Myth: Marriage needs to be 50/50

One of the great myths of marriage is that it needs to be a 50/50 split. Everything done and contributed needs to be equal. This simply is false. What marriage needs is 100% from each partner. In some instances, that means that one spouse will do more than the other because of their strengths. For example, if one spouse has a background in finance and interest in doing the personal finances at home, then they are more likely to do 80% of the work there. That’s ok. It doesn’t need to be 50/50 In that same marriage the other spouse might have an interest in doing yard work and pick up 90% of it. That’s ok too. There is no need to keep score about who is doing how much and in what category.

 

Keep in mind that everyone brings strengths and weaknesses to a marriage – hopefully there are some that are complimentary to each other. The key here, I help couples in counseling in our Orem office, is to communicate with each other well. If you can communicate effectively about these differences and how both of you are contributing, you will more likely avoid resentment and arguments. You will build a relationship of trust and reliance on each other highlighting the strengths you both have and being aware and considerate of your weaknesses as well.

 

One thing I counsel pre-marital couples is that ‘what you see is what you get – just a lot more of it’ – meaning, if you see weaknesses in your spouse before you get married, they will have those weaknesses after you get married and they will be amplified. The same goes for their strengths. They will also have those same strengths amplified after you get married. Celebrate each others strengths and be understanding about their weaknesses.

Utah Valley Couples Counseling – Orem

Young happy couple is enjoying view

One of the first things I teach couples in couple’s therapy is to talk about themselves. This might sound strange, but people usually talk about their spouses and how they need to change. It’s one of the most common things I hear as a therapist – “He isn’t treating me well!”, or “She needs to get off back!” These statements might both be true, as a client shares them with me, but the problem is that you can’t change your spouse. You don’t have control over that. You do have control over your own actions and how you respond to them not treating you well or being on your back.

 

Speaking about yourself makes you vulnerable and being vulnerable is scary. Opening up to your spouse, the one person in this world that can hurt you like no other person can, makes you exposed. It’s hard to imagine them not blasting you after you open up, given what you know about them or have seen in the past, right? So instead, you tell them what to do so that you feel safer. You tell them how they need to change so that you can then tell them what you are really going through emotionally. This, simply, doesn’t work – and if it seems to work, it only works for a little while and then things go back to not being good.

 

So, the trick is, I teach my clients in therapy, to start talking about your own emotional experiences and needs rather than your spouse and what they need to do. You can share with them how their actions impact you emotionally, that’s fine. But when you start to interpret their behavior for them (for example – “You don’t call and let me know you’re coming home late because you don’t care about me!”) or when you pretend to be their boss (for example – “So, you need to start calling me!”), then you continue the cycle of hurt and pain.

 

A good therapist will be able to help you through this. We just moved our counseling center to Orem, Utah, by the mouth of Provo Canyon. We’d love to help.

Trauma – Why You Matter When Your Loved One is Struggling

Understanding trauma can be difficult. What constitutes trauma is in the eye of the beholder. To some, breaking up with a girlfriend or boyfriend is traumatic while to others, it is not. To some getting in a serious car wreck is traumatic while to others it is not.

 

If you or your loved one has experienced trauma you might have a confusing experience. After experiencing trauma, survivors need others more than ever as they try to healing, however, their traumatic symptoms often alienate, isolate and take them away from loved ones. This can seem confusing to both them and their loved ones.

 

Not everyone knows how to express their need for others after they experience trauma. Also, not all loved ones know how to see past symptoms that seem to push them away. Knowing when to reach out to your loved one and when to give them space is important. Researches and therapists have found over the years that there is a great benefit for trauma survivors derived from strong family and marital support (i.e., Bessel van der Kolk’s ‘The Body Keeps a Score…’). In fact, the quality of an individual’s attachment to others is a critical factor in whether or not someone develops long-term traumatic issues instead of just short-term traumatic issues. Your family and spouse matter.

 

So how do you talk with them and connect? Simply start by talking with them. Instead of avoiding it because it seems to upset them, talk with them and let them know you are here for them. Even if you don’t talk about the events (in some cases its actually better to not talk with them yet about their traumatic event) you can let them know that you love them, support them, are here for them and want to continue to be here for them. Knowing that you are there for them helps them tremendously. Eventually, and sometimes only with the help of a counselor, they can come around and start to heal with you.

 

 

 

 

More Communication Problems

One of the most common issues couples complain of when they call for counseling is ‘communication problems’. This means a variety of things. It’s difficult to tell as a therapist at first glance what it might exactly be, but here are a few possibilities:

  • Communication problems – yes, it might just be that a couple is healthy in all other areas of their relationship, but they just don’t know how to communicate. This usually isn’t the case, but it is possible.
  • He/She did something to hurt me – Infidelity, pornography problems, choosing friends over a spouse are some things that could be done to hurt each other.
  • Sexual issues – it might be that a couple is having difficulty being intimate and they don’t want to talk about it. This can be a sensitive issue, especially in an area like Utah County where sex seems to be taboo. It’s something that you don’t talk about before you are married or something you talk about after you are married. It’s based in shame and seen as dirty, or something so sacred that you should just be good at it and enjoy it after you are married.
  • We don’t’ know what is going on! And it’s getting worse! – Sometimes couples know it’s not good, but aren’t sure why it isn’t working between the two of them. The confusion they feel is frustrating as they try to understand what to fix.
  • And others…

 

The good thing about coming to therapy with any of these issues is that there are therapists that can help. A good therapist will be able to identify what is going on with a couple so that they know what to work on.

