Do Kids Kill Marriages?

In my experience as a marriage and family therapist, few things rock a relationship like having a child together. All of a sudden, you're no longer free to do as you please, when you please, and how you please. For many couples, one or both parents start to prioritize the children over the marriage. This can lead to the marriage becoming an afterthought and spouses feeling marginalized. Therefore, do kids kill marriages? Absolutely not, but parents often do. But they don't have to!I firmly believe, and plenty of research supports this position, that the best gift you can give a child is a healthy parental relationship. Children from intact homes, especially those containing healthy marriages, benefit financially, educationally, emotionally, and relationally. However, many first-time parents are often [understandably] so worried and focused on the child's well-being that their romantic relationship suffers. For lots of couples, this is a short term issue and the relationship bounces back by taking on a new but healthy form. However, for many parents the problem lingers and creates a rift for the couple over many years.Many couples will argue that the child depends on them for survival, so they have to make the child priority #1. I wholeheartedly agree. If you are neglecting your child's primary needs in order to focus on your relationship, then you are doing it wrong. I would never suggest you make plans for your marriage that would neglect your children. However, I would adamantly suggest you find ways to continue to make your marriage a priority and, at times, the priority. If your child is sick, hungry, tired, dirty, etc, you take the time and energy to make sure they are cared for and healthy, right? I'm only suggesting that you do the same for your relationship.As a father of twins, I can appreciate the lack of time and energy parents have when babies first arrive in the home. Therefore I'm not suggesting you go on date nights every night or have long walks on the beach every weekend. I'm suggesting you both figure out ways to make sure you are continuing to invest in the person with whom you chose to procreate. This can be as simple as eating dinner together each night, finding time to ask about each other's day at the end of the day, and asking for help watching the child so you two can spend some quality time together, even if just around the house or neighborhood. Grand gestures are nice, but they pale in comparison to small, consistent gestures on a daily basis. Dads ask Mom how you can be of help. Moms ask Dad how he's adjusting to fatherhood. Most importantly, be patient with each other as you figure out this process!Finally, don't be afraid to ask for help! Whether you've recently had a child, you're expecting, or you are years into this process, don't hesitate to reach out. Our team is well versed in walking couples through creating and maintaining a healthy relationship through life's challenges, including parenthood. There are plenty of excellent resources out there. You are not alone unless you choose to be. Children can be such a blessing for any couple and household, it just takes intentionality and help from others.

Out with the Old and in with the New [Year]

Is it just me, or does it feel as if the years continue getting shorter and shorter?January was derived from Janus who is the Roman god of gates and doorways. Janus was said to have 2 faces—one looking forward and the other backward. It is very appropriate for the New Year. Hopefully we have looked back into 2018 and have seen our growth as well as our short-comings. What are you most proud of in 2018? What did you accomplish? What made your heart smile? How did you meet goals and exceed expectations? How would you rate your relationships with your partner, child(ren), or other family members? What about yourself? How was your self-care? In looking forward into 2019, what do you need to do to live, enjoy life, and meet your goals?Is there someone you need to forgive? Remember forgiveness is about you, not the other person and it has nothing to do with forgetting. Are there regrets you need to acknowledge and then release? It’s hard to take a long journey with unneeded baggage. How are you able to receive all the possibilities and blessings of this new year with arms already full?Let this be the year of rekindled friendships, stronger relationships, improved parenting, and prioritized self-care. You are worth having all of these things! Where do you start?

  1. Reach out to a therapist who can help you work on goals, work through past pain and grief, and dust off the tools in your toolbox to strengthen your relationships.
  2. Take time daily to breathe, mediate, walk/run, and play.
  3. Keep those date nights!
  4. Prioritize family time without any electronics.
  5. Phone a friend and write that note.

Walking A New Path

I lived in Illinois my entire life before moving Texas, and know it from top to bottom. It is a familiar and comfortable place for me and it was hard to leave. The move brought with it all sorts of interesting transitions for me and my family. Some have been easier to navigate than others, but all are necessary.One of my favorite things is artwork depicting paths or roads that seemingly appear to be endless or going nowhere in particular.  When I learned that I would be moving, my eyes immediately went to a photograph of a moving river hanging in my office done by a local photographer. It embodies both turbulence and serenity.The image of a path, with no clear end point, elicits different reactions with people. Some experience a sense of dread, others fear the unknown, and for some excitement. The photograph offered me a reminder that change happens to everyone; and it is how we manage the transition that often comes with change that matters most.Transition is the psychological process that people go through to come to terms with a new situation. It is not a linear process but does have stages that define the process. At the beginning, letting go of how things were is key to establishing new routines and relationships. For a period of time, people can exist in a “grey zone” of the new and the old. The old is gone but the new is not yet fully established. After a period of time, the compass is reset with new understandings, values, attitudes, and identities.As I reset my own compass, I have moments where I miss my old life but I do not linger long in the feelings of loss because Texas has welcomed me and my family with such warmth and hospitality. I can’t promise I will trade my Cubbies for the Rangers, or the Bears for the Cowboys, but I am open to all that Texas has to offer.If you are struggling to find your path or navigate a new path, I can help.

