Tag Archive | Marriage

Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin: Ritual of Connection

I have always loved Nicole Kidman and her ability to portray so many different types of people. She is a lot like Penelope Cruz, another favorite of mine; in that neither are afraid of experimenting and both have been involved in productions from different countries. This week I was reading an article on the Huffington Post, where she was being interviewed about her marriage which is celebrating its twelth anniversary. She mentioned that she and Keith [Urban] do not text to talk to one another, because of all the misunderstandings that were obvious to them from the onset. As she went on, she noted that they have a phrase “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin,” is their only way of communication with each other. I thought this sounded very sweet and touching and something I wanted to share with the couples that I work with.

I have been taking continuing education with the Gottman couples trainings and use this method when working with my couples. We talk about Turning Towards Each Other, rather than away from one another when communicating is taking place. Voice to voice, you may not look at each other (except as Nicole noted when they do Facetime) but you are clearly hearing and participating in that moment. Of course, it is possible to Stonewall (and be on your computer at the same time) but then your partner would pick up on this very easily. When you are texting to someone it is very anti-social and disrespectful of someone (this is me not the Gottman trainings talking). The person is not there on the other end at the exact moment that you send the text. You can’t feel them, hear them, see them (other than a photo), or even sense them. You can misinterpret them and I have found that it is easy for my client’s to be stalked by their partners in this way. Usually this is noted when they tell me that he “blew up my phone.” When I first heard this, I have to confess, I thought maybe their battery had died from too much usage on the phone. But kidding aside, this is not an intimate form of communication. It is a cop out, when it comes to communication.

If you want your relationship to last, you can’t take it for granted and so you must value this investment and continue to work on it. The most important thing I have found is building an “Emotional Connection,” with your partner because A. Women are turned on by this and aren’t likely to stray, B. You begin to know each other more deeply, which causes you to feel you can trust and depend on the other person, and C. You are developing a “We” instead of an “I.” The last one always gets my goat. If I hear one partner saying “I am going away this weekend for vacation,” I will say “Aren’t you taken your wife/husband?” naturally they will say “Well, yeah,” so I say then I think you meant to say “We are going away…” and talk to them about the importance of respect in a relationship.

Look at the difference between Nicole Kidman’s marriage to Tom and now to Keith. I went through my young adult years with the first two (I don’t know much about Keith Urban) and always remembered how sad and detached Nicole and Tom looked in photos. I don’t think I ever saw them smile – together. Sure, Tom always had that Hollywood smile whenever taking photos and he pushed it out there even when he was next to Nicole on the carpet (though it never seemed quite as authentic as his Risky Business or Top Gun smile). Nicole never once, that I recall, ever really had more then a grin on her face. It was because of this that I was not at all surprised when they got a divorce. Now, I don’t think I have seen one photo of her and Keith, where they don’t look like they’ve just had “Skin to Skin” right before they walked out onto the carpet. I’ve heard Keith Urban interviewed saying that he feels like she is still his girlfriend after twelve years. This tells me that they keep their relationship fresh and are invested in a quality relationship. I once read Nicole stating in an interview that she thought it was romantic to see a cemetery plot with the couple buried next to each other and imagining what a delightful marriage they must have had. It seems morbid in a way but it shows the depth that she was hoping for in a man. Someone she would be with until the end. I don’t think there will be any question whether these two will last forever.

What type of play are your creating in your relationship? How are you keeping the marriage alive or exciting? Maybe you aren’t worth millions and globetrotting around the world (though this makes it way more difficult than balancing a budget and raising a couple of kids), you actually have an easier opportunity to make your relationship last. What can you do for fun? Riding bikes as a family (or couple), hiking together, praying together, cooking together, taking a bath together (as a couple of course), etc… These are what we call Rituals of Connection (or Creating Shared Meaning), one of the “The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work,” by Dr. Gottman. Rituals are those sacred moments in your family’s life that are created by the two of you for your relationship and for your kids. Having a motto such as “Voice to Voice or Skin to Skin” is a Ritual of Connection. It is an intimate boundary that this couple has created that they won’t steer away from because it has kept them together for twelve years.

