Tag Archive | Divorce

Why do Pre-Marital Counseling?

Watching this video is the most compelling reason for adding a psychotherapist to your wedding budget. Women are still being raised with their mothers speeding them down the aisle with visions of white dresses and doves flying through the air. We play with Barbies before we have hit puberty, already merging the dolls with Ken or GI Joe. We are focused on boys in high school, which often causes young girls (and boys) to do poorly in their subjects. Marriage is an investment not a fashion show and if you don’t want to be one of the 40-50% who goes through a divorce, then you need to treat this contract as an investment not a day to play Cinderella. The woman and man who plan consciously and patiently on the big day have better chances for success then the one’s who are only focused on looking good. Wouldn’t you rather be the couple who people gush over rather than taking bets to see how long you’ll last? Your family and friends will respect you more when they see the respect you have for each other. I highly recommend a psychotherapist trained in the Gottman method as they are teaching you communication skills and this includes how to argue without tearing each other apart.

A wedding day is meant to be a beautiful time in your life. Not the day you rue in the years to come. It is not his fault nor is it her fault; when you are a couple, you both have a responsibility to your self, your marriage, your future children and to your family as a whole.

Before You Say I Do

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. Benjamin Franklin

Weddings cost an average of $26,720, according to costofawedding.com. The average cost of a divorce is $15,000-$30,000 according to a 2006 Forbes.com article. In my experience the latter figure will vary based on children, assets and EGO. The American Psychological Association reports that 40-50% of all marriages will end in divorce. Many couples wait until they are very married and very upset before they come into therapy. When there has been an affair, when there is about to be an affair, or when they are so over this person that it would take a fairy Godmother to make any difference in the relationship. With all this negativity why say I do in the first place?

On the heels of the Benjamin Franklin quote above, which I absolutely love because it sums up what I am about to say right here. Pre-Marital counseling is a must to add to that wedding budget as you will get a greater return on your investment. In fact, pre-marital counseling can be the most important money you will spend before you say I do.  Yes, it is possible that you will realize you made a mistake (but this is $15-$30,000 saved). It is also possible that you will save yourself a lot of heartache in the days after the “big day.” Here are some tips for making pre-marital counseling work.

  1. Schedule the onset of counseling at the same time you are sending your “Save the Date,” cards (six to eight months) prior to the big day. You need time to do the work and it may involve individual as well.
  2. Communicate with your therapist what your specific needs are. Even when the therapist has an agenda, make sure to let them know if they are missing something or a new issue has popped up (I always do a check-in before we begin the session). If you don’t tell the therapist, how are they supposed to know?
  3. Self-Awareness – Therapy doesn’t work if one person thinks it is the other persons fault. It takes two to tango and you have to be willing to be held accountable in counseling.
  4. Respect for the therapist and for yourself – paying for sessions on time, showing up on time, being committed to your partner and your future. Psychotherapy is a business first and a healing profession second. This is why you are coming: to get the advice, coaching, and support of a professional – not from a friend or family member.
  5. Homework is there for a reason.  To practice this new way of communicating. Don’t expect results if you are going home and behaving in the same manner.
  6. Be open to recommendations of the therapist – If there are addictions with one or both parties, couples counseling is not ready yet. If there is domestic violence a domestic violence agency should be consulted first for batterers work and counseling for the victim. If there is a history of abuse, there may be a need for individual work for that person before they are ready to begin couples. Your therapist will assess your situation and let you know what is necessary to begin.

Unmet needs from childhood are the majority of couple conflicts. Think about what you didn’t get from your parents growing up – love, nurturance, listening, guidance, a father/a mother, validation, whatever it was this is what you will look for in a partner. Unfortunately, since you aren’t really sure what this looks like, you often get exactly what you don’t want. This is because we are more comfortable with what we know and so this is what we attract. For example: someone to take care of (rather than being taking care of), or someone who just doesn’t give you the love you wish for and you are constantly struggling to attain this. Couples come in talking about small things but what is behind it is something so much larger. This has to do with expectations that have been mulling around in their head but no one has ever spoken of.

Effective communication is the key to a successful marriage. Each time I have attended one of those 50 years + type anniversary parties, they have all said the cliché phrase “communication,” when asked what made their marriage work. I have listened to couples tell me their grandparents or aunt/uncles have said the same. What this means is something that often takes people many years of mistakes to figure out. For older couples I can tell you it also means a lot of compromising along the way because they were married in a time when there was no acceptance of pre-marital counseling other than a few sessions with their spiritual leader.

