Second Marriages and Couples Therapy

You may have heard that second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages. But yours doesn’t have to be a statistic if you know what to expect and take steps to strengthen your bond.

If you haven’t remarried yet but are thinking about it, one of the best ways to strengthen your future marriage is to begin couples therapy now, even if you currently have a wonderful relationship. The challenges of marriage, let alone a second marriage, tend to bring out personality traits and baggage that don’t come out when you’re courting. If you’re already married and this is a remarriage for at least one of you, you may be experiencing some problems that need to be addressed.

Complications of a Second Marriage

Emotional baggage

The biggest issue that tends to impinge upon every aspect of a second marriage is emotional baggage. Usually, there’s a lot of hurt and distrust, and the idea of “getting married and living happily ever after” has been shaken. The sense of marital stability has been undermined, and for some people, it can seem easier to “walk away” when things get tough again.

Complicated finances

Money is a major cause of divorce even in first marriages, but second marriages often have even more complicated financial situations. As second marriages tend to take place in later life, one or both of you may have significant assets/debts or financial goals that will have to be blended. Child support or spousal support could strain your relationship, especially if you begin to have children together.

Bad habits

Problems that contributed to the dissolution of the first marriage may persist, leading to the same problems in the second marriage.

Blended family

Juggling all the details and schedules of family members becomes a herculean task when more than one family of children is involved. Add to that the problems that sometimes arise when step-parents try to bond with or discipline step-children and the marriage can get even more challenging.

How Counseling Can Help

Whether a couple has already married or is considering marriage, I help them recognize their emotional issues, personality traits, and habits that could contribute to tension. Together we create strategies to overcome these issues which in turn, leads to more support, love, trust, and intimacy.

Each spouse needs to come to recognize the hurt and distrust they may be dealing with to be able to effectively combat it when it becomes an issue. For instance, if a wife was previously a victim of infidelity, it’s important she not immediately doubt her new husband when he comes home late from work. Recognizing these automatic reactions is the first step to healing them.

I help couples to be vulnerable and to talk to each other about their hurts as honestly as possible. This is the first step toward redeveloping trust. Continuing our example, if the new husband understands his wife’s fears, he could take steps to reassure her until this fear is replaced by trust again.

Developing healthy communication styles that work for each person’s personality is the next key to a healthier marriage. Listening, discussing in a calm, non-accusatory manner, and compromising are important skills for any couple. Part of communication should include defining expectations, which would include the use of finances, disciplining step-children, and any other possible complicated issues.

Finally, we discuss setting aside time for the couple to have quality time alone together and to keep the spark of love a lively flame. It’s critical to recognize that there will be ups and downs in any relationship and that a bad time does not mean that the marriage is failing.

You can make your second marriage work. Get help if necessary, to work through the issues that can shake your marriage, and remember your love for each other.

Posted in Couples Therapy | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Second Marriages and Couples Therapy

Male Infertility – Facing the Feelings and What to Do

Infertility is a painful trial for many couples. In fact, many more couples than one would expect struggle with reduced fertility. Much focus is put on female infertility, but 1/3 of the time the issue is male infertility.

Some causes and treatments of male infertility

Male infertility has a variety of causes, including low sperm count, sperm disorders, blockage, hormones, physical malfunction, disease, stress, or diet. Many of these problems can be treated with surgery, lifestyle changes, or medications. Talk to a fertility expert to get a clear plan of action.

Emotional realities

Although men are usually less willing to talk about their emotions than women, they are also deeply affected by infertility and need to address their emotions in a healthy manner.

Men who find their desire for fatherhood frustrated by their own physical problems struggle with anger, guilt, and shame. There is a social stigma about male infertility – the implication being that somehow the man cannot function sexually. He can feel his “manhood” questioned or diminished by his infertility, which increases his anger and frustration and the desire to keep the problem secret.

Being secretive increases the man’s sense of isolation, escalates his anger, embarrassment, and loneliness, and can cause additional emotional stress between him and his partner

These feelings will only become more problematic if allowed to continue unexamined and unresolved. If you’re a couple suffering from male factor infertility, please talk to a counselor to help you both work through these problems.

