Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Real Reasons Why Marriages Fail — And How To Not Let Yours Suffer The Same Fate

The best way to make sure your marriage is a success story is to know the key things that can cause a marriage to fail, then put in the time and effort to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

For BRIDES, by Jaimie Mackey.--From Huffington Post

You’re going into your marriage with your heart in the right place — because you’re in love and want to spend your lives together! — but even as the divorce rate drops, not every marriage is destined for success. However, yours doesn’t have to be one of the ones that fail! Our experts are here to break down four reasons marriages might not succeed and share some tips to keep yours strong. The best way to make sure your marriage is a success story is to know the key things that can cause a marriage to fail, then put in the time and effort to make sure it doesn’t happen to you. Dating strategist Jasmine Diaz shares four essential parts of any relationship that can lead to divorce if not addressed. 

 Lack of Communication 

 “Many couples either don’t know how to communicate their feelings effectively enough for their partner to understand and receive what they’re saying or simply don’t communicate at all,” says Diaz. “It may sound clich├ęd, but communication is the foundation of every relationship. How can you expect your partner to make positive changes for the betterment of your relationship if he or she doesn’t know changes are needed?” Remember, your husband or wife is not a mind reader! If communication is not your specialty, set aside a time once a week for a real catch-up session. “Spend this time talking about your week and any issues you might be having. Instead of making it awkward or confrontational, order a pizza and turn it into a lighthearted discussion,” Diaz suggests. By talking regularly, you’ll avoid getting to the point where the wheels are falling off and it’s too late for candid conversations to help. “It’s better to schedule regular check-ups to ward off more serious issues. Why wait until you’re in critical condition?” asks Diaz.

 Lack of Care 

 Every relationship reaches a point when the white gloves come off and the comfort sets in. Comfort has its upsides, but the problems arise when that comfort turns into consideration going out the window. “Being considerate means caring for your partner’s feelings, showing your partner that you love and value them, and being their champion,” says Diaz. “Marriages tend to fail when one partner (or both) stops caring for the other, when the friendship you once had is replaced with anger and resentment. This causes you to stop seeing the things you love about your partner, replacing them with the things you hate.” Avoid this lack of consideration and care by pouring healthy energy into your relationship. “Don’t go weeks or months without a date night,” Diaz advises. “Schedule a few dates per month to keep your feelings fresh. Tend to your relationship with a healthy dose of love and attention.”

 Lack of Commitment 

 “They say that anything worthwhile takes hard work, and the same is true for marriage,” says Diaz. “But if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like confrontation or gives up easily, you may find yourself divorced more quickly than you realize.” She emphasizes recognizing if you’re not ready to talk about a problem yet — but never acting as though the problem doesn’t exist. “Being in a healthy relationship takes a certain level of availability, and you have to be willing to stick it out when the going gets rough, because it will. Be physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually present in your relationship and for your partner. Listen even when you don’t agree, and make a conscious decision to put in the work.” If you make divorce an option for dealing with tough situations, it will become a default opt-out. “Instead, say to your partner, ‘I want to fix this.’ You’ll be surprised by the solutions that will come out of it!”

 Lack of Intimacy 

 Intimacy, by definition, is about closeness and togetherness. But for some couples, relationship problems can become a barrier to entry. “The closeness you felt in the early stages of your relationship can be replaced with different emotions, and that once-free-flowing sex life can be diminished from once a day to once a month to never,” says Diaz. “It’s easy to look at sex and try to find a simple solution — for some this means more sex — but that treats the symptoms and may not treat the actual problem if there’s a breakdown of intimacy,” Diaz explains. “Combat it by creating more opportunities for intimate moments. Light candles and play romantic music while you’re cooking at home. Enhance the things you already do together, and dedicate yourself to being present. Forget technology and consider only your partner, giving yourselves the opportunity to create intimacy.”

Thursday, April 13, 2017

8 Happily Married Women Share The Secrets They Keep From Their Husbands

For BRIDES, by Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW.

“He’s a really good lover but terribly insecure so I don’t tell him when I don’t have an orgasm.”—Linette

 “My mother always told me to have access to my own money so though Jim and I have a joint account I have a ‘secret’ stash as well that I’ve never mentioned.”—Jill

 “When we first got married he bragged that he was a great cook. Then he actually made me what he thought was a gourmet meal. I didn’t want to hurt his feelings so I said it was fabulous but I wound up going to the bathroom to throw up! Thankfully he doesn’t cook often — I’ve said it’s something I love to do, mainly to keep him out of the kitchen, except on cleanup. However on the rare occasions he does more than scramble an egg or brew coffee I still pretend he’s Bobby Flay… Ugh.”—Emily

