Category Archives: communication

Therapy Pearls For couples who plan to marry or want to commit long term

I have seen hundreds of couples over my 25 years of practice. Here are some very common themes and issues to ponder. Not discussing these topics will eventually result in marital discord or divorce if ignored. It may surprise you to know 70% of the folks that end up in my office have not had true honest discussions in these areas. Part of the work in  therapy is talking through any feelings of resentment, sadness or confusion as a consequence of avoiding these areas early on.

 

It is never too late to have a heart to heart/one-one with one another on these important topics.
Not all at once of course.

Before you get married, or commit long term it’s important that these basic communication building blocks are are discussed between you . This will enable a clearer understanding of one another thus more solid foundation. 

▪️The ability to laugh together

▪️Mutual Respect for one another

▪️Being Polite and Kind to one another

▪️Mutual Intimacy (emotional closeness)

▪️Honesty

▪️Sexual compatibility

▪️Trust

▪️ Your ability to be vulnerable (and a true willingness to put your pride aside when your partner needs you).

▪️True Acceptance of WHO YOUR PARTNER IS (women who like to fix or are co dependent please take heed) and please do not have an “agenda” that you can change them. I hear this A LOT. You can’t.

People only change something when they want or feel uncomfortable enough to seek help.

You will not change them, by asking them to fundamentally adjust who they are. They will only resent you for not accepting who they are. If you don’t like something from the beginning, think if it’s something you can accept and live with.

Obtain clarification on these important key issues:

▪️ Children: do you want them? how you will raise them if you choose to have any, Religion ? Spirituality? Adoption? IVF? Are these options? Boundaries with extended family disciplining the kids ?
Any worries in this area? It needs discussion.

▪️ Money: and everything surrounding this topic. Whether you are very wealthy, financially comfortable, middle of the road, or dont have much, it makes no difference. Money is a thing. Money is Money. Wealthy people argue about similar things that middle class people argue about.
Money is power. Money is Freedom.
It is one of our primal survival tools. People can be very different inside when it comes to money. Upbringing, personal values, becoming wealthy very fast has it’s own set of problems. All are acceptable the topic(s) simply need a discussion. Is one person supporting the other? are both of you working? Will one be at home? Are costs going to be spilt? If one of you is making significantly less then the other? And is this ok in the long run? Who pays for what? It’s not about what’s fair, it’s about what you each think will work or not, for you.

If one of you losses your job and doesn’t work ( health issues aside) would it be a deal breaker if it continued a few years? 5 years ? 10 years? Forever? Whatever fits is ok as long as it’s discussed and you both come to an agreement or compromise.

One couple came in for a tune up, after many years of doing well. When after several years of marriage; they found they were “stuck“. Both were very successful providers. The husband got laid off and after a year not landing another position he wanted he thought it would be nice for him to stay home with their kids and be their primary caretaker whilst giving up a potential 6 figure salary, for a job he could surely obtain.
Wife agreed to let him be a fun dad at home for a bit. But neither clarified how long this would last. She continued to work and supported their 5 member family. This was fine until they got to year 6 of him not working. Then another session was needed for her to clarify her needs & boundaries and let him know he needed to go back full time because she wanted to cut back and was getting resentful. He didn’t want to go back to work by then. Thus the conflict.
Would it had made a difference early on if she said

“ I dont want to work until I’m 50, I want to be a mom too, how do you feel about that ?” Or “ ok do this for a year then it’s my turn “ or something.

Again, its all good as long as it’s all good with both of you. Being broadsided in the midst of a marriage by a huge financial and identity change will surely shift the marriage dynamic and will need some exploration.

I treated another couple where the woman was a bank President. She decided at 40 that she wanted to teach high school French. The husband was 100% supportive, they worked out how to supplement her 200k income while she was in college and visited France. They are both now very happy. They had much experience talking about money As they both were in the industry and when they met and both were able to express their worries, excitement as well as fears to one another.
talking is key.

If one is a heavy spender now, it will only continue over time. Please don’t ignore red flags. Money issues create HUGE intense resentment and anger over time and those subterranean feelings can surely taint the love when there are no discussions. Marriages often break up over not talking through the sensitive areas money brings. It’s avoided and ignored because of fear.

