How to Get the Most From Your Couples Therapy

Couples are often uncertain what to expect from the process of couples therapy. They are not sure of what to expect of the therapist or even if the therapist has any expectations of them. I have found most couples approach therapy with the notion that each person will describe their distress and somehow the therapist will assist them to create a happier, more functional, relationship. They expect to learn some new or better skills. However, most people hope their partner will do most of the learning in problem areas. After 30 years of clinical experience and specializing in working with thousands of couples, I have arrived at some guidelines that can make our work more effective. First, I do have some expectations of you. I am not neutral. I have evolved principles and concepts that I believe give us the greatest chance for success.

Stress-Free Valentine’s Day

  Less Stress & More Fun Holidays can sometimes be stressful for couples—especially Valentine’s Day. One partner may be imagining something very specific to celebrate the day. The other partner may not have a clue of what that thing is. The result can be disappointment and confusion. Rather than hurt feelings and a Valentine’s Day gone sideways, take steps to create a relaxed and fun celebration with your beloved. What Would Your Partner Like? Take the stress out of Valentine’s Day by having a conversation about it. You can ask your sweetheart, “What do you think you might enjoy for Valentine’s Day?” Find out if they are hoping for a special gift.… Read more... “Stress-Free Valentine’s Day”

Combat holiday stress with this brain hack

It’s common knowledge that the holidays can be stressful for lots of people. Some of the stress comes from feeling overwhelmed by the added projects, tasks, expenses and other obligations of the season. Perhaps you’re overwhelmed balancing expectations of different family members. Or you’re frustrated trying to make everyone happy. Another kind of stress comes from other people in the extra social interactions and gatherings. Maybe you’re caught off guard by zingers from a supporter of the “other” political party. Or you’re stuck in conversation with the brother-in-law who criticizes everybody for something – and you for everything.… Read more... “Combat holiday stress with this brain hack”

Make the best of family conversations over the holiday

Holidays are filled with all kinds of repeating stresses. Many people dread spending time with family over a holiday. Relatives are thrown together whether they like it or not, often for repeated stories, complaints and arguments. Are you ready to tackle Aunt Martha’s searing comments about your weight? First, recall Sisyphus from Greek mythology. He was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, getting close to the top only to see it roll down again. Maybe that’s how you currently approach those holiday conversations, for example, when Aunt Martha says, “So sweetie, I understand Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers have new programs especially designed for those holiday temptations.” If you choose to follow in the steps of Sisyphus, you will try to change how Aunt Martha thinks about your size.… Read more... “Make the best of family conversations over the holiday”

Doing the maintenance on your ship is worth it.

The British Navy dominated the oceans for hundreds of years. What was their secret? They cleaned and did maintenance on the hulls of their ships. Their enemies took little care of theirs. The British sailors removed barnacles, seaweed and saltwater clams. Keeping the bottom of the boat smooth gave them a critical advantage – a ship that traveled quickly to battle stations. An unclean hull would drag tons of shells and hundreds of yards of seaweed. This debris could cut a ship’s speed in half – a severe disadvantage in battle. Salt water clams were a particular scourge to wooden ships. Clams dug into the hulls and turned them into honeycombs.… Read more... “Doing the maintenance on your ship is worth it.”

How to Stun Your Therapist (Or Your Spouse) With Your Attitude.

If you happen to be in couples therapy just say this at your next meeting:  Today I’m here to change my attitude about change, because if I don’t change my attitude about change then I will never be able to consistently apply what we are here to learn. My attitude that needs improvement is: “Why should I have to change?” Because as long as I have that attitude I will come across as insensitive, self-centered, oblivious, and negligent. Even though I seek a pain-proof marriage, another part of me knows that’s an impossible goal. Worst of all – my self-defeating attitude keeps me from creating the best possible team we could create.… Read more... “How to Stun Your Therapist (Or Your Spouse) With Your Attitude.”

Should You Divorce or Save Your Marriage?

The following shocking divorce statistics are from the U.S. Census Bureau: -Around 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. -48% of first marriages end in divorce. -60% of second marriages end in divorce. -73% of third marriages end in divorce. -In America, there is one divorce every 13 seconds. That is 6,636 divorces per day and 46,523 per week.… Read more... “Should You Divorce or Save Your Marriage?”

In Sickness and in Health

cool Saintpaulia flower in flowerpot isolated on whiteHow Illness Transforms Relationships Thirteen years ago this month, my husband and I got married in our backyard garden with our five children and a small circle of family and friends. Part of the vows we made to each other was a version of, “in sickness and in health”. Little did we know then, that the “sickness” part would be up front and center during our 12th year of marriage when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In looking back on the last 4 months of physical and emotional ups and downs, the experience of deep fear, and anxiety-provoking uncertainty, I can honestly say that illness can be an opportunity for couples to create a deeper bond of intimacy, genuine connection to self and other, and interdependence.… Read more... “In Sickness and in Health”

New Research: A big cause of marital distress is . . . Santa Claus.

for santa syndrome blog v2That’s right dear reader, Santa Claus causes marital distress. Please back away from the ledge and take a deep breath. You will need it for what follows. What is a common tradition for many children at Christmas time? They write to Santa for all the things they want. Or they sit on his lap in a shopping mall and tell him directly. Then they wait for the big day. “Whoopee – look what Santa brought me!” the kids say. “I just asked. And then there it was … a miracle. I didn’t have to do a darn thing except ask for it. Just by asking, I got a lot of what I wanted. I must be really special.” Fast forward to a distressed couple in a therapist’s office.… Read more... “New Research: A big cause of marital distress is . . . Santa Claus.”

3 Weddings and 4 Questions

wedding_cakeThere are only three weddings happening this year at The Couples Institute. And we are being facetious – we haven’t had a wedding of an associate or staffer happen in quite a while! First, our bookkeeper, Daniel, married his long time partner Hunt in May. They’d been together for 26 years so their ceremony was a celebratory re-commitment of their enduring partnership. This past weekend, our marketing guru, Shelley, tied the knot with a man she’s known since college; mutual friends brought them back together a few years ago. They’ve been inseparable since, wondering why it didn’t happen sooner. Then later in November, therapist and clinical assistant in our training program, Michelle, whom many of you have been in touch with before, weds the love of her life, Dan.… Read more... “3 Weddings and 4 Questions”