Counseling Can Save Your Marriage

Counseling Can Save Your Marriage

When marriages are in trouble, often couples refuse to go to marriage counseling to save their marriage. Many factors affect this decision, including privacy, anger, contempt, distrust, confrontation, and a plethora of others. But, in all seriousness, counseling is a very valuable tool  that can help to save a marriage.

As with any relationship, clear, concise and effective communications is essential to a good working relationship. But, even though we often feel as if we are communicating effectively, little do we realize that may not be the case. Whenever we communicate, those listening are subconsciously filtering the information based on their life experiences. And some of those filters are baggage from previous relationships, good or bad. Those filters skew our thinking and our understanding of what is being said and the meanings behind them.

By using an objective third party, a marriage counselor, they may be able to help understand and correct hot button issues that are damaging the relationship.

The decision to seek counseling is a very intimate one, whether it be marriage or personal. Choosing the right counselor is key. It’s also important for both partners to understand that counseling is not an immediate solution. Marriage problems don’t appear suddenly, and they won’t be resolved without hard work in the emotional trenches. Results take time.

If your partner refuses to go to therapy, don’t make it another point of contention. Seek personal counseling for yourself, alone. Taking time to work on you and your baggage will have a positive effect in your own life, which may transfer to your marriage.

However, statistics do show that couples counseling is more effective than individual therapy.

According to statistics provided by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, 93 percent of patients surveyed said they had more effective tools for dealing with their problems after counseling.

I’ve seen the difference marriage counseling can make in the lives of close friends. I would recommend it to any couples who are struggling. It can be hard to delve into topics like money and sex in front of a third party, but the results are well-worth the discomfort.

My friends Sue and Johnny were convinced they were meant to be. They met after a series of failed relationships. Both had sworn off love completely. But when a mutual friend introduced them at a baseball game, they swore it was love at first site.

After hours of flirting and endless pints of Guinness, the pair decided to meet the next evening for their first official date. They spent the night hopping from dive bars to coffee shops, talking about past hurts and hopes for the future. The chemistry was undeniable. Sue went home with Johnny that night and never left.

Both of them will tell you that they felt like their proverbial soul mate ships had finally arrived.

“I was beginning to think there was nobody out there for me,” Johnny told me one night over sushi. “I met Sue and everything changed.” After only five months of dating, the pair eloped to Las Vegas, marrying in a drive-through service performed by an aging, gold-lamé clad Elvis-impersonator.

But after a whirlwind romance that the both described as nothing short of magical, things began to cool down, as they often do.

“In the beginning, we couldn’t get enough of each other,” Sue said. “We were having sex every day, multiple times a day. I have a high sex drive, which has caused problems in past relationships. When a man can’t get on your level, it causes resentment and frustration. John was stimulating in every way: emotionally, mentally and sexually. I was convinced I’d found my match. We got married, and things changed.”

Johnny said that marrying Sue kicked off what turned out to be the best year of his life both personally and professionally. Then things started to go down hill. He lost his job unexpectedly. He and Sue were fighting more and more over little things that seemed not to matter in the months prior. They weren’t having sex nearly as often, and eventually not at all.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Sue said. “I was starting to think I’d made a mistake. He just wasn’t the same person.”

Sue said she would try to express her feelings of loneliness and desire to Johnny, but that he didn’t seem to hear her. “I was missing my best friend, missing the intimacy of our sex life, of feeling connected and desired. But John didn’t seem to hear me. I thought maybe he just didn’t care.”

According to Johnny, the stress of losing his job had screwed up his libido. He didn’t feel like having sex or even getting up in the morning. Sue didn’t seem to understand, and the constant pressure she placed on him to perform made him feel more like a piece of meat than a husband.

After only a year of marriage, the couple decided to seek counseling.

Today, the pair have been together for more than 20 years.

“Counseling helped us to understand the struggles that the other was dealing with,” Johnny said. “We are all inherently selfish. It makes it hard to step outside our own needs and look at what our partner is going through. It was tough to talk about our sex life at first. But I’m glad that we did.”

