Hope for Couples

Do you sometimes need more love? More respect? More attention? More emotional or physical intimacy from your spouse? Do you wonder how to get the love and respect you need from your spouse or if you can make it work? Maybe you feel as if your spouse doesn’t understand you, know you or maybe even care about you today?

The idea that love relationships are always rewarding and romantic is misleading. There are going to be times when your commitment feels like it’s all you’ve got. You may not like him/her some days and even think maybe it’s over. You may feel overwhelmed, lonely, unloved, disrespected, unappreciated and your spouse may also. If you want your relationship to work, then you have to work at it. There will be times when you need to look inward, see what YOU are doing to sabotage (and what you can do to improve) your relationship.Both of you.

One of the things that couples tend to do first is to point fingers and tell the other one what they are doing wrong. Think about it. How could that be helpful? According to Drs. John and Julie Gottman, It is actually destructive. During their studies on relationships, they found that there are 4 things people do that are so destructive that they are called the 4 Horsemen. They are stonewalling, criticism, defensiveness and contempt. During their research, they were able to predict with approximately 98% accuracy, if couples would stay together past 5 years based on these patterns of behavior in communicating with one another. 

What if you changed your language? What we say matters. Instead of complaining that your spouse never picks up his/her socks, you could try asking for his/her help , “Hey babe, can you help me out by putting those in the laundry hamper?” Would they react differently? 

When you get angry, do you storm off? Leave the room or the house for hours, letting your spouse wonder if you’re coming back? Do you say, “Fine,” when things are clearly not fine so that you don’t have to talk about it? Do you pretend nothing is wrong or just pretend your spouse isn’t there? Stonewalling your partner is not helpful. Sometimes we aren’t ready to talk and that’s okay.

What if you said, I’m really (angry, upset, hurt, frustrated…) right now and need some time. Can we talk in an hour (or 15 minutes or whatever short time you need to re-frame your thoughts and speak to your spouse like the calm rational adult you are)? Then you would be communicating your needs and not letting the other person wonder what they are, if you’re coming back  or why you are leaving the situation.

Does one of you criticize the other’s driving? “You’re going the wrong way, ” or “What are you doing? You passed the exit!”  You could try holding your tongue and waiting to see if they just chose a different way than you did. Is it the biggest deal if they are going a wrong way for a few minutes? Its possible that maybe you should say something at certain times. What if you smiled and  kindly said, “Did you pass the exit or did you find another way?” One treats the other poorly while the other speaks with respect.

Do you bring up your spouses faults or actions from the past when arguing? If you want a fair argument which can be healthy, leave the past where it belongs. The fact that she doesn’t pick up dog poop has nothing to with the fact that you bought a boat without talking to her about the finances. If you crashed the car, don’t start blaming him for buying the boat that you argued about 2 years ago. It is not relevant.

On that note, leave the terms always and never out of your marital vocabulary. Does he/she really never show you respect? Does he/she really never pay attention to you? Does the other one always overdraw the checking account? For the most part, these are exaggerations and either way, put your spouse on the defensive.

Did you know that rolling your eyes at your spouse is contemptuous? How about name calling? Putting your spouse down in minor ways to others? Contempt is a form of hatred. Is that how you want to be treated?

Make eye contact.  Listen without thinking of a response. Reflect what you are hearing and ask if that’s what your spouse meant. don’t just hear what is being said, but listen. You may be surprised to find that you weren’t hearing their meaning until you changed the way you listened. You may find that you can at least see their point of view and can appreciate their values and beliefs, even if you don’t agree.  Keep private things between the two of you, and guard your spouse’s heart and reputation.

Talking to long term happily married couples, we can learn some things. There are going to be times when you’re down, don’t even want to be around your spouse. We are all human and make mistakes, do the wrong things sometimes. Be committed. Treat them the same when your relationship is rocky as when it’s going strong. The season will pass and your relationship will be better able to weather the storms. Let’s work together to bring up the statistics of couples who choose to stay together and work toward lasting love relationships.








































































Self Care

Self Care seems to be a current buzz word, but do we know what it means? What are the ways you take care of your own needs? Many people recommend bubble baths, walks in the woods, aromatherapy…

These are all great suggestions. What are your needs? Are you a person who needs to be around others to be energized? Maybe, you are an introvert who needs some alone time to recharge. What can you add to your life that helps you to thrive?

