March 23, 2018
Today, I was at the Psychotherapy Networker Conference in Washington D.C. I attended a seminar by the pioneers of Marriage Research, Dr. John Gottman and his wife Dr. Julie Gottman (see my cool picture above). The Gottmans are pretty much among the most famous in the field of Couples Therapy, so I stalked them for a picture! They have recently analyzed the data from 40,000 couples who went into Couples Therapy during recent years. Some of them were my own couples who completed the Relationship Checkup!
Did you know that On average, couples are having problems for SIX YEARS before they even seek help, and in about 65 % of couples, one person is already seriously considering divorce! Before even seeking help… I definitely believe this is true, but it kind of makes me sad…
This is NOT GOOD! I mean, it’s good that people are seeking help but guys, you are making our job as marriage therapist pretty tough if you wait so long and things get to the CRISIS stage. It’s not that we can’t help at that point, because I have helped many couples to resolve their crisis. But honestly, others have just waited too long…
Why do couples wait this long? I would really like to hear your thoughts on this.. Because – really, the stigma for therapy has long gone away… It’s pretty much en vogue now. So why wait until one of you is about to leave? I know so many people who won’t pay for couples therapy but they will take a vacation, then they fight on the vacation. Does that make any sense? Why not spend a few days of vacation money or some other luxury to have a happy marriage? Why not put more value on each other and learning how to communicate?
I am urging you, if you are having problems… please seek help before the alarm bells are going off and you are in crisis.
As I see it, we need to put as much energy into our marriages and our relationships – including money – as we did when we were courting and engaged. Have fun! Do nice things for each other. And, if you can’t work out a problem (which is likely causing you to not have fun anymore) then, I hope you will fix it before it’s too late!
March 16, 2018
Many relationship therapists prescribe date night for couples who need to rebuild a relationship that has become dull and ho-hum. While I totally agree with this plan, I have also had couples who feel that it is too much of a financial burden. And couples with young children have the additional logistical and financial burden of hiring, scheduling, and paying a sitter. While it’s great to have a date night to get out away from the stresses of work, household chores, child rearing, and the distraction of several additional technological devices … sometimes it’s just plain not realistic.
Which is why I recommend “At-Home Date Night!” Speaking from personal experience, my husband and I have perfected the concept of At-Home Date Night. Pretty much any Friday or Saturday night when we are both at home and it’s not a scheduled date night to go out somewhere, it just a given that we have “At-Home Date Night.” It is automatic and expected…. at 8:30 pm when our younger child is in bed and our teens are either out with friends or have went off to play video games or read a book. . . . . we have our date night at home. The rules are: 1) no doing any household chores; 2) no talking with other people on the phone; 3) no devices or social media. The only “device” allowed is turning on the television if we mutually agree we would like to snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie or a television show that we both like. At-Home Date Night often includes a glass of wine with some cheese or popcorn but not always. It always includes at least a few minutes to talk about anything on our mind that we have not had time to discuss during the week. These nights are just as meaningful as going out so long as we stick to the rules and have quality time with few interruptions and a little romance. I recommend a fire in the fireplace, some time rocking on the front porch, lighting a candle, or turning on music.
So, that’s my version of “At-Home Date Night.” I recommend you set it up with your partner. Make it expected on certain nights of the week that work for your schedule! Follow the rules, make it romantic, talk with each other, and let me know how it goes!
March 14, 2018
Recently I was thinking about how people set goals to detoxify their body. Sometimes they do a juice cleanse. Always they set goals to completely avoid all sugar, alcohol, caffeine, soda, and anything that is not healthy for their body. This is so great for wellness! I am actually not one who has done a full detox for days at a time but I do fast regularly. I have recently lost 10 pounds doing the Warrior Fast. I eat only a few snacks of protein or fruits and vegetables during the morning and afternoon. Generally, I am probably intaking about 400 calories during the day. Then, in the evening I eat a regular dinner with portion control and only one portion of carbohydrates. I still eat some kind of a snack before bed, sometimes more protein or some popcorn. I am feeling amazing with tons of energy.
Just recently I was thinking, what if I did a detox for my relationship and get my clients to do the same? I started today, and I am challenging myself for 30 days. No complaints or criticism towards my husband, only positive comments. I am going to be extra supportive and loving. Today, I left a voice mail that was just nice and thoughtful like back when we were dating. In recent years, it seems like we are so busy each day that if I get his voice mail I just hang up and text him whatever my question is. Today, I got the voice mail again (he is with customers). Sigh. But instead of hanging up I left a nice voice mail. Maybe that’s akin to a fruit smoothie?
All right people, let me know how this goes. I think it’s going to be really bring some closeness and passion back into my relationship, and I am committed to making it work even if….. I mean when my husband gets a little grouchy!