 “It’s ridiculous but I’d have to be tortured before I admit to him that I get my lip waxed on a regular basis!”—Sandy

 “I trust him but I still hack into his emails every few weeks—yes, I know his password.”—Pamela

 “I start dreading visits to his mother weeks in advance. Ed turns into such a mama’s boy in her presence I find it nauseating. She’s also jealous of me—and makes mean, annoying comments like ‘Of course Ed doesn’t like beets. How don’t you know that?’ — to prove she will always know him better. I don’t say anything to Ed about my true feelings because he’s a great husband and I don’t want him to feel caught in the middle.”—Beth

 “My college sweetheart came to town and I met him for brunch. It was the first time we’d seen each other in 10 years. My husband, Bill, had absolutely nothing to worry about—I loved and love him madly — and yet I withheld that I got together with Greg. Why? I’d made a stink when Bill asked if it was okay to see his ex-girlfriend so he didn’t meet her. When the same opportunity came up for me and I knew it would be innocent and how wrong I’d been to deny Bill the same option, I just couldn’t bring myself to eat crow. I don’t feel guilty for spending an hour with my ex — it was fun but meaningless, as I knew it would be. But I have sporadic guilt for going behind Bill’s back. Still, it is a secret I will take to the grave!”—Becky

 “I’ve been married nine months and I still haven’t brought myself to tell my husband that I can ‘t go to the bathroom until he leaves the house to go to work or the gym.”—Ann

Thursday, March 23, 2017

5 Things No One Ever Told Me Would Destroy My Marriage

By Louise Armstrong

 As a young bride at 23 years of age, I had no idea what lay ahead, what marriage was really about or what to expect. I was young, innocent, and actually quite clueless so I wanted to share with you a few things that I would have done differently. It might just change how you see your relationship. No one ever mentioned any of these things. What if they had? Perhaps I would have saved myself a lot of heartache. Now, 27 years and 3 children later, I can honestly say that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. Long-term relationships are worth the effort and the heartache. We all have problems. That’s life. It’s how we deal with them that counts and understanding WHY they happen in the first place is the key. Here are 5 marriage mistakes I wish people had told me:

  1. Judgment

When we continually judge someone, what we’re really saying is their personality is the problem. We see flaws in them as people as opposed to what they are doing. I did this for years, causing argument after argument but if I had looked at myself first and found out how my husband Ian felt and what he needed, the whole situation would have been diffused. Get to know your partner inside out and you’ll stop the judgment. Spend TIME with your partner; the better you get to know him, the deeper your relationship. It’s rare to be like this, I know, but it works.

  2. Being defensive

Are you always on the defensive, always on the attack if you are criticized? Do you continually moan and whine? Do you just refuse to listen? This is one of the biggest disasters for any relationship and I did it for years. I took every comment personally when in reality, it had nothing to do with ME as a person; it was about my behavior, which I could have learned from. Even if your partner continually criticizes you, you can learn to accept the criticism, take responsibility for it, and even ask them to talk to you about it. This diffuses the whole situation and you can learn from it. Perhaps there are changes you could make in your life. Try being positive to your partner in even the smallest of situations and the criticism won’t seem as bad, this really helps to build a relationship. Engage in conversation and notice the humor in situations.This is very powerful in relationship building.

  3. Being condescending 

 This is the biggest issue of all. This is when you try to one up your partner, always putting them down, and making yourself look better. The real reason as to why you do this is because of your insecurities and not his. Take a step back and start looking at yourself. Build your own self-esteem up and boost your self-worth. You’ll stop feeling inferior and putting him down. Start acting like your partner is a hero. Start admiring him and start looking at his great qualities. You’ll be the winner here as this is key in any healthy long-term relationship.

4. Rebuffing your partner 

 You block him out, don’t speak to him, sulk, and shut him out of your life. This tells him is that you don’t care about him, and that’s not really what you mean. Learn to talk to him and ask questions. Putting up blocks and expecting him to guess causes a larger divide between you. Write it down if it’s not clear but stop stonewalling him.

5. Focusing on the negative 

Are you continually looking for the negative in your relationship, focusing on everything that’s going wrong, that you don’t like, that could be better, what others have and you don’t? This leads to real resentment. Instead, learn about gratitude. Focus on the positive in your relationship and build on what you have. The negatives will start to seem insignificant. Talk about your future in a positive way, what your dreams are, and what you would like to achieve together, not what you can’t have or can’t do.