What are you putting into your thought life? There is an old saying I heard somewhere about garbage in and garbage out. As harsh as it sounds, I think there is some validity to it. Are you watching and listening to things that are empowering, uplifting, motivating and/or expanding your world or spiritual sponge? Are you someone who finds memes that seem funny but are maybe a bit mean-spirited or watches/reads mostly violent information? We are shaped by what we choose to put into our minds, both positive and negative. What would happen if you spend a week without putting anything negative into your brain or allowing negativity out of your mouth? This may sound impossible, but if you shoot for the moon and land among the stars (I have no idea who coined this phrase but it wasn’t me), what could your life be like?

Is your music life filled with rage/hatred or destructive messages? For those of us who are musically inclined, what is a song or playlist you might play if you wanted to start your day motivated and positive? Have you ever thought about that? What songs pump you up, give you joy and make you want to move, dance or work out? Personally, I love to wake up, get in my car and fill my mornings with Bethel music, usually Kim Walker-Smith. That’s what gets me in the best frame of mind in the morning. I know it, and I know the difference when I instead start my day with music that I may identify with now or in the past, but isn’t helpful. I’m not saying you should listen to my playlist. Maybe your playlist includes songs like “Lowrider,” “Jump,” “Let it be,” “Walking on Sunshine,” “I am Beautiful” “Titanium,” “You’ve got a friend,” “Fly me to the moon,” some SuperChik or even a rousing morning of Disney Favorites like “Let it go.” What’s your morning motivator?

Books, Videos, TV and Movies. What have you been watching and reading? You can make a big difference in your life when spending your time watching positive, motivating, inspirational speakers, uplifting films rather than scary movies, or things that glorify negativity, relational violence, suicidality and drama. These things are portrayed as typical and just part of life, and that has an effect on us. Ever get interested in history? I’m not saying that you should never watch movies, videos or TV shows that are just for fun. We all need to laugh and sometimes those that start out looking negative have plot twists and endings which show courage to persevere, and how the person did that. Find things that align with your values and fill up your cup.

Okay so let’s talk about relaxation. Are you able to be present and “in the moment” when you need to be? Do you know how to get rid of stress, anxiety and let things go at the end of the day? Can you leave work at the office and disconnect before getting home? Did you know that just a few minutes of mindful relaxation can be as de-stressing and restful as taking a 20 minute nap? It does not replace sleep, but is valuable for everyone, especially those who live and work with a great deal of stress in their lives and walk around exhausted. Mindfulness can help you to focus in relationships, communication, work, competition and play. What is mindfulness? It’s when you shut the world out, focus your attention to your thoughts, inner world or goal. This can be done through relaxation exercises such as taking a mini mental vacation, focusing on deep breathing, practicing yoga or Huna, focusing on a calming, relaxing or motivating word or phrase to focus on for your life. Prayer is also a form of mindfulness. Did you know that studies show that those who follow their own spiritual beliefs and practices show decreases in anxiety, depression and increase in sense of well-being?

Time/Life management. Use a schedule and possibly a list maker. Some suggestions are a planner, or a phone app or two. Some suggested apps are: Habitica’s Habit RPG, Google Calendar, iCalendar, Outlook Calendar, Cozi or Wunderlist. You don’t need them all. Find out what works for you and take the time to use it. It may seem like it takes too much time in the beginning but once used to it, these tools can save time, energy and help us to say no when we need to. This can help you to create and maintain healthy boundaries. Have you heard the saying those who fail to plan, plan to fail? Think about it, maybe in more positive terms. How about this as food for thought? Those who have a master plan, master their plan. I know, it doesn’t sound quite as catchy, but it does put it in terms our brains can process and hold onto. More on that later 🙂

When was the last time you played? Play has all sorts of meanings, and can be surprisingly valuable. Whether you surf, paddle board, hike, play an instrument, sing, play a team sport, or are into board games. Play can be alone such as a game on your phone, or with others. Games like Candy Crush, Fishdom and Tetris have been shown to reduce anxiety. Believe it or not, there is actually a study that shows that the game Dark Souls is shown to reduce depressed mood. I will tell you that the person I know that plays Dark Souls says it’s quite challenging. Not my cup of tea, but maybe yours. Do spend time playing well with others. Get involved, have fun, interact, enjoy life. Play.

Mind/Body Connection

As a clinician, I believe in a holistic approach to wellness. It is well known that there is a mind-body connection, specifically in the gut and psychological funtioning. If we take care of our bodies, we are more likely to have a better functioning brain. According to Dr Daniel Amen, renowned double board certified Psychiatrist, well known for his SPECT scan studies, there is a direct relationship in how we eat and how we function.

First, in today’s society of fat free this and that, we are depriving our brains of much needed fats which is impairing our ability to function at optimal levels. There are good and bad fats. Diets high in saturated fats can cause heart disease. Diets high in Omega 3 fatty acids can help with depression, memory, anxiety, ADHD, dementia and a host of other issues. For the past 6 or 7 years, I have regularly recommended to clients that they get these things into their diet on a regular basis:

Nuts: Walnuts, Almonds, Cashews, Brazil Nuts, Macadamia (Peanuts are legumes, not nuts)
Fish: Salmon, Shrimp, high in Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Olives: Olives of any kind, Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Avocado: Avocados and Avocado Oil, Guacamole, Avocado Chocolate Mousse (Paleo/Keto)
Eggs: Whole, fresh, preferably cage free eggs.

You are not going to get fat consuming fats. You will gain weight and be unhealthy (at risk for diabetes and a host of other medical problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and possibly heart disease and/or stroke) by avoiding needed fats and consuming a diet laden with sugars and grains that are not good for your body and brain. For more information on this, consult Dr Amen’s book, “Brain Warrior’s Way” and related cookbook. Daniel Amen and Bessel Van der Kolk both spoke about the mind-body connection at The Evolution of Psychotherapy conference in December 2017. Dr Amen also spoke about things like sugar substitutes which also raise insulin levels and wreak havoc on the body and brain as well. Stevia is reportedly the only safe alternative as it is a natural plant. This is also the only one I’ve seen that does not contain warnings about risk for cancers.

Did you know that there are actually amino acids that you cannot get if you don’t eat any meat products? A complete plant protein doesn’t necessarily mean it has everything you need. It only means it has most of the essentials. Your body can make 13 of them on its own, but there are nine it needs from outside sources. According to Livestrong.com, “They are histidine, lysine, threonine, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, phenylalanine and tryptophan. Although you can get amino acids from both plant- and animal-based foods, only animal protein contains all nine essential amino acids.” Get the full details here:

Did you know?
What you don’t want is to over eat things which are loaded with nitrates and nitrites, preservatives. These are neurotoxins. There are other neurotoxins as well, such as mold, mildew, and some cleaners. Sausages, bacon, hotdogs, packaged and processed foods are not our friends. There are uncured bacon and sausages (not containing those ingredients) available at many grocery stores, if you look for them.

The food pyramid and other nutrition teaching tools were not made with brain function in mind. Some of them were invented for fattening cattle and pigs. Is this what we want for our kids and ourselves?

Let’s be the example. Eat whole foods: vegetables, meat and a reasonable amount of fruits. Practice meditation/relaxation, exercise regularly, get out in the sunshine, practice your spiritual traditions, love one another. Live life to the fullest.

Love and Attraction









What is it? Is it that chemical wash of neurotransmitters you feel when you’re attracted to someone? Is it that fluffy feeling one gets when they think of their significant other, or butterflies in the stomach? How about that feeling like something is missing when they are not around? The feeling that you are perfect for each other and will live happily ever after?

No. Love is not a fairy tale. Plain and simple. Love is commitment. Love is a decision. When you love someone, you want to be a better you. It is deciding to treat your partner with love despite not liking him/her that day. It is how you handle conflict in relationship. There will definitely be conflict. Love is the relationship that remains after the rose colored glasses come off and your best friend is standing there, flaws and all.    

You see him/her, eyes meet and fireworks go off. This is attraction. It is caused by mirror neurons, a brain/sight function. It is not an indication that you are “perfect for each other.”

So many people I meet in therapy have this notion that a whirlwind romance is the ultimate success, the Stanley Cup of relationships. For the most part, it is not. It is fraught with red flags, right from the beginning that are pushed aside and excuses are made for negative behaviors, while intuition is telling you to pay attention. Sometimes, those red flags are warning you of serious problems or abuse to come.

Society is so consumed with instant gratification. that we are not willing to wait for the real thing. People jump ahead into very intimate emotional and physical relationships with people they barely know. This can be a serious problem on many levels. For instance, respect and trust are often affected, causing problems down the line. Also, when emotional intimacy happens too soon, this person knows an awful lot about you that can be used painfully if the relationship ends. Am I saying real love and good relationships don’t exist today? Definitely not.
So, how can I build a lasting love relationship?
Listen to yourself, your self talk, your “gut feelings.”
Give time for a real relationship to grow. Studies show that whirlwind romances are more likely to be abusive ones, so look for the red flags. Does your partner “love you” feel you are their “soul mate” and/or want to get married/move in together, in the first 6 months? Does your partner seem to feel the need to keep tabs on you or isolate you from friends and family? Probably should reexamine this relationship.

People manipulate when they first meet, to some degree it is natural. We put our best foot forward because we want the other person to like us before they see our perceived negatives. However, the type of manipulation that precedes unhealthy relationships goes beyond that. We don’t even usually see the other person in all of their uniqueness until around 2 years, in relationship together. If you’re still thinking this person is worthy of a lifetime relationship with you after a year and half or 2, a marriage is more likely to work out.

Good questions to ask yourself:
Do we have common values and interests?
Do you have similar religious views? Believe it or not, this causes more problems than people realize. Will you attend services together? How will you raise children together within your belief system?

Do your family/parents like him/her? Parents have life experience that you do not yet have. Parents and other family members are also seeing from a different vantage point. They may have some valuable insights.

Many children have not yet learned to squelch their inner voice. They are sometimes blunt, but honest. If your kids or family’s kids don’t like your partner, there may be a reason. Give it some thought. Don’t be too quick to pass it off as jealousy or the child’s problem. 

Do you have similar parenting styles? Can you accept and live with the differences while supporting your partner? Parenting squabbles cause wreak havoc on a relationship.
 Is the relationship built on sex and/or desire or friendship? What will we have when we are old and the hormones are waning? How about, can I see us together as an old couple?
Do you treat and talk to each other with respect? Does he/she value your input and future goals/plans? Do you value your partner’s? Do you have respect for each other? What are your biases? Are they compatible?

Do you know what your own deal breakers are? Do you know what your partner’s deal breakers are?

You must know and love yourself before you can love someone else. Know who you are on your own before committing to another. Know your boundaries and let them be known and maintained, right from the start. Ask about your partner’s boundaries and do your best to respect them.

We’ll talk about love after marriage another day. For now, build your friendship together so you have a good foundation to build on. Trust is necessary for love and is earned with a long track record.

Grief and Loss

Gibson WallpaperSometimes it can seem unbearable. The loss of a parent, child, spouse, or other loved one is sometimes unfathomable, and yet it happens. Many people wonder how to go on after such a loss, especially a traumatic accident where one’s life is cut short unexpectedly with things undone and unsaid.

You go on because you must. As callous as that may sound, it is the truth. You likely have people in your life who count on you for support, guidance, love, attention and affection. That does not stop because you are in pain. It doesn’t help you to wallow in your pain, let other loved ones go ignored, bills pile up and let your life become a mess in all areas. It may seem like you don’t care what happens to some of those things in the beginning, but that is grief talking. Emotions should not run our behaviors. Breathe, think and do what needs to be done.

