Dr. John Gottman, Author of “7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.”, wrote about what he calls the “4 horseman of the apocalypse”. He outlined how, if unaddressed, these behaviors can erode trust and security in a relationship. Look out for them in your communications.
Blame/Criticism– Blame and criticism increase defensiveness and derail problem solving.
Contempt– Use non-judgmental language. Contemptuous language like, “You’re so lazy! You never empty the dishwasher” will get you nowhere fast. Try instead, “I feel frustrated that I am emptying the dishwasher so frequently. I would like us to share this responsibility” The latter is a reasonable request. Try to label the behavior rather than the person.
Defensiveness– Defensiveness is usually a response to feeling blamed or criticized. Take ownership for what part you played in the situation and be open to hearing the reasonable request. Acknowledge what the other person is saying and the feelings they are expressing (validate where they are coming from). Address their request/concern rather than justify your behavior.
Stonewalling– Stonewalling is refusing to participate fully in the conversation or avoiding the discomfort. Instead, commit to hearing the person out. Stonewalling means you will never hear their reasonable request and therefore not be able to problem solve. If you feel overwhelmed, ask to pause the conversation for a short period of time and commit to returning when you are calmer.
For more information check out the link below or any of John Gottman’s books.
The road ahead, though long, is straight and smooth. You start cruising on your predetermined route, and all seems to be going well. You are making great time as you speed at freeway speeds towards your destination. Suddenly, the road is filled with potholes. You slow down and try to maneuver around all the damaged parts of the road, but you persevere forward. Then the road starts to take twists and turns that you couldn’t see from the starting point, so you slow further to ensure safe passage. You notice turn-offs from the road you are traveling on, but you are determined to continue on to your destination. However, the further you travel, the more twisted and impassable the road becomes. What are you going to do?
We have all encountered situations in our lives where we are faced with the decision to continue on a path that is fraught with danger and impassable, choose to abandon our current path to our destination, or reroute our journey entirely. Maybe we’ve experienced the death of a loved one, a divorce, a job loss, a crisis of faith, troubled relationships with our families, or other crippling circumstances that force us to reevaluate. These situations are difficult and anxiety provoking; however, they also give us the opportunity to look critically at our path and make changes if necessary.
As scary as it is, looking for alternative routes can be empowering. Not too recently, I was at crossroads that I hadn’t anticipated. Looking at options was overwhelming, but I realized that as difficult as the situations was, I did have options. I could choose to be controlled by circumstances and become subservient to a situation, or I could take control of the situation and make a choice to move in a different direction that gave me the power to grow. I chose to grow and reroute.
The new route isn’t without its own bumps, twists, and turns; thus, I am constantly evaluating the possibility of detours that may slow my progress, but that will still lead me to my destination. However, seeing my progress has been invaluable in my journey.
If you are faced with a situation where you feel like you are stuck and without options, visit us here at Wasatch Family Therapy, and we can help you see alternatives. Life is a journey that isn’t without obstacles, but we can help you move around and beyond them.
Most divorcing parents are greatly concerned about how their child will take the big change. Many expect sadness and worry but do not always feel equipped to help the child cope. Understandably, it is hard for moms and dads to offer ample emotional support to their child if they feel overburdened themselves. Parents are typically overwhelmed with grief, anger, financial concerns, residence changes, custody arrangements, and co-parenting issues, to name a few. Yet children cannot put their needs on hold until parents have fully adjusted. So in the meantime, something simple, like sharing a carefully selected book together, may offer some connection and understanding the child needs for that day. The following children’s books have been valuable in my work with child-clients, so I share them hoping they can help others too:
“The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst (Ages 3+)
Children whose parents divorce typically experience repeated separations from one or both parents. This versatile book reassures children they can still feel connected even during times apart.
“People who love each other are always connected by a very special string, made of love. Even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love” (The Invisible String by Patrice Karst).
:Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss” by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen (Ages 8+)
When a couple divorces, all family members usually experience grief to some degree. This book tells the story of a woman who makes “tear soup” after she suffers a great loss. She shares some essential ingredients of the healing recipe: feel the pain of loss, accept that it takes time, and recognize that grief is different for everyone.
If your child experiences distress due to parental divorce, call to schedule an appointment with Melissa at Wasatch Family Therapy – 801.944.4555.
While in grad school, I had the opportunity to study the experience young adults are having being single in today’s world. I had particular interest in the topic given that I myself am single and work with single people regularly in my therapy practice. After a year of study and research, I was asked to share what I learned at a regional mental health conference.
Early on in my presentation, a man in the audience (probably mid 50’s) raised his hand and asked, ”so why aren’t you married?” Thinking it was a joke, I chuckled and quipped back with something to the effect of, “That’s a great question, and I’d love to know the answer when you figure it out!” Everyone in the room laughed except for this gentleman. After clearly not answering his question, he fired back more intently: “No really, what’s wrong with all of these single people today? What’s keeping you guys from getting married?” By the looks on the faces of the audience members (a mix of single and married individuals), it was safe to say that the majority of us were taken aback by the question. Realizing that he wasn’t trying to be funny, I did my best to address his question as professionally as possible without becoming emotionally reactive. However, inside I was thinking, “how dare he ask me to defend/expose one of my greatest insecurities in front of this audience?” Another part was able to look past the abrasiveness of the delivery and focus on the underlying issue at hand. Which is, because relationships (or the lack thereof) are so personal, sometimes it’s hard for us to know how to talk about them.
Ironically, the core message of my presentation focused on understanding the experience, pressures, and judgement young single adults face in today’s society. I genuinely believe that my new friend had no malicious intent. Rather, he used poor tact when asking an honest question.
So, in hopes that we can promote more safety/support and less judgement in our conversations, here are 10 suggestions of “things no to” and “things to” say to your single friends:
10 Things NOT To Say To A Single Person
1. You are such a catch! I’m surprised you aren’t married yet.
2. What about ______? They’re single too!
3. I wish I was single again. Life was so much easier.
4. Maybe you’re just being too picky.
5. Don’t worry, there are always more fish in the sea.
6. Maybe you’re just not putting yourself out there enough.
7. You need to hurry and get married or you won’t be able to have kids.
8. Look aren’t everything-they will change after you’re married.
9. Your time will come. I just know it.
10. You’re probably having too much fun being single, huh?
10 Things TO Say To A Single Person
1. You are such a catch.
2. Let me know if you like being set up. I know some really good people.
3. Do you want to talk about dating? Or would you rather not?
4. I think you’re great. You deserve to find someone you think is great too.
5. You really seemed to like _______. I’m sorry that things didn’t work out.
6. I’ve noticed that you’ve been doing _________. How is that going?
8. I would really love for you to find someone you’re compatible with.
9. What do you have coming up that you’re looking forward to?
10. I’m headed to ________. Would you like to join me?
Jordan Johnson – Marriage & Family Therapist, was recently interviewed by NBCnews.com and asked how new marriage trends are impacting relationships today. Follow the link below to see what he has to say:
We’ve all heard the statement, “find a successful man, and marry him. You’ll live happily ever after. And you’ll have everything a girl can desire!”
But is that actually really TRUE?
So true that you would be willing to invest your entire future on this fairy tale belief you learned as a child?
Here are 4 startling reasons that should give you pause. And if you’re already married to a successful man, reason to shed a concerned tear or two:
1-He Loves His Office
Now this one may seem a bit obvious. He loves his career, and he’s good at it (if you wondering, ask him and he will likely tell you with some bravado about how good he really is). As a result, he just has to spend long hours at the office. You’ve even told yourself that he’s doing it for you and the children. But is that really true? And does it make you feel any better about your future?
