My parents were married for 52 years. My maternal grandparents 66 years. That's a combined 118 years of marriage! They never spent a day in the office of a couples counselor. So why do I think couples counseling is an absolute MUST for most relationships?
Do you believe in soulmates? Chances are you do.
Last year, a survey conducted in the U.S. by Wakefield Research found that 76% of Americans believe in a soulmate. Rates were even higher for millennials (86%). So what is a soulmate?
So often couples come to see me in great frustration because each partner thinks the other is trying to fix them or control them. This behavior comes out in a variety of ways… often intended to be helpful or focused on making the relationship better. However, it often results in anger and disconnect. Partners report feeling misunderstood and begin to feel justified when their helping ways are questioned. They say things like “If you would only listen to me…” and “I told you so...” and “Don’t feel that way baby….”
The day before my second son was born I sat in my hospital room, a place I had called home for nearly a week due to strict bed rest orders, and cried because I knew what it meant to have to share my child with the world. Tomorrow he would no longer be just mine. I would no longer be the only one who could feel him move and squirm and kick. I would no longer be the only one who knew him, really knew him. He would be part of the world and the world was a scary place...
One of my favorite things about working with men is talking about manhood. Really understanding where their definition of manhood was developed and how it is present in their everyday life. This conversation is really interesting as most men are thinking about this for the first time.
Often, people in my office get confused about what they are feeling. When asked to name the feeling they are experiencing, they often name one of four buckets of feelings: Glad, Sad, Mad, and Anxious. Every feeling we have gets thrown into one of those four generalized buckets. Then, the same people start to get frustrated when their partners don’t understand the feeling or why they are experiencing it.
Your friends, colleagues, and spouse are driven by a few core motivations – one of them is control. We humans are programmed to master our environment and this gets tricky when dealing with other humans. Why?
We work hard to get the job. We interview as best we can. We get the job. But, how often do we really get a good job description. I am talking about the job of partner, spouse, boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other, husband, wife. More people sit in my office and say things like "S/he is just never happy...no matter what I do!" or "S/he keeps pushing me away and I don't know why!"
We are all leaders – in our own way. Whether we are at work, with our friends or family or in a social organization, we are all leaders. We may not be the stand in the front of the room and yell a rallying cry kind of leader, but we all influence others and leave an impact on those around us. What kind of leader are you?
Many times in therapy we explore our relationship with our parents and how it affects us. Let's face it, since parents are our role model and the people we learn to find security from, it is always intuitive to explore the relational dynamics between us and them. Not very often we talk about our siblings. There isn't even a Sibling Day! Also, doctoral researchers have found many correlations between birth order and personality traits. And if you look into this matter, you might find yourself checking those boxes.
Sometimes we make mistakes and we ruminate: why did I do this, why didn't I do this, what can I do next time, what I wish I did, and the criticism continues. Guess what, it didn't get better and chances are you, at least I did, continued to make that same mistake.
As a man of a certain age, I am constantly faced with the realities the growing difference between what my mind thinks I can do and what my body actually does. Even though I specialize in connecting the mind and the body -- I am still caught off guard more than I would like to admit.
I recently came across a t-shirt being sold on the Internet with the phrase "World's Okayest Mom" and it gave me a chuckle. After the initial giggles wore off, I gave the phrase more thought. I suppose the intention of such a gift would be to poke a little fun at the recipient. But in considering what it takes for young children to form secure attachments and develop appropriate personal-social skills, and for parents and caregivers to not feel completely and totally stressed out (which all kind of goes together), perhaps "okayest" is a superior adjective over best.
When I start working with a new couple or individual around relationship concerns I often begin by asking them what their relationship goals are. Most, but not all, will tell me that they are just looking for a nice, loving, monogamous relationship. They say that like I am supposed to know what that means -- and I don't. Not that I am clueless, but rather because I know that there is more than one meaning to the word monogamous.
I have had patient after patient come into my office talking about what a harsh and relentless winter this has been. I can’t agree more! It is always interesting to see how people talk about the weather. There are two classic perspectives that get presented: How cold it is on the thermometer and how much energy is being used by the thermostat. What an interesting way to understand ourselves as well!
You can’t dig your way out of a hole. Think about it. You are in a hole and you keep digging. What happens? Eventually, the hole gets so deep that you can’t throw the dirt out of the hole anymore and it just keeps falling back down around you. If you start to dig sideways, the integrity of the walls weakens and risks falling in around you. What should you do?
There seems to be a thread in the conversations I have had lately with many of the men I see in my practice. Our discussions are centering on the institutionalization influences of how masculinity is defined. We have entered into these talks from a variety of perspectives but we seem to end up circling around the same concerns. Coming to grip with how men define their own manhood is a pressured and loaded situation.
Divorce isn’t easy on anyone. When you are getting divorced with children, trying to minimize the amount of change and disruption can be overwhelming. Nesting is where the children stay in the family home and the parents take turns coming in and out according to the parenting schedule. Think of it as the kids have custody of the parents who come home and then go to the other house! Nesting is not for everyone and is fraught with difficulties, but when the situation works, there are great benefits.
Divorce is never easy on anyone. When you have children, it is even more complex. How you make decisions to navigate the divorce process and ensure your children are as insulated as possible will take special insight and a tremendous amount of personal resiliency.
Have you ever been in a relationship (whether romantic or platonic) and felt frustration about how things were going -- wishing the other person would behave differently? You have tried being nice, coaching them to change (whether they knew it or not) and spent hours considering how impossible it is that someone couldn’t notice how inappropriate and unsatisfying their behavior is? We have all experienced it. Sometimes we can just let it go and sometimes it gets so bad we find ourselves in a divorce, looking for a new job or estranged from a friend or loved one.