There are stages of grief: Denial, Bargaining, Anger, Depression and Acceptance. You will move through all of them, and not necessarily in order. You may move through some of them more than once. Each person is different, and your experience in your journey through loss is normal.

Allow yourself to feel the loss of your loved one. If you do not feel it, you cannot heal the wound. Do not wallow. Don’t sit and punish yourself for things left unsaid or undone. Limit the time you spend thinking about your grief. When you need to cry, do it, but allow yourself 15 or 20 minutes to do so and then force yourself to do something completely different for awhile to change your thinking pattern. No good can come from more time spent at one time than that. You are going to feel the pain again, I assure you, and when you do, repeat the process, limiting the time spent with negative emotions.

Get out of bed, shower, fix your hair, put on clothes for the day and ease back into work. Not obsessively so, but you have GOT to get back to being you. Spend time with positive memories of your loved one. Laugh about funny stories about them. Smile about them when you can. Have something tangible that brings fond memories of them.

Say things left unsaid as if you were talking to them in the same room. Many people believe that the deceased can hear us. Whatever your belief system is, studies have shown that if you practice it (being congruent with your values system), you may experience an increased sense of well being. Spend time with people who are supportive and set limits with those who crash boundaries. This is your journey and you are in the drivers seat. True support comes in many forms (Psychotherapy, school counseling, church/synagogue/etc, friends, supportive family, neighbors, coworkers) and is worthwhile. Get help, when you need it!

Co-Parenting Heads Up

Many children now live in 2 separate households. Whether you are an “intact” family or two homes, there are some things which parents need to know. It is essential that parents work together for the child’s well being. Both parents are important in a child’s life, if both are safe people. Many adults attempting to co-parent resist the other parent’s ideas, and/or talk negatively about that parent.

Studies have shown that children tend to think that if the other parent is bad, then they are bad too, even if they are not old enough to understand the concept of heredity. One study reported that many young adults who’ve grown up in a household where one parent speaks very negatively or even chronically negatively about the other parent, that the child is less like to remain close to the negative speaker. The children generally will go through a phase where they are closer to that parent, and as the frontal cortex develops into adulthood, bringing the person to thinking more with judgement and tact, rather than like a child/teen who thinks from their amygdala, they begin to understand some things-like that parent cannot be trusted and may be talking about the young adult that way as well. Sometimes, it ruins the adult relationship with that parent for many years , if not permanently. Do you want a relationship with your child, or do you want to win?

What are parents who do not like each other to do? Put your differences aside for the good of the child. Think of win-win compromises. Agree on practices involving rules, guidelines, consequences and don’t allow triangulation (using one parent against or to manipulate the other). Present a united front. If you do not like what the other parent has decided, talk about it rationally and calmly without the child present and come up with a solution together. The parent who gave the consequence/set the limit will change it if necessary but neither should undermine the authority of the other. Support each other, for the well being of the child or children. You will have happier, healthier and better behaved children, when they are secure in attachments with both.

Make few rules that are broad/general:
In our homes, we keep ourselves and others safe (refrain from physical violence or emotional abuse)
We respect each other (listen, speak politely and obey)
When a rule is broken, there will be a logical consequence
We do what we say and say what we mean (we all know that if you’re a loving parent, you’re not going to beat your child within an inch of his or her life, so don’t say it).

Children learn quickly that they can manipulate the system. Did the one parent say no playing with siblings for 30 minutes because the child was hurting the sibling? Make sure that timeout is 30 minutes and not 5-10, and let the parent who gave the consequence end it. Do not undermine each other. Kids know when they are getting away with something and we just look like liars or spineless parents. Want responsible kids? Foster a value system of honor and integrity.

Thank You!

Thanks so much to Heidi Breton at Startify, LLC  for help with the site, teaching me (Marie) and for professional hosting! Interested in a website for your business? Startify is a professional company providing web design, hosting among many other talents.

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