Tag Archive | Love

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.

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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).

 

Who will buy the cow when you give the milk for free?

 

Metaphors are very blunt and get to the point. Who will buy the cow when you give the milk for free? Why marry the woman when you are already having sex with her? This brilliant movie from Turkey “Kurt Seyit and Sura,” shows a young Russian girl smitten by an older dashing Turkish officer. He is from a wealthy family and works as a Lieutenant for the last Czar. She comes from a noble family. The empire is about to collapse when the two lovers meet. They fall in love and then when both of their lives are in danger, she runs off with the handsome man. Of course sex has already occurred and for years they continue to have a relationship but never marry. His father demanded he would not marry outside of the culture and now he has died. The man and woman struggle with their love. For years she begins to become a stronger woman and this becomes an issue for him. He is used to being in charge and not having people question his orders. Their relationship finally meets with an end. He is set up to marry a Turkish girl (whom he never beds until they wed) and within the week they are married. The young Russian girl is distraught, shocked and confused.  Why is it that after all these years, he marries a woman just like that? Why when she has been there for him, waited for him, ran his business for him, loved him, nurtured him, was he able to quickly change gears? This is the question that many women continue to ask themselves in today’s modern society. The story of Kurt  Seyit and Sura is based on a true story. It is the tale of so many women around the world.

Almost half of all marriages fail in today’s society. We get it all wrong. We think our historical characters were the ones who erred and we are much wiser. We believe in sex, birth control, drinking, drugs, everyone can vote and hold down jobs, we can make babies whether we are married or not, and we can marry and have relationships with whomever we want. Anything can happen in our current “Caligula,” type of society and yet, and yet, we have half of all marriages that fail – this obviously is not counting all the relationships that never marry and fail. It is not counting the countless interludes that never make it to a relationship. So what is more important is looking at couples who do succeed and never marry. It is more important to look at why this occurs.

How many of you know people who waited to have sex before they were married? What can you say about this relationship? How many of you know people who have married for over 50 years and you can, without a doubt, say that you would look up to these people for marital advice? What have you learned from these couples? I think it is equally important to talk to older women who are not married to find out their story and what they have realized as an aging woman about marriage and what lasts.

The TV series above would seem out of place in today’s society. We all have sex so why is this a problem? The male character above has loyalty to family, roots and traditions. Not too many people even know what their roots are anymore and so they are scattered and ungrounded. Knowing and being proud of your culture helps a person to have confidence, stability, security and a sense of boundaries. It is easy to respect someone who is loyal to their culture, religion and family. It is not easy when you are a young person who is out on their own for the first time and full of lust, passion and vitality that makes you believe you can conquer any obstacle that comes across your path. Young people practically beg for this to happen on an unconscious level. As a young person, misplacing values will easily lead you in the wrong direction. Sex is wonderful, it is fun, exciting, lustful, and yet it is the key to longevity when you hold it at bay. Having sex as a young woman, without the wedding, means that you are more than likely going to end up with children, more than one partner and alone in old age.

Look around you at single women, single mothers and single older women. Talk to them to find out their story. What do they wish they would have done differently, now that they know?

Most American audiences hated the TV Series above. They assumed the title meant that this was a Cinderella story and everyone would end up happily ever after. European films are not about happily ever after though, they are about writing great storylines, building characters and dealing with tragedy. The male character in this storyline was a Turk in Russia, working as a soldier for the Czar, he spends the rest of his life running and hiding because anyone connected with the Czar was killed. He goes to his native country after his family is murdered and tries to find some respite there. Unfortunately, this is the same time period when the British occupied Turkey, along with the Italians and a few other powers. It was the end of the Ottoman Empire as well. Most likely he was suffering from PTSD and what works for this male character, his defense mechanism or coping skill, is that he continues to play the Lieutenant. He expects everyone around him to follow him. He leads others in attempts to strengthen the Turkish in their attempts to fight against the British (they only mention British in this TV series). As I listened to Americans crying, getting angry, talking about having depression symptoms when they saw the end of this film, I kept this in mind. I was already half way through the series and had an inkling the title was just the beginning and not the ending. I too felt sad at hearing how the ending would turn out but then I continued watching anyway. This is my fourth Turkish TV series so I have gotten used to how they turn out.

Watching the second half as a psychotherapist, I saw how the writer carefully prepared the audience for the ending. We could already see that Seyit, the male character, was holding back from marriage. We could see that Sura, the female character, was going out of her way to do whatever she could to salvage what was left. She became desperate, overcompensating, strong-willed and independent. It is natural to assume that a man would respect you for these character traits and perhaps some would. However, many males prefer to continue having to take care of the girl and aren’t so enthralled to see her become a woman; especially when they are not even married. He wanted to continue seeing her as his fairytale princess who reminded him of the past. She was becoming a survivor, a woman she could be proud of and hoped he would too but he did not.

