Although our practice advocates for staying together and working through relationship struggles whenever possible, sometimes it is not in your best interest to stay. The questions below can help you determine what the best course of action may be for you. Unfortunately, there is no definitive formula for deciding if your relationship has enough positive attributes to warrant the difficult process of working on it. However, through the process of honestly answering the questions below you will likely gain some clarity. Feel free to go over your answers with your therapist, 12-step sponsor, or a close and supportive friend.
In 2002, the director of the Stanford University Forgiveness Project, Dr. Fred Luskin described forgiveness as a feeling of peace that emerges as you take your hurt less personally and take responsibility for how you feel. Both Luskin and Dr. John Gottman, founder of the Gottman Institute, describe a distress-maintaining scenario called a grievance story. They explain that when we have trouble forgiving someone, it is because we put on a selective filter and select only those elements of the experience that support our own perception of events. This creates a sense of righteous indignation as we recall the most negative aspects of the person and his or her most hurtful actions. We then view the most virtuous and innocent aspects of ourselves, filtering out any personal shortcomings. Maintaining this mindset support[...]
I am directionally challenged. In the past, I got overwhelmed by maps and needed to write out my directions in words, including as many landmarks as possible so it would make sense to me and I wouldn’t end up lost. From my perspective, one of the greatest inventions of all time is navigation systems for cars and phones. Instead of having to fumble with maps and directions from strangers, I can just follow my Waze app.
In therapy sessions, I often share with patients my belief that the navigation system I use in my car is a great analogy for life. I explain that there are times while driving, even with this wonderful navigation system, that I blow it. I miss the turn completely, or I turn left when the app says to turn right. What I love about the navigation system is that it does not judge me, it just tells me[...]
I often start a couple’s therapy session by asking, “What have you done to help your relationship this week?” This is a very powerful question because it changes the couple’s mindset. Instead of pathologizing the problems in their marriage, it turns the focus to what they have done well. It also sets up the image of them working as a team to help rescue their relationship.
After I ask this question, there is often a pause as each member of the couple reflects back upon their successes the previous week. They each have the opportunity to share a behavior that makes them feel proud. This experience also helps them reframe small gains as essential contributions to the health of a relationship.
After listening to the couple share the positive behaviors that they have contributed, and providing supportive [...]
My husband and I have always liked the outdoors. We enjoy hiking and have even spent a week long summer vacation visiting Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Once or twice a year we actually manage to take the kids out with us hiking in our local National Park. We take the dog, Rosie, with us too, and feel proud of ourselves that we “aired our family out,” by getting them away from their screens. However, in this time of Covid 19, we have taken hiking to a whole new level. Instead of participating in family hikes once or twice a year, we are now hiking two or three times a week.
Normally we are a very busy family. My[...]
My 30 year old patient just told me he recently asked a woman he met on Hinge “Would you rather go on a first date through: FaceTime, