How to tell if divorce is the right decision: Part One

This is part one of a three-part series on how to determine if divorce is the right decision for you as a couple. This series will dive deeper into the options couples who are thinking of divorce have and the factors they should consider. 

Making the decision to get divorced can be one of the most difficult decisions a couple can make. There are a lot of factors that play a role and there are many details to consider. Nobody wants their marriage to end in divorce but it is, unfortunately, a common reality these days. If you and your spouse are considering divorce — how do you know if it’s the right path for you? 

Discernment Counseling

When seeing a couple who is considering divorce it is important for us, as counselors, to help not just one partner but both to explore three options. The process is called discernment counseling. Developed by Dr. Bill Doherty, discernment counseling focuses solely on helping couples to decide what they want to do with their relationship. It is unlike traditional marriage counseling, which is designed to save a marriage (but doesn’t work unless both partners are fully on board). Generally, discernment counseling is brief with the goal of getting couples unstuck so they can move forward in whichever direction they have determined to be best for them. 

Making the decision

The first option for a couple to consider is to do nothing. Doing nothing is exactly how it sounds. It means everything stays put. Couples that choose to do nothing will not seek any additional counseling. They simply will keep things as is in hopes that whatever bumps their marriage is facing is just a “phase” that may eventually pass. A couple who chooses to do nothing may not be ready to make the decision of whether or not to get divorced. Maybe they have kids and they are just not ready to put them through that process, or maybe they are holding out hope that things will get better. Whatever their reasoning chances are they may return to discernment counseling at a later date, or decide down the road to seek marriage counseling. 

If You Want Your Relationship To Last, Break This Habit

Most of us enter into relationships with the hopes that they will last. We find the person we want to be with and want to hold on to them. There is one very common relationship pattern that can be detrimental to the future of a relationship—relying on a partner too much. 

Yes, you may be in love. You may feel like your partner is your “everything” but is that really healthy? We are all human, even your partner. No one person can be completely responsible for every single thing another adult needs (infants are a different story). Many of us expect our partners to make us happy all the time. We want them to come to our rescue, to make us feel safe, to be our best friends, our lovers, our rocks. 

All Your Eggs in One Basket

We cannot expect one person to do all of these things for us. Instead, we need to spread out these roles. We cannot put all our eggs in one basket. Doing that can lead the basket to overload and all the eggs to fall out, leaving us feeling deserted and crushed. 

Your partner has his/her/their own self to worry about. They cannot be everything for you. Some of that responsibility needs to fall on you. You yourself are responsible for your happiness, not anyone else. If you are bored, find something to do. If you are unhappy, examine your life and figure out what is necessary to fix it. It is not up to your partner to do all the work for you. 

Find friends. You need your own friends to spend time with and share life experiences. Your friends can be a great support system so that your partner doesn’t end up feeling overwhelmed by taking care of you. Having a partner who is supportive and with you every step of the way is wonderful but you also have to learn to spread out your needs. 

Love your partner, be with them but don’t count on them to be your whole world. That is too much pressure. 

How To Stop ‘The Blame Game’ From Ruining Your Relationships

At some point in our lives, we have all played “the blame game” and we have likely all been victims of that very same game. Placing blame on someone for something that has gone wrong in our lives may might us feel good momentarily but its effects can be detrimental to the relationships in our lives. 

It is like the ongoing struggle on the popular television series Friends when Ross and Rachel have the argument over and over again that they were “on a break” when Ross had relations with another woman. It terrorized their relationship up until the very end when they just had to get over it and move on. 

Shifting the load

Shifting responsibility takes the load off us. It is easier to say “it is your fault” than it is to accept any personal wrongdoing. Nobody wants to feel bad for something they have done but, the truth is, we all do things at some point that end up being wrong. 

Playing the blame game takes control off us. It puts control onto the other person. That person is now responsible for “making it up” to you, for “fixing” what went wrong. We end up feeling victimized and internalizing these feelings and standing firm that the situation will not change. When we blame others we completely let go of ourselves and put it all on other people. It is harmful to our personal relationships and not very good for our personal psyche to always feel like the “victim.”