 I hope some of these help you, as they have been an incredible part of my life and the relationship I enjoy with Ian. Communication and having conversations are the key part in healthy relationship — focusing on how you start these conversations can change the whole relationship energy. Relationships are a rollercoaster ride. They are all unique with their own formulas. Louise Armstrong would love to hear what makes your tick. Join her fabulous Facebook group for women: Let’s Talk Relationships & Life. They’d love you to join them. Take the Relationship Quiz right here.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

9 Things Marriage Therapists Know Almost Instantly About A Couple A marriage therapist

 ― even one who’s worked in the field for years ― can’t know a couple’s full story by the first therapy session. They can tell quite a bit, though. (A spouse’s tendency to avoid eye contact, for instance, reveals more than words could ever say.) Below, marriage therapists who have been working with couples for years share nine things they can glean about a couple after the first therapy session.

 1. They know when you’re lying. “What people report in a therapy session has to make sense. If it doesn’t, I know one or both are leaving out important information. Part of the challenge is some people cover things up, some are worried about what I’ll think of them and others lie or have a distorted sense of reality.” ― Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas 

2. They can tell when third parties are more than “just friends.” “We can tell when spouses are already in love with other people. The tell-tale sign? When they adamantly defend ‘friendships’ that their partners say have been intrusive and or harmful to their relationships. When you love your spouse and want to keep your relationship from splintering, you acknowledge their desperate requests over the other person.” ― Laurel Steinberg, a New York-based sexologist and adjunct professor of psychology at Columbia University

 3. They read your body language and recognize if it’s telling an entirely different story. “Experienced marriage therapists can read code. That means we can look beyond what is being said and learn about the underlying issues by observing the body language of the couple sitting in front of us. When I notice one partner leaning in, reaching across to touch the other, nodding and gesturing in the direction of the other and the other partner leaning away and avoiding eye contact and physical touch, I know we’ve got a problem. No matter what is being said verbally, the body language is speaking volumes and it’s important for me to listen.” ― Vikki Stark, a psychotherapist and the director of the Sedona Counselling Center of Montreal

 4. They recognize when someone in the relationship is a bully. “This one is pretty easy because usually the partner tries to bully me. The difference is, I haven’t lived with the client for years and had my self-esteem torn to shreds so the bully doesn’t scare me. The thing about bullies is that they really will back down if you call their bluff and let them know where the door to the office is if they don’t really want to get help.” ― Stephanie Buehler, a Southern California-based psychologist

 5. They can sense if you’re willing to own up to your mistakes. “Right off the bat, I ask each half of the couple to describe for me and for each other why they reached out and how I can be helpful. The answer often involves excellent insights about what they wish their partner could do differently. Then I ask each person if they can describe what they are contributing to the problem. If both people can provide even a modest answer to this question, the couple is well positioned to develop a more fulfilling relationship. I want to see a spark of ownership and awareness. The moment one spouse begins describing their contribution to the problem, a look of warmth and relief often spreads over the other partner’s face that transforms the energy in the room.” ― Elisabeth J. LaMotte, a psychotherapist and founder of the DC Counseling and Psychotherapy Center

 6. They can tell if one spouse is an enabler. “You know one partner is an enabler because that person answers questions for the other and defends behavior. When I ask something like, ‘Do you drink every night?’ and a partner rushes to answer, ‘She drinks as much as anyone else,’ then it makes me feel that maybe this person makes excuses for their spouse’s behavior in other realms as well. This often gives rise to a parent-child dynamic where one partner acts in a caretaker role for the other, to a less than functional degree.” ― Samantha Rodman, a psychologist in Takoma Park, Maryland

 7. They know that you should have pursued therapy a lot sooner. “Research suggests that most couples wait six years after trouble emerges before they ask for help. We also know that most couples who divorce do so within the first seven years. So therapists know when you’re coming in later than you should have. The average couple lives with unhappiness for far too long.” ― Zach Brittle, a therapist and founder of the online couples therapy series forBetter

 8. They can tell if the couple had a solid foundation to begin with. “As a marriage therapist I reach to see if there was a time in the relationship when the two people were truly connected and had an intimate bond that we can hopefully restore. Usually, the tension softens as couples tell me about their courtship and the qualities that drew them to each other. When a couple is so entrenched in a negative space that they have difficulty recalling a special time in their relationship, resolution is less likely.” ― Linda Lipshutz, a marriage and family therapist in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida

 9. They know if one partner is already out the door. “Any indication of leaving the marriage can be significant and a difficult hurdle in therapy. Sometimes the couple has consulted a divorce attorney or one partner simply made a statement about moving on with their lives. It’s not so much that they’ve considered the legal process of dissolving a marriage ― it’s that they’ve envisioned a future without their partner. It’s the mindset. Instead of focusing on protecting and saving their marriage, a spouse begins to focus on protecting themselves and their language starts to become more individually oriented. Couples therapy can’t be successful without both partners buying into the relationship for at least for the foreseeable future.” ― Alicia H. Clark, a psychologist based in Washington, D.C.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Kind of Gift that Money Can't Buy