Is It Your Gut or Your Guilt?

Should I follow my heart or my gut?  My heart is telling me to do one thing and my gut is telling me another.Have you ever found yourself in a position like this… trying to make a decision and having a hard time figuring out what to listen to?  Go with my heart or go with my gut?Our heart guides us to the future that we want and sometimes what we very much hope for.  However, sometimes chasing after what we very much want or holding onto something we really hope for can blur the reality of what is really happening right in front of us.  Our heart, or better said hope, can drown out what our gut is really trying to tell us.  If we just don’t talk about that issue, he won’t leave me.  Even though I don’t have enough money, I can get this apartment and things will be okay.  Moreover, what I’ve noticed even more when it comes to making tough decisions… there is a third factor that comes into play.  That factor being GUILT.  I notice myself asking many clients is it your gut that’s driving you to make that decision or is it guilt?When we feel guilty, we make decisions out of obligation and we may even feel the need to make something right.  But when feel obligated, we have to be honest and ask ourselves:

  • Am I making this decision because it is something I really want?
  • Am I making this decision because I should?
  • Am I making this decision because she/he made me feel bad?
  • Am I making this decision solely out of fear of what someone else may think?

Making decisions can be hard enough and if you are feeling confusion about any or all of the above… is this my heart? My gut? Or my guilt?  Please give me a call and I can help navigate you through this time in your life.  We can get to the root of your behaviors and help you to make the best and healthiest decision for you.      

Life's Curveballs

No matter how much we plan, life can throw us curveballs.  Whether planned or unplanned, life’s curveballs catapult us into a different life transition and dealing with them can be challenging.  Transitions can include but are not limited to: graduating college and entering the workforce, getting laid off, moving, and dealing with a relationship break up.  Transitions can last between a few short days to long periods of time and can make anyone feel unsettled and anxious.  Many times before I've heard, “I’m scared of the unknown.  How am I supposed to know what should happen next?  How do I know I am making the right decision?”Understandably, navigating through life transitions can be anxiety provoking and emotionally challenging.  Here are a few tips to help guide you through uncertain times:

  • Known that it is OKAY to feel anxious.
  • Having a POSITIVE attitude goes a long way.
  • Think about what you’re meant to embrace in the next phase of your life.
  • Set realistic goals and expectations for yourself. Work diligently towards your goals. And don’t forget to acknowledge your progress along the way.
  • Lean on your support system.
  • Remember transitions are temporary… things will settle.

As cliché as the saying goes, when one chapter closes another one always opens.  If you can muster the strength and focus to navigate through your life transition, something positive and meaningful will come of it and it will give you a chance to learn something about yourself.If navigating your life transition has become too difficult to deal on your own, please contact me for help!

Getting Through Life Transitions

Dealing with life transitions can be tough and stressful.  The longer you have stayed at a job, the harder it is to leave.  The longer you have stayed at a residence, the harder it is to move.   The longer you have stayed in an unhealthy relationship, the harder it is to leave what you know and what is ‘comfort.’  Making any change is stressful.  But let’s take a moment here and reflect back on the major events that have occurred in your life (i.e. leaving for college, getting married, buying your first house).  These moments serve a special place in your heart and built lasting memories.Literature has indicated that making a major life transition creates a distinctive marking point in a person’s memory that organizes the way they reflect back their life.  The story of a person’s life is filled with these distinctive marking points and are included in the stories you tell close friends and family.  At a family gathering you share distinctive anecdotes like “I remember leaving college to  take my first job.  I remember when I made the decision to leave home.  I remember when I decided to leave a toxic work environment.”The memories we have of our life transitions will always remain dear to our heart.  Therefore, if you are at a point in your life where you are feeling uncertain and going through transition, always remember: 1) Memories are to be made; 2) Stress is normal; 3) Change is natural; 4) You have had the tools to navigate through prior transitions; 5) Turn to your support system; 6) Think, plan, and execute; 7) Use this time to reflect; and 8) Be positive.