Category Archives: Marriage

How to stay sane as a newly single mom

If you are a newly single mom, I am guessing you have just been through hell. Your whole world has been shaken up, unraveling your day-to-day. Now it is time to find your new normal. 

You are probably feeling all sorts of things. You might be bitter, sad, or depressed. You might also be relieved or feel rejuvenated because you can start to make positive changes in your world. But, what about your kids? They are probably struggling emotionally and you are struggling with how to keep things as normal as possible for them. You also might be faced with doing everything on your own. Maybe your ex has completely left the picture, or only helps on weekends. So what do you do? How can you regain your sanity? Take care of your mental health? 

The best tip I can give is to focus only on the important things and let the rest slide. No one is going to die from fishing semi-dirty clothes from the laundry (be sure to wash that underwear, though). Who cares if you need to have microwave dinner for a week or two while you adjust. Let your kids help to prepare their lunches if they are old enough. If it is not a life or death safety issue, let it go. 

Now is the time to focus on your kids. Spend time together and figure out that new normal. There will be bumps and hurdles but you will get to a point of peace again. Take your kids to family therapy and talk about what that “new normal” might look like. This is not an easy time in your journey through life but you can get through it if you focus on the important things. 

It is always important to take care of your mental health, but now it is even more crucial. You need to take care of you in order to be the best mom you can be for your children. Talk to your friends, find people who are going through the same thing as you and connect. Lean on your village and take it a day at a time. 

What is something that has helped you as a single parent? 

Making the choice to be a single mom

Being a single mom is incredibly hard. It is doing it all, being everything for your children, and it is taxing on yourself. The reality is nobody actually decides “yes I want to be a single mom,” “yes, I want to do this by myself.” It is not a choice. It is something that comes as a result of another decision—whether it be getting divorced from your spouse, deciding not to marry the child’s father because of your relationship with him, or feeling like you have no other way to have children except to do it on your own. It is the absence of a partner but it is not a direct choice. 

I was raised by my single mom. She had choices to not be a single mom. She could have chosen to stay in an unhappy relationship so that she didn’t have to care for me by herself. Instead I would hear her cry in the middle of the night because this gig is hard. But it was something she needed to do for us, for herself. 

Of course she would have preferred to have someone to help split the parenting duties. Or course she wanted to give us a stable home. But she also wanted to show us that she wasn’t willing to give up on her ideals. That she was strong. That she wasn’t going to compromise her happiness to stay in an unhappy relationship. She was showing us to stand up for yourself and to follow your heart, as hard as it can be sometimes. She did make choices. Very difficult ones. But it was never about a desire to parent by herself. 

Why are we bitter during divorce?

There are many reasons for divorce to occur leading to a vast array of emotions. But why would bitter feelings occur if you and your partner agree that your marriage isn’t working? If you don’t have any hard or angry feelings toward your partner then why would you feel so upset at the situation? Why can’t you just end the marriage and move on? 

It is because when you walked down that aisle you had an expectation of what marriage would be. You thought you would spend your life with this person and be happy and in love through the process. Now that reality is setting in and this expectation has been shattered, you are grieving. You have lost your marriage and now you have to grieve that loss. 

Human Nature

It is truly human nature to feel this way, according to a Psychology Today article that looks at a study done on chimpanzees. When all of their basic needs are met— safety, love, survival, esteem, and actualization— they act much differently than if they are missing one of those five. When you go through a divorce you are bound to feel bitter, angry, scared, and just plain jerkish because you are not having all your needs met. You suddenly have to worry about all these things you didn’t have to concern yourself with before. When we feel safe, secure, and loved we are able to rationalize things better. 

In addition to having your expectations shattered, you are also in for a whole slew of changes and let’s be frank — us humans don’t like change very much. Divorce also brings up many feelings of being powerless and out-of-control, you might not know how things are going to play out, what will tomorrow be like? And, there is a need to fight for what you love and believe—a sense of entitlement. Even if you still deeply care for your soon-to-be ex-spouse, you remember how long it took to pick out that couch downstairs and you want it back. You also worked really hard to save up for that house and now you don’t want to sell it. You want to hang on to the things that are important to you. 

Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can ever endure. It is a mountain of obstacles to face and it takes time and energy to get to the other side. If you are feeling overwhelmed, bitter, stressed, angry, know this is normal. Seek help from a licensed therapist who can help you to take care of yourself. 

Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemplating-divorce/201207/where-are-you-the-divorce-stress-scale

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/contemplating-divorce/201101/why-are-divorcing-people-often-jerks

https://www.yourtango.com/experts/pegotty-and-randy-cooper/4-reasons-divorce-makes-good-people-act-like-jerks

Are you a different leader at home than work?

Learning to be a good leader is one of those things that can be beneficial at home and at work. A good leader knows how to be objective and to work with the people at hand in the current situation. But sometimes we are different people and different leaders, at home than we are at the office.

There are different expectations at home than at work— and different co-managers, if you will. And, let’s admit it after a long hard day at the office it can be hard to continue that persona at home. While at the office you might be the one always stepping in to take the lead on projects—or vice versa, you might not need to do as much at the office than you do at home. You might be the one managing a team of employees and providing guidance on the steps they should be taking to be successful. But, as soon as you exit that building and get to your home with your family you might take more of a back seat. You might let your spouse take the lead more, or give your children more freedom to figure things out on their own. 

Each part makes up our whole

At home, you might be introverted. You might keep to yourself. All of this is ok. Each of these parts of ourselves make up our whole. We just have to be careful to not completely let go when we are home or to do the opposite and take on a dictatorship type of role. Effective leadership is different in each family and in each situation, but they all have a few simple traits in common:

1.) The ability to listen and acknowledge what is going on around you— you need to be able to determine if you should step in to take control of a situation, of if you should stand back and let the other people involved figure it out. 

2.) Use of the democratic process — leaders who are dictators are not respected and they are only listened to because of fear. By taking the thoughts and ideas and opinions of the other people around you into consideration when making decisions, you will be making the most-informed and best decision for everyone involved.

3.) Flexibility— no one is right all the time, and having the ability to recognize this and be flexible to change in situations can help things to run more smoothly. Not everything goes as planned at home or at work, so try not to be heart-broken and instead embrace change. 

4.) A level-head — being able to be strict and stern when needed, but also have the ability to find humor in a situation is a great quality. It also helps to have the ability to calm down in situations of high stress. 

Whatever your leadership persona at home or in the office, take a moment each week or month to really look around and evaluate. How are people acting? Are they happy? How productive are things? What can you do to make positive changes? 

Do you say sorry too much?

When disagreements occur, are you quick to jump in and say “I am sorry”? Even when you might not really be sorry. Maybe you don’t even think you did anything wrong, or maybe you were upset by something the other person said or did but rather than addressing it, you say “sorry.”

It is possible to say “sorry” too much. It can be a quick way to get out of conflict, to avoid the disagreement from extending into another. It is avoidant and it is not healthy. 

Conflict isn’t bad.

Every relationship has some kind of conflict. It is healthy and helps your relationship to grow and strengthen when handled in a constructive way. By constantly apologizing, even when you don’t really mean it, you are creating unhealthy boundaries. You are not addressing things that might be a problem for you. You are not airing your grievances and in turn are likely building resentment. And, you are showing the person you are in conflict with that you can be walked on because you won’t stand up for yourself.

By immediately saying “sorry” you are closing the door to the discussion. You are eliminating the space to make changes that could help you feel happier and help your relationship. 

It is common for people who are not confident in conflict-resolution skills to apologize too much. It becomes a knee-jerk reaction. But, the best way to improve those skills is to try them out and gain confidence. Not only will discussion help to strengthen and grow your relationships, but it will also help you to feel better about yourself.

The first step to ending the cycle of the chronic apologizer is to first recognize and acknowledge it is a problem. Then next time you are faced with conflict don’t jump to the apology, instead take the time to share your side, express your needs and your feelings. You won’t regret it, and even if it doesn’t go as well as you would have hoped at least you are making strides in the right direction. 

Keeping private things private

John (a fictional client) speaks up during a couples therapy session, saying Maria (a fictional client) is not respecting him. He says he feels exposed, embarrassed. I ask him why he has such feelings. He explains to me that he found out Maria was talking to her girlfriends about his sexual issues. 

