Jul 19, 2018 12:27 PM
When you think back to your time as a kid, you may not have the most positive memories of it. The experiences we had as a kid has totally shaped us as an adult. But not only that, if those experiences were negative, it can actually result in an earlier death. Let me explain..
Something called Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACE for short, is a tool used to help unleash some of the childhood experiences, or trauma. The results of the ACE assessment opens up explanations of why we do things the way we do, and why we may think the way we think. But more interestingly, there is a significant connection between negative childhood experiences and things like addictions, obesity, COPD and early death.
If you look at this pyramid, you can see at the very bottom, the ACE. This often occurs from birth to about age 12 or so. If the ACE scoring is high, say 4+, there is a greater likelihood of social, emotional and/or cognitive impairment, which then leads to high risk behaviors (trouble with the law, addictions, etc). And as that continues it may lead to diseases and disability which then results in an early death. A lot of work has been done around this pyramid idea. The numbers don't lie! Adverse childhood experiences has a significant impact on us as an adult.
In couples counselling, I often have couples fill out the ACE scoring assessment. Knowledge is everything. What do you know about your partner's childhood experiences?
May 14, 2018 2:19 PM
"Nobody cares what you think!". A statement I often use in my therapy office with clients. I feel like I should explain.
Husband comes home from work after a very rough day. He walks in and slams the door behind him. Shouting, he says "I can't believe him! He pulls me into his stupid office and tells me that if I am late one more time he will fire me!!"
As the wife stands there watching her very disgruntled husband blow off steam, she has a choice to make. An opportunity to add to the emotional deposit box of their marriage. Or, an opportunity to criticize, say what they would have done themselves or try to solve their problem.
This is what I call the 80-20 rule. The conversation immediately following the husband blowing off steam like this needs to be divided into this 80-20 concept: spend 80% of the time leaning in emotionally to where he is at, to empathize, to be on the same team in attacking the world.. and 20% of the time to suggest solutions. I might add, 0 % of the time criticizing, or turning it around on you by saying what you would have done. That is where my comment, "Nobody cares what you think" comes in.
The husband, in this example, doesn't care what the wife thinks. He doesn't care what the wife would have done differently if the circumstances were switched. The husband doesn't care about solutions. What he wants & needs is the "80" part of the 80-20 equation. The leaning in. The emotional connection. An example of this would be:
wife: "Really?! He pulled you into his office and told you that?! Unbelieveable! What did you say to him? What did he say? How did you manage to stay at work after he said all that stuff to you?! You must have been so mad!"
See that? The wife matched the husbands emotions. At no time did she agree or disagree or offered any suggestions or criticism. She matched his emotions and asked questions to better understand his emotions. During this part, nobody cares what she is thinking. He certainly doesn't.
Only after this connection is made does the wife then, if appropriate, offer possible solutions. If the wife goes here too quick, then the emotional connection will not be made. It has to be 80-20.
May 4, 2018 11:27 AM
Most of my inquiries come from the wives. Not all, but a good 80%. The other 20% are from the husbands. And in my experience, by the time the husband does call inquiring about therapy, it's nearly too late. The story frequently goes the same.. the wife has been asking for them to go to counselling for years, the husband says no because he feels like he can fix things on their own, and time goes by but they are in the exact same (or worse) position than they were back when the wife first suggested counselling.
Husbands/Boyfriends/Male Partners: when your partner first suggests the idea of going to counselling, go!
Now, there are some key words that your wife may say. If any of these sound familiar to you, alarm bells should be going off. It means things are in trouble. Take a look...
If your wife says "I feel alone in this marriage" or "I don't feel emotionally connected", these are red flags! This isn't something that just occured overnight or after a rough weekend. This is probably something that has been going on for a very long time.
Coming to counselling doesn't have to be a year long process. Many of the couples I work with have seen a significant improvement in their marriage after only a handful of sessions. I doubt that you want her to feel alone.. so do something about it!
Apr 24, 2018 2:28 PM
You dug through the closet, found some old overalls, and headed outside to do some cleaning up around the house. In your mind you are thinking how happy the wife will be. "Oh she will love this!", right?
Before you know it, you are greeted by the wife with a bunch of questions. 'Why did you put the old planters pots over there?" or even worse, she doesn't even notice what you did and instead she continues on with her regular routine.
I hear scenerios like this often in therapy. We express love to our partner only to end up being rejected or ignored or unnoticed.
One of the most successful tools I have used with couples that I work with is the 5 Love Languages. Knowing what your partners love language is, is crucial to emotional connection.
It is YOUR JOB to know your partners love language, and to speak it! If their love language is Acts of Service, then it's your job as their partner to speak their language.
Once couples understand this philosophy (and I have really simplied it for this very short blog!) they then can grow closer together, speaking a love language that their partner actually understands.
Mar 7, 2017 3:13 PM
What do you want to be when you grow up? How many times have you been asked that question as an adolescent or young adult? Likely, many times. But how about now? What do you want to be? What do you want to accomplish? Where would you like to go? What hero would you like to meet?
For me, one of my life dreams has always been to walk the streets of New York city! I always wanted to, but never really imagined it ever happening. Couple years ago I had the opportunity to do just that. I jumped at it! I remember finding a parking spot just around the corner from the Empire State Building, getting out of the car filled with excitement and having such a great sense of accomplishment and achievement! There I was. I am in New York City!
Sounds like a useless and fruitless dream, but it was self-rewarding. And having my wife with me to share in my excitement made it even more memorable.
What are your dreams? Do you even know? Do you know your partners dreams?
On the next rainy evening, why not stay in and cuddle up with your partner and talk about life dreams. Ask each other these same questions I am asking you. Write them out. Draw pictures. Talk and laugh. Feel the unity and trust that comes from sharing such intimate and personal feelings.
Jan 12, 2017 1:23 PM
I often have couples come in for the first time, exhausted, stressed, beaten down and worried. Worried that therapy will not work. Worried that this will be a waste of time. That their relationship is destined to fail. No hope.
I expect couples to come for counselling feeling exhausted, stressed, beaten down and worried. Usually we wait until we have almost cracked before getting help. We use counselling as a last resort. So the big question is.. can therapy work? How successful is marriage counselling? Can relationships be saved?
My answer applies to 90% of couples. The answer is YES! But no way in heck if both partners don't give 110%. Marriages are tough. Really, really tough. Throw in some problems, communication chaos, bickering, fighting and the awful "4 horsemen behavior styles" those tough marriages just became even harder!
In therapy, I break things up. Big problems are just a bunch of small ones squished together. Trying to fix the big guy is overwhelming and daunting. But taking it by smaller pieces is a lot more manageable. Communication, commitment and trust is what we need to get the relationship to be built on. So we start with that and move on to how exactly we resolve conflicts, what really must be solved and what can we do to help the other live out their dreams.
But absolutely nothing will change in your marriage if you just rely on the 60 minutes or 90 minutes or whatever time we spend together. It's the hard work that both of you must do in between our weekly sessions. The homework. The assigned tasks. Some of it will be uncomfortable. Some of it will be enjoyable. Either way, it's there to help you and help your relationship.
If you are struggling in your marriage, don't wait until you are totally stressed out or when you feel that living in hell is better then living in your home. Get some unbiased help. Talk with someone who can help you and your partner take responsibility and make the necessary changes to be happy. Trust me, it can be done!
Dec 31, 2016 11:16 PM
As I sit here about an hour to go before ringing in the new year, I sense there are a lot of nervous guys out there looking at the clock, palms sweating, thinking about what is about to take place. At midnight we ring in the new year. For some, they are also ringing in a proposal to their girlfriends. "I want to spend the rest of my life with you! My love, will you marry me?!"
