See a Couple’s Counselor Sooner Rather than Later

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See a Couple’s Counselor Sooner Rather than Later

A lot of couples get defensive when confronted with the idea of seeing a therapist. They say they are fine. There is nothing wrong with them. They don’t think their problems are all that bad. Seeing a counselor is thought of as a defeat, or that the couple or relationship is defective. Though not as strong as it was in the past, people still have a negative association with therapy. The truth is people see a therapist for all different kinds of reasons. There is absolutely no shame in it. In fact, admitting you could use professional guidance is a show of great inner strength. Just as we all have our own physical health problems, so too do we have our own mental health aberrations. No one is perfect. We are all human and so intrinsically flawed. But that doesn’t make us any less brilliant, capable, mesmerizing or worthwhile. No one can fault you for seeing a doctor, even if the health condition is minor. You don’t want it to get worse. A small injury if left untreated can get infected, even become life threatening. The same is true with your mental health, and the health of your relationship. Seeing a couple’s counselor doesn’t mean that the relationship is on its last leg.  It could just mean you need some direction on certain issues that you haven’t been able to make headway on, some professional guidance.

Divorce counselor and post-divorce advisor, Ian Oliver says he sees one couple even though they have a seemingly perfect marriage. “She says she always learns something that nurtures their relationship,” he wrote in the Huffington Post. “She considers it maintenance.” So couple’s counseling is not only for fixing problems. We can learn how we love and how our partner loves. This will allow us to see ways to develop the relationship we hadn’t seen before, and make it more fulfilling. All it takes is a little insight. It may also help you to notice when things are right versus when they aren’t. Sometimes one or both members of a relationship live in denial of a problem that gets bigger and bigger, until it tears the relationship apart. But understanding what your dynamic looks like when it’s humming along, and when things started to go wrong, can help diagnose problems quickly and work in a more effective strategy to deal with them. Most of the time however, the couple seeks out a counselor when there are major issues. They have tried but are at an impasse. Seeking out a therapist when things first go bad can help stave off the further complications that come from a problem that has grown beyond control.

There are times when we grow accustomed to unwanted behavior, live in denial or fail to see it for what it actually is, damaging to us and our relationship. You may not know why they act like this, or why you do. It can be hard to trace back certain behaviors, reactions or emotions to their origins. A good counselor or couple’s therapist can help you see these patterns and trace them back to their origins. Once you see where things stem from, you can develop strategies to deal with them. Sometimes couples seek out therapy after lots of things have been said that can’t be taken back. The counselor, in addition to being a professional, is also impartial. They are trained to pick up on unhealthy habits and behaviors. They won’t get caught on one person’s side. You can trust their impartiality and their professional training to help guide you. We all need to see the things from a new angle on occasion to get some perspective. The most important thing is to keep communicating with your partner. Be honest with one another. Try to work through your problems yourselves. But if you can’t, see a couple’s therapist before things start spinning out of control. Don’t wait until things have gotten way out of hand. For more help, read the book, Counseling and Therapy for Couples by Lynn L. Long and Mark E. Young.

Why Staying Together for the Kids is a Bad Idea

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Why Staying Together for the Kids is a Bad Idea

Trying to stick together for the children, even after you’ve done everything possible to resurrect your marriage, usually just makes things worse. Even when the children are shielded from the arguments, they can sense the hostility like a tense fog over the house. Some kids even report feeling relieved when hearing of their parent’s divorce, the opposite of what we picture would happen, begging them to stay together. But having things appear to be working and having them actually working are two different things. You can’t hide the truth from them. They live there, too. And they know, already. Kids have an incredible beat on what’s happening with their parents. It’s some sort of natural inclination. But to deny it is to insult their intelligence. Children also model their romantic relationships after their parents. If you stay together without any longer feeling love, commitment or any tender feelings at all towards one another, what kind of message are you sending them? Will they do the same in their future marriages or relationships? Don’t you want them to be happy and follow that happiness, wherever it may lead? If you stick together, your sacrifice is wasted. In fact, it is doing more harm than good.

There are lots of considerations when getting a divorce. There is the financial burden, which everyone will endure, including the children. It can be hard in a variety of ways. There is telling them, the possibility of moving and putting them in a new school, custody battles, and fights over asset allocation, child support and alimony. The average divorce lasts somewhere in the vicinity of six months. The most hotly debated and contentious can take years. For those in no financial condition to divorce, a separation until the means for a simple divorce can be arranged may be the best answer.  Some worry about the stigma. But today, divorce is so common the stigma has virtually evaporated. What generally happens when it is all over, or at least when a new pattern settles in, is things get better. Without living in a contentious household, the kids feel more secure. They will relax and be themselves. More focus will now be placed on them instead of on the elephant in the room. Parents can also feel that they are being upfront with their children, and the kids won’t feel lied to. There are also lots of life lessons being portrayed that can carry over into their love lives, once they grow up. Children learn to have realistic expectations for relationships, love and marriage. Too many people today have some sort of Disneyesque vision, skewing their expectations. They just are not realistic when it comes to love and relationships in the real world. But children of divorce see past all that. They are also less likely to jump into a committed relationship without thinking about it, and who with.