Unfortunately, John is not the first client that has expressed concern over his, or her, significant other talking about sexual issues to friends or family. The bottom line when it comes to maintaining integrity, respect, trust in a relationship is you have to keep the private stuff private. There is an intimacy in relationships—that is what makes them so special—and as the partner in that relationship it is important to keep whatever happens in the bedroom to yourself.

Sexual issues go to the core of our being. They have the ability to unravel us. They are sensitive, and so very personal. Respect that. If something is happening in the bedroom that you feel is a problem, speak to a counselor about it. They will keep it a secret. They will maintain that integrity and keep that information safe. They will help you process it without the backlash. When you talk to friends of family about sexual issues it completely exposes that person in a way they may never come back. It is almost like walking into a room completely naked. How would you feel?

We expect our friends and family to keep a secret, but the truth is we are all human. Things come up. We talk about things that we find “juicy” or revealing. Maybe we do it in a way where we think no one is harmed but usually, eventually, that information goes full circle. And the result can be a lot of pain. It is hurtful to feel like someone you don’t want to know, knows some of your most private information. It makes the person feel judged. It makes them feel just plain awful. 

When John told me his story, I asked Maria how she felt. She told me she didn’t think he would find out, that she was just gabbing with the girls. There is information that is ok to gab about —like that argument over how his clothes were folded or him staying out with his friends late — but the stuff that happens sexually needs to stay personal, private, and hold the upmost respect. While it can be hard to do in a social situation, I encourage clients to always think about how the other person might feel if they found out before they share the information. 

Men need couples counseling too

Susan (a fictional client) tells me she is not feeling in love with her husband anymore. She tells me she feels like he does not want to be around her, they don’t spend time together, he doesn’t show her affection anymore, she is worried the spark is gone. She wants to work though things in counseling, and she feels she is reaching a “tipping point.” She asks her husband to attend counseling with her, and he refuses. He won’t give it a second thought. I hear it all the time as a counselor. 

Why do guys do this?

Men may believe the therapist and spouse are going to gang up on them, especially in the case where a therapist is a woman. While an understandable concern, this is the opposite of what counseling is about. In couples counseling, we work to honor both partners and to foster a bridge in communication. We work on communicating in a healthy way—both couples have a chance to share and be heard. 

Couples counseling benefits both parties, and it can only work if the guy is present too. It takes both sides to repair the relationship. Despite what some might be concerned about, couples counseling is about leveling the playing field. It is about giving the relationship a safe space to air concerns and help the couple to come up with effective solutions. Couples counseling is separate from individual counseling, so if the wife is already seeing a counselor at the office she will see a different one with her spouse. This way there is for sure a level field. 

Counseling can be a great resource for couples. It helps them to gain insight into why they might be acting in a certain way. It helps to open the doors of communication—which in many cases has been bolted shut. It helps to guide couples to solutions they can both accept, and to decide what their future together looks like. Ultimately in situations where both couples are invested in improving the atmosphere of their home, counseling helps to grow their bond. 

It is ok to need help, the first step is admitting that you could use a little guidance and the rest will come in time. 

We are here to help. 

You can read more about our couples counseling services at  http://womenstherapyinstitute.com/couples-counseling/

How to fight well

It might sound funny—fighting well. I mean, isn’t fighting something you just shouldn’t do, something that should be avoided, how do you do it “well?” 

Fighting in and of itself is not a bad thing. It is an effort to make yourself heard, to voice your unhappiness at a situation, and it can be a time to grow and learn. But there are good ways to approach fighting, and ways that are hurtful and harmful to your relationship. You have the ability to build a bridge through communication, or you could build a wall. 

THE WALL OR THE BRIDGE

A bridge is built when both parties have a level playing field. They each have a chance to contribute to the situation, and the argument is not all about one person putting the other person down. When you build a bridge, you uplift each other, you work as a team in the midst of your argument. For example, a husband and wife are fighting over all the housework and not being able to get it done. The wife wants more help from the husband and the husband doesn’t think the wife notices what he is doing to help. In most arguments, both parties have contributed, in some way, to the problem. Maybe the husband needs some thanks and appreciation from the wife to feel like his efforts are being noticed, and the wife needs the husband to acknowledge that he should be stepping in to help. The key to building a bridge is being able to disagree and come back together as a team. No one gets along all the time, and people are not supposed to. By working together to correct the problem, you will strengthen your bond.

