The message is as follows: PUT. THE. PHONE. DOWN. It just might save your marriage.Read More
Here's the good news, the better news, and the best news of all about disagreements between spouses.Read More
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When does a reconciliation attempt not make sense? When it isn't really an attempt at reconciliation.Read More
As you may know, the usual subject of this blog is how to avoid ending up in the office of your trusty divorce attorney (namely, me). I don't know that this post is really specific to preventing divorce or not, but what I'm seeing a lot of lately is clients - female clients, mostly - coming into my office and regurgitating whatever bad things their spouses say about them, as though it's automatically true. This is a mostly, but not exclusively, female problem. Although I'm primarily addressing the fairer sex in this post, the principle applies equally to everyone.
Ladies, your husband does not define who you are. If he calls you names, that's because he's a jerk, not because you deserve it. If he tells you you're fat or ugly or stupid, he's abusing his emotional power in your life.
A lot of the relationships that wind up in "Lori, he will tell you that I'm not a good mother because when my 10 year old was born, I had postpartum depression, and I'm weak" (Lady, are you kidding me? That was 10 years ago and if you survived it, you are strong!) are relationships that started unhealthy - for instance, in codependency.
To have a healthy relationship, you need to be a healthy person yourself. You have to have found your own worth within yourself and outside of what others (including your spouse) say about you.
Look, I'm not saying it's wrong to enjoy it when your partner says good things about you. That's human nature. What I *am* saying is that you shouldn't be dependent on another person's feelings or opinions about you as the sole or primary source of your self-esteem. It creates an untenable power imbalance even when your partner *isn't* manipulative or abusive. Healthy marriages happen between equal partners.
The best way to prevent a relational power imbalance is learning to love yourself before you commit. We've all had friends who jump from partner to partner in a constant state of rebound. They can't stand to be single because they have a bottomless need for external validation. If you can find a way to be happy with single-you or you-as-an-independent-unit, then you-in-a-relationship will be happier, healthier, and more likely to stay committed to your partner.
"Love your neighbor as yourself" is a two-way street. Some struggle with loving their neighbors, while others struggle with loving themselves. How do you start to make a change?
Well, there's no shame in working on YOU - through a counselor or otherwise - to create a more successful US. I'm a mom and I often find it hard to do things for me, but like the whole "apply your own oxygen mask first" thing, sometimes a little self-concern is in order for everyone's sake. But aside from "us," "you" deserve that degree of wellness all on your own. Everyone does.
Step out and work on loving yourself. I'm sure you're wonderful and beautiful and smart and loving. Go discover that for yourself. I wish you the best on the journey! You're worth it!
Are you truly hearing what your partner is saying, digesting it, and thinking about it, or are you instead formulating a way to fix whatever the problem is? It's natural to want to help your partner overcome or solve problems in his or her life...but that isn't always (or even usually, especially for wives in my experience) the reason why your partner comes to you to talk about the problem.Read More
Facebook is great in a lot of ways. You get to keep up with your old friends, see what's going on in everybody's life, and maintain connections despite distance...plus see really cute pictures of babies, dogs, and cats.
But there's another side to Facebook (and other social media). I call it Facebook Perfection Syndrome (FPS).
Have you ever noticed that everybody's life, as portrayed on social media, seems completely awesome and flawless? In pictures, couples are happy (maybe even kissing!), children are usually well-dressed and well-behaved and smiling, and all seems right with everyone's world. Everybody is "so in love with my husband," "glad my wife is such a great mom to our children," "thankful he brought me flowers for no reason," "blessed to come home to this awesome five-course meal she prepared," enjoying date night, going on a cruise, and the list goes on.
It's easy to see all that and compare it to your own life and think, "My marriage sucks! Why is our relationship so boring? Everybody else is happy! Maybe we just aren't meant to be together?"
But as with many parts of life, here comparison is the thief of joy. Teddy Roosevelt said that. If he was the President and comparison was capable of stealing his joy, it's certainly capable of stealing yours too.
The comparison aspect of FPS is not just a thief, of course; it is also a liar. For every happy couple blaring their syrupy happiness all over your feed, there is an unhappy couple hiding their problems - and believe it or not, sometimes they're the same couple! Things aren't always what they seem.
For every photograph of 2.2 perfectly dressed, perfectly clean, smiling children, there is a baby somewhere puking on mom's face, a toddler who missed the potty, and a preschooler who drew on the wall with a crayon...again. On a particularly rough day, these three children might be living in the same house. For every "awesomely supportive dad," there is a semi-deadbeat. For every perfect housewife, there's somebody like me (let's just say laundry is not my forte and leave it at that). For every "I'm so in love with my wife," there's a "my wife is getting on my *last* nerve today." For every "my husband is the best," there's a "we fought this morning over how to load the dishwasher." You get the idea.