When it comes to relationships, you must set the rules from the beginning. You must do this before you give things away. You must see that these rules have been met before you go to the next stage. For every rule that you allow to be broken, you are saying “I don’t have much respect for myself.” Yes, absolutely it is a double standard – he can do but you can’t do. We can have a modern society all that we want but on an instinctual level we are going to go for what we know makes sense. We all like rules but when we break them we have disconnect and sabotage. When we follow rules that we know are right because it is natural to us at the gut level maybe I could say at the primitive level, life runs much more smoothly. So why do we make life so difficult for ourselves? We have a big ego!! 

 

 

 

No Caretaker Needed in a Healthy Relationship

Many times people talk about being a caretaker in their relationship. They want to change their partner. They aren’t doing enough in the relationship. I try to turn this around by asking a simple question, “Are they worrying this much about you? Do they feel they are not doing enough in the relationship? Do they feel a need to take care of you?” Often the answer is going to be no. When there is a caretaker in the relationship, this means the couple has fallen apart and now someone is desperately trying to pick up the pieces and salvage what is left. There is no unity or a sense of “we,” in a couple, if only one person is dedicated to the partnership. In this case you have two individuals going in separate directions. If you are trying to be someone’s caretaker, it is probably time to end the relationship.

When two people meet and take the time to get to know one another, not by jumping in bed and declaring they are soul mates, instead they begin toward a healthy relationship that is fueled by conversation rather than sex. This does not mean there is no sex or passion as many people tend to confuse. It means that you are interested in what each other has to say and you respect one another’s opinions. It means that when you have a difference of opinion you are still able to be respectful of your partner. It means that you allow the other person a voice.  It means that you know and respect each other’s boundaries. It means that you share the same values and beliefs. When these things occur then you begin to explore intimacy and it is so much the better because you have generated a lot of excitement for your partner. Does anyone really love to have sex with someone that does not have respect for them? Or can you be passionate about someone you can’t even have a conversation with? An orgasm is a waste of time if you are then sobbing into your pillow once your partner has fallen asleep (or worse, left to go home). If you are just out to have sex, that is one thing but be clear what you want in life. Whatever you choose, make sure you can live with your choices, don’t make it the other person’s problem (also, be clear about your choice up front). If he/she doesn’t agree with you, then they aren’t willing to play your game, it doesn’t make them wrong. It is not okay to set up vulnerable people.

Conversation doesn’t mean that you have told your partner your deep dark secrets and so now they owe you. Your partner isn’t your therapist and there is a difference between sharing childhood abuse or family drama vs. sharing who you are, right now. What is more important in a relationship building process is that you talk about the type of person you are. For example: what motivates you, what do you enjoy doing in your leisure time, what type of friends do you have, what are your goals for the future? A new relationship is not going to understand how to handle the trauma in your past until they have a solid foundation with you. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come clean on mental health issues. For example: “I don’t drink, I am a recovering alcoholic.” That sentence is a mouthful. It already covers the meaning of I don’t drink. This doesn’t open the door to re-telling how you hit bottom and what your last 10 years have been like on the bottle or being sober. It could mean this though if your partner says “I am too,” and then proceeds to ask “How did you do it.” If they don’t, leave it and be comfortable that you have gotten this part off your chest. Never lie to anyone about anything but save the therapy conversation for a rainy day when your partner asks. Saying too much too soon is a sure way to end a relationship. This is because someone is being set up to be a caretaker and many times people are willing and this spells disaster. You are beginning the process by saying “I need help,” instead of saying “I am ready to share my life with someone.”

Two people can have a healthy relationship, even if they have had a hell of a life. First, they need to get into therapy and deal with this trauma. No, (1) you can’t fix it yourself and (2) a relationship is not your therapist. Love will not save you from a dad who harmed you in some way or your mental health condition. Love is not really happening if you are merely trying to save someone. That is your ego saying to you “If I love them enough…” Ego and love are an oxymoron. Second, you have to know what you want in life. It isn’t as simple as “I want a nice Christian…” Lots of religious people have been known to be abusive, alcoholic, drug addicts, and just plain jerks. But guess what, they thought they were a good Christian person or whatever religion because they were in denial about their vice or issue of concern. You have to really be grounded in what you do want from a person and what to look for when you see it. Be careful with admiring role models. You don’t really know what they are really like behind closed doors. Thirdly, you have to know how to present yourself when you meet this person. This doesn’t mean you find out that you have shared values on a first date, have a great conversation about it and then jump into bed. Again, you are not soul mates. You are just horny and happened to meet someone who was too. A person who gives up their body too easily is going to be seen as someone who has no self-respect. Sure, they slept with you too but that doesn’t mean they should now be in a commitment with you. You can’t blame the other party in a situation like this either.  If you both do choose to fall into a relationship and move in, etc… etc… don’t be surprised when it falls apart after the honeymoon is over.