A trained fertility counselor understands the stresses that you are going through, and we understand that the answers for a man are not always the same as for a woman. But neither of you can ignore your feelings. Men are usually hesitant to talk about their infertility or their emotions; rather, they want a sense of empowerment. Addressing emotions from the perspective of solving a problem often makes men more willing to talk. Your counselor can guide you through this process.

It is also important for the husband to recognize how his silence or anger might be hurting his wife. He will want to find a solution to that problem, as well. Your counselor will guide you in developing healthy, love-affirming processes that will help you grow together emotionally, rather than apart, during this trying time.

Your counselor will also help you redirect your focus from “having a baby” to other love-affirming activities. Sometimes the stress of trying to have a baby makes infertility worse, and by refocusing, you can decrease your stress, increase your happiness as a couple, and be ready for any outcome.

I have worked with many couples struggling with infertility and have helped both partners find renewed emotional peace and a vision for the future. If you’re dealing with infertility, find a counselor or support group you can trust to help you.

Posted in infertility and men | Tagged , | Comments Off on Male Infertility – Facing the Feelings and What to Do

When You Can’t Bond with Your Newborn and Other Postpartum Depression Symptoms

When a woman has a baby, she generally expects that as soon as the baby is put in her arms, she will fall instantly in love. For many women, this bonding does happen immediately or even before delivery. But as many as 20% of women admit that they didn’t bond immediately and the confusion and fear that triggers may contribute to postpartum depression (PPD).

The human body is regulated by the many hormones and other chemicals excreted by the brain. Although scientists aren’t always sure which comes first, the emotion or the hormone, there is no doubt that bonding is associated with the increased production of dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine is the “happy hormone” secreted when we experience something we enjoy, while oxytocin is the “cuddle hormone,” produced when we cuddle with or nurture another person.

When bonding is limited or non-existent, so are these hormones. Without them, we feel like we’re just going through the motions, and resentment, guilt, sadness, and other negative emotions take the place of the feelings of joy and rapture we’re “supposed” to feel with a new baby.

Is it Postpartum Depression?

Symptoms of PPD are similar to those of general depression, with the care of a baby thrown into the mix. Sleep deprivation and added responsibilities, especially if there are other children to care for, can make anyone exhausted and weepy. But PPD is a more intense condition affecting multiple aspects of your life.

With PPD, you may have mood swings or sadness that won’t go away; you lose interest in things you used to enjoy; you withdraw from loved ones, including the baby; your sleep patterns are disturbed (more so than can be expected from being sleepless due to a newborn); you feel guilty and worthless; you have difficulty concentrating; you think about harming yourself or the baby.

Steps to Healing

So what can you do when you don’t bond with your baby right away? Is there any hope that you eventually will? Emphatically, yes! But you will need to take the situation in hand. Here are some steps I recommend to help you.

1.       If you suspect PPD, seek professional help immediately. Don’t wait. Make sure the counselor is experienced with issues of PPD.

2.       Don’t hide these feelings from your spouse or those closest to you. These feelings are common, so you don’t have to feel guilty or alone. Your family and friends love you and will want to help you, and sometimes just talking it out helps. But choose people you believe will be supportive. We all know people who are judgmental or who offer well-meaning but unhelpful advice.

3.       Request and accept help to complete your daily duties and help that allows you to take breaks. Sometimes you just need a daily nap to help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Arrange for friends or relatives to come in once a day to give you a break. Ask your husband to help when he is home. He needs to bond with his baby, too.

4.       Even if you don’t feel warm and fuzzy, cuddle with your baby. Babies’ brains need the physical contact as well as feelings of security, warmth, and love in order to grow healthiest. Cuddle and bathe the baby, coo and smile. The baby needs that, and, in fact, so do you, to kickstart the oxytocin. It may not be enough to overcome the lack of bonding you are feeling right now, but those feelings are not likely to come if you don’t go through the motions. Give yourself breaks and have other loving people help you create that warmth and security the child needs as you’re recovering, but do make the effort.

Even if you don’t think you have PPD, sometimes talking to a professional anyway can help. I have helped many mothers navigate their way out of depression, or even just the feeling of being overwhelmed, to the joy of motherhood.