Instead of blaming others for what has gone wrong in your life, look at the things you have control over. You have the ability to change the outcome. You personally can make adjustments to “repair” things. You just have to focus on what YOU can do. Not others. Stop putting all the weight on other people and instead take a deeper look at yourself. You have the ability to make better choices in the future. You can learn from mistakes. You can accept some responsibility. And, even if it wasn’t your fault at all you can learn to accept that things went wrong and learn from them. Blaming others only causes more harm. It doesn’t lead to any reconciliation. 

How to overcome commitment issues

If you are a person who is fearful of commitment, someone who enjoys being close to others but grows distant when the relationship becomes more emotionally involved, then you might struggle with attachment issues.

Many commitment issues stem from past relationship experiences and/or our attachment to our parents or primary caregivers as children. It all comes down to having our needs met and being confident that if for some reason a relationship doesn’t work out, it’s ok. The good news is even if you are a person who has a hard time moving forward in relationships, there is hope in overcoming these struggles. It just takes some effort on your part. 

Moving Forward is Possible

Talk to a therapist. A licensed mental health professional has the proper training to help you move from unhealthy attachment styles to secure attachment. Proper counseling can help to heal the deep wounds that are causing you troubles now. Forming a secure relationship with a therapist can help to increase feelings of security and help make sense of the past. 

The first part of overcoming attachment struggles is to identify the problem. You must first understand where these emotions are coming from so you can work to heal them. A therapist who asks the right questions can help you to identify aspects of your childhood that may have led to your current emotional state. 

Second, it is important that whoever your partner is has a healthier attachment style. Being with someone who understands what a healthy relationship looks like can further help you to heal by developing more trust in others and how they will respond to your needs. That being said, you don’t need another person to heal, but if you are in a relationship try to choose a healthy one—one that makes you feel good, one that is not full of jealousy and insecurity. 

Third, believe in yourself. You do have the ability to move forward and have a happy, committed relationship.

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201802/healing-attachment-issues

Where do commitment issues stem from?

We all know someone who has trouble with commitment. You know the type—the serial dater, the person who suddenly stops calling or showing up when the relationship starts to progress. It can be frustrating for both sides.

Insecure Attachment

There are a few reasons why a person might struggle with commitment. They may have formed an insecure attachment/avoidant relationship style. This type of personality style usually stems from a person’s childhood and their relationship with their parents or primary caregiver. Likely, as children, they felt as if their emotional needs were not being met and have since learned to not give as much weight to their emotions making it harder to get close to people. People with this type of attachment style tend to enjoy being in relationships but become uncomfortable when relationships get too emotionally close. 

Another reason why someone might struggle with commitment is because of catastrophic thinking. They have severe anxiety about relationships and always think the worst— “it will never work out, why bother,” “I am going to be trapped,” “I am just going to get my heart broken,” etc. This usually stems from childhood experiences of seeing their own parents unhappy and arguing on a regular basis. Or, they may have had a series of bad relationships in the past that has led them to think nothing will ever work out. They have lost faith in relationships and are fearful of getting too attached. 

It is, of course, difficult for both sides of the relationship when commitment troubles are a factor, but it doesn’t mean it is not possible to find love and to have true, meaningful relationships. It just might take some work. Meeting with a licensed mental health professional can help those struggling with commitment to identify the reasons why they might have trouble in this area and what can be done to move forward. 

Source: https://www.psychalive.org/anxious-avoidant-attachment/

Slow down to do more

It doesn’t make sense when you hear it. How could slowing down actually allow you to do more? 

Our lives are so busy these days. I am sure you say it all the time, “I just don’t have time for that.” But, have you ever stopped to really think about your life and how you are spending your time. It is so easy to get caught up in to-do lists, goals, work demands, that we forget about why we are really doing all these things. Our lives are literally passing us by because we are so over consumed with what “needs” to get done. We are overstressed, overworked, and overwhelmed. 

Practice Mindfulness

Slowing down, actually taking a moment to stop and look around us, to be present in the moment, to embrace the act of mindfulness can actually allow us to do more. Taking time to stop and smell the roses, as the saying goes, can help us be more productive and happier in the long-run. 