Often in my near thirty years of practice people who hear that I specialize in family law, ask me "isn't that depressing.?" It is challenging at times, dealing with people who are angry, hurt, and scared is never easy.
Sometimes I do get weary, but I do find deep satisfaction in the fact that most of the time the clients who comes to me in a difficult and often impossible situation, come out the other side in a better place.
Today, when I got back to the office a woman and her husband were waiting for me, they had these beautiful flowers. I had a vague recollection of them. I had represented her in an acrimonious divorce nearly twelve years ago. At the time she had a son who was eight years old. She and her second husband had recently celebrated their 10th anniversary, and they wanted to express their gratitude to me for helping them move on to a happy loving marriage. Her son is a junior in college and they live nearby my office.
These moments mean more to me than awards, money or other accolades ever could. I still use a blanket that was crocheted by an elderly bankruptcy client that her granddaughter brought to me 25 years ago (she was housebound).
I have been blessed to have a passion for my work, I'm not the wealthiest attorney, or famous, but the gifts I have received throughout my career are the kind that come from the heart.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

I Went Through My Daughter’s Phone, And It May Have Saved Her Life

Is it okay for parents to look through their child’s phone? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights. 

 Answer by Lara Estep, clinical pharmacist and mother, on Quora:

 My youngest children are now in their last years of high school and I would never look through their phones at this point, but when they were younger I always reserved the right to go through phones and Facebook accounts if I suspected they were in an unsafe situation. I only exercised this right once, and I can truly say that I will always be grateful that I did. I am certain that what I found on my daughter’s Facebook messenger and phone that day several years ago saved her from harm. We were relatively new in the neighborhood so I wasn’t familiar with the neighborhood children or their families. I was still figuring out who her friends were.

 After a few months, something just didn’t feel right with my daughter and her friends. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I talked to my ex about it and told him I was thinking of going through her phone and Facebook account (when they were younger I made them give me their passwords to all accounts just in case. I only used them this one time). He was adamantly opposed to my plan. He talked about her privacy and her rights and all of the standard moral and ethical considerations. I agreed with everything he said, but still, something just didn’t feel right.

 Finally, one day I decided that I would rather have my daughter hate me for the rest of her long life than spare myself her anger and possibly allow her to go down a dangerous path and end up harmed or even dead. I think she was thirteen. She had fallen asleep one Saturday afternoon with her phone tucked in her arms. I managed to get the phone and what I found sent chills through my body. I will shorten this and tell you what I found: a chain of Facebook messages and texts from the father of one of her school friends. The friend was a boy. The messages told her how her mother was too strict. That she should go spend the night at his house and he would lie for her. He told her he would bring her cookies, McDonald’s, or whatever she wanted but she would need to sneak out of the house and meet him at the end of the street at night or during lunchtime at school.

The messages came at all hours of the day and night. Sometimes early in the morning to wish her a good day at school. This was a forty-something year old man who I had never met! Texting my daughter! He was clearly grooming her for some bigger plan. It was all I could do not to drive straight to his house and do to him whatever an enraged mama bear does to anyone who threatens her children’s safety. It took a lot of convincing to keep her dad from doing something stupid as well.

 In the end, I scheduled a meeting with the principal of her school the following Monday. After showing him what I had found he had no words. He said in all of his years he had never seen anything like it. I called the police and made a report, but they couldn’t do anything because he hadn’t yet harmed her. I alerted all of the other parents (most of whom didn’t seem to care much, sadly). The hardest part of all was telling her she was no longer allowed to see any of those friends. She hated me for a few months. She told me I ruined her life and would barely speak to me. But I knew in my heart what she couldn’t know. I knew I had saved her from a predator. She soon made new friends and I wasted no time in learning about their families.

She is a happy, well-adjusted, intelligent, ambitious, charming, carefree young lady, unscathed by the intentions of a predator, all because I did the unthinkable, I tossed aside her right to privacy and looked through her phone. I will never regret doing it. And I don’t suggest doing it on a whim. As I stated previously, I had always had their passwords to any account but had never used them. It was my safety net for the “just in case” situation.

 My point is that sometimes we, as parents, need to trust our instincts and do what is best for our children despite what anyone might say. I shudder to think where she would be today if I had listened to her well-intentioned father and not invaded her privacy. Best case scenario we would be in counseling for sexually abused children. Worst case, she would be dead. I expect some judgement, but guess what? I am perfectly fine with that! My daughter still doesn’t understand what happened, and for that good fortune I will trade any judgement that comes my way.