Tag Archives: relationships

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. 

Toss the Mask..

Do you wear a mask? What do you not want others to know about you? This gets to the center of your fears and insecurities. Everyone, yes everyone has baggage. Things they struggle with or things that make them feel poorly about themselves. Some are better at hiding then others, some ignore it and their issues end up “leaking” out in other ways in their behavior or through an addiction. It takes a tremendous amount of emotional energy to hide parts of oneself. Especially the things that bring us shame. It keeps us isolated, afraid and often left to feel very alone. Our perceptions can become distorted about how we see others and ourselves. It really becomes a lot of work and makes life so much harder on us.
When we hide who we really are, it keeps others from truly loving us. It keeps us at a distance from others and that prevents us from having and developing closeness and intimacy. When you do something you feel was an error in judgement or a mistake acknowledge it, talk about it, be open about it, but don’t hide it. Own it.
You will feel “cleaner” emotionally, not only because you were honest with yourself but you addressed it and you took the step to share it with someone. Those who truly belong in your life and love you will see the mistake you made but more importantly they will see you, more then the mistake itself. Everyone has problems everyone makes mistakes, and everyone has things to work on its just part of being human. Acknowledging it and working on it separates the wheat from the chaff. Be who you are. Let people you care about see you.
Toss the mask, your worth it.

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Sex..we all secretly want it.

Masters and Johnson once said

good sex begins while your clothes are still on

We cannot have a good sexual relationship with our significant other without having a good relationship. Of course, not all sexual roadblocks are a reflection of the relationship, some may be physical. That being said, intimacy, emotional closeness and being vulnerable are pivotal to every marriage. Self-disclosure, sharing personal information and feelings with your partner is essential to our ongoing bonding experience. Time moves forward and we grow and change as individuals. As we have new and different experiences, our personal views and feelings change. It is important for us to share current feelings and thoughts with our spouse to keep them in touch with our inner lives so they may share our inner life. In essence, this is intimacy. If we work on improving our connectedness with our partner, sexual intimacy will drastically improve; the quality of our relationship will improve and happiness as well as fulfillment will return. So many marriages lose this over time, and sex is generally the first indicator that the marriage is in trouble. Sex is a very important component of marriage.

We can create with our partner, whatever kind of sexual relationship we desire. But this requires TALKING WITH one another. There are so many marriages that neglect the elephant in the room.

I see couples that go several months and even years without having sex. Why is it that something so important and that feels so good can be so easily placed on the back burner for so long? I have heard many rationalizations:

We are too busy with the kids, we both work and are too tired, there is no time, one of us is not in the mood, women often say they are not happy with how they look or feel physically (I feel fat, I don’t like by body right now etc.) our timing is often off, kids are in the house, we have visitors, blah, blah, blah.

Of course there are always circumstances when these things are true. But if we allow ourselves to go too long without being with one another sexually it becomes like having to get your rugs cleaned.You know you have to do it, but you just keep putting it off because it starts to feel more like something you should do rather then something you want to do. Yet when we finally do have sex we say “ why don’t we do this more often?”

There are several things that you can do to bring sex off the back burner and into the open again:

  • The bedroom is for sleeping and sex. Nothing else, no electronics allowed  (Smartphones, tablets, TV, computers, PS3, etc.) Leave those things in the kitchen or in another area of the house before bed. How often do you find yourself along with your spouse while in bed looking at your phones, at Facebook, working on your laptop, reading emails, texting or playing a game? Stop it! Really look at each other, talk about your day, connect, touch one another, and remind yourself what it is about your partner that you love so much. And it’s ok to be affectionate WITHOUT having sex.
  • Don’t always wait to be in the mood. Sometimes just go for it and stop over thinking so much, and try not to be so serious.
  • Don’t go to bed angry. This is a tough one, and requires each of you to keep your side of the fence “clean” and not hanging on to things that may have upset you for weeks on end. An exercise I ask couples to do who struggle with taking the time to connect, is to take 15 minutes one day a week, to talk about how the week was, if there was anything that occurred that was hurtful, bothersome, or even positive and share it with one another. This cannot turn into a marathon discussion, or you will lose the goal just connecting. One at a time each of you talks and the other listens. Listening means listening, not defending or making excuses why you did what you did or said what you did. It means hearing your partner’s feelings and thoughts to try to understand how they feel. This simple exercise can dramatically purge things that weigh on you or your partner and not only free you up emotionally, but bring you closer.
  • Remember Romance. Even simple gestures such writing a love note, giving a random long hug, offering a backrub, scrolling a heart on the shower door or bathroom mirror with an ‘ I love you’, feels adoring to the receiver. The next time your partner gets in the shower he or she will see it and smile. How about a kiss to wake him/her up? Or a random text or email during the day that says “ I’m thinking of you” Flowers and small gifts for no special occasion are always a nice surprise but buying things isn’t always necessary to communicate your love.
  • Compliment or praise her/him more often (if you have children you can do this in front of the kids, this is especially powerful to the receiver) you’re a wonderful provider and hard worker, you’re a good father or husband, you’re a loving and special mother or wife, you’re a reliable partner and friend, you’re so talented at what you do for a living. We all need and want to hear these things from the person we love and cherish the most. It makes a difference and goes a long way.
  • Teach your spouse what you enjoy and what feels good to you sexually. Teach them about your body  When a couple comes in for issues surrounding lack of sexual activity, I ask with both partners in the session, if they know what each of them like sexually. Where do they like to be touched? Where do they not like to be touched? How do they like to be touched? The neck? The ear? The chest? The belly? etc. These are the areas where foreplay comes into action. Most of the time, believe it or not, the answer is, as he or she looks at their spouse sheepishly “ you know.. I don’t know”. Learn all you can about your partners body. Spend time touching one another asking questions, experimenting, discuss one another’s sexual fantasies, try different positions, TALK to one another. I can promise you there will be things you will learn and experience that will surprise you and this will open a new area of your relationship.
  • Look at each other. In supermarket psychology this has been called “soul gazing”. It is not staring it is looking. Look in your partner’s eyes, for a few moments in a quiet place. This is not an intellectual exercise it is an emotional one. What do you see? What color are his/her eyes, what sense do you get of them? How do you feel? Experience them. Many people who struggle with intimacy struggle with this exercise because it feels awkward or uncomfortable. They are looking for a specific “thing” instead of having the experience itself of connecting on a non-verbal,         non-sexual, level. Remember it is the inner experience you feel and the emotional experience     that occurs when you both really look into one another

