Tag Archives: relationship

How to Keep Your Relationship Healthy After Baby

Let’s be realistic. Having a baby can be a wonderful thing for a relationship but it does not leave any relationship unchanged. Babies are a huge life transition for anyone, which comes with a lot of challenges (and joys). 

In order to keep your relationship healthy post-baby:

1.) Change your expectations — Don’t try to go back to the way your relationship was before you had a child. It is not going to be the same because now you have another to care for, another to share your time with, and another to support. Your relationship will change and in many cases grow even deeper than it was before. 

2.) Communicate — As with any relationship, communication is key. But even more so during times of big transitions, you need to be honest and open. Talk to your partner about your needs, your desires, your struggles, etc. You can’t help each other through these times if you don’t know what each other is dealing with. 

3.) Schedule alone time — Yes, you have this new life to care for but don’t forget about your need to bond with your spouse. Even more so now date nights (even if they are at home on your couch while your child sleeps in the next room) are of crucial importance. You need time together.

4.) Give each other a break — Support each other during this transition time. There will be ups and downs and you both will need breaks. For mom, that might mean a good nights sleep, some girl time, or a massage. For dad, that might mean time for hobbies that they love and no longer have as many hours to give to them. 

5.) Have Patience — This time is going to be hard for you both, in different ways. There will be days when you feel angry or frustrated with each other. There will be days when you are so exhausted you can’t even think straight. Cut each other some slack. It won’t be like this forever. Recognize this is a rough patch and you will figure it out. 

Having a baby is a beautiful thing but few couples realize the complete life-altering impact of creating a family until they are in it. It is ok to not be ok. It is ok to struggle a bit with this transition. The best thing you can do for your relationship is to not lose sight of what really matters. You love each other and this new addition to your family, and your child needs parents who care for each other and support each other. Talk it out and remember you are on the same team. 

love practice

Love Is A Practice

Love is part of being human but it is not something that just comes naturally, at least that is what one analyst believes. Loving another takes work. It requires effort, discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. Love is not a feeling, rather it is a practice.

Psychoanalyst and social philosopher Erich Fromm outlined this perspective in his 1956 book, The Art of Loving. Fromm thinks of love not as something that is mysterious or magical but rather something that can be analyzed and explained. His theory revolves around the idea that a person cannot fully experience real love until they have developed their total personality. Part of this involves self-love. It means learning how to care for yourself before you can fully care for another. It means taking responsibility for your choices, your decisions, your actions. It means respecting yourself, knowing and being honest with yourself about your weaknesses and your strengths. Truly knowing and understanding yourself means being realistic. A person must learn to love their neighbor with “true humility, courage, faith, and discipline,” he writes. 

Work To Be Loved

He believes that a person cannot fall in love but rather they have to work to be in love. It is not something that happens to a person, but instead is something that is worked at achieving. Fromm argues there are four basic elements to true love: care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge. 

His perspective, while agreed to by some and criticized by others, contains a foundation that is undeniably true across all relationships—you can’t maintain a relationship without putting in the effort. That is the bottom line. It is not smooth sailing all the time. You can’t throw in the towel every time things get difficult. You really have to work at it. It does take discipline, it does take a level-headed mindset and the ability to consider both sides of the spectrum. 

Regardless of beliefs or theories, at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that love is beautiful and as Fromm would say “is one of life’s greatest achievements.” 

Why You Should Never Compare Your Relationship To Others

Comparing your relationships to the others in your life comes naturally to many of us. Without even realizing it you might start thinking about how kind your friend’s husband is to her and how you wish your husband would be more like hers. You might have grown up in what you felt was a perfect family home, with parents who had a “perfect” marriage or at least one you have strived to have of your own. This practice, however harmless it might feel, is a dangerous one. It can be toxic to your own relationships. 

First of all, it is important to note that no matter what you are seeing on the outside of someone’s relationship might be very different from their private life. You don’t know all the nitty-gritty details, even if you think you do. Second, by focusing on what your relationship is lacking (by your perception) you are setting yourself up for failure. 

Missing The Positives

When we are always wishing things were better, wishing they were different in some way, we are ruminating on the negative and missing the positives. Maybe you see your friend and her husband going on weekend hikes and you think that is something you wish you could do with your husband. But, your husband has bad allergies or a bad knee and hikes just aren’t in the cards. Maybe you are forgetting that you and your husband spend your weekends having other special moments, maybe you binge watch TV shows, cook together, or try to have a special outing of some kind.

Maybe you wish your husband brought you coffee in bed every morning because that is what you see when you stay the night at a relative’s home. But, then you are forgetting the other things your husband does for you— folds your clothes, puts the dishes away, wipes the snow off your car windows, starts your car before he goes to work, whatever it is we all have different ways of expressing love. 