Posted in Postpartum Depression | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on When You Can’t Bond with Your Newborn and Other Postpartum Depression Symptoms

5 Romantic Things to Do in NYC This Spring

Relationships need constant attention and maintenance, like anything else. Take time to do something together that both of you enjoy, away from the everyday pressures so you can focus on each other and create memories together.

While it’s important to do this at least weekly, even if it’s just a dinner out or a walk around the block, going out of your way to visit a new place or do something exciting and romantic together can really strengthen your relationship. Try to do that throughout the year, and what better time than in the spring, the season of new beginnings?

There’s so much to do and see and explore in New York City that I’ve created a list of suggestions to help you start thinking.

Exploring the City

There are numerous opportunities to explore New York; romance is what you make of it and for some it’s a couples massage and others it’s a quiet dinner for two. Excitement and romance create bonds in a couple’s relationship, so be sure to have a little of both.

Other wonderful ways to enjoy the scenery of New York are to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, enjoy the view from the Empire State Building, or visit the One World Observatory on the top of the tallest skyscraper in the Western Hemisphere. And don’t miss the opportunity to visit Times Square at night.

Enjoying Nature

Even in the midst of New York City, there are many opportunities to enjoy nature in a romantic setting. A picnic in Central Park is a classic opportunity for romance, and you can even book a service to create a basket for you!

The High Line, built on the elevated platform of an abandoned freight line through west Manhattan, offers a unique opportunity to enjoy nature and relaxing activities in the midst of the cityscape. The New York Botanical Gardens are world renowned, and the Hayden Planetarium provides romantic night scenery. If you enjoy animals, the Bronx Zoo is the largest in the United States.

Taking in a Show

This is an iconic activity in New York City. Whether your tastes tend toward a jazz show, nightclubs, stand-up comedy, or a show on or off Broadway, you can find whatever you like here.

Dinner and Drinks

Dinner and a show is the classic romantic evening out. Cocktails before or after the show at a “speakeasy” or a rooftop bar will make the evening complete.

History and the Arts

New York was the entry point for most of the immigrants of the 19th century. Both a visit to the Statue of Liberty and a ferry tour around it are popular activities. The Cloisters is a museum full of medieval art and architecture, which is very interesting since it’s a time period the U.S. did not experience.

NYC also has some of the finest arts in the world. For performing arts, the Lincoln Center is the home of the Metropolitan Opera House and the New York City Ballet. The Socrates Sculpture Park in Astoria, Queens, is a free outdoor strolling park where sculptors of all styles exhibit their work. And don’t forget the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which houses one of the most impressive collections of art in the world.

What to do?

With so many possibilities, there are sure to be a few things you will both enjoy. If you each have different preferences, why not pick two things? If one of you prefers the great outdoors and another prefers the nightlife, go to the gardens in the day and end with a show. That makes the day memorable for you both, and you will be strengthening your bond because compromise and collaboration are important aspects of every healthy relationship. Most importantly, have fun!

Posted in Healthy Relationships | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on 5 Romantic Things to Do in NYC This Spring

Infertility: The Anxiety of Worst-Case Scenarios

A diagnosis of infertility usually causes emotional anguish, and for some couples, it can be devastating. The ability to “google” about infertility often makes things worse, causing the would-be parents to worry about things that don’t even apply in their situation. Medical terminology, worst-case scenarios, heartbreaking stories of other couples’ infertility, and joyful stories of success that they feel they may never experience can work to increase anxiety, cause negative self-talk, and damage the couple’s relationship.

It’s in times like these that talking to a counselor is particularly important. Infertility treatments can take months or years. It’s crucial to develop coping skills and ways of strengthening your bond as you go through this difficult time. There are many issues you will face, and you need to face them together.

First, there is the internal battle. Both men and women suffer from the diagnosis of infertility. If the problem is in one partner, that person often feels broken. The negative, haunting self-talk begins: “There’s something wrong with me; I’m not a real man; I’ll never be a mother; I don’t deserve to be a parent; God is punishing me; Will my partner leave me?” This inner talk can lead to depression and self-medicating to quiet that terrible inner voice.

