Category Archives: women

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?

Signs your dating an unstable person.

She/He has no history of long term or significant lasting relationships. Most emotionally healthy individuals have a dating history of at least a few relationships that demonstrate some stability or consistency.  When they describe why things didn’t work out there is a sense of balance for both parties. If the person your dating seems to carry immense hostility with ALL their  X’s or if they refer to themselves as always being the “victim” of  prior relationship failures, it’s a big red flag. This is a sign that there is no or little insight into their own prior mistakes or failures. They are quick to blame everyone else for circumstances not working in their favor.

Her/His job history is unstable. And it’s never their fault. You may hear things like: “They don’t like me”, or “I had a horrible boss”. If someone has personality problems they rarely own their mistakes and are quick to blame everyone else. Healthy individuals are able to see areas of themselves that need improvement and they accept responsibility for their part of a problem, and hopefully learn from the experience.

She/He fights or is often rude to authority figures, friends, co-workers, or service staff. Of course everyone experiences a bump in the road now and then with other people. Yet his or her life seem to be filled with excessive drama including frequent interpersonal conflicts that seem petty. Chances are this person has a lot of trouble getting along with people.  They may lack social skills and view others in extremes. More specifically, they will vacillate between highly regarding a person one minute then devaluing them the next. If the person your dating  is struggling to get along with lots of other people then eventually, they are going to have trouble getting along with you. 

She/He irresponsible with money or has excessive debt. Enough said.

She/He has few or poor boundaries. Going through your personal things, checking your phone, going through your wallet or purse, frequently creeping your social media and overly questioning you about pictures or people. Emotionally healthy individuals are respectful of you, your time and your belongings. Your allowed to go at your pace with how, when, how much and if you share. Healthy individuals have enough self esteem and clear perspective to know that kind of behavior is inappropriate. If you feel your personal space is being infringed upon don’t second guess yourself. It’s happening. 

 She/He becomes overly attached too quickly. Emotionally healthy individuals  will remain consistent with seeing their own friends and continue to attend activities even after you begin to date. Their life doesn’t stop. That’s not to say that you aren’t excited to spend time together, or that adjustments aren’t made, by you mutually; there’s a difference. When dating begins a grounded person will maintain a balance between living their own life, maintaining their own interests and activities and sharing time with you. It’s all about balance. If the urge to merge happens too fast it’s a red flag. Remember decisions made together is one thing, being held to an expectation when your not ready is another. 

Nothing takes the place of using your own instincts and following your gut. When you begin dating someone and there are things that bother you, listen. Usually break ups occur over things you probably noticed early on but choose to ignore. It is a lot easier to start a relationship then to get out of one. 

Marriage can be a precarious place for women in their 40’s…

When a married woman reaches 40, and often older, her life begins to change. The children she longed to have are growing older, her education has begun to pay off as she has developed her own career. She is earning her own money and is contributing to the household income, often significantly. She has developed a broad and strong support network of other women and co-workers who she trusts, and who provide her with emotional support in addition to social outlets. She has matured. She has developed a “net” for herself. She has reached a different place in her life, emotionally.

The decent, loving, stable, nice man she met 15 or 20 years ago, now her husband, is a good father and provider, and yet she discovers that she does not need him in the same ways that she once did.  So why are so many women at this life stage finding themselves questioning their own feelings and asking themselves “Am I crazy for thinking about leaving?” He doesn’t drink heavily, he’s loyal, he is smart, he loves me, he doesn’t run around at night, and we get along. Slowly, her life which use to feel very fullfiling suddenly feels vanilla. When she speaks to her family and friends about her feelings she hears “What is wrong with vanilla?” or “are you crazy? he’s such a good guy and father you should feel lucky! I think there something is wrong with YOU!” So, she tells herself that she just can’t leave. She can’t justify it. And she can’t hurt him. Her feelings are suddenly not as important as these things in the face of logic. She tells herself that she really has no good reason to leave. She just can’t get out. Marriage is a commitment and it has its ups and downs right? And besides things can’t always be exciting that’s unrealistic. There are dips in all relationships. So she waits, hoping things might feel better. She may ask her husband to go to counseling but he’s not really doing anything wrong. It’s her own emerging feelings that are driving her ambivalence. She says to herself “If I can only hang in there another few years until the kids are done with high school”. The safety, consistency, and love, she once felt, the children they have together  shouldn’t it all be enough? These things once gave her great joy. Yet SHE has changed inside. Her emotional needs have changed, she has grown, she finds herself feeling lonely in the marriage. These are some conditions that often create a dangerous and vulnerable environment and for an affair to be set in motion. Women having affairs isn’t talked about much in social media, but it happens quite frequently. Women simply aren’t as comfortable revealing or owning such behavior.

Many of the reasons that woman marry when they are younger are fulfilled by their 40’s. By that time they are much more comfortable in their own skin and more emotionally mature. Later in life they can  provide for themselves, and the emotional needs they had in their 20’s have been realized. They have also become more comfortable and secure with themselves and the world. Emotionally, they have a built a network of friends and support, financially, they have begun to make their own money, martial sex has become flat as the emotional connectedness has diminished. Conversations have become dry and routine. It is often described to me as an ” unexplained emptiness” never felt before. The desire remains to have a partner yet she doesn’t NEED to be with anyone. She is filled with guilt, angst and confusion.

Of course all relationships go through ups and downs. Especially those that span a decade or more. The stress of raising children, financial changes, job changes, experiencing loss through death, and tragedy that is just life. Couples therapy can significantly help with recapturing the intimacy and connectedness lost over time. It cannot however, change an individual’s  sense of who they have become or how they feel. If one person in the marriage is not “all in”, no matter how wonderful their husband or wife may be, it might be time to change direction. Feelings are feelings, needs change, what you have to offer now may not necessarily be enough 15 years from now for your spouse.  Women are emotionally dynamic and organic creatures. Sometimes it may be about the relationship. Sometimes though it may just be about us.