Marriage Answers

How to decide where to live and where to raise children?

Compromise There is going to be an entire conversation that needs to be had here, but for the sake of this question, I think it is essential to recognize what a marriage is. No matter the spiritual, governmental, or companionship aspect, what you choose to do in marriage is secondary to the marriage. You, as an individual, might want something as much as he, but never let it compromise the marriage. For this, I prefer the Biblical definition of marriage, which is a union of two people into one. One leaves their mother and father and joins their partner. That view of marriage may help put things in perspective enough to eliminate some options.  No answer will solve all you want to solve or predict the best future. Honestly, you might be close to family, but then where does that leave him? If he is the "odd" man out, then what does that do to the marriage? One way to determine the best decision for your guys is to decide what you want the most together. Not where you want to live or what jobs, but what values you want to impose on a future child. If your husband feels like having a kid would get him "stuck" moving where you want, there needs to be a very real conversation because that is a pretty significant deal.  You say you are solid. I believe it. However, what is solid? Is it solid to get along? Is it solid going with the flow? The fact that you have been together longer than most marriages last would assume you have had to work through some pretty difficult things. However, now you look to move, and it seems there is a rift. It is interesting if this rift has been here the entire time, and you are just now noticing it. This is why I say it is time for a candid conversation that could result in hurt feelings. Maybe the feelings are hurt because we have expectations about how things "should" go or what our partner "should" do. Perhaps we hold these beliefs deep down and don't bring them up, but secretly get angry when they don't line up. Maybe this is why we are now having this conversation after so many years and there are these issues. We are humans; we avoid pain. But let us at least acknowledge there is pain instead of saying things are going great.  So, have the conversation. Make sure you get really uncomfortable and talk about the parts of you that don't agree versus what you do agree with. Please identify what you as a couple wants out of your marriage, out of life, out of raising a child. Let there be disagreement. Let there be upset feelings if need be. Argue and get down to what matters. I don't want to play nice and resent you later. I didn't articulate what I felt because I expected you to know. No, say and do the honest things, even if it means writing it down and having him read it. Do these things, and if you decide to go to therapy to navigate this you will at least know where to start. Good luck. 
Answered on 01/11/2023

Am I in a toxic marriage?

Thank you for sending in your question. I first want to acknowledge how difficult it can be to reach out for help. One of the bravest things you can do is begin to address areas of your life that are not appearing to be in a healthy place.  It sounds like there is an opportunity right now for you and your husband to begin growing in your communication. One thing that I often talk to my clients about when it comes to communicating with a partner or spouse is how valuable “intentional communication” can be. Communication by definition is simply exchanging information with someone. I don’t know about you, but simply exchanging information with a partner or spouse typically doesn’t create a sense of understanding or fulfillment during the exchange. There are several skills that help couples grow in their intentional communication. Here are a few that are generally seen as skills to increase intentionality and intimacy in communication: Listen actively, try to understand what your partner is saying rather than judge what they are saying, avoid being critical of your partner, give full attention when communicating (turn tv off and put phones away), be assertive, avoid blaming one another for the situation at hand. These are just a few skills that can be practiced when a couple is trying to grow in their ability to communicate with intentionality.  Additionally, it is important for you to understand your needs and expectations and how to communicate them with your spouse. All of our behavior and emotional responses can be connected back to a need. Sometimes the most challenging things to work through in a relationship is when we have a need or expectation that is going unmet. I would argue that at times we are not even aware what need or expectation we have until we take time to ask ourselves and explore what is going on in our heart. For example, if a spouse says that they get frustrated when their significant other does not put their phone down when they are having a conversation, they might have a need for connection or a need for quality time that is going unmet by their spouse giving attention to their device when the two of them are together. It might be something that simply needs to be communicated that the one spouse needs devices put away when they are having a conversation. When we are able to identify our needs and communicate them with our partner, it allows our partner to begin exploring ways they are or are not meeting those needs. It also allows you and your partner as a couple to come up a game plan on how to grow in meeting each other needs.  The last thing I would encourage you to consider is couples counseling or individual counseling if your husband is not willing to participate in counseling. If you are unable to resolve certain conflict or relationship issues on your own, it can be a valuable experience having someone walk with you and your husband through difficult conversations before they become more significant.  I hope this gave you some helpful tools to begin exploring. Conflict and challenges in relationship don’t have to result in disconnection, they can be experiences that cause you and your partner to grow stronger and closer together and ultimately come out with skills to address challenges that might arise in the future. I wish you and your husband all the best and hope you both can continue on a journey of healing and connection within your relationship.
Answered on 12/30/2022

How do I deal with frustration towards family?

Hello Vicky, It is very nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to send in your question. You ask a very relevant question, particularly for this time of year. It is certainly a difficult situation to be in. If you and I were working together in therapy, I would encourage you to set clear and consistent boundaries with them. From what you've described, it sounds like they have alienated most other relatives already. They are very negative and take on the victim role and probably think that everyone is out to get them, to hurt them, and that they do nothing wrong, ever! One important thing to remember is that you can not control anyone other than yourself. Neither you nor your partner can make the family see things in a different way, if they don't want to. This is a common situation, particularly this time of year with the holidays. We often feel that we "have" to see and spend time with family we would not otherwise want to spend time with.  If you and I were working together, I would want to know more about how your partner manages his relationship with his family. What keeps him in contact with them? It does sound like you and he are on the same page with this. When you do visit with them, setting clear boundaries might look like: Not talking about any sensitive topics, such as politics, religion, etc. Setting a clear time limit for the visit - spend afternoon with them and have lunch, but don't spend the entire weekend. Get a hotel, so you do not have to stay at their house. Get up, excuse yourself and walk out of the room if the conversations get heated or negative. Don't engage in negative conversations at all. If they ask you any personal, inappropriate questions, you might respond with,"that is a very personal question, I am not comfortable talking about that with you." As this is your partner's family, it would be more appropriate for him to be the one to talk with them about the discomfort you and he feel when you're around them. Just know, we are all entitled to boundaries and to feel comfortable. If you are not comfortable around certain people, you do have the right to say so, even if they do not like it or agree with it. I hope that you have found this information helpful and I wish you all the best moving forward on your journey.
Answered on 12/29/2022

I’m in a phase of my marriage where I feel indifferent towards my husband, how do I get back to love?

Hello Consuela, It is very nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to send in your question. You ask a thoughtful question. Yes, you're right, marriages do often go through ups and downs. The important thing here is that you are taking an active role in trying to repair this and you want things to be different. You are showing motivation.  Often times, we can fall into a rut, get into a routine with our partners. I call it being in autopilot, just going through the motions day by day. This is very common for relationships, particularly the longer you've been together. What you want to do to change up that daily routine with new things. Some suggestions include, setting up regular date nights, dressing up and going out like you are on a date. I would also encourage you to sit down and write out all of the things that you love about your husband. What first attracted you to him in the beginning? Something drew you to him, what were those things? Try to incorporate some new things into the marriage - read a book together, take a class, do activities together, play games together. Make a commitment to try new things on a regular basis - once a week, once a month, etc. Get to know each other again. Practice reframing this feeling of indifference that you have with your husband. Also very important, does your husband know that you are feeling this way? Sit down and talk with him, tell him you feel that you are in a rut and want to be proactive and improve this. How do you think he would respond to this? I know that you don't want to rock the boat or cause unnecessary stress or tension, but it is important to keep open communication with him, otherwise you will likely develop resentment toward him. You might also find it helpful to speak with a therapist to help you work through some of these feelings. I hope that you have found this information helpful. I wish you all the best moving forward on your journey.
Answered on 12/28/2022

How do I know whether a feeling is from my “gut” or just an anxious thought?

Hi Christy! Thank you for reaching out to BetterHelp with your question regarding deciphering between a "gut feeling"/intuition and an irrational anxious thought. First of all, I am so very sorry to hear about you feeling betrayed by your husband. Trust is such an important part of a healthy marriage, and things can become quite complicated when that trust is broken. From reading your inquiry, it seems as if you are wanting to repair your marriage and the broken trust. I want to give you hope when I say that can absolutely happen! It will take both of you being intentional and proactive; however, I have seen it be done numerous times. As it relates to you, I believe that it starts with forgiveness. Being able to forgive and let go of this hurt is critical although it can be a difficult task. Forgiveness is a conscious decision to release feelings of resentment.  I am going to give you a few tips on how to move forward, and I will end by offering guidance for the two of you as a couple. 1. Please do not blame yourself. When someone betrays you, it's easy for your self-esteem to take a hit. While replaying things in your mind, you may feel like you are to blame. Remember that betrayal is always a choice. Nothing gives a person a "free pass" to do whatever they want. 2. Know that it is okay to grieve the loss of trust with your husband. Prepare yourself to go through stages such as denial, anger, depression, etc. while on your healing journey. Perhaps you have already experienced some of these stages. Allow yourself to grieve in your own way so that you can deal with this in a healthy way. There is no timeline. 3. Open up to someone that you trust. I highly recommend seeing a therapist if you are able. If you are unable to seek professional help, seeking emotional support from a close friend or relative can be helpful in the recovery process. 4. Engage in self-care activities. You have been through a lot, and it's time to make yourself a priority. I highly recommend journaling or meditating. Creating moments of stillness for yourself to help process your thoughts in a healthy way can be so helpful. Advice for both of you: Now that you have had some time to process the incident, it is time to devise a game plan for recovering from betrayal. Seeking out a marriage counselor is one of the best tools to heal. Healing is not something that happens overnight. You need to start with small steps. Even if it doesn't feel like it at the moment, this pain will eventually fade and your marriage can be restored if that is what you choose. If both you and your partner are willing to put in the work, it's possible to rebuild trust in your relationship.
(M.A., LPC)
Answered on 12/28/2022

How do I rid myself of building resentment?

Hello Layla, I am sorry to hear things have felt very unequal between you and your husband. To answer your question; there is no right way to divide finances, but it does have to work for you both. So if it is not working for you it a problem and that is why there are feelings of resentment. Your best strategy is to be direct and communicate with "I statements" such as I feel stressed, anxious, etc. because of the amount of money I have to spend to make our lifestyle work and I need the way expenses are divided to be reconsidered. Then address specific behaviors that your husband engages in that contributes to how you are feeling. Be careful though not to fight unfairly during this. Do not attack character, avoid words like you always and you never. Just try to stick to very direct behaviors that aren't working for you and express what you need to happen regarding the finances. Ideally money would be talked about prior to getting married and how bills, etc. would be divided but this may or may not have happened in your relationship. If it did, remind your husband of whatever those agreements were. If they weren't, express what your preferences are for that and get his preferences, which hopefully line up, but if not explain that since we don't line up on our view of finances that we have to work to meet in the middle. Hash out a plan together and then hold each other accountable to that plan.  You are allowed to have preferences and to set boundaries for your comfort level regarding the finances. If it is very real expenses your husband is paying for, it is his responsibility to communicate those things and help you understand them. If there aren't and it is just mismanagement of funds on his part it is okay for you to say that as things are it is not okay with you and there has to be changes in how finances are split/handled at home.  If he is not willing to have these discussions that is a huge red flag. You are a couple and communicating is very important. Being able to work through things together is important. Again, be firm and direct but not attacking.  Take care and thank you again for your question.
Answered on 12/27/2022

My marriage is costing me my peace and happiness. I want out, but nobody gets it. Am I being selfish

Good Evening Zee, Thank you for your honesty and openness related to issues you are coping with in your marriage. It sounds like it is a highly painful time and the lack of support you feel from your family and friends is taking its toll. I am very sorry to hear it and to learn of your consequential unhappiness. I know you feel you are trapped and out of options in how you address your current dilemma, however, I assure you that you are not trapped or stuck, and certainly you have many options in this situation. They are the following: 1. Write a pros and cons list related to your marriage - do this just for you! It will help you to organize yourself and truly understand what it is your would consider staying for and what it is you are planning to leave for. 2. Consider the happiest times in your marriage - what was happening then? How were you and your partner interacting? Are you able to get back to that? To get back to some semblance of that or a newer, better baseline? 3. Have you said aloud to your partner that you are ready and wanting to leave the marriage? If not, can you and are you willing to set a date to do so? 4. Explore the issues that you have with people pleasing and needing to feel validated by others in order to make the decision that you know are best for you. Are you staying in your marriage and not speaking of your discontent because you do not want to be misunderstood? Or is it because you would need financial or emotional support or other resources if you left your marriage and if your family and friends do not understand, they will not provide these things? 5. Are you willing to make yourself the head of your decision making in your life? If you are overwhelmed and upset by the life you are living with your current partner, you know and understand that it is you and only you who can make the choice to leave, why place any stake at all in the opinions of others? They are not in the relationship with you, they will not be out of the relationship with you. At the end of the day, you are the only writer of your story. Everyone else must be background noise. You do not have to truly believe it. You just have to make decisions as if you believe it until it all becomes real.  I hope my notes above are helpful for you and create room for you to begin anchoring your voice above all others. You deserve to be happy and I hope you know that there are no mistakes. Only decisions that you can see through to the end of the line no matter the consequences that arise. They will arise and they are inevitable. It is ok to be afraid. You can do it even in that state, just know in the end you are walking towards your happiness. Best of luck to you! 
Answered on 12/26/2022

How do i move forward?

First, I want to commend you for opening up and allowing yourself to be vulnerable in this moment. It takes a lot of courage to come to a forum like this and admit that you are struggling with a certain topic. I also want to express my sincerest sympathy for your situation and I know this is something that can be extremely difficult to cope with and learn to move forward with. Infidelity brings in very difficult times in relationships because of all the aftereffects of what the decision brings. Things such as trust issues, distance, and anxiety are very common when it comes to this situation. When learning to move forward, you truly must think about what you want in the relationship. Do you want to pursue repairing this relationship? Is this a deal breaker? Do you want to separate or divorce? These are very important things to ask yourself, because this will depict what the next steps are for you. A conversation between yourself and your husband is integral to next steps also. There are some important things you want to discuss in that conversation, but first and foremost. You both must agree to be respectful of each other during the conversation. It can easily get heated and we all know emotions tend to run wild when discussing infidelity. I suggest writing a list of topics that you want to bring to the table during the talk. Just so you can keep yourself on track. Tell him to do the same. I also suggest that the children are not around during this talk so you can speak freely. When you are feeling elevated, try and take a deep breath and walk away if you need to. This is a good start for deciding what is next for you and your husband. So you can start figuring out what you want to do with the rest of the relationship and you will be able to set some boundaries and limitations with him. In regards to therapy recommendations, I believe this is something that you can work out while meeting with a therapist. There you can get into more detail about the situation and how you believe this came into play. If you are thinking about couples therapy, I usually recommend that each party gets their own individual therapist first to work out some things that may be hidden under the surface. Then after some coping skills, communication skills, and emotion management skills are learned, then couples therapy can be looked at. It will provide you both with the resources you need in order to come together in a more effective matter. I wish you good luck during this time and I sincerely hope that things get better for you. 
Answered on 12/21/2022

How do i move forward? Do i cut off contact?

Trust and Intimacy Ending things is possible, but it won't fix what you have going on. Your hurt from eight years ago seems to have manifested into policing both of them. In short, you will burn yourself out or already have. For eight years, you have been living this life this way while missing out on what you need. Growth comes from coping with life stressors and learning who you are in the process. You, though, are distracted by how to keep those two apart.  My question for you is, what are you doing for yourself? If you hold these relationships together, are they even good for you? What do you need in all of this? Again, you can cut all ties, but you are still left with you who is hurt and have dealt with self-sacrifice for the last eight years. The real question is, not do you cut ties, but what will you do for yourself instead?  Never "don't do" something. When we say, "I am not going to," that is a negative and leaves a gap that needs to be filled. With your partner and your friend, if you eliminate one, then what are you going to fill that time with? Your partner, of course, they say cut ties, they cheated with your friend, and they want to forget about all that. However, there are consequences to our choices, and your partner's is that they have to face the reality of what they've done. They hurt you, and now both of their behaviors continue to hurt you.  Please do not think about what to do with them but think about what matters to you and then make decisions according to what matters. Why does it matter if they are apart and you work to keep them apart if they want to be together? If these two would hook up on their own, then neither of them is a friend to you. People who overlook the feelings of others in their life are so selfish, it is hard to realize that other people have feelings, they hurt, and we played a part in that. Selfish people cannot sit with the reality of their choices and continue to put caring people like you in charge of making things better for them. Your partner wants you to cut ties? Well, that is your decision to make, make the best one for yourself.  Can we move on from people who hurt us? Yes, but you need to not focus on what they bring or don't bring to your life and instead focus on what you need more of in life. Working, school, taking care of children (if any), working out, reading more, and eating less are significant areas of life people work on when they want to make themselves feel better. Like a diet people don't keep, you ghost your friend because deep down you know they aren't good for you and so you don't show up.  Ask yourself "why" five times when you do something to discover what matters to you. You try to keep the two apart, why, so they don't hurt you, why does that matter, you don't like hurt, why, you think that hurt is a bad emotion, why....and so on. The objective of this exercise is not to focus on the surface layer but to get to the more meaningful (and valued) areas of life to start to love ourselves. 
Answered on 12/21/2022

Is individual therapy worth it when I believe my issues are based on my relationship with my wife?

Dear Tom, I am glad that you are reaching out to ask what is wise for you to do in response to the distress that you are having inside of yourself as well within your marriage relationship and in the home environment.  I am glad that you are seeking to question what is the wisest next step towards health and forward movement for you and for the relationship with your wife.   I wish I could ask you a few more questions.  First of all, I would love to know what you think about going to therapy for yourself?  It sounds like your wife is asking you to go to therapy because of how you respond to the kids.  And I wonder now, do you think that therapy is a wise step for yourself?   Second question is, do you think that you could benefit from some time doing counseling on your own? As you think about doing counseling for yourself, do you think that there are areas that you need support in? As I read your story, I think of how you could benefit from the support of someone listening to you, giving you some wisdom on how to ask for what you need, build in boundaries and wise ways to respond to your wife as well as encouraging you in the process.   In my fifteen years of experience as a therapist, I would say that the best first step is for you to get the support you need to take care of yourself wisely and then move towards couples counseling.  I have found many folks who have marital issues come in individually and find great support and guidance and help to take wise steps for themselves first.  And then, after a short or medium amount of time focusing on yourself, then it is time to invite your wife to either take that time to focus on herself and or do some couples work.   I wonder what you think of this plan.  I would encourage you to seek to get the support you need because this is a challenging situation.  Because your wife is not willing to get the help she needs, then you need to make sure that you are taking wise steps for yourself.   I would start with individual therapy so you can make sure that you are taking care of yourself wisely.  And then when you feel it is wise, you can invite your wife to go to counseling together.   I wish we could chat about what you think of that, and I hope you are able to care for yourself well in this present situation.  It makes sense that this is hard for you and you need some support, guidance, and wisdom for this hard time.   I wish you well and hope you can get that support you need! Paula
Answered on 12/19/2022

Do narcissists ever get better in relationship, or does the relationship continue to spiral downward?

Narcissism is a Personality  If this man is a narcissist, he has been his entire life. I do not think this is the primary purpose of your question, but I believe it is necessary not to allow his behaviors to be chalked up to a mental health disorder. Narcissism occurs in childhood from an environment where someone's sense of attachment or belief in oneself and the world around them is a sure way and then builds up behaviors to live in that world of detachment, and winner takes all. A narcissist is actually a fragile human who overly relies on the ego to participate in life. This ego only cares about itself, and its betterment. The rule goes, the weaker or more scared the child, the stronger and bolder the ego has to defend it. Your husband would have had these traits your entire marriage; thus, I question any authentic happiness as defined by being together in emotionally intimate ways.  Adultery would fall in line with a weak man. A weak man requires validation and fears missing out, fears being overlooked, and is absolutely devastated if rejected. Adultery is a way for the ego to feel powerful and worthwhile. The ego says to take and accumulate, and then you will be somebody. If he is a narcissist, your husband's adultery is a symptom of his inability to sit in the stability of a committed relationship. As a child acts out and seeks to devise more from an unstable environment, so did he.  You may not be able to reconcile mostly because he would have to take responsibility for his actions and admit to being weaker than he realized. A narcissist won't do that. A few things will destroy a marriage almost guaranteed, and one of these things is a lack of accountability. We require a partner who will carry his part of the responsibility because it validates what we see in them. Without validation through your husband's accountability, you will form resentment. Resentment and contempt are cancer to any marriage. If your husband messed up, confessed his sins, and gave insight into the nature of the wrongs he did, you may feel a different way about going forward. However, you know him and know that he will do it again once this pain passes and given another chance.  Why? Why, against all logic, would someone hurt someone and destroy a good thing? Because they are not driven by a rational mind but by the appearance of something they have never actually had, a genuine relationship. The ego says, "this next one will be better." This next thing will solve it. The ego has to do something; it cannot just sit and tolerate the pain of not having what it is entitled to. As I said, the symptoms of NPD are that of a wounded child who has learned enough to overcompensate as an adult. This person lacks empathy because the situation is all about him. His cheating was probably twisted to how he was wronged somehow or the victim of some circumstance. Do not fall for that sort of speech if it is occurring. It is the ego self-preserving, and sometimes people have to go through rejection to realize they cannot get away with these behaviors and that they are not the person to be overlooked and assumed to be weakminded. 
Answered on 12/17/2022

Is it me, my issues or low standards or is it my partner who doesn’t listen?

Hi,That sounds really hard situation. You have clearly asked your husband to cuddle and compliment you. It can be really sad to ask for such things and not get it reciprocated. It is very important to ask for what we need in relationships. Also, having a spouse give what we ask of them is very important.One thing to consider off the bat is that you may benefit from both or either of individual or couples counseling. Individual counseling can help you decide and explore what is happening to you individually in the relationship that is not giving you what you need. This can be emotionally draining and painful. Talk therapy might help from giving you help. The other option would be do to couples therapy. It does not need to be an either or situation. You could possibly benefit from both. Due to cost and time constraints you might need to decide between the two. Sometimes more is not necessarily better with therapy. You and your husband can explore in couples therapy ways to have both your needs met. You can explore ways to make your marriage connection deeper and more meaningful. As with all therapy there is no guarantee that it will work, but it can often help. If you were to explore this more in therapy, then more information would need to be given. How long has this been going on? How much is this happening? What does it make you feel like to not get what you have asked for?I will say that one thing that can be difficult from a therapist's perspective is when the issue resides in a separate party. It does not really sound like it is your fault per se that your husband is not doing what you ask of him. Therefore he may be the one that needs to change. That ultimately puts the ball out of your court. He needs to change, and we actually have very little control over other people. We can not make someone else change. Exploring not being able to control other people, even our spouse could also be explored in therapy.
Answered on 12/12/2022

Can counseling alone do an impact on my marriage and cause my husband to come back home?

Hi Coco, Thank you for reaching out during this difficult time.  I am sorry to hear you are struggling and that you are experiencing all of this turmoil.  I will do my best to provide you some feedback into your situation and hope it is helpful to you. If counseling is something you think will be beneficial for yourself then I urge you to move forward with it.  It can provide support to you, as well as unpack some of your feelings as you are going through this experience (and possibly others).  Therapy can also teach skills to help deal with a situation or situations.  There are also support groups, both in person and on line, that may be helpful to you with others in similar situations. In marriage, or any relationship, both people have responsibility for how the relationship is moving forward whether it be in a healthy or unhealthy way.  I cannot tell you that you going to counseling alone will bring your husband back.  It sounds like there is some accountability he also needs to take if the relationship were to move forward. There is something called The Circle of Control.  If you were to draw a circle and write everything in your control inside the circle and everything outside of your control on the outside of the circle, what would fall where?  Your thoughts, your feelings, your behaviors would fall inside the circle.  Every other person, including your husband and his thoughts, feelings and behaviors would fall outside of the circle.  No one can make anyone want something they do not want. You can focus on yourself and what you need.  It is important to be aware of your needs and wants and ensure you are also taking time to self-care.  Self care does not mean spending money, it can be time to yourself (maybe a long walk, a bath, etc.).  You can also focus on filing paperwork for child support and/or financial assistance.  You can try and talk to him or have the children talk to him about the children missing their father. You asked about "getting out of this mess."  Both people involved have to want to find a way to move forward together or move forward apart.  Regardless, I encourage you to focus on yourself and the children.  Your husband is meeting needs that he has (and he may be meeting them in unhealthy ways), however, that is out of your control. I wish you the best in your journey moving forward.
Answered on 12/12/2022

How can I create positive communication in my marriage when our communication is very bland?

Good evening! I think that it is great that you are looking to create positive communication in your marriage. I would also imagine that it can be challenging at times to get undivided time with a family of 4. I would need to ask a few more questions relating to the interaction between you and your husband in order touch on specifics of the communication between you two but I will definitely share some tips that would be helpful when trying to create healthy communication between you two. It can also be difficult when you do not feel like you are being heard or when you notice healthy communication between him and friends and family but do not feel that is mirrored at home with you. Practicing these skills will be key and it is going to have to take effort on the part of both of you too. My hopes would be that you could share some of what you are learning and developing and you both could work together as a team so that it could help strengthen your relationship/marriage as a whole. One of the main ingredients to healthy communication is active listening. This is where you really want to focus on trying to understand what your partner is saying to you. We too often listen to respond vs listen to hear. When you are making a conscious effort to listen to what your spouse is saying and really trying to hear the message they are sending that would require listening to hear. By doing this your are going to increase both communication and rapport in our marriage. After all, isn't that the point of communication, attempting to communicate information, needs, feelings and concerns with each other.  Another skill and technique that is a life changer is using "I Statements" when communicating your needs. This often brings a more positive response from your partner and eliminates any blame or defensiveness that may erupt if you start by using "you statements". It is also very helpful and very important to try to understand the other person's feelings and putting yourself in their shoes. Showing and practicing empathy and trying to understand your partner's view point will assist with meeting your partner's needs or your needs if you are the one relaying the information. We all want to be heard and understood so that is another key point to remember when working to improve communication. Also, try to remember what attracted you both to each other to begin with. Try to spend some time with communicating those positive traits with each other, talk about things that are going well too. Make sure to prioritize time to communicate with one another. We often forget about the nonverbal part of communication and how much it can impact the interactions we have. Pay attention to your tone of voice, facial expressions and body language. All of these have an impact on what you are saying. I always encourage couples to try to spend quality time together. I know this can be hard with little ones, I get that. Even starting out small but being creative in how you can save some time for one another. And remember when you are discussing issues or problems, the goal is to find solutions together. These are a few skills to practice to start increasing healthy communication with others. Again, it takes time and effort from all involved. I wish you the best and thank you for opening up to ask for support on this topic. I know sometimes taking that step can be hard. 
Answered on 12/10/2022

How to communicate more effectively ?

I want to first thank you so much for asking this amazing question. Being in a relationship can definitely have tense moments. When you have moments of disagreement, it can be a completely normal part of being a couple. But the key to building a trusting relationship is working toward building a stronger, more intimate bond. Communication is important because it fosters trust and connection. In order to have an open, honest, and vulnerable relationship with your partner, you must be able to freely communicate in a healthy manner. Sometimes we can be passive aggressive as a way of expressing hidden anger instead of effectively addressing the conflict head-on. This behavior can look like: cracking jokes about your partner at their expense, punishing them by giving them the silent treatment, and making digs about their decision making. All of these behaviors allow you to express your frustration without actually having to talk about it. Sometimes we can even just brush things under the rug and pretend it is not an issue. Simply avoiding conflicts won't be sufficient. Ignoring issues just gives them the space and time to build up into something larger down the road.  I would suggest processing your feelings first. Before talking with your wife about an issue that's upsetting for you, be sure to process your own feelings on the subject and calm yourself down first. If we go into a conversation feeling angry, upset, or too emotional, then the communication tends to become too heated and difficult to find a resolution. One helpful tool can be to take a quick walk or run around a park or in your neighborhood. You can also listen to relaxing music before talking to your partner. That way you'll be more in control of your emotions and be able to communicate better than previous interactions. Choosing the right time to talk is important when communicating with your partner. I always suggested to clients to ask the individual they are having a disagreement with if they would be allowed a specific amount of time to vent or asking questions before bombarding them. That individual may not be in the emotional space to receive the message (i.e., "Do you have 15 minutes for me to vent about something that has caused me concern?"). If you ask your partner for the time and she is not in a space to receive it, this will be a great opportunity to work on using some of the tools I mentioned to blow off steam. If she does have the time and is in an emotional state to discuss the concerns, you can stick to the time frame allotted. You can also track your tone of voice in the conversation and ask for constructive feedback if needed.  I know you mentioned that she would ask for you to complete something at a specific time and you would sometimes delay or ignore the requests because you could do it at another time. This could cause your wife to feel at times dismissed if she doesn't understand the reasoning behind the delay in completing the activity. When we say the word "you" in describing a concern it could lead to an individual personalizing the meaning behind your supposed intention (whether it is a real or imagined perception). Many couples can enter conversations as through they are debates or arguments that they must win. While you may not agree with your partner's point of view, it's important to actually listen to why they felt the way they did in the moment and vice versa. When having a discussion, I would suggest not making it a competition to see who wins. Instead, actively listen and try to understand their point of view. Active listening is a communication skill that involves going beyond simply hearing the words the other person speaks but also seeking to understand the meaning and intent behind them. Some examples of active listening skills are: being fully present in your conversation with your wife, showing interest by practicing good eye contact, noticing and using non-verbal cues (i.e., head nods and thumbs up), asking open-ended questions in a calm tone, paraphrasing and reflecting back what you heard (you can even utilize a term called parroting in which you repeat verbatim what was heard), listening to understand rather than to respond, and withholding judgment and advice. You mentioned how you can be defensive at times and she can be highly sensitive. Defensive behaviors have the purpose of distracting you from your feelings of being hurt and feeling shamed. While defensive behaviors might help you feel better in the short term, in the long term they generally result in worsening feelings. As you point out the flaws in the other person to avoid feeling attacked, you can end up making the other person defensive as well (even if it is in your wife's mind and never articulated to you). This can result in a vicious cycle of back and forth defensive behavior that neither of you saw coming (or probably even understood). There are different types of defensiveness including: silent treatment (not speaking to someone in order to get back at them), bringing up the past (reminding the other person of when they made a mistake), gaslighting (making the other person question their sanity or memory by denying doing things or lying about doing things), and blaming (shifting the blame to the other person for whatever you are being criticized for). One of the first steps to decreasing your defensive behavior is to actually become aware of when it is happening. It's easy to avoid confronting your behavior or acknowledging that you are behaving in a defensive manner. Instead, try to pay attention in the moment to how you are feeling and how you react to others. You can also journal your feelings on paper at the end of the day or beginning of each morning. I suggest writing down the date and time when you are writing the journal entries to keep up with your progression, but also to have a cleaner picture of what times of day you experience your feelings. I also want you to think about validating your feelings. Once you have started to notice when you become defensive, it's important to start validating your feelings when you are criticized. You can acknowledge that you felt hurt, worried, fearful, and insecure. As you validate your feelings of being hurt, show compassion toward yourself and how you are feeling. This can include just acknowledging that you don't need to act upon the impulse to react defensively. Lastly, I want you to work on aligning yourself with your moral compass and value system. Is acting defensive lining up with how you want to be as a person? If not, it's time to decide how you want to be perceived and how you will behave in your current relationship. You can behave assertively and still ask for respect. I want you read that last sentence aloud in the mirror to remind yourself that you can be assertive and still ask for respect. But respect starts with the man in the mirror first. I want you to have a happy and healthy relationship with yourself and your wife. You stated that words and actions stick with her and they are important to the dynamic of your current relationship. The more you both can stay on topic and discuss viable solutions in respectful, honest, assertive, loving tones, you could both be able to understand your differences from a different purview. Defensiveness is a learned behavior, meaning that it can also be unlearned. If despite your best efforts you are still having difficulty or trouble stopping your behaviors, this might mean that you would benefit from professional help. Don't hesitate to speak to a therapist, counselor, or other mental health professional. This could mean the difference for you in terms of improving your communication skills and managing your defensive reactions. I hope I was able to give you some insight into making changes for yourself that will hopefully be helpful in your current marriage as well. I wish you all the best in your journey to self-discovery. Take care.
Answered on 12/07/2022

How to do I tell my son I am dating someone after divorce?

Hey there. I am so sorry to read that you are in a situation where your child is being told horrible things about you by your ex. No child deserves to hear that the parent they love is a "whore." That's not fair to them and really can be traumatizing emotionally. In regards to your question about when to let your son know that you are dating, I would recommend to go ahead and do it. Your son probably already knows (kids are so smart and intuitive!) and by you telling him this will validate the experience he is already having and probably answer some questions that he has. The depth in which you speak to your son about your dating situation really depends on his age. As a rule of thumb, less is more when they are younger and as they mature you can add more detail if you see fit. Children have so much to worry about, you don't want to add any extra "adult stuff" that they are not cognitively able to handle. When we "overshare" with our children they often will feel responsible for things that they have zero control over or they tend to misplace blame (and often on themselves).  I would definitely recommend that you continue being emotionally responsible by not bad talking about your ex to your son. I know that can be hard to do but it will pay off for your child's emotional development in the end. You'll be grateful that you said kind things (or nothing at all) over anger and resentment as he will feel safe when he's with you. I know these situations can be so very difficult to navigate as emotions tend to run high. Try your very best to keep healthy emotional boundaries with your son and only give him information that he is developmentally prepared to hear. If you have more questions about that, get in touch with a therapist who can help guide you. They will know developmental stages that your child is going through and what information is appropriate to say and what is not. Hope this helps! Best of luck to you! 
Answered on 12/07/2022

I’m ghosted and just left to pick up the pieces.

Hi Lou! A pleasure to meet you! My name is Lorena Klahr, licensed marriage and family therapist based in Florida, USA. I appreciate you for opening up here. I hear you saying that you are getting mixed messages by your husband and that when you tried talking to him he becomes defensive/ feels attacked and right away finds a justified excuse that makes him understand his pattern.. I wonder if this dynamic that you are describing now has been there from before or is it a new pattern that you are discovering this time around? it sounds like you are dealing with a lot for the moment and clearly you care about this person and want to make things better for both of you guys.. Let's go again with the patterns of communication! defensiveness! It feels that he is trying to keep himself from getting hurt/ he does not want to be vulnerable; which means that anything that is told to him that sounds hurtful or suspicious to him he attacks you right away instead of having an interaction or asking you to clear things out. I wonder why does he feel so attacked? I wonder about both of your childhoods, your families and your romantic relationship as a whole.. I also wonder Lou why you are allowing this for yourself.  Relationships are formed by an emotional side and a rational side. One can't work without the other. They need each other to make a relationship last. Based on what you are saying, you both have a lot of emotion towards each other and there is a lot of love, clearly that is why you keep fighting for this relationship. On the other side, I wonder about the rational side; do you guys communicate similarly? Where is the cheating aspect coming from? Is it part of your boundaries to allow being with other people while you are still in a committed relationship? I would try to go through these questions by myself (you) because right now it seems that he knows that the ball is in his court, which means that he has gotten to the point where he disrespects you and you are still there. My suggestion, do not leave the ball only on his side of the court, show him that the ball is also on your side and that there is a difference between loving each other and respecting each other. I also wanted to point out that it seems that he is going on and off with his decision... do not let him treat you this way Lou, you do not deserve that. Again, he is going to respect you more once he knows that you respect yourself... Let me know what you think. If you'd like to consider couples therapy again, here's what you can expect from it. In the first session I try to conduct an intake to understand the reasons why you are both seeking couples counseling. This includes, family history, childhood, relationship history, how you met and other areas of the relationship. We also create goals together, at least three, to make sure you guys are getting what you want out of the sessions. Once I have a clear background of you both and your situation, we move forward with tools and an understanding of patterns that are happening in the relationship. Not all the sessions will be the same, it really depends on what brings you here and how the process is moving forward for you both. But usually when the work is put in therapy and outside of therapy, the success rate can be pretty high. So with this being said and your current situation, couples therapy can be a resource to see how much work and time he wants to put into the relationship. You also want to make sure that if you are spending your time and mental health into someone is because he wants the same that you do, or better said, you both have similar goals. Otherwise, although it hurts, it is better to live based off a reality than a lie. I know Lou you are going through a very difficult moment in your marriage and life but my main recommendation to you is to put yourself first; which means, start using your coping mechanisms, what makes you feel better (walk, exercise, paint, social support, eating healthy, sleeping enough hours). You need to be in a good position with yourself in order to talk to him. Remember, everything starts from a step, the beginning is the hardest but as you move on you will find yourself more in the process. Remember to make sure that you are fighting for this for the same reasons, make sure he also cares about this relationship, otherwise, try to think about you, continue doing what you are doing.  I hope that this answer is a good resolution and perception of what you are currently dealing with and how couples therapy would help. I think that the fact that you are putting yourself out here says a lot about you and how you want this to work! so hopefully with a little bit more of communication you will be there soon. Good luck!
Answered on 12/04/2022

How can I help my spouse move forward without getting a divorce?

Hello Ikm, It is nice to meet you. Thank you for taking the time to send in your question. This must be such a difficult situation to be going through. If you and I were working together in therapy, I would want to know more about what happened with the other person who you were texting. I would also want to explore more about your marriage and how you and your spouse get along. If this was recently learned about by your spouse, they may very well be in shock right now.  You're doing the right thing by being open and honest with them, but their pain and hurt is still there. But, unfortunately, being open and honest now may not be enough. There is no way to make someone do something that they do not want to do. You can suggest couples counseling, but they may not be interested in doing this. I would encourage you to be honest with them and let them know how you are feeling. Additionally, they may want to know more about what happened and ask you questions, or ask you for details about the messages that were sent. I would encourage you to be open and honest, be transparent.  It may be that they need more time to process what has happened. Trying to force or push for things to just go back to normal is not going to be productive. Let them feel whatever they are feeling. There is no way to help someone move forward, they must do this on their own. They were hurt and feel betrayed. Even if you two are separated right now, you might ask if they would consider speaking to a marriage counselor for a few sessions to talk through all that happened.  The other part of this may be that they are not able to continue on in the marriage. As devastating as that would be for you, they do have the choice to leave the marriage. If that were to happen, I encourage you to speak with a therapist to help you process through this.  I hope that you have found this information helpful and I wish you all the best moving forward on your journey.
Answered on 12/02/2022

How to get your hubby to communicate?

Communication within a marriage can be hard at times. This can be caused by outside stress, relationship stress, family obligations, or not enough time. Additionally, there are times where communication does not happen because we do not know how to communicate what we are feeling, need, or want in our relationship so we shut down. However, no matter how much the communication has been off or if there's a loss of a connection, there are still actions we can take to change things. One way to improve communication or get our significant other to engage in communication is to set specific time aside to do just that. I typically have clients set aside 20-30 minutes a day where they are together to talk about anything and everything except problems and kids. This does two things. First it allows communication to not always feel like a correction or to address negative things. Second it allows the communication to be about each other to give further insight into the other person. Typically, during these conversations, you talk about your day, what made you laugh, something that you connected with, or about anything. Additionally, we can reconnect with the person not just try to fix things.   Another way to get your significant other to communicate more is to ask clarifying and open-ended questions. Miscommunication often occurs due to our experiences, understandings, and knowledge. When we have conversations, we oftentimes forget to listen to understand instead of listening to respond. By asking clarification questions we are being able to understand more of what the other person is trying to express as well as shows them that we are open to hearing them truly for what they are saying. Asking the open-ended questions allows us to get them to communicate more about the topics we are addressing. Lastly, communicating your full feelings with your significant other at a time where you both are present. Meaning there are not distractions and you two are looking at each other. By being honest about not feeling connected and in love may open opportunities for him to express how he is feeling. If he struggles to express his feelings, asking questions or saying more of what you have noticed regarding his actions and behaviors may open up the way for him to communicate more. These are often uncomfortable or awkward moments; however, it allows an opportunity to openly communicate
Answered on 11/30/2022

How to deal with partner and new baby?

A pleasure to meet you; my name is Lorena Klahr and I am a licensed marriage and family therapist. I am glad you are seeking help and ready to discuss your problems and how they can be worked through.. life transitions are difficult and I am happy that you are trying to learn how to navigate through this. Let's first talk about life transition and changes. As humans beings, we are very scared of change and even if the change will bring something good, our body and mind sees it as an uncomfortable thing that will happen, and therefore that is why some people have a harder time adjusting to new things. Why am I bringing life transitions into the conversation? Mostly because your family is going through one! Your family has grown and that totally changes the dynamics for everyone.. The life transition that your family is going through is one of the hardest ones yet one of the most beautiful ones!  I hear you pointing out your concerns about what is going in the house and how your way of treating the situation vs your husband is very different.. little reminder; do not focus so much on the superficial part which is: he is not helping me or he is not there how I would want him to be.. I would focus more on the underlying issue. Some questions to explore this: 1) were you guys planning for a baby or was it an unexpected pregnancy? 2) what were both of your expectations of getting pregnant? 3) how do you both know what role to take as parents? 4) how can both of your needs as parents be met? I think these are a few good questions for you to discuss with your partner! Not only seeing what is not working out but trying to find a little bit more the root of what he is also dealing with. 1) how has having a baby changed the relationship? 2) do you feel that your love languages are still being met? 3) what does it mean for you to be a father? I am curious to know a little about your relationship with your partner before you guys had a baby together; what was it like? You mentioned gaming, is that something that is a topic of interest in the relationship? How does that affect you and make you feel? Maybe couples therapy can be helpful; having a safe space where you can both decompress and speak out loud your concerns!  To your last part of wanting to scream sometimes; anger is an unmet need that we have as people, so when you think about your unmet needs probably you get triggered by him, yet, it is not about him but about something that is making you feel a certain way. Using the example you gave of not getting the help or attention you are seeking, try to think what is it that you are not getting as a person and why is that making you feel as you feel. I know it is hard to communicate sometimes but it can be worth it to learn how to talk! So I recommend opening up a space where everyone feels safe and a good conversation can happen. Feel free to follow up with any questions/ concern/ feedback! You can also book a session for further questioning! Looking forward to hearing from you soon!
Answered on 11/28/2022