IMMEDIATELY GUARANTEE A BETTER MARRIAGE

marriage illustration of wordsChuck and Charlene sat on opposite ends of the couch.  They hugged the armrests so tight each was almost turned away from the other.  Which was really the point because neither Chuck nor Charlene believed their marriage was going to survive.  While neither had very much good to say about the other, the couple was willing to try this one last time.  At least, they said, for the sake of their kids.

They told me that their marriage began happily as their family grew and Chuck built his career.  Somewhere along the line, neither knew where, Charlene became blaming and critical.  She was no longer supportive Chuck said; in fact she put him down, even around their friends and was disrespectful and mocking especially when she had too much to drink.  When asked he admitted he sometimes had too much to drink, too. 

Words of kindness were rarely spoken between them.

Their arguments became fights with slammed doors and holes in walls.  Increasingly, Chuck slept on the sofa or left the house overnight.  They complained of being stuck; having the same fight over and over.  Sexual interaction was strained —  Chuck likened it to f***ng a dead body; Charlene would do her duty but she was emotionally removed. 

Charlene said Chuck was always spending time playing golf with his clients, hanging out with them more than he did with his family.  She would inevitably cry, sure it wasn’t just clients he spent all that time with.  Chuck would threw back that Charlene didn’t know what it was like to have a full time job and be financially responsible and that sure, sometimes he went out with the guys, just to unwind and relax since Lord knew it wasn’t pleasant to be at home.  Each was doing, in good faith, what they thought was agreed on early in their marriage: her responsibility was the home front; he was responsible for making money and protecting his family. 

Like the cherry on top of a sundae, the reason they’d finally come to therapy was Chuck’s “friendship” with a female client and Charlene’s tearful assertion she could no longer trust him.

This couple wanted a better marriage but didn’t have a clue how to create one. 

Having a better marriage isn’t rocket science.  Well, in a sense it is.  Just as in rocket science, fitting things together, knowing how they work, and keeping it all from breaking is essential for success.  Even rocket scientists get married, so they’d better know the rules.  Here are some that Chuck and Charlene broke:

Communicate!  Learn how to talk and listen.  You might think you’re doing a fine job; probably you’re not.  Are you listening for understanding, not agreement?  Are you understandable when you talk?  A communication workshop for couples, like the one offered by Being Heard, can cool an inflamed relationship.  Learning  to problem solve successfully is always a good idea.

Body language:  How you position yourself, what your body language is saying, can contradict what’s coming out of your mouth.  Crossed arms, smirking, looking away (especially at t.v.) speak volumes.

Maintaining the negative.  Reinforcement for negative beliefs comes about when you never question long-held beliefs, challenge them, or change them.  The habit of awfulizing works with a negative outlook to solidify beliefs.  Is your marriage over?  Repeating skewed evidence can confirm the worst.  

Not paying attention.  Ever get from here to there without remembering anything along the way?  Many couples are so committed elsewhere they can get from year 3 to year 5 without noticing the growth in each other, the changes in their lives, and the small but significant events that define a relationship over time. 

Choice of words.  Words meant to hurt, criticize, minimize, blame, ignore, fight with, mock, demean, disrespect, etc. destroy love.  They can instill defensiveness, depression, and deep dislike and can foster divorce.

Substance, emotional, and physical abuse.   An alteration in reality’s perception is like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle with the light pieces missing.  Extremes of emotion are extreme:  being angry colors perception as much as happiness does.   Physical violence against people or property take things to a new level and may indicate a problem much deeper than marital distress.

Expectations and Misunderstandings.   Many factors go into designing our version of the world – hardwiring,  experiences, especially in family of origin.  When things don’t match the picture in our heads, automatic put down, correction, disagreement, or dismissal may result.  Misunderstanding is similar in that the filters on seeing and hearing are set to “automatic” – in other words, our way.  When little room is left for variation, arguments ensue.

Rigid Roles.  Defining someone by what they do is dangerous because it ignores the facts of life –  who we are changes over time and circumstance.  Staying stuck is the result of ignoring the inevitable.  

Sex.  Here’s a jam-packed issue, one that incorporates every rule in this list.  Establishing a healthy sexual relationship demonstrates the knowledge and practice of every relationship rule. 

Can you see mistakes that Chuck and Charlene made?  Do you make those same mistakes, too?  What are the rules in your relationship?  Have you thought about them?  Talked about them?  Agreed on them?  Modified them from time to time? 

Guaranteeing a better marriage begins as soon as a couple consciously creates one.  Establishing rules for your relationship ought to be part of what each of you promises to protect, treating your love with respect for the growing, changing, living thing it is.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist  specializing in couples work.  Married for almost 30 years, she and David live in Colorado Springs with their two hooligan cats.  Find out more about her and the Communication Workshop for Couples they teach at www.BeingHeardNow.com and www.CouplesWhoTalk.com

Copyright, 2015  Being Heard, LLC

CAN COUNSELING SAVE A DYING MARRIAGE?

love-hearts-abstract_thumb.jpg

Does it feel like the feeling’s gone?

  • Your partner isn’t the person you fell in love with.
  • The communication gap between you widens every day.
  • Your partner won’t talk about it.
  • You’ve been unhappy for so long it feels like it’s too late.
  • Your relationship feels dead.

Since you’re reading this article, it’s likely you still care enough about your partner and your relationship to want to help it — if you only knew how.

Most marriages should be given a chance to succeed.

Marriage counseling can help you restore the trust and intimacy your relationship once enjoyed so that you’ll both have a secure place to learn techniques and tools that can actually make a difference.