Texting is not intimate and it was created for emergencies, not for relationships. There was a time when we did not have cellular technology, and even a time we didn’t have pagers (or telephones). We have taken advantage of texting and it has caused our world to become anti-social. People are out in the real world less and less and when they are there, they are on their phones. Another thing that gets my goat is seeing people at a natural park and they have their heads down, staring at their phones or are taking some darn “selfie” because they are not capable of “stopping to smell the roses.” Life is a challenge which you must undertake and if you make the choice to have someone by your side, respect them, love them, nourish them and for heaven sakes, communicate with them [LIVE]!

 

Stop and smell the roses,
taste the nectar of sweet.
Peel back the petals,
tickle your feet!

Take a walk amongst the flowers,
place blue bonnets in your hair,
Sing songs of he love’s me not,
two step with the air!

Stop and smell the roses,
Spend some time,
Tend to your bushes,
Pay no mind.

As you walk amongst the flowers,
peer down at your feet.
There’s no time to smell the roses
when you’re six feet deep. 

Hershe Moore

 

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A Holistic Divorce

This past week I attended a two-day training on collaborative law that I would like to share because it is important to be informed of all your choices when considering a #divorce. Disclaimer – this is for #Ohio residents though there are about 18 states and about a dozen countries who practice collaborative law, so please check in your area to find out what applies to you.

If you are considering a divorce, there are four ways to go about this.

A. Collaborative Law

B. Litigation

C. Dissolution

D. Mediation

I’ll start with litigation which everyone knows about and this is your traditional way of going about getting a divorce. The judge may require mediation as a result of this and this is to try and cut down on court time.

Dissolution is where both parties agree on everything and they have an attorney write up their agreement and present to the court. A very inexpensive way to get a divorce however, as mentioned, both parties must agree. Usually this can happen when there are no children involved.

Mediation is where the couple hires a mediator to discuss what needs to happen and they present their agreement to their attorneys who files it in court. This can be done at the onset, you don’t have to wait for the judge to decide on this.

Then there is collaborative law which I call a #holistic divorce. This is where all parties (professionals and spouses) come to a table and discuss the business of getting a divorce. There is *no court involvement in Columbus, Ohio because the judge comes to the attorneys office to sign off on the divorce (*not the same with other major cities in Ohio, check with your state or country). If court involvement it would be once everything has been settled and then there is a filing of paperwork to approve the divorce.

Collaborative law includes two attorneys, a mental health coach or neutral (not in the capacity of a therapist, nor are they providing therapy but, the service is provided by a licensed therapist), a financial coach or neutral and in some cases other specialists are brought in, if need be, for consultation. All professionals meet with the spouse/spouses individually or as a couple upfront to explain the services and begin to assess the couple. Then all parties and professionals come to the table to begin a discussion of what is to take place. This can involve several sessions but there is no court involvement so the schedules are based on everyone at the table rather than dealing with court being in session. Therefore appointments can be more flexible.

What captivated me by this process is that a mental health coach is involved as well as a financial coach. This means two things. One, the mental health coach is there to help determine what is in the best interests of the children and the family. Someone who understands #psychology vs. a Guardian Ad Litem (aka GAL) who, most often, is not a therapist and does not understand mental health. The mental health coach is also doing an assessment to determine if the couple is going to be a good fit for the collaborative law process. In some instances, i.e., domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness might not be a good fit for the collaborative law process. Two, the financial coach presents the facts of the figures. Then the parties say whose side of the page the items go on and talk about what they see. Eventually, how things will be divided up occurs with much discussion from the team.

In collaborative law, even the attorneys are in a relationship with one another that is not antagonistic as it would be in litigation. While they clearly will represent the spouse who has hired them, at the table they are not in a defensive position but in an empathic position for both parties. This means the spouse who hired them pays for them under the knowledge that their attorney will be listening and be prepared to be concerned for the opposite spouse as well. This is important because the process will not be about “winning” for their side but about the family gaining a supportive outcome.

The divorce process is an uncomfortable position for two people to be in. It is a major transition in someone’s life and how it is dealt with will determine the health and well-being of children involved (as well as the spouses) going forward. When the egos of two people can be mediated by a group of professionals who are helping them to see what is in the best interests of their family, it is more likely that a good outcome can be assured. This is not an inexpensive process yet compared to the time, energy and money that would be spent in litigation, it will most likely be less costly than litigation. The results will most assuredly be less costly on the emotional well-being of both parties and the children involved.