We are humans, not robots. We are imperfect and we all have bad days. But for various reasons (sometimes really good ones and sometimes bad), we share the joys of life with our 1,000 closest friends on Facebook, but we don't often share the difficult parts. We present the highs but not the lows. We don't talk about what love looks like in the trenches.
FPS and its close older cousin, Greener Grass Syndrome, are destructive and demotivating. They falsely present the idea that our relationships are so far gone they can't be recovered, that there is something inherently dysfunctional or wrong that can't be overcome. While sometimes this is true (for instance, when abuse is present), more often it's just an illusion.
Hear me. There is no perfect relationship. Stop looking; it's not out there. You shouldn't give up on your relationship because you think you'll find someone better (or even if you think you've found someone better already, as that's usually an illusion too). Sometimes divorce is necessary for your protection or your sanity, and sometimes you really are better off alone than in a bad relationship...but don't let the happy braggadocious Facebook fakers deceive you - even subliminally - into thinking your perfectly normal relationship is bad just because it's imperfect. Average relationships can become above average if you're willing to work to improve them. Stop looking to others and look to your spouse.
And my advice? Take Facebook with a grain of salt. It's about as real as "reality television."
Research indicates that in human relationships, the initial period of passionate love really only lasts for about one to two years. This time is characterized by strong feelings of love and desire, excitement and novelty. It is driven, in part, by a rush of various neurotransmitters and hormones, such as dopamine, oxytocin, and phenylethylamine. Passionate love is what begins the bond between most romantically-involved couples, married or not... but for a lot of reasons, it is not sustainable at that level of intensity over the longer term.
After the initial period of passionate love begins to slow, there is a shift toward what is called companionate love, which is characterized by mutual understanding, care for one another, intimacy, and commitment. What is often missing is that intense spark of passion. Unfortunately, and Hollywood isn't doing us any favors here, people often mistake the shift toward companionate love as "falling out of love" with one's partner. Companionate love is a different kind of love, but it is still love. It is the form of love that has kept our grandparents together all these years and sustains them as they drink coffee on the porch in their rocking chairs each morning. There is not as much excitement in companionate love, but there is beauty in it.
And the real problem, perhaps, is that as the passion component fades to a dull roar (few relationships become totally without passion), the intimacy component also starts to fail. When intimacy and passion are both slipping, commitment isn't far behind.
So...what is the answer? If these are normal, natural stages in all relationships (successful and unsuccessful), and the science tells us that they absolutely are, then why are some couples able to stay together while others fall apart?
It turns out that part of the reason passionate love fades to companionate love is that the newness of a relationship eventually wears off. What is at first a novelty, a surprise, becomes simply routine after awhile. This is why couples might spend hours on the phone each night in the first year of the relationship but barely say a few sentences to one another daily by year 20. There is the sense that the spouses have learned all there is to know about one another. Familiarity, as they say, breeds contempt.
You can combat familiarity by doing new and exciting things with your spouse. Try a new restaurant, go on vacation, talk about something besides money, work, and the kids once in a while. Be unpredictable. Break the routine. Discover new things about each other and about the world. It will go a long way toward injecting variety, novelty, and passion into your relationship...and someday, it may even save your marriage.
Partners who want successful relationships should talk early and talk often.Read More
Most marriages have a "spender spouse" and a "saver" spouse. When one spouse is much more conservative with money than the other, a lot of tension can result.Read More
Did you know studies suggest that undergoing premarital counseling can reduce your risk of divorce by approximately one-third? Also, in the State of Tennessee, engaged couples who go through at least 4 hours of premarital counseling are entitled to a $60.00 discount on their marriage license fee. Most counties charge approximately $100 for a marriage license, so this is a substantial discount.
Premarital counseling, also known as marriage and relationship education, may include instruction about conflict management, communication skills, financial responsibilities, child-rearing, parenting responsibilities, and other common sources of marital issues.
You do not need to be experiencing relationship problems in order to benefit from premarital counseling. Think of it as preventive maintenance, like an oil change, tire rotation, a yearly physical at the doctor's office, or buckling your seatbelt before going on a ride. It is an opportunity for a relationship tune-up before you take the plunge. With divorce rates as high as they are, why not do everything you can to increase your chances of making it work?
People who are qualified to perform the type of premarital counseling that will get you a discount include psychologists, clinical social workers, marriage and family therapists, clinical pastoral therapists, professional counselors, psychological examiners, and religious ministers.
If your relationship is struggling, ask yourself, "when is the last time I thanked my spouse?"Read More
What works, and what doesn't, when couples go to marriage counseling? How can you increase your chances of working out your differences?Read More