Blind You

Comparisons can blind you from the things that were once important to you. It leads to resentment and sadness. Suddenly they don’t seem as important because you are so focused on what you are missing. Your relationship is special in its own way. You are a different couple than others in your life and that is healthy. Comparing just leads to unhappiness, arguments, and increased frustrations. It clouds your vision. It disables your ability to see what is truly beautiful in your personal life. 

Reign it in. Stop comparing. Instead, catch your brain before it starts ruminating and ask yourself to think about five good things in your relationship. If you can’t, well then, maybe you should reevaluate. Or, consider seeking help from a licensed mental health professional who can help you to sort through your feelings and come to terms with what you want out of your life and your relationships. 

Ask Mabel: My husband is always complaining about me and says I have mental health issues

Dear Mabel: My husband is always complaining about me. He often gets frustrated and says that I have mental health issues (I actually have been diagnosed with ADD). He is constantly telling me he thinks I have Borderline Personality Disorder or other issues and wants me to go see someone. I don’t know what to believe. He is the only one who ever seems to have complaints about me. I am not hearing these things from anyone else. Which makes me think is it really me or is it him? What do I do?

Sincerely, Margaret from New York

Mabel: Hi Margaret, I am sorry to hear you are struggling with your husband’s comments. Based on your email, I don’t have a clear picture of how your husband treats you, how you treat him, or the dynamics of your relationship. Unless your husband is a licensed mental health professional, he shouldn’t be diagnosing anybody. Nonetheless, it sounds like he is trying to communicate something important to him. I think both of you may benefit from couples counseling to gain an understanding of the ins and outs of your relationship, the frustration points for each of you, and what can be done to enhance your relationship.

There are quite a few similarities between ADD and BPD, would you be open to exploring those? I am not saying your husband is correct but often times it is those who are closest to us that notice our blind spots. If you have a mental health professional help you to explore, rule out, and/or potentially treat any problems then you would know for sure. 

Maybe he is right and you are just unhappy about what you are hearing from him. Maybe you are right and he is being inconsiderate to you. Or, maybe both of you are right and wrong at the same time and could benefit from some couples counseling. 

What I propose and what would be a positive solution to solving this issue would be to explore the scientific evidence. Look at the reality of things and gain more understanding of yourself and the dynamics of your relationship.

Ask Mabel: My partner hurt me when he insisted I needed my ADD meds to be in a relationship

Dear Mabel: My partner recently said something that really hurt me. He said, “you will never be able to have a relationship if you don’t take your ADD medication.” To me, it sounded like he was saying people are only able to love an edited/altered version of myself. It sounded like he was telling me I was un-loveable as is. What am I supposed to do with this comment? How do I move forward?

Sincerely, Mary from Virginia

Mabel: Hi Mary, I am sorry you are struggling with this comment. It sounds like your partner is trying to communicate something important, but I agree he could say it in a different way. You see, love and having a relationship are two different things. Love is a feeling. It is something that comes from deep within a person. Relating, on the other hand, is a behavior. You can love someone and not have a relationship with them, for whatever reason that is. Someone can love you for all of you. They can care deeply for you but they may be unable to maintain a relationship with you because of your ADD/ADHD symptoms. Symptoms, as I am sure you know, of ADD/ADHD can be severe enough to drive behaviors that might sabotage a relationship. For example, you may not be able to complete basic tasks or find it difficult to focus on things that need to get done thus frustrating and angering your partner to the point where they decide they need to move on. Rather than thinking of your partner’s comments as a blow to who you are as a person, think of them as an honest request from him to keep up on your meds so you can function to the best of your ability. 

Medication may help some folks focus better, but that’s only one aspect of the treatment. Changing habits and coping strategies can help tremendously. You may find it beneficial to seek help from a licensed counselor who can help you to develop some coping strategies, new habits, and work through emotions to make sure you are doing the best you can for yourself. 

Ask Mabel: My husband and I fight about folding clothes

Concerned Client: My husband wants me to fold his clothes but not in my way, he wants me to fold them his way. I am not big on folding clothes in any special way. I do it the way I was taught which he thinks is “too messy,” or “incorrect.” That is what I know. It doesn’t bother me that my clothes are folded this way and my kids could care less. I could learn the way he wants me to fold, but it seems pointless to me. He is losing his patience and I am growing frustrated. 

He could just fold his own clothes himself but it takes him a week to get to the basket and by then it is overflowing with clean, unfolded, wrinkled clothes. I at least want to get them into the dresser, out of the way. It makes no sense to me why he is ok staring at a basket of unfolded clothes for a week but not ok with me folding and putting away his clothes. He says he doesn’t care if it doesn’t make sense. He just wants me to fold the clothes his way. He says it is “my job” to take care of the laundry and I should do it “his way.” What the hell? He works full time and expects me to all the stuff around the house, the cooking, the cleaning, and all the laundry to his standards. I am ok doing it my way, but why does it have to be his way? 