March 10, 2018
Did you know that “couples who celebrate together, stay together” ??? I have been thinking about this more the past couple days because it was my husband’s birthday on Wednesday …
Some people will say they are not into the whole Hallmark thing and that stuff is fake. The good news is that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to honor a special day in your relationship. Although… if your partner would like you to be a little more generous with your dollars around special days, you should probably reconsider. Why?
Research by Gottman and Colleagues shows that one of the predictors for relationship success (along with good complaint resolution) is Creating Shared Meaning. There are many ways for couples to create shared meaning, including have dreams and plans for the future. However, one important predictor for relationship success is having shared rituals during holidays.
Many couples plan and create rituals naturally while others struggle with formalizing special events. BOTH people in a relationship have to put in some effort and planning for traditions and rituals to be SHARED. If only one person is doing all the planning, preparing, and celebrating and the other person does not participate or help, then the rituals tend to not be as positive.
I have definitely heard some people complain in couples therapy when it comes to a Birthday or Mother’s Day, Father’s Day or other special holidays that their partner does not get them a card or do anything special to honor the day whereas they do a lot for their partner. This is not a good sign, so if you are guilty of not participating and making holidays special… you might want to Step It Up…
In our house, birthdays happen not only on the day of the birthday but the weekend before or after. That is when the whole family gets together for a special dinner, cake, and opening gifts. That often can’t happen on the day of the actual birthday. So, on my husband’s birthday this past Wednesday we couldn’t all be together because my daughter is off at college. I still made him a nice dinner at home, and my 7 year old helped me to put balloons in his office and bake a homemade cake with his favorite peanut butter frosting. Then, last night we had some quality time together just him and I. Now, on Sunday the whole family including my daughter will meet for dinner at a restaurant and we will have another cake and he will open gifts and cards. This is our tradition for everyone’s birthday, it’s like a birthday week celebration. I hope you enjoy your traditions and holidays, and if you need work in this area talk with your partner and find ways to SHARE the celebration…
March 8, 2018
Some people have the idea that it’s not good to bring up relationship complaints or problems! They worry this will create conflict, and there are a whole lot of people in the world who are avoidant of conflict. But here’s the thing, talking about a complaint or a concern that you have does not have to lead to conflict or fighting!
In fact, bring up a concern in the right way can actually make you closer and bring intimacy in your relationship. After all, you want your partner to know the real you. Intimacy is based on know who you really are – even the things that bother you or hurt your feelings. Trust me when I told you that holding your feelings in and bottling things up is never a good long term approach for your relationship.
You will always have some complaints about your partner – that’s a normal part of being in a close relationship with someone. If you are in a marriage or a more serious relationship that means you’re sharing a house, a bank account, and a bed. So, how could you not have some complaints from time to time? However, be careful to bring up complaints in the right way!
There is a world of a difference between a complaint and criticism. According to research by Dr. John Gottman, bringing up complaints as a criticism is a predictor for relationship failure. In The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman explains that “a complaint focuses on a specific behavior or event. Criticism is global and expresses negative feelings or opinions about the other person.”
For example, if the kitchen sink is full of dishes when you get home from work and you say to your partner, “Why didn’t you do the dishes? You never keep the kitchen clean,” that’s criticism because it expresses a negative judgment of your partner. On the other hand, a complaint made the right way would simply say, “I am really tired from work, will you do the dishes tonight?” Or, you might say, “When you forget to do the dishes, it makes me feel overhwelmed seeing them in the sink after work. I need to come home and feel like I can rest. It would mean a lot to me if you could do the dishes before I get home.”
Complaints can be constructive and positive for your relationship. YOU are valuable and worthy of having your complaints heard and resolved. You can learn more about how to make complaints the right way and to resolve them in your relationship!
March 7, 2018
It is my husband Brendan’s birthday! This is a picture of my Sweetie Brendan and me at a St. Jude’s Hospital Fundraiser in New York a couple years ago, hosted by Eric Trump. Many of you may not know that my husband sells large steel buildings, and he sold a building to Eric back in 2014. It was a really fun evening, great food, and we spent time with a family whose child was in remission from cancer.
I am so lucky to be married to Brendan. For one thing, he works so hard selling American Steel to support our family. We both work hard, but he puts in longer days than I do (I need more sleep to feel good each day). He has always supported my dreams for my business. The best thing about Brendan is that he gets right in there and does everything with me from advocating for all three of our children, helping with interventions for our child with autism, and cooking on the weekends so I can help more people in my private practice. But the best thing for me is that I trust him to be there for me, for us, and that he will always work out problems with me even if sometimes it takes us a few times discussing something to get it fully resolved. (We are both Type A personalities and a little stubborn).
I remember back in graduate school studying to be a Marriage Therapist, I read a book called Peer Marriage about the benefits of having an equitable partnership. At that time, I thought I would never have the kind of supportive partnership that the book described! However, now I feel that Brendan and I have created a Peer Marriage! We both support each other’s careers and dreams… as well as dreams for our family. We still have obstacles we are overcoming – our life and relationship is far from perfect – but I trust we will figure it out in together in this journey called life….
I am getting dinner ready for tonight to celebrate when he finishes traveling from up North. Fingers crossed he doesn’t get stuck in traffic! Love you sweetie!
March 2, 2018
I am getting ready to launch my online course Happy Couple University in Two Weeks – “Where Happy Couples Find Deeper Intimacy and Unhappy Couples Fall In Love Again in 60 Days or Less!” If you know people who would benefit from this type of course, would you like to be an Affiliate? You will earn 50% from anyone you sign up! (About $20 per month per person)
I have designed this course with Every Couple In Mind. It includes numerous videos and handouts of the information I teach people in counseling every day but for a fraction of the cost – and easier for people to access from their laptop or smart phone.
- Happy Couple University is affordable – only $45 to enroll. I want every couple who wants to improve their relationship to be able to afford this program.
- Happy Couple University has videos showing What To Do and What Not To Do with typical communication problems. People seem to be able to understand better how to improve their communication when they can see exactly What To Do with a visual example
- Happy Couple University is for Every Couple. Couples Who Are Already Happy and Satisfied But Who Want to Deepen Their Intimacy Can Do So By Following the 8 Week Program. Couples Who Are Unhappy or In Crisis Can Follow The Same Program to Repair Their Relationship.
- Happy Couple University is meant to help all couples heal problems and to keep future resentments from building up and getting worse.
February 27, 2018
So, last night I was on the phone talking with my Mom. My Dad came up to the phone to say, “Steph, it was exactly 48 years ago today when your Mother and I had our first date – and our first kiss in front of Mrs. Klug’s house.”
I have heard this story before, and it’s a sweet story every time I hear the details of their first date.
What’s even better about this story is the fact that my parents went through so many challenging times, and I know for a fact that sometimes they had a hard time loving each other during stress or when they were struggling with differences in their personalities. But they still have a sense of enduring love, happiness, and fondness for their memories and their story.
That gets me thinking about how inspiring it is to find out about the stories of other couples: how they met, when they fell in love, why they were drawn to one another. Anytime a couple who has been together for several years still acts like they are in love it is an inspiration.
Why? Because it’s easy with stress, financial problems, sickness, and LIFE to forget to Love the One You Are With. To continue to honor your beginning, your happy moments, your love together… that takes commitment and loyalty and work.
The first time I met my husband I felt that “he was the one.” I remember what I was wearing, what he was wearing. I even remember some of the questions he asked me and the first comment that told me know he was pursuing me. In the middle of raising our children and paying bills, sometimes I forget to appreciate my sweetie and focus on all the reasons I fell head over heels in love. But it’s so important to remember…
Think about “Why did you fall in love with your significant other?” What drew you to him or her? What were the positive qualities they had then and still have now?
Now… I challenge you to tell your sweetie again how much you appreciate those very same qualities all these months and years later! Retell your story and honor the first date, the first kiss, the first time you knew “they were the one.” This develops trust, security, and attachment in your relationship. It can be the basis for so much love and happiness in not only your life, but the lives of everyone you touch.
Who knows, telling your story could just inspire another couple to remember their beginning, and admire one another’s strengths instead of focusing on the negatives, bringing them closer together…
We each want our partner to accept and love us for our positive qualities, our strengths. We desperately want our partner to cut us slack when it comes to our weaknesses and our human mistakes. And I believe that when we generally focus more on our happy times, our positives, our strengths and less on our failings and flaws, we are loving each other.
Love the One You Are With!
February 26, 2018
We still have room for a few more couples in our Premarital Counseling Program. It’s that time of year where couples are getting ready for late spring and summer weddings, so spots are filling up quickly!
The best part of Premarital Counseling is that you can have even more confidence walking down the aisle after taking the PREPARE Inventory to find out your areas of strength and agreement as a couple, in addition to discussing and finding resolutions for your areas of weakness and disagreement! One of my associates or I will help you get set up to take the PREPARE and then help you resolve any areas of disagreement that the inventory identifies. Even if you and your significant other have really gotten to know each other, there may still be certain aspects of married life that you have not discussed that could pose a problem for you in the future. So, it’s great to try and prevent some of those future problems that could come up in married life!
More important is the fact that I will also review conflict resolution techniques with you as well as other important building blocks for a successful marriage relationship. We want you to feel an even deeper love and commitment on your wedding day. Knowing you have the tools you will need to resolve problems in your relationship can help you with that.
Finally, you will have a relationship with a marriage therapist who can help you with any difficulties or stressors that you may face as a couple in the years to come. I cannot emphasize this enough, because so many couples start having marriage problems but then they wait until it’s too late to repair them. However, if they already know who to turn to when the problems start, it is much easier. Married life is wonderful, but it also can have it’s challenges. Remember marriage is “For better or worse” and most couples face life difficulties that can put a strain on their marriage. With the right tools and support, you will be able to get through it and I want to provide that for you!
So… have fun getting ready for your wedding, try not to stress out, enjoy the journey, and Schedule Your Appointment with me for premarital counseling! More information is also available about premarital counseling on my Premarital Counseling Page.
February 5, 2018
Costs of Marriage Success vs. Marriage Failure
What is the cost of Marriage Success to you? If you are like most people, you would probably say PRICELESS
After all, How much did you spend on your wedding? When you are having fun and getting along with your partner, how much is that worth to you? How much is it worth to have an intact family with both parents in the home so your children do not go through a divorce? How proud are you to tell your friends and neighbors that you have been married for blank number of years?
How about the financial costs of Marriage Failure? Half of your assets split up, usually moving to two new homes, divorce and attorney fees, the LOSS OF TENS OR HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS, MORE DEPENDING UPON YOUR ASSETS
Not to mention the emotional costs? DEPRESSION, ANXIETY, SHAME, FEELINGS OF FAILURE, HAVING TO START OVER WITH DATING AND MATING
You invest your money in your home, your retirement, your children. How about your marriage? Are you investing in your marriage, or are you expecting that you can work through all your problems without any help from a professional?
Are you one of those couples that I see getting advice online in Facebook groups from other people who are having marriage and relationship problems? Have you tried spending only a $15 copay to get a referral from your insurance company for your local psychologist or social worker (who may not even be a specialist with excellent training in couples therapy)? These people are trained to treat mental health problems not necessarily help with marriage problems.
I recently had a couple who worked with me for 3 sessions. By the third session, we had already fixed their communication problem. They had wasted their time and money on a previous therapist who did not have expertise in marriage therapy and who didn’t even help them. They had to hire a babysitter, go out for the evening, meet with the therapist, pay the therapist, and then not even get the help they needed.
Who is giving you marriage advice? WHO ARE YOU SEEKING HELP FROM FOR SOMETHING THAT COULD COST YOU HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IF IT FAILS BUT THE REWARDS ARE PRICELESS IF YOU SUCCEED?
Do you really want to get your advice and help from someone who is not a specialist. Would you risk getting brain surgery from a General Practitioner, or would you pay more and find a way to come up with the money on your credit card to pay for the brain surgeon?
There are post-doctorate programs in Couples and Marriage Therapy that I have completed, there are Ph.D. and Master’s Degree programs specifically in Marriage and Family Therapy with real classrooms and practicums. There is research on what makes marriages work and what causes it to fail – and there are interventions based upon that research. Does your therapist know what they are? How about the family and Facebook friends who are giving you advice?
ARE YOU GOING TO GAMBLE YOUR PRICELESS MARRIAGE on advice that might be complete BS???????????
Are you going to be one of those people who complains to me about how much it costs to hire me (a specialist) to save your previous PRICELESS family and home While you are spending your money going on cruises,luxury cars, and going out to dinner?
Seriously, I used to have customers who would ask for discounts for my service after they were referred by friends, their pastor, or their doctor because I have word of mouth reputation. When I was younger, I sometimes agreed then I realized that these same people were taking a cruise or driving a luxury car while I couldn’t afford one because I am still paying off my Ph.D. Loan and for money I have spent on my postdoctorate training.
If you want a marriage surgeon, a relationship expert, it is going to cost you some money. It might even mean you can’t take as big of a vacation or that you have to cut back somewhere else in your budget. All I can say is, I hope you get your priorities in order and stop Gambling on Your PRICELESS MARRIAGE and the COST OF DIVORCE before it’s too late.
I can help your marriage no matter where you live in the world, as long as you speak English. Or if I can’t help you and I think your Marriage is doomed to fail because your partner is abusive or has a personality disorder, I will tell you that within the first 2-3 sessions at the end of my assessment – not after a whole year of wasting your time and money paying someone who doesn’t know what they are doing.
Book your FREE Virtual or Phone Strategy Session now to discuss how I can give you Quality Help for your PRICELESS Relationship and to get a quote for the real costs of a Marriage Surgeon.