Sue said counseling helped Johnny to see that she wasn’t feeling connected or valued as a woman, and her to see that he was feeling depressed and overly pressured.

Counseling may not be the solution for every couple. There are issues that run deep, and sometimes, just can’t be worked through. But the only way to know if counseling is right for your marriage is to discuss it. It could be just the life raft you’ve been searching for.

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Keeping Your Head

Keeping Your Head

She did it again. She raged at you. Pissed you off. And you reacted. You blew a gasket. Provided you didn’t hit her or assault her in any way, you can come out of this ok. Keeping your head during a divorce is tough, really tough.

Divorce is emotional, and emotions run wild during the divorce process. But, you can control the emotions and control the process if you can keep your head and your emotions in check. Knowing you’re going to chat with the soon to be Ex and be emotionally charged, there are some things you can do to keep a steady course while navigating the rough seas ahead.

Keeping Your Head

The first rule of keeping your cool: Learn to be here, now.

Ram Dass wrote a great book in the late sixties on the subject, with a basic premise: Be Here. Now. (That’s the title of the book, too).

We tend to live a great deal of our lives out while not really being in the moment. There are many tried and true clichés on the subject, though it boils down to some simple understanding about how we build up stress. Most stress in life really has almost nothing to do with what’s actually happening in the present moment, it has to do with how we apply outdated emotions that worked in the past to a current situation that only looks like something that has happened before. We do this really quickly, too, so it takes a minute to recognize in ourselves that we are not really staying present but responding from past built in automatic responses.

If you are stressed in the moment, look around and decide if there is an actual real threat in front of you (like the house on fire) or if you are just working yourself up over something that isn’t even happening (like an imagined conversation going badly with the ex, before you even picked up the phone).

This is what I mean by “be here, now” – Keeping your head by staying present in the moment when you are feeling stress. If you are focused on a past you can’t change or a future that hasn’t materialized, then you are anywhere but here. Learn to get back quickly.

A rubber band may help.

It might sound sort of silly, but it could be the best silliest thing you do for yourself. Heck, the kids wear bracelets everywhere these days so you could even consider it a fashion statement. Go get yourself a regular rubber band and put it on your wrist. You could even get a Live Strong bracelet or a pretty multi-colored rainbow band, whatever your preference. Just make sure it is strong and that you can snap it when you fiddle with it.

I’m pretty sure you can figure this part out already, but just in case you haven’t caught on yet: When you start getting upset, give your new bracelet a little snap instead. It should sting just enough to remind you that you are alive, in this body, here and now, and help bring you back into the present. Eventually, just feeling it on your wrist, or even glancing at it will have the same effect.

Think of Pavlov’s famous dog. That’s what we’re doing; we’re tricking our minds into associating a sensation with an action. The sensation is secondary to the act of thinking about your behavior in the moment and learning to take a small moment for reflection, which will allow you to make wiser choices. Eventually the simple thought of snapping the rubber band will replace the action of actually doing it, and the effect will be the same. You will no longer be living inside your mind and taking actions based on past experiences or imagined futures, but you will begin making better decisions based upon what is really happening in the moment. Learning to divert our attention when we start to feel anger (in this case, into the rubber band) gives us a better chance to take another tactic when we are feeling emotionally distressed.

In Neurolinguistic programming this is one of the most basic “pattern interrupters” we can create. Neurolinguistic programming (or NLP) is the science of the study of how language affects the central nervous system. NLP is pretty powerful stuff and if you’re not already familiar with its concepts, I certainly recommend looking into it. The idea behind the rubber band is easy; we get influenced by circumstance and shift into auto-drive and stop responding to the actual threat, instead using a predetermined set of reactions to handle it. Simply put: we get stuck and stop paying attention. The little sting interrupts that thought process and gives us a chance to think anew on the current dilemma and respond in a better way.