Research is consistent with reporting that there is a link between feeling satisfied sexually in our relationship and overall quality of the relationship. I think we should all not only start talking about the elephant in the room but doing something to make ourselves and our marriages more of a priority. We make time to work out, we make time to get our nails done, we make time to watch football, we make time to go the salon, we make time to do things that are important to us.

Make your partner and your marriage a priority. When we don’t, we only drift away from one another   and there is way too much of that going on nowadays.

Trail of Destruction, The Cheater 

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There are a million books, websites, blogs, detective agencies, pamphlets, cards, TV shows, talk shows, podcasts, and even a Facebook page that examine and discuss the devastating impact of affairs and cheating while in a relationship. Cheaters are scum.
All media is geared toward the significant other of the one who was cheated on. Very little media addresses at all the one who steps out, the one who cheats, and the impact of events on him or her. Certainly, the person who was cheated on IS the one who is shattered and emotionally annihilated the deepest. Let’s make no mistake about that upfront. This is evident from the deepest rage and pain that uproots itself when infidelity shows itself and years after, that leaves a scar not only on the heart but on the mind as well. The pain sits like a huge rock on ones chest crushing him or her everyday with the painful reminder they have been violated in sanctity of their most private and personal space their love relationship, their heart.

That being said, I would like to talk about the one who cheats. Commonly known as:
bastard, bitch, liar, trader, home wrecker,adulterer and heartbreaker
(add your own here).
Remarks are made not only initially but over years of time like: I hate you, looking at you makes me sick, your dirty, your damaged, stay away from me, your evil, your a whore, your dead to me, you are selfish, you cannot be trusted on any level, when I look at you all I see is pain, you disgust me, you’ve a loser, your a narcissist, your worthless, you are damaged, (again add your own here). So who cares about the one who cheats? Answer? No one.
They are rejected and scorned not only by long term friends, but often by family, business associates, future potential lovers (once a cheat always a cheat), and labeled eternally never to be trusted again. They are thrown aside like garbage, kicked to the curb, ignored, laughed at, unfriended, isolated, and are embossed with a permanent letter X on their forehead warning those around them that this person should be avoided at all costs. Very often, even those who commit crimes have more credibility on an emotional and moral level. The cheater by far is the most repulsed.

Does anyone think about emotional impact of the whirling chaos and sharp objects that have effected the cheater? I know. Your answer is “No”. Or better, “Hell no”.

Cheating doesn’t occur in a vacuum. While stepping out is not acceptable and clearly should be avoided at all costs, not everyone who cheats is irrevocably dark and damaged inside. There are multiple dynamics in relationships to begin with that play out and often lay the ground for cheating spouses or partners. My purple couch and I are here to say that not all, but many who cheat DO and CAN change.I have seen it and I have had the privilege of being a part of it. Cheaters who care enough to fix themselves work very hard to understand themselves and accept responsibility for the trail of damage and fallout they have left behind. I have worked with many individuals who actually do have remorse and shame, who want to change, who squarely and honestly dissect themselves and look hard at what they have done to others and to themselves. To straighten the crooked line inside them and make the pain worth something.