It is so easy to get burnt out when we are going full speed ahead all the time. We all need rest days. We need days with the family. We need time to enjoy the lives we have built for ourselves and to appreciate all the true beauty around us. 

It is ok to turn the phone off. Put it in a drawer or a cabinet for a few hours a day and be present in your life. The world will not end, I promise. Life is short and there are so many moments we can not get back. Start today with a few minutes of disconnecting. 

The next time you find yourself rushing to get from one place to another, ask yourself “is it really that bad if I am a few minutes late?” In most cases, the answer is “no.” Rather than losing your temper on your children for not putting their shoes on fast enough, or getting distracted by a flower they saw in the grass, slow.down. Turn that rushed moment in a positive memory. 

Source: https://hbr.org/2009/08/to-get-more-done-slow-down.html

You can find joy by sharing joy

The other day a friend posted something on social media about some positive recognition she had received from a colleague. She titled the post “I am not one to boast” as if she was embarrassed to share this information. Of course, she was proud and she had every right to share this good news with others but something was holding her back. 

Research shows that nearly three times more positive experiences happen in a day than negative, yet it is so easy to let the negative take over and ruin the day. Good things are happening to us all the time, but we are reluctant to share them. 

Maybe it is out of guilt. You don’t want to make others around you feel bad because something great happened to you but they are having a rough time. Maybe you don’t feel deserving of whatever good has happened. Or, you don’t want to “brag.” If it is a reoccurring form of goodness then maybe you have just gotten used to it and now it has become commonplace. 

The Benefits of Sharing

But, the truth is a lot of benefits can come from sharing our joy. Research shows that sharing positive experiences gives them more weight in our brains. A study done at Brigham Young University shows that discussing positive experiences leads to increased overall life satisfaction and more energy. 

Think about it when we talk about the good things that are happening to us we are validating them, we are accepting that we are deserving of the good and are able to relish in those experiences more fully. 

With this friend, in particular, she had an outpouring of support. Comment after comment after comment of well-deserved praise. Sharing her joy opened her eyes to the wonderful support system she has around her. 

And, as far as feeling guilty for sharing the good, in many cases hearing of good things happening to those around us lifts us up. It is so easy to get caught in the negative. There is so much negative news, so much happening around us that can easily crush our spirits. When we hear of these true moments of good in the lives of those around us, it gives us hope. It highlights the beauty that can be found around us. Even if these good things may not be happening to us directly. 

I mean, really, who hasn’t at least teared-up during a human-interest story on the news. We can find joy in other peoples joy, and sharing your joy can help to increase your overall appreciation for life. 

Source: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-it/201307/the-science-behind-the-joy-sharing-joy

How to Curb Negative Self-Talk

We all do it — “how could I be so stupid?” “I am not good enough.” “I am so dumb.” Whatever it is. We all talk to ourselves negatively. And, even though we may brush off that talk as meaningless, it’s not. After a while, our brains start to believe these things, whether they are true or not. 

Words Are Powerful

It doesn’t take much of telling yourself you “can’t” or you are “not worthy” to believe it. The act of curbing negative self-talk can have a big impact on our overall mental health. We have this beautiful ability to lift ourselves up — or tear ourselves down — with our words. 

So what can do you do to start the journey of treating yourself better with your words? It is difficult, as any habit is, to change our ways but it is amazing what a few small changes can do for our self-esteem and overall personal satisfaction. 

First of all, start small. No one is going to completely eliminate negative self-talk. I mean, seriously, we all do things that we are not proud of. That is life. But, by doing better at cutting ourselves some slack and appreciating all the good in ourselves we can lead happier lives.

Start with a Post-it (I said small, didn’t I?). Write one positive thing down about yourself and stick it to the mirror, or on the back of your bedroom door, or on a phone case, wherever you are going to see it regularly. It might sound or feel stupid but trust me, after a while your brain absorbs it. It can be as simple as “you can do it” or “you are strong.”

Next, cut yourself some slack. You are human. You will make mistakes. You are not perfect, I am sorry to break the news but it is true. No one is. Instead of jumping to “I am so stupid” or “I can’t do anything right,” be real with yourself. So, you made a mistake. Tell yourself these things happen. Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a friend. If your friend broke a glass and immediately said “oh my gosh I am the worst,” what would you say? Likely you would tell that friend “It’s ok. These things happen.”