Finally, let me add that a rubber band, while certainly effective, is not the only way to create this pattern interrupting behavior we are looking for. Aldous Huxley wrote once of parrots on an island trained to say “Here and now, boys”. You could set a timer every ten minutes (or two hours, or twice a day, etc) to chime and remind you to pay attention. You could pay Kato to come over and attack you whenever you return home. You can be creative in your choices on how to resolve the problem of keeping yourself present when you are feeling angry.   \

Next week, we’ll look at more ideas for keeping your cool.

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The 5 Stages of Grieving a Relationship after Divorce

The 5 Stages of Grieving a Relationship after Divorce

Well, now you have it. The relationship is dead. And, trust me, it’s not easy. Surviving the death of a relationship is like surviving the death of a loved one. There’s a grieving process we go through, we all do, when something dies. This time, it just happened to be your marriage. That one-time partner for life is nevermore. And, it hurts. It’s painful. Very painful. But we must endure and move on.

But, to do so, we need to understand the 5 stages of grieving involved and what we must conquer in the process.

The 5 Stages of Grieving

  1. Denial. In this first stage you are still listening to your broken heart’s ballad played on repeat rather than your logical mind. Said mind makes it clear that the relationship is done for. But you don’t hear it over the beating, entrancing unchained melody blaring from within.

As you’re trying to adjust to your new reality, one free of the struggles of your relationship and old routines, you’ll notice a tightening in your abdomen and a brief loss of breath caused by anxiety. You’re in a constant state of disbelief. And even send out the occasional (albeit unanswered) drunk text from time to time.

Still believing you can fix the broken-ness in the marriage, you entertain a level of hope for a future with her despite evidence to the contrary.

2. Anger. Anger is sneaky and can manifest in surprising ways during the 5 stages of grieving a relationship. It may be hard at first to know exactly where to aim your rage. You’re clearly angry at your ex, but you’re also conflicted by deeply rooted feelings of love and fondness for her.

You begin to think about all the ways she did you wrong. This, of course, leads to you to more self-loathing where you question your very place in the universe, and wax poetic about the fact that you will probably die alone.

After all, everyone but you is in a relationship that will last forever. How could your

How could she do this? What about all the plans you made? Did your promises mean nothing? You begin looking for someone to blame for your poor fortune. The ex is a given, but you really need a bigger target. God? The Universe? The producers of The Bachelor? Sure! They’ll do.

Everything reminds you of her.

A song on the radio.

A billboard for a local restaurant.

You associate situations and people with your breakup, and you find that you’re angry with people who really had no bearing on your relationship at all. When people try to avoid your wrath by talking some sense into you, it’s easier to respond with pure, fist-shaking, vein-popping rage than listen to reason.

You may also feel an increasingly powerful urge to tell her off. Resist that urge. Be the bigger person.

3. Bargaining. Bargaining and denial are best friends. They go on dates where they watch home movies of your defunct relationship wearing rose-colored glasses. They eat those disgusting salads with fruit and spinach mixed together in an unholy combination.

And they’ll have you believing that right amount of begging and some clever bargaining could bring that relationship roaring back to life.

Now you’re looking for any way to make this work: threats, negotiation, a deal with the devil for your soul for eternity…

Hollow promises (about changing things about you really don’t think are a problem but you lie anyway) leave you faster than you can write them down. Counseling, a second job, fewer hours at the office–they’re all declarations declared in a vain attempt to revive what’s already laying flat in a fridge wearing a toe tag.

If that doesn’t work, opt for a side of guilt with your corpse. Throw in the kids. Tell her about all the therapy they’ll need just to function like normal adults. Blame her.

Keep it up long enough, and she’ll see she was right to leave your crazy ass.

4. Depression.

This may manifest in different ways. Symptoms include (but aren’t limited to):

  • A lack of energy
  • A desire to sleep more often than normal
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lack of desire to do anything you had previously taken pleasure in.

Drug and alcohol abuse are common in people going through this stage. A permeating lack of hope may push you to miss days of work or duck out on pre-planned outings. Friends and family will grow noticeably concerned about your welfare, but you can’t muster the will to care.

You feel like you’re going to explode into a weeping puddle of emotion at any second. And you long for the sweet reprieve of death. Believing everyone would be better off without you around, you’re tired of burdening those around you with your problems.