A divorce helps children see their parents as people. They see their parents in many different roles; sometimes as a worker, of course as a parent, a friend, child, and a sibling and when they start dating again, as a partner to someone else. In other words, the kids don’t take their vision of their parents for granted. They also recognize more closely that their parents are flawed, or to put it a better way, human. But children who see their parent’s marriage as an ideal to be lived up to, suddenly cannot choose what their heart wants. They keep chasing an ideal that they will never catch instead of the reality of love that is before them. Everyone has to find someone right for them. And those two people have to develop a relationship that works for their particular personalities. But when we try to bend a relationship to match some unrealistic ideal, things are bound to run in to trouble.

Children can see their parents more as people who have hopes, dreams, flaws and regrets. They also gather insight into how bad relationships operate and how good relationships work. Usually, parents get into other long-term relationships after divorce, or get remarried. So instead of focusing on having children coming from a “broken home,” realize that if your house is full of contention, either explicit or implicit, it is affecting the children far more negatively than you think. It’s best instead to have the courage to move on with your life, embrace who you are and after you heal, allow yourself to love again. These are great lessons to pass onto your children. They will learn to be brave, and go forth in the world to find the love that they deserve, the kind that is right for them. To learn how to operate and move forward when you have kids and a separation is looming read, The Truth About Children and Divorce: Dealing with the Emotions So You and Your Children Can Thrive by Robert Emery.

It’s Okay to Love being Single

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It’s Okay to Love being Single

Are you tired of people asking when you’re going to settle down, get married or have a steady, long term relationship?  It’s okay to be single and love it. Many coupled up types, family members and others feel that you aren’t completely satisfied if you don’t come with an automatic plus one. But in today’s world, more and more people are happy and fulfilled flying solo, dating or dating someone long term but without the heavy responsibility of marriage on their mind. In a recent Happen/Match.com survey, 54% of singles said that they were looking for a relationship, but not with someone they planned to marry. 37% said they were searching for their soul mate for marriage. 9% said their main goal was having fun. So if more than half are happy with dating, without the need to marry, it means they feel happy and fulfilled without the need to get hitched. This is a huge change from just a few short generations ago. People are more satisfied in their single lives today than in the past. It’s more socially acceptable to be single. The pressure is off.

There are other reasons, too. The amount of education needed to make a comfortable living for most is much higher. This means young people have to dedicate most of their time to studying and getting advanced degrees just to be able to make a living. They don’t have as much time for dating or developing relationships. And people spend much more time in their careers than they did in the past. Couple that with the fact that we are living longer, that the divorce rate is so high, and people are waiting longer to marry, the average age in the U.S. is 27 for men and 26 for women, and you can see why many people are choosing to stay single for far longer. There is even a trend of long term cohabitation versus actual marriage, to avoid the legal and emotional ramifications should the couple split. But even if people are choosing to stay single or cohabitate versus marriage, are they as happy? Research has always pointed out to the health and financial benefits of happily married couples. But more and more research shows that lots of singles have rewarding dating, social, family and work lives. So don’t look at being single as a drawback. It’s a normal, natural lifestyle. Find the type of romantic status that works for you and how you want to live your life. If you are single and loving it, enjoy it. Don’t let others put preconceived notions onto what your life is supposed to be. No one can say that but you. For more on this topic, read Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After by Bella DePaulo, Ph.D.

Mandatory Class for Those Getting Divorced in Oklahoma

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Mandatory Class for Those Getting Divorced in Oklahoma

A strange state law has arisen in Oklahoma, for those who want to get divorced they must take a mandatory class issued by the state. According to the newspaper the Tulsa World, “The program will cover resources available for families on subjects that include substance abuse, addiction, family violence, behavioral health, individual and couples counseling and financial planning.” These all sound like good things that could benefit the couple and society as well. However, some believe that Oklahoma is over-stretching its bounds. For instance, according to the same newspaper, “(Republican representative Jason) Nelson said broken homes have an impact on social services, the prison population and the school system. As a result, divorce affects all taxpayers.” But others are asking, is it really the state government’s business who gets divorced and who doesn’t? Should citizens be forced to take a class because they want a divorce? These are some thorny issues Oklahomans and others will have to sort through. The bill was written by Representative Nelson along with a State Senate Republican Rob Standridge, and was just recently signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin. To add insult to injury, not only do couples with children under 18 years of age have to take the class but they also are forced to pay for it, as if the price tag of divorce wasn’t elevated enough. Nelson supported the now Oklahoma state law by saying, “It seems like a small thing to ask people to do — to take a course — when the challenges that come from divorce are so permanent.”