While the workaholic thing may have seemed rather obvious, struggles with daddy may come as a bit of a shock. Does this successful man that appears to have all the bases covered struggle with daddy issues? Yup. Your handsome husband that seems to be the rock that no one can penetrate? Yes indeed! He is likely using excessive work hours to hide from his past and the deep feelings of loss he experienced from his disconnected father.
3- He Doesn’t Like Himself
Although he won’t probably cop to this, all that charm that he seems to be able to call on at parties may not be real. His ability to close those business deals may be just a cover. Successful men often are unable to look inside. Why? Because they don’t like what’s inside or they’ve never really looked there. They’re also fearful that others will discover that they’re really not all that secure. As a result, they must work harder to cover their insecurities and fears that they will ultimately fail.
4- The Stage Sucks
Being a successful man comes at a cost. This cost often shows up in how he treats his family. Being on the stage requires that he gives ALL to things that ultimately don’t really matter. While wives and partners want his total attention, he can never really provide it. He’s constantly thinking of bettering himself through work. The problem is that he’s like the gym addict who believes that one more hour on the treadmill will make him feel better about himself. The perplexing challenge is that when you don’t like yourself on the inside, all the sculpted abs in the world will never be good enough. EVER!
You may actually be asking yourself, “who would want a man with these challenging issues?” while simultaneously thinking, “you just described my husband.” Well, what’s a woman, wife, or partner to do?
Three Things That Can Really Help
1- Get off the Treadmill!
Success is like a treadmill. It’s quite easy to get on one but difficult to get off. Being on the treadmill of success will never produce true happiness. Getting off that treadmill requires concerted effort on the part of the success addicted male. This focus includes learning to live a balanced life. One with healthy boundaries that become rock-solid as they’re gradually implemented. One that includes consistently putting his wife or partner highest on his list of critical priorities. Nice!
2- Seek Counseling
Searching out a solid therapist with experience in working with overachieving males may seem obvious. The challenge is that it will also seem weak to a success-saturated man. The daddy issues mentioned earlier likely included the “success at all-costs” mantra so common in men. Counseling that includes a huge focus on putting the past beyond the “rear view mirror” is critical.
3- Look North NOT South!
In other words, look to the future, not the past! Most relationships where successful men avoid key responsibilities is that they will continue to hide at work until reality sets in. That awful moment where what really matters in life has passed them by. Don’t allow it! You can’t change yesterday, but you can certainly change today. And more importantly, tomorrow and your future by being home and totally “present” tonight!
Michael Boman, LCSW is a clinical therapist at Wasatch Family Therapy in Salt Lake City. He has many years of experience assisting men and their wives/partners get their relationships back on a healthy track. You can schedule an appointment with Michael by clicking here. http://www.wasatchfamilytherapy.com/archives/doctor/michael-boman-lcsw
So your marital relationship with your spouse has ended, and you’re probably reeling from the aftermath, wondering how you’re supposed to pick yourself up and move forward. It is normal to feel confused, lost, alone, and wounded. The good news is you do not have to feel this way forever. There are some things that you can start doing right now to work towards healing, and finding a new, positive path for yourself. Here are 4 tips that will help you survive your divorce and get to a better place:
Surround Yourself With Good Support
Going through a divorce can be one of the loneliest feelings in the world, because you’re losing one of your primary connections. In order to take the edge off of the loneliness, it’s important to engage in and create a positive support system. This can include friends, family, neighbors, church leaders, and a therapist. You don’t want to rely on just one person to talk to, because you want to get different types of perspectives and support, and you don’t want to burn anyone out. It may be difficult to be around people at this time, but forcing yourself to spend some time with trusted others can really help ease the pain.
Take Care of You
If you’re going through a divorce, you probably feel really low on motivation and energy. The only thing that may sound good to you is lying in bed all day, but this is only going to enhance feelings of depression and loneliness. Instead, it’s going to be very important for you to do a lot of self-care. Make sure you practice good hygiene, and take a shower every day. Try your best to eat good food, and get in some exercise. Along with those things, it can be helpful to do some fun things for yourself. Take a trip with a friend, go for a fun night out, or try out a new hobby. It’ll be difficult, but the more you can take care of yourself, the quicker your adjustment will be.