 

We offer couples counseling in Orem, Spanish Fork and American Fork. We are a group of competent couples counselors that can help you and your partner.

 

“I’m Sorry, What’s Wrong?”- Part One

“I’m sorry”… We hear it almost as often as we hear hello. We ask for those words, and yet when we hear them they are so overused it often doesn’t feel like enough. This leaves both parties confused as to what is actually needed to repair their relationship. There are currently two ways we use “I’m Sorry.” The first is to apologize for wronging someone, the second is to share distress with someone else. Both are over used and no longer hold the meaning they once did.

When I’m sorry is used to apologize to often it begins to feel like a get out of jail free card people often come into therapy feeling hopeless. Often there is no understanding as to why an apology is needed and they are simply trying to move past the anxiety in the relationship. However, every time they use “I’m sorry”, it loses meaning. The person needing an apology continues interpreting others behavior as intent to inflict pain, because they felt like there was an understanding and the behavior continues.

Naturally the question becomes what should we do instead. Most important is understanding. We simply can’t be responsible for knowing instinctively everything people find insulting. What some people find inexcusable in a relationship others may encourage in a relationship as funny due to the meaning they have attached to past experiences and personal tolerance levels. It is each person’s responsibility to let others know when someone has crossed their personal boundaries. You need to clearly and calmly let people know when they have crossed your boundary every time they do so, that way they don’t think your just overwhelmed elsewhere and you’re being irrational. When really you’re just trying to be patient until you no longer can.

Knowing that your being understood is extremely important in this process. If the other person can’t tell you what they understood in their own words you need to keep reframing the story your telling yourself, until they understand how your interpreting their intent. Once they understand they have a few options that tend toward healthier communication. They can explain their intent was not meant to cause pain, and explain what their intent was.

They can also express an “I wish” statement, considering this is often a new concept allow me to explain. I wish statements are used to create a blueprint for what should have gone differently on your end. This is not to say that you wish you were all perfect and no problems arose. It is however used to say within the problems that existed that were not in your control how you wish you responded to all of that.

This blueprint needs to be a genuine alternative or its meaningless. This blueprint makes it more likely that you will do something different when your emotionally overwhelmed. We are all flawed and it takes time to truly change our behavior, but when we make an I wish statement we are first of all stating that we can see how we damaged the relationship and that you see an alternative that could meet both of your needs next time. If you do the same behavior own up to it and either let the person know that you were being reactive and you continue to wish for the alternative healthier response, or that the response you had thought of is not as realistic during an emotional exchange as you had thought.

 

Written By Madison Zundel, MA, LAMFT, Therapist at Holladay Center for Couples and Families

Welcome Tekulvē to CCF!

Tekulvē is joining the CCF team in Utah County. He brings with him 10 years of experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist. Check him out here.

Relationship Land Mines – How to Handle Them

All people have topics or behavior that are emotional landmines. I think of watching M.A.S.H seeing a big sign saying, “DANGER-MINE FIELD.” I love to picture this sign in my relationships. If these emotional landmines are going to be there I think it is essential for survival to create a boundary around the mine fields. I have found it courteous to set boundaries around mine, so that people have more freedom within a relationship with me. If people don’t set boundaries around their own boundaries I have to create boundaries to keep myself safe from their emotional landmines, unfortunately I don’t know exactly where the landmines

are, so I have to create a boundary with large radius for extra safety. This is unfortunate because If boundaries are bigger than they need to be for the emotional safety this is limiting the potential for emotional intimacy in the relationship.

This is not only unfortunate for the person who “steps” on the emotional landmines, but also the person with the emotional landmines without appropriate boundaries. People thrive on relationships and connections. People who don’t create boundaries are absolutely terrified of being alone. Without knowing about emotional landmines, if you had the choice between land without blocked off areas and land that had nothing on it, the land without any blocked off areas seems more attractive, at least until you start walking over it! A person without boundaries want to attract people, and boundaries are not attractive. Their need for connection is not inherently bad, they are meeting this need in the only way they know how, because they haven’t experienced a long term intimate relationship as an example. Therefore, they have people around them who are avoiding a close relationship, or freeze to avoid any emotional landmines.