On the other side of the spectrum, a bridge cannot be built when one side is higher than the other. This creates a wall. If arguments, or fights, frequently turn into one person putting the other person down or having a “I did not nothing wrong” approach, a wall is being established. When a wall is built communication is cut off. The person who feels “lower” than the other will likely stop trying to communicate, they won’t want to come to an agreement because they feel they are in a hostile environment. Chances are that person will want to get away from the situation altogether because who wants to feel like they are on an uneven playing field. If you find yourself in the process of building a wall, take a step back. That might mean it is a good time to take a walk and continue the argument later. Think things through and come back to the table when you are ready to open your ears to both sides of the story. 

Fighting is part of human nature. It can be good and healthy for a relationship if done fairly. It is not easy but if you focus your energy on building a bridge—instead of a wall—you will strengthen your relationship.

Cyber Cheating: What to do

With the rise of the digital age “cheating” has taken on a new form. Now more than ever husbands and wives are catching their spouses having romantic interactions online. Cyber cheating has many forms including chatting with an ex through social media, watching porn, sexual or romantic online chatting with a stranger, using dating apps to chat with others but not hooking up outside of the app, and sexting. 

To the guilty party it might not seem like they are actually cheating because they aren’t meeting up with the people they are interacting with online, but to the one being affected, it still hurts. Cyber cheating is still a form of betrayal, dishonesty, and still has the ability to ruin a marriage. It is common for the cheating person to deny what they are doing as cheating, and to come up with excuses such as “if life wasn’t so stressful,” “if I got enough sex,” “I am only flirting,” or “it means nothing.”

What do you do if you catch your spouse cyber cheating?

No matter how you discovered your spouse cheating, the first thing you need to do is talk to he/she about it. If there are kids in the house, choose a time when they are asleep or get a sitter and go somewhere where you can be uninterrupted. Talk to your spouse. Tell them what you saw and ask them to explain. Tell them how it makes you feel. You need to lay out the details, and then  take some time to think. You need to decide if there is a way to go on. What do you want? What would make you feel better? 

There is no easy fix. Recovering from an affair is a major hurdle for any couple. The intense feelings of betrayal, hurt, and distrust can linger long after the affair has ended. This is a great time to seek the help of a licensed counselor to help talk things out and determine what works emotionally for each of you. A counselor can help you to evaluate your relationship with a clearer lense. 

How to be in a happy relationship

Frequently I have clients ask me how to be in a happy relationship. Usually, after much discussion, we come up with the solution to a happy relationship as not being “obliviously comfortable.” The idea is you need to be your authentic self, comfortable in your skin, having the freedom to truly and deeply be you, but you also need to tune-in to your partner. 

A relationship is typically composed of two people, not just one. So you can’t be happy if you are not thinking about the other person. It is just not possible. That means being mindful, not oblivious, to their thoughts, feelings, likes, dislikes, and who they are as an authentic self. You can’t expect them to change to conform to you, although some of being in-tuned to your partner is making sacrifices. There is a difference between sacrificing and making adjustments for your significant other, and changing who you are. 

Being in-tune with your partner

You need to be comfortable to be happy, but that does not mean you will never be uncomfortable…if you get my drift. You need to be able to be you, to feel safe to be you, to not have to hide your inner being, but that does not mean never adjusting to please your significant other. It takes work from both sides to be happy. For example, a wife dislikes sports and a husband dislikes going to concerts but the two of them would like to start doing things together more often. They aren’t getting the quality time they need. So, they make a deal. The wife will go to a sports game or watch a game on TV with her spouse so they can have time together, and the husband will agree to attend a concert with the wife. It is a small sacrifice for the good of the relationship. 

Another example might be the wife gets up early every day to run while the husband chooses to hit the snooze button a 1000 times before rolling out of bed. Instead of making a lot of racket when getting out of bed, the wife gets out quietly and is respectful of the husband. It is about being in-tune with her husband’s need to get more sleep. There are many many examples, but the bottom line is you can’t be happy in a relationship without effort from both sides. You need to open your eyes, your ears, and your senses. No one is the exact same, we all do things a little differently.