Create a Game Plan
No one plans on getting divorced, so chances are you and your partner had mapped out plans for your future that are now going to have to change. It’s normal to feel lost and in limbo after a divorce, so it is important that you come up with a new plan for your future. Spend some time thinking about what you would like your new normal to look like, what your goals are for your future, and what you’re going to have to do to get there. Once you have some plans and goals in place, you will have a better sense of direction and control over your life.
This can be a tough one to navigate. It is normal and necessary for you to grieve the loss of your marriage. Of course you’re going to have a mixture of emotions, and it’s going to be tough to make it through each day for a while. However, while it’s important for you to allow time to feel and talk about these emotions, it’s also important that you take positive action, and don’t allow your feelings to consume you. If all you ever do is focus on the negative aspects of your divorce, and every time you talk to someone in your support system you are venting about the same things over and over again, you’re never going to feel any better. All that emotion is just going to sit and fester instead of heal. So, when you find yourself obsessing and overwhelmed, engage in that self-care we talked about, get out of your environment into somewhere that helps you gain new perspective, or get busy working on some of those goals we mentioned. There are times and places to work on your grieving process, but that does not have to be every minute of every day.
Divorce is one of the most difficult and painful things a person can experience, and it is expected that you’re going to be down for a time. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you practice these important buffers, you will soon find yourself on the way back to happiness and peace.
Popular wisdom would claim that 2nd marriages succeed more often than first marriages. “Hey, I’ve learned from my past mistakes. I’m smarter.” Or “we’ll do better!”
Sadly, this absolutely just isn’t true.
Based on what I’ve observed for 17 years in working with couples, I’ve come of with 3 ways that will absolutely destroy your second marriage. Please take a moment to learn from other’s bad choices to make this marriage be your Last marriage.
Let the Comparison Shopping Begin
(These examples are not gender specific. Please swap male/female where needed)
Okay so you may not actually be shopping for a new spouse. But let’s face it. You’ve probably noticed qualities in other men that are appealing. Qualities you don’t believe your new spouse has. Talents you thought were there when you said “yes” for the second time. Now you’re not so sure at all.
Stop it! Comparison shopping for another spouse in a new marriage is like buyers remorse with a new car. Yes that other car at the competitions dealership was awesome. The price seemed right. The luxury features appealing. Yet not quite right! Remember how a month later you were soooo glad you’d purchased the right car? Relieved you didn’t overact? Second marriage’s can be very similar. Give it time. Stop comparison shopping even if only figurative in nature. Catch your awesome new husband doing something right. Like the paycheck. Like the living room he vacuumed. Like the “spilled milk” he cleaned up. Oh, btw, it’s all paltry spilled milk in comparison. Get over it. Don’t look back!
Ditch the Ex!
Not only is moving on difficult, it can seem impossible not to experience at least some of these damaging examples:
The EXNEW Wife
Bugged you! Because she kept the house spotless Bugs You! Because she doesn’t clean enough
Nagged you! To keep the yard immaculate Nags You! To spend more time with her
Hounded you! For more sex. Better sex! Ignores You! She’s too tired for sex
Watched! Every penny of the budget Spends! Every penny of the budget
Reminded you! To pick up the kids from school Reminds you! That they’re YOUR kids
Some of these sound true? Maybe even all too correct? If so, please remember that the grass is NEVER greener on the other side of the fence (or in your previous marriage). You must ditch the ex-wife. Move on completely! Focus on your new marriage. Recognize that no one is perfect.
Not even You!
When Two Worlds Collide (Or the War of Two Worlds)
Immediately following the new marriage, two family planets are on a course to collide. While the couple has anticipated some challenges with the “blended family,” they don’t foresee any REAL trouble. Most new marriages aren’t equipped for managing problems, let alone the explosion.
