. If you can’t put these into words, then you don’t know what you think (only what you feel). Put it on paper (or in an electronic device) to make sure the words and thoughts escape the gerbil wheel in your brain.

· Prioritize your responses. What’s at the top and why? Which ones are deal-breakers and which answers are just icing on the cake? Why? Write your answers down in detail.

· What is your method of communicating? Are you practicing mindreading and fortunetelling and expecting your partner to understand, instead of expressing clear verbal communication? Write your answers down in detail.

· How do you envision resolving conflict? Do you tend to avoid conflict, start conflict, or do you enjoy resolving disputes through healthy discussion? What behaviors do you expect from a partner when you have conflict? Write your answers down in detail.

· Have you witnessed your current partner under pressure? How did they handle it? How did you handle it? What could be improved? Write your answers down in detail.

· What do you observe when your partner interacts with others – their friends, your friends, their family, your family, colleagues, bosses, professors? Any patterns you observe in their relational behavior that raise questions or red flags? Write your answers down…well, you get it.

In this month of love when we celebrate Valentine’s Day and romance is at its peak, take some time to balance out your emotions with some laptop homework that exercises the thinking part of your brain. Enduring love is filled with hope AND based in reality. If you’re looking for a quiet place to type, I hear there’s a quaint little inn in Vermont, run by a good-looking pastry chef, that has a strong Wi-Fi connection and keeps its Christmas lights up year-round! If you’re a verbal processor or need help thinking things through, The Blind Squirrel APC is happy to help: All you need is Slack and Venmo to get started. Reach out today!

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