You can be in the driver’s seat when it comes to how you see (and talk to) yourself. 

How long should it take to get over a divorce?

The other day someone asked me how long it should take to get over their divorce?

While I would have loved to give them a simple answer, it is not that cut and dry. The truth is it will take—as long as it takes. Every situation is different. Divorce itself, even if you and your partner agree that the marriage is not working and divorce is the best option, is not easy.

Your marriage ended for any number of reasons that can be hard to accept. Your divorce challenged your innermost voices, it put strain on your self-esteem and turned your entire world upside down. It is not supposed to be an easy thing to recover from. Even if you know in your heart that it was the right choice, it doesn’t mean that you will instantly feel wonderful. 

Your Internal Core

When you got married you expected to be with your partner forever. You made a commitment to each other to care in sickness and in health, to stand by each other in times of stress, and to grow old together. Just the mere factor of that not working out is a huge disappointment. It is a major blow to your internal core as a human being. 

That is not even taking into account things like children, pets, shared possessions—like homes, cars, etc. You are now faced with figuring out a new normal. If you have children you are likely feeling the strain of their own emotional distress. You are trying to make things as easy as possible on them, while it is hurting you to see them hurt. You may have been forced to move out of your home, split up possessions that may have been of high importance to you, and you may be feeling more financial strain than ever before—divorce is not cheap. 

All of these things make getting over such a thing extremely difficult. Don’t try to rush your heart. Instead, take comfort in knowing that you will find that new normal. You will. You will be able to move on. Your kids will be ok. You will find that happiness, that relief, whatever it is that you need. You will. In time. These things take time. 

Counseling services are always there for you if you need an extra set of ears to bounce things off of, or if you need guidance in how to move through this major life change. 

Signs You Need A Mental Health Day

Your mental health is just — as if not more — important than your physical health. Your brain and all the different emotions you could be facing impact you physically. When you have a sore throat, a cough, a stomachache, a migraine, or other ailments, you take a sick day. When you aren’t feeling good mentally, it could be time to take a mental health day. 

We tend to ignore much of our mental health symptoms, brushing them off and saying “they will pass” only to have them resurface stronger than before. We don’t want to waste the time off, we don’t feel like we have the time to waste. But, we forget that when we aren’t operating at our fullest we aren’t being as efficient. By taking the time to tend to your mental health you are only helping yourself to be more focused, motivated, happy, and…well. 

Here are some signs that you could use a mental health day:

1.) You are distracted by something that needs to get done outside of the office. Maybe it is your taxes, a personal project, or a goal that requires your attention. Now I am not telling you to skip work whenever you need some extra time, but rather when you are distracted, forgetful, overwhelmed by something that needs to be tackled. Take a day to get it done. You will feel better for taking care of it, you will gain some control back over your life, and you will be more productive at your job when you return. 

2.) You have been neglecting yourself. Maybe you have been super busy at work or overcome with a project that is taking over your life. You aren’t taking care of yourself because you don’t feel like you have the time to spare. You could benefit from recharging your batteries. Take a mental health day to take care of you. The day can look any way you think it should — catch up on sleep, meal prep, go for a walk, take a fitness class, spend some extra time with your kids, meet a friend for lunch, whatever it is that you feel you need. A day away from the daily grind can do wonders for your inner self. 

3.) You are struggling with depression and anxiety symptoms that feel unmanageable. Maybe you are easily emotional, you are crying a lot, you are struggling to get out of bed, everyday activities are hard to accomplish, you don’t feel like you, whatever it is a day away from the stress you are consumed with can help. Allowing yourself to feel whatever it is you are trying to push past can be necessary to your healing. If you had the flu, your coworkers would never expect you to come in, they would not find you weak, in fact, they would likely thank you for taking the time to get well. 

There is nothing wrong with taking a mental health day. It can take courage to admit that you need one. It can be hard to allow yourself the opportunity to have this day but it will be worth it. If you are having trouble taking care of you, I encourage you to seek help from a licensed mental health professional. He/she/they can help you learn ways to fit time in for you. 

How often do you take mental health days?