Next, there is the relationship. Often, the infertility is not caused by one partner or the other. This situation actually makes the burden easier to bear, because neither spouse can “blame” himself or herself. But it has its own challenge: the thought that maybe “we aren’t really meant to be together.” The pressure of treatments can cause stress between the couple, as well. And sometimes they just don’t know what to say to each other. When a wife is devastated by the diagnosis of infertility, a husband naturally wants to protect her and help her but he is often afraid of saying the wrong thing. Meanwhile, a man might throw himself into his work to prove to himself and to others that he’s still strong.

I help clients work through their inner conflicts and develop healthy communication, both with each other and with that inner “self” that can be so hard on us. The first step is to talk out all those things that haunt you and all the fears and feelings that are affecting your relationship. Even if your bond is strong, it’s important to know how to communicate well in order to keep it that way.

After this, I help couples find the positives in their situation and focus on them. There are always positives. A healthy view of the situation will help you find them together and capitalize on them.

Infertility can be considered a two-patient challenge. Couples are evaluated together, counseled both separately and together, and are both included in the decision-making process. Remember, you’re not waging this battle alone; you have a partner who is waging it with you. Find a counselor who specializes in infertility to help you grow closer during this process. And in the end, whether the fertility treatments are successful or not, there will be more important changes and more need to work things out as a couple. Keep your counselor close by in that early transition period.

Posted in Infertility | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Infertility: The Anxiety of Worst-Case Scenarios

Holding Yourself Back? 7 Steps to Moving Forward in a New Year or Any Time in Life

You’ve heard the saying, “You’re your own worst enemy.” This is true even for many successful, happy people. There are usually some behaviors or beliefs in all of us that need adjusting so that we can be our “own best friend” instead. The New Year is always a great opportunity to evaluate our lives and see how we can improve. Consider these seven important steps to a happier, more successful YOU.

1. Develop new core beliefs about yourself

Over our lifetimes we collect a lot of experiences and beliefs, including a lot of debris. For many of us, we develop negative thought patterns that cause negative self-talk. Recognizing and changing your core beliefs about yourself will take time and effort, but will have the biggest impact when it comes to improving your life.

  • Pay attention to your inner self-talk. Write it down. It’s important to catalog your thoughts in order to be aware of them. Then ask yourself, would you say that to a friend? Would you say that to a child? How would that affect the child’s growth and success? That’s what you’re doing to yourself.
  • Think about aspects of your life that are not as you would like them to be and try to think of why that is. Write it down. Just keep writing and eventually, the core reasons should come out.
  • Look at your life, experiences, and accomplishments as if writing a resume. Focus on the successes. Put a positive spin on everything, as if you’re really trying for a job or an award. This will help you see positive aspects in your life that you may have missed before.

Take your time to do this, perhaps over several weeks. After a while, look back and review. Make a decision to start saying positive things about yourself, as if you’re trying to encourage a child or your best friend to succeed and be happy. Look at your successes and what you want to do with a positive perspective, recognizing you are successful, you have talent, and you can keep growing.

2. See obstacles and mistakes as opportunities

Step 1 is so important because it will help with every other step, especially this one. Life is messy. You will never be perfect, and you don’t have to be. Life is a wonderful adventure, a chance to learn and continue to grow. Obstacles make us stronger and mistakes are opportunities to learn. When we encounter them, obstacles and mistakes hurt. But if you can turn your thoughts around, they won’t hurt for long and they will help you grow.

3. Choose the right people

Spend the bulk of your time with people who make you feel positive and loved. Find people who share your interests and passions and who generally like you to strengthen you and give you confidence.

4. Conquer fear with love

Love of self, love of your dreams, love of others: when love is strong in your heart, you will conquer fear, because you will have motivation to surpass it for the good of others, your dream, or yourself.

5. Be grateful

Wake up each morning and try to immediately think of something for which you are grateful, even if it’s just that you’re grateful you have another day. Focus on gratitude throughout your day. If every day you feel like you’ve received a gift, then every day will feel like your birthday.

6. Forgive

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that it’s okay that someone did or said something hurtful. It means you will not let that person hurt you anymore. This is huge and often takes counseling if the harm is grave. But for many people, it’s an important step in moving on.

7. Do YOU

Hopefully this process has helped you see more clearly who you are, what you like, and where you want to go. Be courteous to others, but be yourself. You don’t have to mold yourself into something you’re not in order to please other people.