If at any time you experience any of these symptoms, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at:

1-800-273-8255

24 hours a day, 7 days a week including holidays. The service is free to everyone, and your call is kept confidential.

Visit the National Institute of Mental Health’s site dedicated to suicide prevention for more information about depression and steps you can take to treat it. 

5. Acceptance. The last of the 5 stages of grieving a relationship takes the longest to reach. But once you get here, you start to feel like yourself again.

Here, in the land of “Wouldn’t trade nothing for my journey, now,” you are finally able to accept the relationship is over. You’re better off for it.

If you don’t agree you are, it’s at this stage that you are finally able to recognize that the only course of action is to move on. Let go of the past.

Your interests begin to return little by little. Friends may comment that you look better than you have in years. You find a renewed sense of purpose and may even take up new hobbies.

Final Thoughts

In the midst of the churning tide that is the five phases of this process, it may seem impossible that you will ever arrive at this sunlit place, but you will. A lingering sadness may occasionally pop up, but those days become few and far between.

In the end, you are focused on your own well-being and your bright future ahead.

Understanding how the break-up process affects us can help you overcome some of the more challenging parts of this experience by making them easier to navigate. Just remember, you can’t rush through any level of the grieving process. The best thing you can do for yourself is to allow yourself the right to pass through each stage all the while feeling your feelings. Processing them is the only way to keep the breakup from haunting you for years to come.

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The 6 Ill Effects of Talking About Your Divorce on the Internet

The 6 Ill Effects of Talking About Your Divorce on the Internet

WOW. Now you’re divorced. And you’re pissed off because you were pissed on. You didn’t deserve this. And, you want to spout off to the world. Talking about your divorce on the internet is tempting. Your computer is the perfect weapon – it’s right there, just sitting on your desk. It’s the perfect solution to tell the world how you just got screwed and weren’t able to lay back and enjoy it.

Your phone, laptop, keyboard awaits, yon Master. Just get on Facebook, or Twitter, or Tumblr, and let it all pour out like a fountain of righteous indignation. She’ll rue the day she screwed you over, once you let her have it over the Internet.

 

Talking about your divorce on the internet

Well, here’s the problem, though. As tempting and understandable as it may be, the repercussions talking about your divorce on the internet is huge.  Tweeting that tweet, posting that status, writing that blog may extend beyond your ten minutes of glory behind the keyboard. Indeed, in ways you may not even consider.

Here is a list of the 6 ill effects of talking about your divorce on the internet, even if it does make you feel better. And yes, I am speaking from experience.

You look like a jerk. Yes, you are probably at your lowest point imaginable after splitting from your love, the mother of your beautiful kids. Raging about it doesn’t help anything however. It’s one thing to put a faceless corporation on blast with a series of tweets, or with a strongly worded Facebook post. It’s another to do it to another human being, no matter how much (you feel) she deserves it.

You hurt your children. Now, I’m as guilty as anyone in very matter of factly telling my kids (who I do have custody of) that despite the fact we were married for close to fifteen years, I really don’t like their mother very much. It’s just how it is, and that’s that. When you take to the Internet in telling everyone you know this, in excruciating detail, sooner or later, your kids will find out what you said about their mother, whom they more than likely still love and care for quite a bit. And they will more than likely find out about it through their mother. Because no matter how many blocks you have on someone, eventually there’s a mutual friend of a friend out there that will see it, and then it cascades…

And speaking of “sooner or later”…

Everything you say stays on the Internet… in some form or another. No, I’m not getting Edward Snowden on you, but the fact is, even if you delete the post within an hour, there is an archive of you saying it, somewhere out there. The net has always had a way of preserving its data. Sooner or later, someone who is looking for anything to do with your situation can, and eventually will, find it. And that someone can be her attorney. Because…

Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. Now, don’t worry. You can’t be arrested for saying nasty things about someone (Well, unless you make threats against them, and yes, at that point you deserve it). However, if you’re still going through your proceedings, any of your online rants can be used as ammunition by opposing counsel. Especially if you’re in the middle of a custody battle.