When you are in a relationship with someone who doesn’t create boundaries, you will often find yourself apologizing without knowing how you’re at fault. If apologizing becomes your default to suppress emotional explosions, you will attract people who have a need to blame.  People who blame are only considering their own needs, people who apologize as a default only consider the needs of others. A healthy relationship will balance your emotional needs with the needs of others with consideration of the context. If this isn’t happening your efforts to get closer to people will result in resentments. If you’re thinking “if they only knew what I was really thinking, they wouldn’t love me.” You will feel lonely in a room of people who love you.

When you share your truth, unfortunately you do risk losing people in your life.  However, knowing that even the one person who stays loves every part of you, and respects you enough to respect your boundaries will be worth anyone you lose. This is the most difficult part of setting boundaries, you have to reach a point where you can accept losing a relationship all together in order to do what it takes to be a healthier person. Accepting that you could lose a relationship means that if they are uncomfortable with boundaries they may cutoff communication with you. When you respect yourself and you respect other people enough to show them where your boundaries are to keep you and them emotionally safe, you will begin attracting healthier relationships.

Written by Madison Price, MS, LAMFT – Therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

 

Boundaries With Others – How To Set Them

When you’re trying to create boundaries with people they will be tested. It’s like when cows enter a new pasture, they will knock their shoulder against the perimeter a few times to check out where their boundaries are and how strong they are. Cows are strong enough to take down barbed wire if they really wanted to, but they aren’t really testing if they can get out, they are testing if they are safe from the external world. Once they know that the boundaries are consistent and stable they feel safe and they graze in the middle. If the cows don’t have that consistent boundary they will rely on the cowboy to tell them when they have gone too far. The cowboy, however, doesn’t have consistent boundaries, they will only correct the cow when they notice the cow has gone too far, which doesn’t create a feeling of safety. People are the same when they have never experienced consistent boundaries, or they are experiencing new boundaries. People will test boundaries, not enough to break them but enough to trust that they are there to stay and to trust that they are there to keep them safe.

A lot of young adults who never experienced boundaries, because their parents wanted to be their friend. They have a great relationship with their parents, but they will tell me that they feel like they grew up as an orphan because they don’t have a secure home base. but they will tell me that they are afraid to explore and take risks as an adult because they can’t trust that they have parents who are watching out for them, to make sure they don’t make a mistake big enough to ruin their entire life.

It’s important that people are given the space to grow and find their own solutions within appropriate limits. When your setting limits the goal is not to get a specific outcome, rather the goal is to prevent a specific outcome. It is quite spectacular what people can come up with when their possibilities aren’t limited, but just the same we don’t want anyone hurting themselves or others in the process. Limits are set to prevent irreversible and/or irreplaceable damage, while still allowing people to learn how to cope with and improve from mistakes.

When cattle are being herded they have the instinct to turn around when they feel blocked, which can be disruptive to the flow and requires more work to redirect them back into the flow. To redirect a cow, you want them to feel pressure on their shoulder. If you are in front of them when you apply this pressure they feel blocked, if you are beside them when you apply this pressure they will simply turn a bit from where they shouldn’t be. People are the same, when they are told to stop doing what they are doing (and they don’t continue trampling over you) they will do a complete turnaround, even if this wasn’t your intention. If you’re only wanting a slight redirection from a no-go zone you want to adjust your approach to let them know that you understand that they want to move forward, and you want that too, but you want them going forward in a slightly different direction.

Written by Madison Price, MA, LAMFT – therapist at the Holladay Center for Couples and Families

 

Couples Counseling with an expert

Couples counseling, if done right, isn’t a refereed fight in a therapist’s office. A trained therapist will help you to identify underlying, unmet emotional needs after helping you to deescalate from the tension and fighting you have been experiencing with your spouse. The problem is that most couples come into therapy years too late and it is difficult to change course – to learn a new way. It is possible, however! John Gottman, a world-renowned researcher on marital stability and satisfaction, has found that it is not the presence of argument that causes divorce, but rather it’s how a couple argues that causes divorce. Knowing this, couples don’t have to ignore what they are feeling, but rather they can communicate it differently and in a healthier manner.

Marriage and family therapists are trained to do this type of work. This is a specific degree and license type that focuses on relationships between people (husband and wife; father and son; mother and daughter, etc…) as the point of intervention rather than just focusing on fixing symptoms (depression; anxiety, etc…). Its important to alleviating depression and anxiety and its crucial to build relationships that help someone deal better with anxiety and depression in the first place.

Pornography Counseling

Pornography addiction is becoming more prevalent in our society. Organizations like Fight the New Drug do a great job of educating the public on the harmful effects of pornography. What do you do if you struggle and can’t seem to find a way out? For many, the way out seems elusive and unobtainable. It’s difficult to find how when you have tried so many things, only to have this problem keep coming back. Many that come into counseling have already been before and are discouraged that they just can’t ‘get over it’. Knowing how to use the power or education and relationships is part of the answer. A good therapist can help you access both in your efforts to let go of this addiction. At the Center for Couples and Families we specialize in relationship therapy in regard to pornography use. Knowing how to communicate with your loved ones about this difficulty is an important part of the process.