Going into a second marriage unequipped is like having a pilot flying into LAX without an air traffic controller to guide him safely home. Approaching potentially volatile airspace without a trained guide experienced in acquiring a smooth landing. A safe landing. In fact, even the mere mention of such a circumstance sounds ridiculous in the extreme.
However, the problem is that most 2nd marriages don’t have a Relationship air traffic controller. Someone to infuse insight into the day to day challenges that are common in almost all new relationships. Each person enters the new marriage with tender feelings. Very likely still stinging from the agonizing pain of their first divorce. As a result, they fall-back on their own often tainted experiences. Experiences that exacerbated the problems in marriage number one that resulted in divorce. Ouch!
What Can Help?
* If you’re reading this and recently divorced, absolutely eschew new relationship(s) for at least one year preferably two. Give yourself time to heal. Casual dating is fine. Hanging out is great. Getting serious will totally put you in a position to simply repeat divorce #1.
* If you’re reading this and you’re in a struggling 2nd marriage, absolutely seek help. Seek out a trusted bishop or clergy member with sage advice. Consider a therapist with many years of experience helping those struggling in the marital realm. But! Please don’t think that this will just pass. I’m overreacting. It likely won’t JUST change.
* Most of all, take care of YOU. Make sure that you’re giving yourself great self-care time. Reach out to trusted (and healthy!) friends. Give yourself time. Space. And if you are recently “single,” totally avoid the friends that say “the best way to heal from your divorce is to jump right back in!”
No, it really isn’t!
Michael Boman, LCSW, is a relationship, marriage, and Healing Outdoors expert at Wasatch Family Therapy in Cottonwood Heights, UT.
With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, many people are excitedly stocking up on chocolates and bears, making reservations, and trying on endless sexy ensembles for that perfect February 14th date. However, what if you’re not one of those people? What if you’re not single, but your relationship is currently not in a great place, and you can’t stomach the thought of trying to fake it through an awkward dinner with your spouse? Don’t panic! Here are a few ways that you and your partner can still make it through enjoy Valentine’s Day without a major dose of anxiety and tension.
Whatever you do, don’t let the day sneak up on you. If you wait until the night before to start thinking about it, you’ll definitely find yourself stressing. Take control of the situation now, and start planning out what you would like the day to be like. Do you and your partner want to try and do something together that maybe doesn’t include romantic pressure, but that could be fun, relaxing, and enjoyable? Would the two of you rather plan an evening at home with your kids and make it a family affair? Do you want to do absolutely nothing but watch movies in your pajamas? The point is, prepare ahead of time so that you and your partner both know what to expect.
Although Valentine’s Day is marketed as the romance-seeped, blissful, sex-filled holiday of the year, let’s try to remember what it’s really about…LOVE. What is love? Well, that’s a loaded question! Love is many things besides romance and sex-it’s friendship, caring, empathy, respect…the list goes on and on. Maybe this Valentine’s Day, you and your partner seek to connect with each other on a different level. For example, you could agree to give each other the gift of respect for the whole day, and agree to practice talking kindly to each other. Or, perhaps you feel like roommates, and maybe you could do an activity together that allows you to try and be friends for the evening. If even any of that is just too much, consider seeking connection with the other people you and your partner love and care about. Maybe you take cookies to a neighbor, or have some trusted friends over for dinner. Whatever you do, seek connection-don’t spend the day soaking yourself in feelings of loneliness.
Again, while Valentine’s Day is promoted as a day to think solely about your partner, it might be a good idea to do something nice for yourself too! Especially if the day is going to be hard for you this year, make sure you and your partner encourage each other to practice some self-care. Go get a massage, spend the morning reading a good book, or go for a walk. Self-care can be done together or separately, but either way it can feel soothing and comforting on a day that may otherwise be filled with painful reminders.
Best of luck to you! I hope no matter what your current relationship situation is, that you are able to find peace, connection, and happiness this Valentine’s Day. And remember…it’s just 1 day. :0)