I have had clients decide to break off their engagements when they learned their personal views and values around money were drastically different from their future spouse. One woman in particular learned her future husband’s intention, showed her his rigidity and what she described as his ‘ unloving lack of consideration’ for her. He went to see a lawyer without including her before legally showing her the document 2 weeks before the wedding. The document stated that she was not entitled to and was not getting any of his money. Ok, that’s a pre Nup. He made clear that when they got married and over the the coming years whilst he continued to accumulate large amounts of wealth with her, and she was a successful business owner, that he simply wasn’t willing to buy another home with her because he liked his ( the home he shared with his x wife who died in the home) that was 40 miles from her home. She asked how he felt about combining some of their separate wealth as well as discussing making wills. As they both had older children. Who were successful. That’s when he dropped this bomb: 

“ I love you so very much, you should know that regardless of how much I love you and how long we are married if something happens to me and I die, (this was second marriages for both) all of my monies (millions) will all be going to my grown children. And honestly, I don’t feel I should have to leave you anything at all.
But you will have your social security right? “
 
As a side she was very stable financially.

He was making a point. Your not getting a dime sister. Cook for me, love me, be my arm candy, let me in your heart, help me when I’m sick, “just don’t expect any money from me. Am I not enough ?”

What do you think?

5 Signs your relationship is in trouble.

  1. You find yourself feeling “indifferent” about things. It seems that the things that used to upset you, or that you put emotional energy thinking about has declined. If your the jealous type, maybe you find your much less concerned. Perhaps you aren’t as invested in “fighting” for the time you spent together before. Maybe it doesn’t matter if you spend more time alone or with other people then with your person. Did your birthday or anniversary go by and you didn’t get a card or a hug? This is the beginning of big problem. Feeling indifferent is not a good thing.
  2. Sex has gone down the drain.    Whether it be the frequency, the quality or maybe your overall interest. You just don’t find yourself caring about whether it happens or not. The looks you once gave one another, the flirtatious cute comments, maybe your attention to detail about how you look when you go to bed. 
  3. There is less “coupling”. You don’t do things together as a couple. Think of it like this: if you find you are spending more time alone or with friends then you do together, it’s a red flag. The time that you both carved out to go out to dinner alone, or go on a trip alone together (even a simple day trips), or spending time as a couple to enjoy one another’s company doesn’t happen often if at all. 
  4. Intimacy has become non existent. Don’t confuse intimacy with sex. Intimacy is emotional closeness and connectedness. Your discussions with one another rarely include words like ” I love you” or “I miss you”. There is a lack of emotional vulnerability and openess between you. A distance. When this happens over time; refer back to number one. You stop communicating with one another. Don’t confuse talking with communicating. Communication involves active listening, eye contact, being emotionally present (not folding clothes or staring at a phone while your interacting).
  5. You spend more time unhappy in the relationship then you do feeling happy. This doesn’t mean of course you should feel “happy” all the time. Life throws things at us that we have to manage. Our jobs, our families, money issues, issues with the kids, the washer & dryer on are the fritz. When I say happy, I mean do you feel a sense of being “emotionally fed” in your relationship. Are you receiving the emotional things you need? Are you getting something/anything positive from the relationship for you? Is there a sense of emotional reciprocity? It’s surprising when I ask this question to individuals who are part of a couple how often I receive a blank look. Do you feel loved? Do you feel valued & respected? Do you feel pretty or handsome to by him/her?  Do you feel understood?                     
  6. Do you find yourself frequently fantasizing about living a different life without your spouse? how much time? day dreaming one day or has it become the  secret place you go in your head to feel it’s possible? 

 Intimacy and emotional safety is the cornerstone of predicting longevity in any relationship. If you have intimacy that’s a good thing. if you don’t it may be time to get couples counseling to discuss why one or each of you is not feeling safe and why. This is how emotional and physical affairs happen. 

Listen.

What is really good for me? What is really good for you? Is it what makes us happy or does most of our contentment come from within if we work hard at it and all the other good stuff is just extra?
Go into your heart, pull out the weeds, clear the brush, break down the walls and look at what’s in there what is it?
Is it love? Is it fear? Is it shame or maybe there a gaping hole that’s always being filled by things that we think gratify us. Maybe those things we put in the hole, if we have one, are the things that keep us apart from at least some of the joy and happiness we desire for ourselves.

What is it that makes us feel fulfilled?
Is our work? Does it come from being a good parent or spouse? Is it having a sense of mastery over something important and gives us feelings that just maybe we are making a dent in some small or significant way in our world?
Go into your head clear the chatter,
Stop the thinking, don’t try to hear, just wait and listen.
Listen to you. Your talking by the way, your dreams your aspirations, the flashes of happiness or even sadness we might see before we fall asleep at night. Our thoughts when we hear a song that swells our heart, or when the sun warms our face.
Just listen you will know.
Listen to your feelings, your images,
your dreams, the things you doodle when your not thinking, heed to your senses, does something move you inside,?
What exactly is the expression of our own authenticity?
That is our power source. Not money or position, or status. It is you.
It is me.
What is really good for us? What makes us truly happy?
You know.

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