You can alienate even your most ardent supporters. At a time when you need friends more than any other in your life, you don’t want to do anything that will push them away. Constant, or even occasional, polemics about how evil she is will push them away. Trust me, it about happened to me, with someone I know in my “real” profession, who was going through something very similar, snapping me back into reality. She’s not worth the friends you lose, because you can’t stop kvetching about her.

You look like a jerk. This needs to be reiterated and emphasized. No matter how justified you are, or how well-received your posts are, you look like a jerk. And if you let your mouth get the better of you, you will probably say some things you’ll regret later. Things that maybe make you look worse than an asshole.

As with anything to do with online writing, think before you post. Remember actions can, and often do, have consequences. And besides, if you want to prove you’re the better person in this argument, act like it. Screaming how you’re the better person and a great guy to boot… well, typically, it shows the exact opposite result.

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Finding Good Advice and a Good Divorce Lawyer

Finding Good Advice and a Good Divorce Lawyer

Divorce. Yeah, it’s the one word we men hate. It evokes all kinds of unsettling emotions. And, in no uncertain terms, during your break up, separation and divorce you’re extremely vulnerable, emotionally, financially, and God forbid, maybe even physically. And, good advice is hard to find, especially during divorce.

Recently, there’s been a whole cottage industry devoted to providing good advice for men. And there in lie the opportunities – to make money off your troubles, to push an agenda, and any host of other insidious schemes to be ‘your pal’ and provide the things you need, when you need them. And, be forewarned, this is opportunity time for divorce attorneys. Here are a few things to be wary of.

Good Advice for the Divorcing Man

Divorce Lawyers, especially the ones that advertise, don’t necessarily offer good advice. Come on, we’ve all seen it before – billboards, radio ads, TV ads, newspapers, even flyers in the mail. Lawyers typically don’t need to advertise their services. The ones that do are usually only in it to drum up business. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s the American Way. But there’s one firm I can think of, here in my faire city that’s especially slimy about it, and they’ll go so low (or so I’ve been told) as to charge you for the staples they use to bind your documents together.

Mind you, unscrupulous lawyers are just as much a part of the American milieu as cowboys and wagon trains. And one particular law firm is hardly the problem all by itself. But the minute words like “We’re fighting for your rights as a father” start coming out of mouths, research the law firm you’re thinking about hiring. Father’s Rights is a particularly coded way of claiming “We think the law is lopsided in favor of women and by golly we’re going to prove that!”

There is no evidence of this whatsoever. In fact, speaking from experience, my own Ex was under the impression that we lived in a “Mother State” and therefore, despite the fact she had given up on the kids, she thought she was going to skate. Haha, well…

Make no mistake: lawyers are absolutely essential in some divorces, especially if a custody battle is in the works. But there are options out there other than the ones who advertise on the back of the phone book. Check your state or country’s legal aid services, for one. Google law firms in your area too, and see what past clients have to say about them. Even better – know a lawyer? You may not get pro bono work out of them, but s/he can at least point you in a better direction. Or consider a divorce mediator. They are non-confrontational, non-adversarial, and they mediate, without taking sides.

Long story short – anyone who advertises that they’re there for you, and for all men, are only out to get your money, which you’re going to need to support your kids, custodial parent and/or yourself.

Extremists. In recent times, there has been a sharp increase in the rise of men’s extremism. One of the many ways this has manifested has been in the so-called “Men’s Rights Movement.” On the surface, the MRM says they are just looking out for men in this world, much like Father’s Rights proponents, trampled as they are by the law and society more inclined to side with the biological mother and women in general.

Now, there is absolutely nothing wrong in this world with finding like-minded persons in similar situations as yourself to socialize with and get into support group situations with. However, outward misogyny or any concerted efforts to antagonize your Ex using Your Rights and Your Kids as sticking points is not time well spent.