  • Resolve past hurts and painful memories
  • Put an end to endless arguments
  • Overcome differences in parenting styles
  • Improve your intimacy and sex life
  • Heal from an affair
  • Grow closer together
  • Take an active, involved and interested role in the life you’ve created together

Behavioral research is often focused on the clinical effectiveness of couples therapy but the subject of couples therapy is in the out-loud American mainstream, too.  Attention runs the gamut from on-line and print articles, to films like Couples Retreat, to playing supportive roles in television dramas like The Sopranos.

Most marriage counselors would agree that a couple’s motivation to make their relationship work is the single most important factor in determining the success of couples counseling.  Beware the seduction of obtaining a promise from your partner to “work on the relationship” if one of their feet is out the door.  Breaking up is hard to do, there’s enough hurt to go around, so sometimes one partner “buys time” by agreeing to couples counseling.  Therapy also seems to be less successful for couples who wait too long before seeking help.  Unfortunately, the average number of years a distressed couple waits before seeking help is 6 years.

If you and your partner are serious about creating the best relationship possible, marriage counseling is an excellent way to explore your relationship and help each of you uncover and overcome destructive relational patterns.  Hopefully, before 6 years go by.

Kathe Skinner has been a Marriage & Family Therapist for 20 years.  She specializes in couples work, especially with relationships where invisible disability is part of the mix.  She and her husband David have been married for 29 years and together provide a Secular Couple Communication Workshop throughout the year.  They live with their 2 hooligan cats in Colorado Springs.

STOP FIGHTING WITH YOUR PARTNER AND LOSE WEIGHT

scale I don’t know anyone who pigs out on carrot sticks after fighting with a partner.  More likely it’s Haagen Dazs or chips.

Dropping 30 lbs. might not be as easy as mending fences, but research shows a correlation between making poor food choices and marital arguing.

Turns out that production of an appetite-increasing hormone called ghrelin is produced in the brain right after arguing with a partner.  Researcheres are quick to add that while ghrelin doesn’t cause junk food eating after a fight, the correlation between the two is strong.  That’s true for both sexes.

Couples who were at a healthy weight, or overweight, had higher levels of ghrelin right after arguments.  For whatever reason the same didn’t hold for people whose BMI classified them as obese.

Put another way, the greater the expressed friction between partners the more they eat crummy food resulting in more weight gain.  And gaining weight results in self-image problems which feeds junk food eating which increases anger and frustration which puts a partner in a bad mood for starters that only needs annoyance with the other partner to explode into an argument.  And so it goes.

More reasons couples therapy is a good idea.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist who specializes working with distressed couples.  She and her husband David teach a Couple Communication Workshop that teaches couples to take the heat out of disagreeing.

copyright, 2015  Being Heard, LLC

CARRY MARRIAGE SOMEPLACE NEW.

couple and bridgeIn life, bridges connect us to the future. They provide passage to carry us forward to new discoveries, new opportunities, and renewed relationships.

But crossing a bridge means making a change, and change can be uncomfortable. We’re torn between staying where we are or venturing into the unknown. And often, when given the option to turn back to what is safe and comfortable… we do.

And that’s why we must reach deep inside and gather up the courage to burn some old and useless relationship habits and beliefs so that we can move forward and cross bridges into new ones.

When you cross a new bridge….or burn an old one…you are growing, changing, and evolving. Sure, it’s scary not to know exactly what lies ahead, but as C.S. Lewis said, “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

What bridges do you need to burn? And what bridges are waiting to lead you to new discoveries? There are many opportunities that lie ahead for you – all it takes is having the courage to find which bridges to cross… and which one to burn.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in work with couples.  She and husband David teach Secular Couple Communication Workshops in Colorado Springs throughout the year.  

Copyright 2015, Being Heard LLC

DO YOU NEED YOUR THERAPIST TO BE HUMAN?

robot“I can’t work with someone who’s broken,” he said calmly.

The young man had just read my Disclosure, a description of rights that, as a Marriage & Family Therapist, I’m legally required to give all clients.  Although it isn’t necessary, my Disclosure also relates that I have multiple sclerosis; I don’t want clients to wonder whether my stumbling is about a liquid lunch.

Broken, he said.  BrokenI never imagine anyone thinking of me as “damaged” – hell, even in my most self-pitying moments I don’t think of myself in that way. 

I was temporarily speechless; did he really say that? 

“Tell you what,” I said when I was sure my response wouldn’t betray my hurt, “think about it until next time.”  Then I went home and cried.

At our final session he admitted what had evidently been in his mind for the three months we worked together.  He was glad he’d given me a chance.  “I found out I was broken, too,” he told me.

That young man understood that no one is perfect, not even therapists.  That healers can be in need of healing, too.  By making it “normal” to have flaws —  even serious or disabling ones (his anxiety and my m.s.) — the young man was able to let go of the stigma of emotional distress, the impossibility of being perfect, that was behind his anxiety in the first place.

I still disclose my disability to clients although the passage of twelve years has made symptoms apparent that were once easy to hide.  I fundamentally believe that clients who come to therapy often do so because they feel alone with how they feel; as Roy Orbison sang, the feeling is that we’re the “only one” who experiences the depth of pain we do.  How secretly pleasing to know that the someone who slips-up, isn’t always self-assured, or doesn’t always behave the way the experts’ books say is your own therapist!

How healing to know you’re really not the only one.

Kathe Skinner is a Marriage & Family Therapist specializing in couples work, especially with those whose relationships are impacted by invisible disability or chronic illness.  She’s been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis for over 35 years.  At home in Colorado with David, her husband, and their two hooligan cats, Petey and Lucy, no one in their household believes in Kathe’s perfection.  Find information about the Skinners’ upcoming Couples Communication Workshop at www.beingheardnow.comand Kathe’s other dynamic practice and programs at coupleswhotalk.com.

Image Courtesy of supakitmod at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

© 2015, Being Heard, LLC