Over the next several months there will be a lot of preparation for the wedding day. The cake, the dress, the music and venue. Oh, the guest list. Stress, excitement, nerves, doubts. All of it is normal. But I wonder how much thought is put into the actual marriage. Personalities, communication, conflict resolution, individual and family goals, in-laws, finances, sexual intimacy, family planning. Oh the list goes on! How much time do couples really put into these conversations before their wedding?
Considering divorce rates are near 50%, and second marriages around 70%, it is imperitive that planning is at the forefront. Pre-marital counselling (a must in many US states!) will guide the couple through conversations that needs to happen. But not just conversations. Structure, tools, techniques and awareness of yourself and each other.
If you know someone who is getting married, do them a favor. Buy them a pre-marital counselling/planning package. It's personal, its useful and its affordable. In fact, it's cheaper than the wedding cake!
Dec 2, 2016 11:27 AM
You love your in-laws! Just admit it! It's that time of year again when the in-laws arrive, the uncles and aunts come by and the rest of the distant family members shows up to take over your house! Ah, Christmas!
If you are like many families, distant relatives and in-laws pose a challenging obstacle for you. Will mom be critical of the house? Will dad drink too much? Will Uncle Jim flirt with our son's girlfriend? The things that bonds family together!
To try to make the most of this upcoming holiday season, it is important that you and your partner talk about possible issues. Listen to each others concerns. Don't judge them, even if it's totallly absurd. Listen, ask questions, repeat back.
Second, agree on the issues. List them out. Cross out the ones that you will have no control over.
And third come up with an action plan. What WILL you say when mom complains about the colors of the walls? Or that the TV is just way too big for your kids? Or if she complains about how you are letting your daughter wear totally inappropriate clothes. What will you say? What wil your partner say? Talk about it. Role play even. And agree on a strategy.
And if Uncle Jim flirts with your son's girlfriend, which one of you will kick him out of the house? :)
Start talking today. You have a couple of weeks to figure this whole family-coming-over-for-dinner-but-will-likely-end-in-a-fight out. Talk, listen, and plan.
Have fun & good luck!
Nov 10, 2016 3:02 PM
You know how it goes. Right in the middle of a heated argument your partner turns around and walks away. Up to the bedroom or off to the couch. You just know this is the beginning of a day long silent treatment. Or two days. This is called Stonewalling. According to Gottman, stonewalling is when one person totally shuts down and closes him/herself off, resulting in zero responsiveness and zero communication. The interaction just... stops. The big problem about Stonewalling is that it can easily become a habit!
So, are you guilty of Stonewalling? Maybe you recognize it in your partner? Stonewalling, also known as imploding, can destroy your relationship. Avoid it! Reach out to me to learn the techniques on what YOU can do to avoid a stonewalling relationship, whether you are the guilty partner or not!
Nov 4, 2016 2:59 PM
This one simple thing that you can do with your partner each week could save your marriage! It's easy, only takes a few minutes and can protect your marriage. Not married yet? Perfect! Start today!
It's called Couples Connect. Or the Marriage Meeting. Or Lovers Lane. It's up to you to come up with a better name than me!
It's a weekly meeting that the two of you have. It's a set date and time, say Wednesdays at 8pm. It can be done at the kitchen table, on the couch, laying in bed, it doesn't really matter. Heck, even outside on the deck would work. It can last a few minutes, but I would plan on half an hour. Add a bowl of fruit to it, or tea....or wine, and you will be all set.
What's The Purpose?
Part One: to review the past week, the ups and downs, the challenges, what worked well and what fell through the cracks, the disappointments, the accomplishments, the highs and lows. To express appreciation and gratitude to each other
Part Two: to plan the upcoming week. Chores, responsibilities. Date night. (yes! Date night! Must must must be every single week!)
Part Three: to work out any specific problems or challenges. In detail. May want to use the 10-step Conflict Resolution program for this part (ask me for a copy of it. Its great!)
That's it. 3 parts. Review, Plan and Resolve. Do this every single week and you will avoid the many pitfalls that happens to couples. Do you have experience having these weekly couples meetings? I would love to hear how it helped you. Comment below!