Men’s support groups are fine. Most men’s support groups worth their salt don’t encourage internet harassment campaigns against women who have an opinion that differ from yours. If you feel like you need to be amongst “your own people,” I would suggest looking into groups that foster positive advice and positive messages of some kind, religious or otherwise, which best suits your emotional needs. There are groups that focus on men, not as a method of extracting revenge against your Ex or fostering other agendas, but to better yourself, to take stock of what your failures might have been, take responsibility for what may have happened with your ex and your children, and to improve on them, for yourself and your relationships, present and future.

Again, nothing wrong with that at all! Everybody on this earth has room for improvements in their lives. Just don’t let that be a springboard for other, less scrupulous opportunists to further their potentially harmful agenda.

These are but three examples of good advice and what to watch out for. The moral of the story, however, is this: don’t let your personal pain and hardships become an open door for predators. There are people in this world who actively seek out men who are going through divorce, especially when kids are involved. And not necessarily for altruistic reasons, either. Anyone who says they’re your friend when they’re trying to sign you up for something, typically isn’t. Be smarter. Do your research. And, watch your back. The consequences of being the next mark can last a lifetime.

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I’m Not Locked In Here With You

I’m Not Locked In Here With You

I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me.
— Rorschach in Watchmen, by Alan Moore

Let’s get one thing straight from the start. You’re divorced. You have kids with the Ex. The truth of the matter in dealing with your Ex is this – YOU HAVE TO. It’s a necessary evil. You’re locked in to having to deal with your Ex.  I realize you don’t want to. Neither did I. I get it. But, you’re going to have to deal with her about visitations, child support, alimony, kids activities, and any of a countless number of other things.

Locked In With the Ex

Your kids, like most kids in this nuclear world, are going to be involved in any number of outside activities, science fairs, dance, concerts, sports, plays, graduations. Most of these activities will be reason to run into the Ex, and may involve collaboration with the Ex. No matter how much you wish it NOT to be so, it’s going to happen. It’s inevitable.

Sorry to bring the stark fatalism into this article, but I’m just sayin’. You made babies with this woman, you’re gonna have endure some social functions as her Ex when the kids are involved. So, the best thing to do is swallow your pride, and make the best of what is surely a tough situation.

There are a few ways this can be achieved, of course. One of the easiest is to be on opposite sides of the space, whatever it is. If she sits stage left, sit stage right. At a basketball game, go to the other set of bleachers to cheer your daughter or son on. Just because you are in the same place, doesn’t mean you have to actively engage her. It’s probably going to happen, even if it’s just in passing. But there’s nothing that says you need to be locked in with each other as she or he delivers that Shakespearean soliloquy.

Another way is to come to an agreement beforehand – you want a few minutes to talk to him after the game (or she does, if you are the custodial parent), then you definitely should be allowed to, in peace. But don’t just walk up afterwards and usher your daughter away either without so much as a Hello. Work it out beforehand. Communication, as it turns out, does work wonders, even in the most hateful and contentious of breakups.

In fact, that is probably the best bet for most things regarding your kids – come to agreements. This will inevitably end up involving compromises, whether anyone likes it or not. Not everyone can get their own way all of the time. Not even the most virulent case of “affluenza” will achieve that goal. Sometimes, as much as you can say No, others will be telling you No as well. Learn when to say Yes.

And I know that sometimes, especially with big life-events such as graduations or weddings, it’s not going to be just your former spouse present. Chances are, your former in-laws will be there as well. If you’ve maintained great relationships with them, fantastic! If not… well, best be on your guard there, and then some. You can’t help how others will act. But you can help how you react to others’ poor behavior. Lashing out, especially at a public event centered around your children’s achievements, is always poor form, bar none.

It may be easy to say “take the high road,” but it’s a lot more difficult to actually do it. Fortunately, there’s plenty of time to get used to the idea. That’s why you’re here, right? We all could use a little leg up from time to time. I know I still do to this day.

All that said – whatever you do, don’t panic. Nobody ever died from being locked in the same room as their Ex. At least, not for that reason. Just remember one thing most important of all – the reasons you may be in the same place at the same time is for the kids. It’s their events, it’s their time to shine. Swallow your pride, and realize, ultimately, it’s them what matter during these times. Save the drama for… another time.

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