Please note this is NOT legal advice as I am not an attorney. This was presented merely for informational purposes. You should consult with your attorney to find out more information on these options. Also, please take a look at the links provided to gain more knowledge for  yourself. Thank you, Jeannine Vegh, M.A., I.M.F.T.

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).

 

The Girl on the Train or The Wife of the Narcissist

“I am not the girl I used to be,” the beginning and the ending of the movie, somewhat like a poem. In between is the passion, frustration, and anger; all building toward self-awareness.

The Girl on the Train is about the lives of three women who are joined together directly and indirectly through one man. They are all involved with a narcissist. What is clever about this movie is that the director takes you on a long journey; giving you a chance to get to know these women but only their interpretations of what they believe is the truth. When you are in a relationship with a narcissist, you are made to believe that you are the one causing all the problems. The narcissist causes you to feel as if you are walking on eggshells, that you are going crazy. Your reality becomes distorted as a result. In this movie, the woman is an alcoholic so this of course makes it very easy to assume she is the bad person.

Naturally the movie shows us a bad therapist, which is sad, but in this case it is just continuing to lead us down a tunnel of wrong turns. In fact, two of the three men in the movie are false assumptions and the guilty party seems like a good guy at first. That is the makings of a good suspense. In reality though, the narcissistic man often seems like the good guy. He comes across as very appealing, sexy, responsible, a good provider. So in a sense the director was doing his/her job of turning the audience into a victim of the movie. When they finally present the truth, it is done through a scene where the alcoholic has the courage to humble herself in front of another. Meeting up with a woman on the train whose party she had attended, blacked out and created a scene. After making amends, the woman is able to tell her what really happened and suddenly she is able to wake up and trust her instincts (not her perceived reality) for the first time.

Armed with that small dose of reality, she begins to re-build her sense of self. She revisits other scenes from her life and is able to remember what actually happened, not what she was made to believe happened. Stupidly, but then we all are, she confronts her emotional tormentor with the truth. A narcissist confronted is a very dangerous thing to do because they are unable to confront the truth. Naturally, victims often believe that they are doing the right thing by standing up for themselves and trying to make sense of things with the abuser. This is the nice person wanting to give the bad person a chance to apologize, to come clean and admit to the truth. Make sense of your reality on your own, you can’t try to get them to make sense of things because their life is pathological. They get rid of what is in the way; they detach themselves so far from reality that they are incapable of self-awareness. Instead of trying to make sense of why they do the things they do, learn from the experience and become a stronger person. However, The Girl on the Train is a movie, not real life. As it is not a nice new age storyline, with Louise Hay giving us an affirmation at the end and everyone doing yoga, it has to end with something violent and more to the point.

It has to end with women cheering in the audience. The bad guy has been assaulted and we can all go home feeling relieved that justice was served. Of course, in real life, this doesn’t happen. In real life I doubt that the other woman would have stood up for her either but it is possible. I think what might have really happened is that the wife would have defended her husband. In reality, the alcoholic finally made peace with herself. The other woman was just beginning.

The ending of this film shows the alcoholic probably in recovery; for real this time. She has symbolically moved to the other side of the train because she is ready to move past her trauma and move forward in her life. We look at the ending but don’t realize that the truth is so easy. Taking that step forward by sitting in a different chair, looking out a different window, getting a new job and just letting go, which is what everyone wants us to do. It is simple for someone who is facing a small problem. When the victims psyche has been wounded at a depth such as this, they become glued to the chair and cannot get up. Thus they force themselves to try and make sense of reality because their instincts are telling them there is just something not right about what they assume is the truth. Trusting your instincts can become a task when you have begun to give your power to someone else.

Emotional abuse is ABUSE. Living in a nice neighborhood and being married to a man with money, does not make it okay to be emotionally abused. Emotional abuse is Domestic Violence. Domestic Violence does not mean you have to ALSO be physically or sexually attacked for it to be named as such. So many women are victims of emotional abuse alone and are surprised to hear they are living in a domestic violence type relationship. They often feel unworthy because they have not been hit. Unfortunately, the physical abuse can happen, the longer you stay and where there is emotional abuse, often there is sexual abuse as well. If you are being pushed into acts of sex that are unwelcome, uncomfortable, unwanted, than this would be sexual abuse.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.