When I work with couples, I am using the training I took at certified Gottman.com led seminars. These are the principles of Dr. John Gottman which are based on his years of research with couples. If you just “google search” his name you will find loads of articles, videos, interviews, photos and of course their website. His work was introduced to me long before I began my studies as a therapist and after becoming a therapist, his name came across my path once again and off I went to the advanced trainings.

In my personal background, I was 17 years old when I married and I was six months pregnant at the time. I was divorced a couple of years later because of abuse and addictions on their part. I later learned, while doing my thesis and again from Dr. John Gottman with his partner Dr. Neil Jacobson that I was in a marriage with a Pit Bull (When Men Batter Women: New Insights Into Ending Abusive Relationships, 1998). I have never remarried but I have been in several long-term relationships that did not last. It was a long time before it finally hit me in the head what I had been missing all along. Fortunately for you, who might be working with me, you won’t have to wait at all. The reason why I love doing work with couples is so that I may give them the advantages I never had. Experience, Education, Intuition, Insight, Holistic thought process and continuing education post-graduate school is what you will get when you come into my office.

A therapist cannot promise you miracles because it is up to you two and what you are willing to commit to working on. When my coupleS work as hard in session as they do out of session – on practicing these principles I am teaching them, I do see success. My belief is that a couple should not be married without some form of pre-marital counseling (see paragraph one).

 

Children’s Mental Health As Important as Physical Health

 

This is a very powerful message about mental health and children. While we are not in the UK, we have many places locally that serve young children and adolescents. The best place to look for someone in your area is to go on PsychologyToday.com At the top of the page click on Find A Therapist, then put in your zip code and then you narrow down your selection by clicking on the different variables provided. (Note: Psychologytoday is a nationwide website).

Being Single is not a Disease

Many women and sometimes even men, fret over not being in a relationship. More often than not, it is women who are in their 20’s and 30’s and are worried about time clocks and societies view of them. Women have always been scorned if they were not married. At one point 30 was the sell-by-date.

Yet marriages continue to be forced, coerced, expected, demanded and fantasized about. None of these are reasons to get married. All of them are the very reasons couples end up unhappy and in counseling and/or divorce court. There is nothing wrong with being single. In this modern time period women can have whatever they want. We can get a degree and have a career. We can open a business and make money.  Women can buy the nice cars, live in beautiful homes, and some even have babies on their own (though I don’t recommend the latter).

Katherine Hepburn once remarked (in an interview I saw) that she believed a woman Katherine Hepburnshould be there for her husband 100% and this meant having to give up their career. She did not want to do this which is why she remained single (though she did have one divorce early on). She had one of the most memorable love affairs ever and it is safe to safe she was a very happy woman.

Women sell themselves short when they go after a man. I’ve known intelligent women who go out with men that are intellectually inferior just for the sake of not being alone. What do you talk about after sex? What do you share in common? I’ve known beautiful women who could have any man they wanted but because they have no confidence in themselves, stay with a man who takes advantage of them.

On the flip side, men do the same. Living in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara I saw the trophy wives. Women who married for money but were dumber than a doorbell. What kind of men are willing to marry women who are unintelligent, just because they could be a model? Men who are shallow and don’t mind taking the risk that one day their wife will be collecting an alimony payment that will force him to have to live a different life than he is accustomed to. Their wife will show up on one of these ridiculous reality shows and tell the world about their sex life and any other dirt they want to drudge up to make this famous man look like an idiot.

It’s okay to be single. It’s okay to be married, if you are in it for love and have taken the time to really get to  know the person. It’s okay to live your life as you wish as long as you really are happy and are conscious about your choices. Love, by the way, doesn’t mean “I love him but I really need to see him change.” It doesn’t mean “I love him because he is really trying.” Love is unconditional and love is love for who he/she is, not what we want them to be. It is a hard thing to have unconditional love. Very few people do.

It is not hard to be single, it is hard to allow yourself the choice to be single. Being single is not a disease. Sometimes it is what you choose to do because you don’t wish to compromise and end up in a horrible relationship. It is a choice you sometimes have to choose in order to get to know yourself and determine whether or not you are making wise decisions about partners. It is a choice you have to make if you get a rejection until you realize it was a blessing in disguise. It is a choice you have to make during holidays, nights when you are feeling rather erotic and would rather just go to a bar and pick up the nearest handsome guy available and when you are feeling sad and alone.

Being single doesn’t mean it will be forever. Being married doesn’t mean it will be forever. Nothing is forever because you just don’t know what will come your way and change the path you are on. What is forever is you and how you look at yourself when you look in the mirror. You owe it to yourself to take care of yourself. My favorite quote about individualism is from the Torah and it says “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when?” When I studied world religions I found this to be the most fascinating line to contemplate about self.