The New Year is full of potential. Taking the time to reflect, review your life, and make some changes can make it an even better year than last. If you need help going through this process, a therapist can often help. I love helping people evaluate their thinking and choices to make changes that support a happy, healthy life.

Posted in General Self Help | Tagged , , | Comments Off on Holding Yourself Back? 7 Steps to Moving Forward in a New Year or Any Time in Life

Should You Take Medication for Your Depression?

Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) affects 6 million American adults, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. But many other adults struggle with less severe forms of depression, anxiety, or just what is called “the blues.” The severity of symptoms and the level of success with strategies that do not include medication may determine whether or not you should go the medication route. Below are some common questions I receive, which may help guide you.

How do I know if I’m depressed or just going through a bad time?

Depression may share some of the same symptoms of being “low” or “having a bad week” but the symptoms are much stronger and enduring. Some common symptoms include:

  • Intense sadness, persisting for weeks or more and causing disruption in your ability to work or maintain relationships. This may or may not be triggered by an event.
  • Diminished interest in favorite activities and people whose company you used to enjoy
  • Weight gain or loss
  • Persistent sleep disruption, exhaustion, over-sleeping or insomnia that interferes with life
  • Feelings of agitation, restlessness, or irritation you just can’t shake
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Feelings of worthlessness, death, or suicide

Sharing with your doctor or therapist the number, severity, and persistence of these symptoms will help determine the best course of action to help you.

What can I do short of taking medication?

Many of the things you can do to help your depression or low moods are also things you should continue to do even if you take medication. These strategies are known to help boost mood, change brain chemistry, and improve outlook in many people.

  • Exercise as much as you can in a way that is enjoyable to you. If you didn’t exercise before, start with something simple like a daily walk in the park (if you like nature) or in the mall (if you like to shop).
  • Silence the inner critic. This is, of course, easier said than done and usually requires help from a loved one or a professional.
  • Identify the problems that may be causing these feelings and address them.
  • Spend time with people. Being alone too much increases negative thoughts because you have more time to focus on yourself.
  • Practice thankfulness. Again, the focus is on others rather than on you.
  • Look into various natural remedies and new therapies that can address your problems without the side effects or expense of medication.

When is it a sign I should take medication?

If you’ve tried various strategies and you still feel depressed, or if you’re too depressed to try different strategies, you may need to talk to a physician who is an expert in depression medication to see what could help you. However, there are several caveats:

  • Medication does not heal you, it can only lessen your symptoms.
  • If you are on medication, you should also receive counseling to help you address underlying issues that have led to your depressed feelings.
  • Medication does not always work. It may take up to 6-8 weeks to begin to have an effect, and if it doesn’t, a new medication or combination of medications need to be tried.
  • Medication can have side effects that need to be carefully monitored.

What’s the bottom line? What should I do?

Each person’s situation is different, but if you’re struggling with severe sadness, mood swings, anxiety, or any of the other symptoms listed above, I urge you to speak to a therapist who is an expert in working with patients with these problems.

Sometimes, after consulting with a client, I may recommend some medication for the purpose of lessening symptoms enough to help the client take healing steps. But the goal is to ultimately heal you, not just medicate you. And this will always include therapy, for at least a period of time, to help you find the internal or external causes that led to your feelings and help you create your own personal road to healing and wellbeing.

Posted in Depression | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Should You Take Medication for Your Depression?

Careers That Cause Depression and Burnout

We spend many hours at our jobs, often well over 40 hours a week. Naturally, our careers will have a major impact on our mental health. A person who loves their line of work, feels fairly compensated and appreciated, and is able to get plenty of rest, recreation, and healthy food is likely to have a healthy mental attitude and be able to handle the various stressors that are a part of our careers and our lives.

However, long and erratic work hours, low pay, lack of respect from the general public, and the stress of responsibility for other people’s lives, health, or welfare can eat away at mental health and lead to depression. According to the 2007 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), some careers, by their nature, can be damaging to mental health.

