Category: Couples Therapy

affair prevention

You may have heard the expression, “Affairs don’t begin in bed.” This just means that there are often a series of poor boundaries and bad choices that happen long before the affair. They are preventable and here’s how:

  1. Realize that you are capable of having an affair. We all are. You need to realize this or else you will not enforce boundaries like you should. I hear this a lot, “I never thought I would do something like this.” And we never do. Good people do bad things. all. the. time. You are not immune.
  2. Talk to your spouse. Are you unhappy in your marriage? Feel as though something is missing? Angry? You are vulnerable to making decisions based on your (conscious or unconscious) desire to fill that missing piece and be happy. If talking doesn’t work, try counseling! Ignoring a problem will not make it go away. In fact, it will most likely get worse.
  3. Get healthy. If you have an untreated addiction or mental illness, please seek treatment. You are more vulnerable to having an affair.
  4. Set clear boundaries. Decide with your spouse what is acceptable behavior with the opposite sex. I can’t make my clients be as conservative as I am in my own marriage with this, but I have one rule that I am adamant about: do not complain about your partner with someone of the opposite sex. In fact, be very wary of who you complain about your partner with in general. Choose one or two trustworthy friends of the same sex when you need to vent on occasion. Also, use facebook wisely. I don’t think you need to be friends with the “one who got away.” Block the person or get rid of your account if you are struggling with this. I have seen too many affairs begin on facebook. Not worth it!
  5. Be accountable. You will feel attraction to someone other than your spouse at some point. That is normal. What is not ok is keeping this a secret (although you do not need to tell your spouse about this unless you have acted on the attraction). Hiding things and trying to push them down has a way of making them get bigger. Find that trustworthy same sex friend and say something like this: “there’s just something about him /her that I find attractive. I will have extra boundaries with this person and if it continues to grow I will remove this person from my life to protect my marriage and family.”
  6. Learn about love. Love is a choice. You will always feel something is missing if you believe love is the same thing as the “in love feeling.” Hollywood and fairy tales set us up to believe that love is always supposed to be exciting, easy and make us happy (affairs are exciting…that is much of the draw).

If this blog is too late, please know that I have seen grace and forgiveness in sessions with clients. It will not be an easy road, but there is hope and healing is possible. I hope you’ll seek wise counsel and begin the process, friend. You are not alone.

how to not start a fight

Most folks believe that communication is the key to a happy marriage. And yet, usually when couples say they have a problem with communication they actually mean something like this: “we don’t know how to talk to each other without it turning into a fight” or “we don’t know how to talk to each other anymore.” Their problem is more specifically conflict resolution and a lack of intimacy/friendship.

So, my job is to figure out what folks really mean when they say, “we need to learn how to communicate better.” In many instances, I’m helping people learn how to start tough conversations about feelings and needs in the hopes of decreasing the chance of defensiveness and subsequently, an argument. Ultimately, my goal is not to prevent couples from fighting; it is to help them treat each other with respect.

A few tips for softening your start up:

  • Think before you speak. Calm down, decide what you really want to communicate, and avoid the words “always” and “never.”
  • Put yourself in his or her shoes. Do you believe your partner deliberately and intentionally wanted to hurt or upset you? Try to lead with   some other softening statements like, “I know you’ve been busy…” “I don’t think you meant to…” or  “I can understand why…”
  • Be specific about the behavior you would like changed. Name-calling and character bashing are just mean (and do not help get your point across)! Neither does yelling. If you want to be heard, don’t be mean, stop yelling, and speak rationally.
  • Stop fighting to be right. If one of you “wins,” you’ve both lost. Understanding is the new “right” and if you achieve it, you both are winners.
  • It’s ok to let some things go. But do not, I repeat: do not stuff your feelings and allow yourself to get bitter or resentful.

Good luck getting started!

How to talk to your spouse about counseling

I often hear, “I would love to come to counseling, but my husband/wife won’t come.” I get it. Marriage counseling is often thought of as the last thing you do before you get divorced. There is a misconception that you should only go to marriage counseling if you are in crisis/on the verge of divorce. There are also many folks who go for a session or 2, so that they can say they “tried counseling” even though their minds were already made up and they didn’t actually try at all. The truth is most couple’s wait 6 years to come to therapy after the issues begin (Gottman). That means, most people do wait until they are in crisis/make or break/verge of divorce mode. And this is a huge problem. Waiting too long means one person (likely the one asking for counseling 6 years ago) hasn’t felt loved in a long time, and is now on the verge of leaving or filing for divorce. At this point, the other partner finally gets it and offers counseling instead. The issue with this is that it’s too late. The spouse who hasn’t felt loved in a long time is now numb. This numbness is why marriage counseling will have less odds of being helpful. Numb folks won’t make the effort (they’ve emotionally given up) and have usually already made up their minds. So, now that we’ve established the importance of not waiting until you’re in crisis mode…what are some tips for getting your partner to come?
  1. Bring up your desire for counseling during a time when you aren’t fighting or distracted by something else.
  1. If you get pushback, say that you want to understand his/her reasons for not wanting to go. Once you know why, you can better address the real issue with kindness and compassion.
  1. Offer a compromise. Say, “Would you be willing to come to one session? It would mean so much to me. If your fears are confirmed in the first session, we do not have to go back. If we feel as though the counselor can’t help us, we don’t have to go back. There will be no pressure, I’m just asking you to give it a chance.”
  1. Then, express why you want to go now, and not wait until you are in crisis. “If we go now, we can have a better marriage, and prevent things from getting worse and being harder to fix in the future.”
Remember, counseling can be a really scary thing for some people. Unknown things usually are. Be compassionate, but firm. If you think you need marriage counseling, you probably do. Don’t give up! I’ve found that I can win skeptics in the first session because I have a practical plan and structure for marriage sessions and because I incorporate humor with compassion, and tough love.

talking to your kids about sex

When I was a kid, I asked my dad to teach me how to swim. He said no because he didn’t do it correctly himself. He didn’t …

affair prevention

You may have heard the expression, “Affairs don’t begin in bed.” This just means that there are often a series of poor …

how to not start a fight

Most folks believe that communication is the key to a happy marriage. And yet, usually when couples say they have a problem …