Work hard on finding happiness within. This does not mean you have to leave a partner and go out in the woods to find yourself. It might mean you have to leave a partner, if they want you to stay the way your are – unhappy and unsatisfied. It does mean that you might need to stay single a little while longer until you are able to make good choices and set boundaries that work for the partnership (both people agree on). It means that if the partner you are with (or hoping to attract) is sending all the wrong messages, you have to let it go and realize that yes, you are still single. It is okay to be alone.

Here is some food for thought from a study that has been quoted for quite some time. Women who are unmarried live longer than women who are married. Men who are unmarried live shorter lives than men who are married. Of course death should not be your reason for staying single, or getting married but contemplation should be.

Divorce – Don’t Punish the Children

There was an excellent article on Yahoo! Shine the other day entitled “10 Things Kids Wish Their  Divorced Parents Wouldn’t Do.” I am not adept at sharing articles, especially when there is no share button that specifically gives the WordPress logo. So I have to re-write them in here, to highlight the most important aspects of what they are saying. Below are the 10 things in bold – I am making my own comments to this, based on what I have heard from kids. Before you read this, there is one caveat. Obviously, if the other parent is abusive to you or the children, naturally it would be unsafe for that child to be with the parent. In these cases stick to the rules of the court and restraining orders but at the same time be careful how you talk about the other parent.  These are children not adults.

And before we begin, the comments below apply not just to parents but to Grandma, Grandpa, Aunts, Uncles, and any other adult who wants to make their opinions known to children.

1. Badmouthing the other parent – This one I can speak to from personal experience. My mother made horrible comments about my father, to both my sister and I. Since she left him when we were 2 and 4, it is really hard to comprehend why she thought we would have any understanding of what she meant. “He doesn’t pay child support?” What does a child know about child support? “He cheated on me with other women?” Again, what does a child know about loyalty and faithfulness? “He doesn’t care about you,” now this one we understood but it always confused me because when we spent time on visitations, he was very loving and caring. Children are NOT adults and do not have the intellect of an older person. As an adult, I do understand that my dad was irresponsible and why he hurt my mother. Growing up however, this emotional torment that my mother put my sister and I through caused us to have a hard time relating to men. It was hard for us to know who to trust, especially when we were being given mixed messages from adults in our lives. This is not unusual with my clients either.

According to a Morehouse University study, I read (circa 1990’s), children from single parent homes or those with a stepfather; boys are more likely to end up in juvenile hall and girls are more likely to end up pregnant.

2. Discouraging kids from talking about their other parent – This is really unfair to children. The other parent is their mommy or daddy. Someone whom they love very much. Yes, he/she may be a drug addict, alcoholic, womanizer, imbecile but to the child, he/she is still their parent. If you have concrete evidence of this parent bringing harm or neglect to your child (due to drugs, alcohol or even without) report this to social services and let them be the investigator.  Don’t try to do this or teach your children to do this. Don’t try to find out details of their visits as if you are the local sheriff. This will scare children and sometimes cause them to lie. I hear those lies in therapy and it causes emotional stress to the child. It causes them to feel as if they need to stand up for their parent and become the defense attorney. Again, these are children. If they come back from a visit and say “Oh we went to the park today,” Say “That sounds wonderful, I hope you had a good time.” Grit your teeth if you have to but think about if from their perspective. Kids like to go to the park, zoo, etc… They don’t need to hear, “What, he was supposed to take you to get a pair of shoes today, why didn’t you do that?” If you have an issue with their visits, discuss that privately with their parent, don’t make the child into your confessor.

3. Divulging the dirty details of the divorce – Really? This goes back to statement number 1. These are children not adults. They are not psychotherapists or attorneys or child welfare agencies. All the understand is this is my mommy or daddy and I love them very much. The divorce is none of their business. That is between two adults.

4. Keeping kids completely in the dark – On the contrary, if your child is a little older and mature enough to understand relationships, it is okay to answer the questions that your child has. What does your child want to know? If your divorce had to do with a lifestyle change such as coming out of the closet, finding God, or falling in love with another person, it is okay to tell this to your child but try to say it without your emotions coming through. Of course you are hurt and angry, naturally this would be the case but again, this is between you and the other spouse. It has nothing to do with the children.