Be a person who is the person you state that you are. Act like a professional when you get to know someone. This doesn’t mean you can’t flirt but have some patience. Don’t take them into your home right away. Don’t even drive with them (which will make the situation much easier). Keep your dates personal and in the field (vs. at home). Get to know their families and friends but again, be cautious about how much to say about the family or friends. Don’t set your partner up before they have even gotten a chance to get to know them. Be sparse with details. For example: My dad can be a bit controlling with my mom or my brother and I are not really close. Instead of saying “My dad has been in and out of jail three times now for domestic violence,” or “My brother molested me when we were kids.” A partner who is respectful of you is not going to choose sides and say “Well, he sure seemed like a good guy to me.” This is because a healthy partner would understand that you have a better grip on your family members than they do.

Now, how about someone who is reading this and did seem to do all the right things in the beginning but ended up in a bad place nonetheless? A healthy relationship has to work at continuing down this path and this means that you continue working together as a team throughout your lifetime together. If someone starts going off on their own, as in picks up the bottle, has an affair, becomes abusive, then the relationship is no longer a healthy relationship.  A healthy relationship is one where no one “takes their eye off the ball,” so to speak. Yes, it is hard work but so is owning a horse, living on a farm, keeping your luxury car in good shape, or running a business. If you don’t look out for either of these things, they will die or fall apart. It is no different with a relationship.

To recap, a healthy relationship that is nurtured over time is one where you (quoting the Gottman method directly now) – have started with trust and commitment and then:

  1. Get to know one another’s world,
  2. Share fondness and admiration,
  3. Turn toward instead of away,
  4. Keep a positive perspective,
  5. Manage your conflict by a. find relevance in what each of you have to say, b. self-soothing, c. dialogue about problems,
  6. Make each other’s life dreams come true; and
  7. Create shared meaning.

If you want to learn more about a healthy relationship, I recommend reading “The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work,” by Dr. John Gottman and Nan Silver. I also recommend reading “The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts,” by Judith S. Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee. If you want to meet someone to have this relationship with then be patient, set your boundaries, trust your instincts, know what you want and then, when you meet this person, take your time to get to know them. To be on the safe side, wait a few months before becoming intimate, don’t move in until you have spent at least a year getting to know them and only then, move in for love not convenience. Don’t move forward at all if you have any doubts whatsoever – they won’t change with a bigger commitment.  Finally, only get married because you love someone and the two of you have gone over your idea of what being married means and can agree on this. I definitely recommend pre-marital counseling with a therapist or at your place of worship. Don’t have children until you have gotten married and have waited at least 3-5 years. Children don’t need desperate parents. They need parents who have nurtured their relationship as a married couple and are again clear (and have discussed) that it is the right time to move forward.

A good business plan is necessary to have a successful company. Once the doors are open you have to keep on top of your firm by having good communication with all of your employees, from top to bottom. The business is not YOU, it is all of them plus your product and your customers. Each year you have to continue to look back as well as focus on the future. What do you need to do differently in order to continue this success in the changing times?

A relationship requires a plan too. You can’t just run out there and start a partnership. Take your time, focus on what it is you want and then don’t second guess yourself. Get back together each year and re-commit yourselves to the year ahead. If there have been problems, tackle them head on. Don’t wait ten years to then decide to see a therapist. Continue to create new goals for each year and help support each other in making these dreams a reality.  A cute person is not so cute when they turn out to be someone who you knew was wrong from the beginning. A cute person that you have gotten to know and taken your time to build a relationship with becomes very handsome and more interesting over time.

It’s Not About the Nail

A client recently suggested I might like this video and I was very grateful once I saw this. This is a terrific example of couples in communication with each other. The guy wants to fix things (in real life it is not this obvious). And the woman just wants him to listen to her, to be empathic, to “not side with the enemy,” (to quote Dr. John Gottman’s work). She is getting more and more frustrated in the video and he is continuing to try and point out the obvious – just fix it.

What I also found very interesting is that in real life, the example of real pain (with women it is usually emotional not physical) is often seen with men who do not want to go to the doctors. I could see this example much easier in reverse with a man who refuses to go to the doctor yet is in a lot of pain. A woman would go to the doctor because she would want to please her partner. A man wants to fix things but only if they are someone else’s problem, as it is too difficult for them to go into therapy and talk about their innermost feelings or go to the doctor and get a shot or (maybe) learn that they are going to die or learn that they will be weakened in some way so that they are unable to be the man they want to be for their partner, family, self.

A great video because it opens discussion and creates dialogue between couples.