Mabel: Before I make the assumption that this is a misogynist behavior, I need to get a bigger picture. What is the implicit or explicit agreement that you currently have with your husband in terms of division of labor (i.e. you take care of all the stuff in the home, while he handles the stuff outside of the home)? Do you expect him to adhere to certain standards when it comes to the yard work? Or taking care of vehicles? Why he expects you to fold the clothes his way may be his way of executing what he thought might be an agreement. Have you ever talked about an agreement of who does what and how? Sometimes couples assume an agreement and really they need to discuss it with each other.

Setting boundaries with repeat offenders

The first time someone does something that offends me, I let it go. I try to educate the person on why they offended me and ask them kindly to please refrain from doing it again. Then I brush it off. 

The second time someone offends me, I give them the benefit of the doubt. I think “well maybe it was a misunderstanding.” I talk to them and keep open lines of communication. I move on. 

The third time that someone offends me, that’s it. I have been kind and open-minded up to this point. I have educated this person. They know exactly how I feel and realize what they are doing is going to be hurtful to me. Yet they do it anyway. This person is being blatantly disrespectful to my wishes. They obviously don’t care enough about my feelings to change their ways. 

Set Boundaries

It is important for your own wellbeing to set boundaries with repeat offenders. People that are constantly disrespecting your wishes, overstepping your boundaries, offending you in some way or another, are not worth your time. These people are toxic to your mental health. It is ok to let these people go from your life. You don’t have to be around or interact with people who don’t care enough to respect your wishes. 

Boundaries are crucial to your happiness, your personal comfort, and your overall health. Feeling hurt or stressed because people are consistently offending you is damaging your mental wellbeing and therefore also harmful to your physical health. You have the right to stand up for yourself, to fight for your happiness. You need to take care of you and show these repeat offenders that you won’t stand for their behavior toward you. Then let it go. 

How to tell if divorce is the right decision: Part 3

This is part three (read parts one and two) 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. How can a couple decide if divorce is the right decision? 

The third option for couples to consider, which will be examined during discernment counseling, is marriage counseling. This option is the best when both parties acknowledge a desire to try. This means they will commit to six months of intensive marriage counseling, during which time divorce is off the table. Now, this isn’t a fix all. It is not saying that the couple will not get divorced but it is saying they want to give their marriage a chance to be healthy again. This choice requires a lot of work from both parties and a commitment to be open and communicate honestly with each other. 

For example in the case of fictional clients Sam and Jill, the two of them constantly argued about the house being a mess, bills not being paid, and general disorganization. Sam would get frustrated with Jill and they would argue. Jill would cry and promise to try to get it together, and would eventually repeat old habits. Sam did not feel like he could live with Jill anymore but he wasn’t sure he wanted to live without her either. 

Marriage Counseling

During discernment counseling, it was determined that Jill might be suffering from symptoms of adult Attention Deficit Disorder that had gone undiagnosed. Jill began to get help individually to work on these issues while also attending couples therapy with Sam. Together they both gained valuable communication skills, as well as tools to help with organization and running the home. 

The couples counseling that Sam and Jill endured together strengthened their marriage and allowed them to make an informed decision on whether they truly wanted divorce. It took commitment from both of them and a desire to try.

If you and your spouse are on the brink of divorce and you aren’t sure what to do, discernment counseling can be a valuable tool in helping to determine the best path to this complex life-altering decision. Call a licensed couples counselor to learn more. 

How to tell if divorce is the right decision: Part 2

This is part two (read part one here) 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. 

The second option for couples to consider, which will be examined during discernment counseling, is separation. If during the counseling process it is determined that one or both people in the couple simply cannot stand the idea of being together any more then separation would likely be the best option. This is a couple that no longer wishes to live under the same roof. One or both of them has a strong desire to end the relationship and is not willing to try to repair it at this time. 

Choosing to Separate

A couple that chooses to separate will each go their own way and will likely later file for divorce, unless after a brief separation they do decide to make the effort to fix things. It is impossible to fix a marriage if both parties are not open to the repair. Even if one of you is adamant about trying to fix things, if the other is unwilling then fixing things is unlikely. This is when discernment counseling is helpful. Because it looks at the needs, wants, desires of both parties to help determine the best path for the relationship. The goal is to help the couple come to an equitable decision, both are in the process, both are participants, both are involved. 

A broken marriage takes a lot of work from both parties. It takes commitment to change, openness to communicate, and willingness to try. Without those core desires separation may be the best option. 

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.