5. Skipping family events because your ex will be there – In this case, you can actually use the event to your advantage. Show up looking your best, smiling, be cordial to everyone (in other words mature). Again, if you have to grit your teeth under your tiara, do it for your children. On the same token, if you are going to show up and do not take my advice – please don’t make a fool out of yourself and start drinking or slinking around the corner with his best friend. Remember, your children are there and you are there for them not him/her.

6. Making the situation all about you – The Narcissist. This is actually the flip side of what I just mentioned in number 5. If you are spending your new-found freedom putting your energy into your anger toward your ex, then you aren’t living your life. You are just wasting away and spiraling downhill. Anger toward an ex-loved one means you are apt to make the same mistakes with the new one. Get some closure on this, visit your local therapist and find some resolution.

7. Making kids feel guilty for spending time with their other parent – If they are on the phone with the parent, this is their time. It is not your time to suddenly speak loudly or yell out orders to the other parent. When the child is off the phone it is not okay for you to grill them about what was said. The same goes with a visit or if you bump into them in public. Behave like an adult and this will teach your children how to cope with stress and disorder.

8. Justifying your bad behavior – “I have to protect my children to make sure he doesn’t hurt them, like he hurt me.” Your ex is not going to do to your children what they did to you. You were the spouse, they were the child. If your spouse really is an idiot, time will prove this to your children when they grow up and become adults. Often times however the adult they are living with, ends up looking like the bad guy and the absent parent shines like the knight on a white horse. Absent parents have limited time to spend with their kids. They try to make this time pleasant and fun. They want their children’s love and respect. They want to not be seen like the bad guy. Yes, the custodial parent has to set the rules, deal with the sickness, school calling, etc… Kids eventually understand this and empathize once they are adults and are old enough to realize what you did. However, if you are using the stress to set the other party up, stalk them, craft voodoo dolls, organize gossip parties with neighbors, you will be the one they resent, not the target of your abuse.

9. Putting your kids in the middle – “Tell your father I said he needs to…” and going back “Tell your mother I said…” If you two parents aren’t capable of having a conversation with one another, hire a mediator. Your child has not been certified to be a divorce attorney, arbitrator or mediator. The divorce was not their fault. Get help from licensed professional adults, let your kids be children.

10. Making everyone feel your unhappiness – The Histrionic. No one needs to hear your drama except your best friend, family member, spiritual leader or psychotherapist. Your best friend should be an adult not your child. Your male child is not your little man and your girl child is not your princess. Sexualizing your children with these titles is repulsive and sends confusing messages to children. 

The above ten pointers were a little redundant but I think sometimes it bares repeating the message. For over a decade I have worked with children who were abused, neglected, who have had addicts for parents, or quite simply went through a divorce (without the added bonus of social services being involved). I have dealt with adults going through a divorce and I have dealt with adult children who are survivors of the divorce they had to suffer through when they were children.

We all make mistakes. My mother made mistakes as a divorced woman raising children and as a result I did the same thing. My clients make mistakes and generally they are very similar to what their parents did. Many of us did not have the benefit of the Internet to teach us about psychology. We did not have a society that was open to psychotherapy. We dealt with life through the eyes of our social network that was live and in person, not in a chat room. Now you do have a chance. Young women today who have hundreds of types of birth control and no excuses as to why they should be pregnant with the vast amount of education and support to teach them. Young parents have plenty of resources online, support groups, therapists on every corner, religious leaders are more open-minded, parents are beginning to realize their mistakes, YouTube videos for how too’s, the opportunities for growth are endless.

Your spouse cheated you out of the relationship you wanted. “They” ruined “your” marriage, in your eyes – even though it takes two people to unite into one. I really do empathize that you are pissed and angry and want to make him/her pay. I’ve been there as a child and an adult and I know what it can be like. I don’t know your pain but I know pain. Unfortunately, you have children to be responsible for. Whether the other spouse is living up to their bargain or not is not relevant in your household. Don’t make the children pay for your beliefs. Don’t force them into battlefields and expect them to choose sides. Some children I have worked with in the inner city already have to pick between the reds and the blues, on the streets, every day that they walk out their door. At school our children across America are living in fear of gunmen walking in their class. They deal with gossip of other children; potential bullies. They have an education they are responsible for listening to and learning from. They have two households now to manage living at.

Children’s lives now are not the same as ours were.

If you love your children, you owe it to them to be the best parent you can be. This means that if you are having problems in your relationships, you need to ask for help. If you have been through a divorce (or left your babies parent) it is time to learn from this experience. It is time to evolve and become a stronger and wiser person. Show your children maturity and they will grow into brilliant, healthy and responsible people. Show your children chaos, anger, maliciousness and they will become victims who will have a hard time growing up.