Careers with high depression rates
Work-related depression for the general public is 7% in any given year, while 13% of the unemployed are depressed. While any career seems better for mental health than being unemployed, workers in certain jobs have higher depression rates than average. Some of these jobs are considered rewarding by those that perform them, but at the same time, factors of low pay, little respect, undesirable work hours, and too much responsibility can lead to depression. The careers with the highest depression rates are:

  • Caregivers (nursing home, childcare) – 10%
  • Food service – 10%
  • Social workers – 9.6%
  • Healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, technicians) – 9.6%
  • Arts, entertainment, sports, media, writers – 9.1%
  • Teachers – 8.7%
  • Office workers – 8.1%

In addition, doctors and dentists have the highest suicide rate by occupation.

Careers with a high level of burnout
Burnout occurs when you feel mentally, physically, or emotionally exhausted from your work. While this is not to the level of depression, it is still a mental health concern. The careers with the highest burnout rates, not surprisingly, closely mirror those with the highest depression rates.

  • Doctors (50% burnout rate in any given year, per the AMA)
  • Nurses
  • Social workers
  • Teachers
  • School principals
  • Attorneys
  • Police officers
  • Accountants
  • Fast food workers
  • Retail personnel

Clearly, many of these careers are crucial and we need good people in them. But it’s important to enter them with an awareness of the danger of burnout or depression. If you tend toward depression and anxiety, it might be best, if possible to try find something else less stressful. For your consideration, the happiest workers are architects, engineers, and surveyors.

It’s important to enter a field for the right reason, especially those fields in which you are responsible for people’s lives. They will be the most stressful. And remember to make time for healthy food, recreation, socializing, and plenty of sleep. These activities will help you avoid the burnout and depression that can happen in any career. Reach out to me if you need help reordering your thoughts or your lifestyle to overcome burnout, anxiety, or depression.

Posted in Depression | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Careers That Cause Depression and Burnout

How to Make Your Good Marriage Better

If you have a happy marriage already, you are probably both good at the basics: You are careful with your words, avoid accusations when fighting, try to compromise when necessary, and have compatible personalities and interests. But you can do more to keep your marriage strong, healthy, and grow even better. Here are a few suggestions that I have found to be true in my work with couples, and which many studies support.

Maintain healthy habits

People who eat healthily, get regular exercise, and have a circle of friends have stronger sense of mental well-being. This makes it easier for them to handle the little stresses in life – and the big ones, too. Having a healthy mindset strengthens the relationships with those closest to you. So keep your bodies and minds strong and healthy for an ever-improving marriage.

Give your spouse the benefit of the doubt

No one’s perfect. When your spouse does something annoying, perhaps even frequently, don’t assume it’s a negative character trait. Assume the best of intentions. When your spouse does something nice, though, do attribute it to your spouse’s innate wonderfulness. When you build up your spouse in your own eyes, and chalk up the things you don’t like to mistakes, a bad day, or “being human,” you both benefit.

Talk about relationships

Following on the previous point, it’s certainly important to discuss something (politely and considerately) that your spouse is doing that you might not like. But here’s an interesting twist: Schedule time together regularly to watch movies about relationships, whether romcoms or dramas, and then talk about them. Studies have found, and I have found in my practice, that even talking about other relationships helps couples strengthen their own marriages.

Don’t think of your spouse as your “soul mate”

We hear more and more about having a “growth mindset” in learning, and the same could be said for relationships. If you think you and your spouse were “destined” for each other, then when things go wrong you might think, “maybe we aren’t destined for each other after all.” Just as with anything good that’s worth doing, whether it’s a school subject, a career, or a sport, marriage takes hard work and there will be setbacks. But recognizing that and committing to working together to continue to grow is having a “growth mindset” and sets you up for marital success.

Be thankful

Every day, think of something about your spouse that you’re thankful for. Especially think about how he or she has really invested in your relationship. This thankfulness strengthens your relationship even if it’s not expressed – but be sure to express it sometimes!

Have supportive friends

That said, your spouse can’t be everything for you, and expecting him or her to be everything can place a terrible strain on your spouse. Having friends strengthens your marriage – as long as they’re supportive and not tearing you or your spouse down. It’s also helpful to be friendly with your spouse’s friends and especially the family. Like the people your spouse likes, but make sure you let your spouse have some friend time on their own.