One problem detractors bring up is the stigma many children suffer, particularly in regions where “traditional family values” are so important. In a recent article in the Chicago Tribune Heidi Stevens argues “One class is one more example of the stigma we attach to kids of divorce as sad, broken future prison inmates.” Certainly more and more children are growing up in blended families, single parent families, same-sex families and other non-traditional families, all over the country and in all regions. What’s more, the Great Recession has seen more and more mothers and women become the breadwinners in their household while more and more men are stay at home dads raising the children. In this social atmosphere, does this class really seem necessary? Certainly resources should be made available to those who are entering into a divorce. But a mandatory class cheapens the hours, days and even months couples struggle over whether or not to get divorced, trying different things to save the marriage and coming to the painful conclusion that their union, which they believed would last the rest of their lives, is in fact coming to an end. It’s such a pivotal emotional process that no couple comes to lightly. But inherent in this law, that the class is mandatory is a message, that perhaps this couple didn’t think things through, and that message can be seen as insulting for so many who agonized about the end of their marital partnership.

Many people who do get divorced often site it as the right decision. Yet, still a lot of divorced people walk around with guilt. They feel like used goods or they feel broken. But this class further stigmatizes them. What’s more, the state representative saying that it’s a burden on society and the taxpayers further shames people who are going through a painful time in their life and want to move on. In terms of children, one of the most damaging things to them isn’t divorce but a conflict ridden home. A recent study out of the U.K. found that children growing up in single parent or step-parent homes were just as happy and well-adjusted as their counterparts in dual parent homes. Yet, these parents who are deciding to divorce feel a slight pinch at this law, as they want to do what’s best for their child and believe they are doing the right thing. In an interview with Reuters Standridge said, “If you are going through the whole divorce process and have kids, if we can do anything to keep people together, we should. Marriage is a lifelong contract with the state and with your children.” Certainly a conflict ridden household is less stable for the children. And what message will you be sending them, that it is okay to stay with someone who doesn’t make you happy? We will see if this law holds up or if a couple will challenge its constitutionality. But today it is the law of the land. If you are contemplating divorce, read Before You Throw in the Towel: Twelve Things You Should Consider Before Filing for a Divorce by Bob Moorehead.

It’s time to De-stigmatize Men and Therapy

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Lots of women have stereotypical things to say about men. Many of these were hurt or unlucky in love. There are lots of good men out there who are direct, honest, self-oriented and strong. The problem is that our society dictates that men should be strong and self-sufficient. But that means when they have a problem instead of communicating it they shove it deep down inside where it festers. Or else they try to deal with it merely on their own and feel apprehensive to share it with anyone else, especially their lover whom they want to be seen as strong, masculine and capable to. It’s time to de-stigmatize men and therapy. Men in our society have to fight through a wall of defenses to see their true selves beneath the layers. This is a tough process. But it is often these underlying issues that affect relationships and subsequently the women these men are involved with. These walls men build up not only isolate them, they also prevent a man from becoming vulnerable. This lack of vulnerability affects the connecting process between him and his mate. Some of this has to do with the nature of men, it’s in their DNA, but how they are socialized in society certainly plays a role and it is impeding rather than enhancing or expediting the long-term relationship process.

Psychologists believe that androgynous personalities are best for a long term relationship. This means that each person possesses active feminine and masculine traits. Male traits like directness and assertiveness and female traits like thoughtfulness and empathy practiced by both partners can create a positive space for your relationship to grow unencumbered. But our society seems to limit the outlets where men can reveal their true feelings and receive validation, guidance and support. This should change as men’s roles both in the work sphere and in the home sphere have changed. Men and women today are living lives side-by-side instead of separate. They are also interacting more on a level playing field. But traditional values of men being silent on their feelings or being embarrassed at expressing their true selves prevents this model from being successful with some individuals and couples. It’s best that he be given the time and space. A man should be made to feel comfortable. If you want to be his confidant, be sure not to judge him harshly. Give him a safe place where he can admit anything to you without fear of reprisal. Of course, if you extend this privilege you have to follow through on your promise, or else he’ll clam up and won’t tell you anything. Also reveal things about yourself slowly as time passes and take him in as a confidant. More than likely he will respond in kind when he feels comfortable and the time is right for him. For more on this topic, read For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men by Shaunti Feldhahn.