I encourage them to heal the ones they have harmed, and very often they succeed. Relationships often don’t make it, over 80% of marriages who have infidelity end up in divorce. It’s by far the most difficult conflict to treat in couples. I have seen the power and palatable energy of love and it can be an unstoppable force. When 2 people love one another and both want the relationship, healing can be achieved.

So the next time a friend, or co-worker, family member or acquaintance shares they have been cheated on, know that not all those who cheat are emotional lepers. Most likely they have already been shunned, and shut out by their world and are in their own private emotional nightmare. Don’t be so quick to judge their insides, there is always so much more to understand the what’s on the surface.

“Does she ever think to thank me?”

Men and women have very different emotional needs in a relationship. Women need love through emotional and physical attentiveness and intimacy. Men need love too but for them love is synonymous with Respect. Of course, all healthy relationships need mutual respect. Men however, feel so much more valued, important and empowered when a woman gives him respect.
It helps them to feel better about themselves, it pushes them to work harder to achieve, they begin to feel more valued, and interestingly, your respect makes them want to do more. Does this sound simple? It is, and it works.
Since women have infiltrated the professional world, and can be fiercely independent, often they overlook or don’t want to provide this needed respect. Many of the couples I see in therapy have this underlying issue. Very often, the husband just doesn’t feel needed or respected for his role, and his role as a man is overlooked. Recently, a man stated to me in session: “You know, I know my wife works hard and she earns, but damn it would be nice once in awhile if she told me that she appreciated how much “I” earn or how hard “I” work and and how much she appreciates when she goes to the grocery store, and doesn’t have to look at the prices, like the money just magically is there”. Unlike men, women require much more emotional sustainment, yet a simple demonstration or verbalization of respect toward your man once in a while goes a long long way. As I always say to my female clients who are often resistant to this idea, ” Hey, can you put your pride aside and throw him a bone once in while? tell him he’s a good provider that you appreciate how hard he works. Let him have some control over big decisions, and help him feel like a man”. When they do follow my suggestion it’s transformational. As I stated, lots of women don’t want to put their pride aside. “But I work hard too, I don’t need to hear that why should I tell him that, what about my needs?” Because it’s what he NEEDS that’s why. You need to snuggle, you need to hear your attractive, you need flowers or gifts or cards, texts, phone calls. He needs this. Provide it. It takes very little of your emotional energy to do this.
And by the way, if you can say something positive in front of others, that’s a cherry on the top. He will feel like a King, stronger, unstoppable, and will WANT to do more for you and be happier in your relationship. So ladies, tell your man he’s great. Complement him on his abilities. When he does something that demonstrates good judgment tell him! Show him Respect. The love you need will come, and you will find that you will happier as well.

Simple Rules for Communication

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It’s hard to know how to argue. We learn from our parents, and if that tells you anything like most of us, it’s a skill that requires learning. If you follow these basics I promise you that communication becomes easier. I’m talking about how to talk not solving the issue itself.

1. No Name Calling: Do I need to list these? Nah

2. No Interrupting: Let the other person finish. Interruption when a person is trying to share their view STOPS the process and doesn’t allow the other person to be heard. Bite your lip. If you are talking or thinking about what to say next, you are not listening.

3. No Character Assassination:  These are allegations that the person you are fighting with might be a bad or unpopular member of his family, have a bad relationship with his or her friends, co-workers or children or is not respected by his colleagues.  Or that he/she had issues with his or her X that was similar. Not nice, not needed.

4. No Physical Violence: No hitting, throwing of objects, punching, scratching, spitting, you get it.

5. No Leaving the Room: Unless you are going to give yourself a time out to cool off, leaving in the middle of an argument is a power move and avoidance. It makes the other person feel unimportant, disrespected, and cut off. If you feel things are not getting anywhere and escalating, tell the person you’re arguing with that you need time to cool off AND (this is key) TELL THEM WHEN YOU WILL RETURN TO FINISH THE DISCUSSION AND WHEN It should be within 24 hours at the latest. An hour or two would be best. Or if you’re really good 10 minutes should do. Otherwise the topic never gets fully discussed and goes subterranean. Only to come up another time, most likely in the middle of your next fight

6. No Switching:  This occurs a lot when I see couples and it sounds like this:  

Person A ” When you leave stuff on the floor in the bedroom, it makes me feel irritated. I have asked you to work on this and you keep doing it! ”  

Person B “OMG are you kidding me? You leave your dishes everywhere in the house, your one to talk”.

Switching STOPS the process and will easily send you both onto another million tangents that you both are angry about. Lots of couples do this. If you want to bring up an issue bring it up SEPARATELY or at another time. Not this time.

7. No Abusive Language:  In other words no cuss words or vulgarity. It’s easy to say things like this when we are angry. The only thing this does is give us release but in doing so, it  shows disrespect toward the other person and STOPS the process. Use words that mean the same thing. I know it’s hard to find another work for “fuck!”   (My personal favorite), there are a zillion other things you can say when things are heated.