Celebrate good times

Certainly you should talk about what’s bothering you and give each other moral support when things are tough. But it’s just as important, and perhaps more important, to focus on the positive every day and celebrate it together. Take time each evening to talk about the high point of your day.

Touch as often as possible

I have found that by encouraging spouses to hug a little longer and extend the kisses a little more, their romance rekindles. Little pecks are nice, but they don’t release oxytocin, the “happy hormone,” the way a longer embrace or kiss does. And don’t forget to make love. That’s one of the strongest natural producers of oxytocin, increasing your sense of bonding and satisfaction with each other. Even if age or illness might decrease the opportunity or ability, try to maintain frequent touch.

Do exciting or new things together

Try to commit 1-2 hours each week to doing something new or exciting together. This has several benefits. It gives you a shared experience, it gets you out of a rut and makes life more exciting, and it expands your experiences, which increases your life satisfaction. Interestingly, it also increases romantic feelings for the spouse you’re sharing it with. This may be difficult to do regularly if you have little ones at home but try as often as possible.

You may not be able to do all of these things at once, and you don’t have to. Just start with one or two and build up as you can. Doing so will help your marriage continue to grow stronger and happier over time.

Posted in Healthy Relationships | Tagged , , | Comments Off on How to Make Your Good Marriage Better

How to Stop Recurring Fights in Your Marriage

Most marital disagreements are recurring. The same issues resurface again and again, often revolving around money, chores, the children, or intimacy. It may seem like they can never be resolved, but the truth is, many marriage differences are resolvable. When couples learn some basic principles, they often find they are more able to solve old conflicts.

Why do we fight with the ones we love?

When you got married, you were likely deeply in love with your spouse. So why do the two of you fight sometimes? There are several common reasons.

You may have seen the pattern of marital squabbles in your parents and are just repeating it. Children internalize what they see, which is a real incentive to develop healthy conflict resolution and productive negotiation patterns so you can model them for your children.

When your spouse disagrees with you or complains about something and you respond with hurt or anger, this is a self-defense mechanism. Marriage is the most emotionally intimate of all relationships. You are supposed to be “on each other’s side,” supporting each other. When your spouse disapproves, you feel hurt, and perhaps subconsciously it feels like a betrayal of trust. To protect your wounded self, you respond with defensive words or go on the attack yourself.

Some differences, however, are truly irreconcilable. These involve personality traits or strongly held ideologies that conflict with your own. Once again, these can make you feel threatened. We generally have the view that if two things are opposed, one must be right and the other wrong. This is not always the case. Some things are purely preference and when emotions are involved, rational thoughts are not always available.

What can you do?

The first step is to change your belief patterns. You need to both accept that statistically, most disagreements in marriage are reconcilable, even if they do not look it at first. Believe they are and start looking for solutions, and you will hopefully find them. And remember that your spouse is not the problem. The situation or the issue is. Shift the focus of blame from your partner to the issue, and follow these steps.

1. Calm the emotions. As just stated, logic and reason are drowned out when emotions are running high. Remember, too, that your spouse’s emotions are also aroused. If you say things you do not mean when you are upset, probably he or she does, too. So cut your partner some slack.

2. When you are both calm, try to ask probing questions. Why do you think that way? What was your motivation for doing that? Try to avoid any words or tones that suggest judgment.  Be sincerely curious about why your partner thinks that way or does that thing. Sometimes the reasons are deep and rooted in events from before you met. Consider the subjective validity of your partner’s perspective. Also, be willing to take responsibility for your part of the argument – it is a great olive branch you have the power to offer when you stop pointing a finger at your spouse.

3. Both of you should then offer solutions. It may take a few different discussions to find something that works, but the effort itself will strengthen your bond.

4. When a difference of personality trait or ideology cannot be resolved, remember that personal preference is not an issue of right or wrong, and your spouse’s beliefs should not threaten yours. You may have to agree to not discuss certain things, but respect each other. Respect is the foundation of every happy relationship.

5. Mediation with a trained marriage counselor, expert in helping people find the deeper causes of conflict or mediating fundamental differences, can help you overcome your chronic disagreements and strengthen your union. Please call me or another qualified counselor near you to help you navigate around the landmines of recurring arguments.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on How to Stop Recurring Fights in Your Marriage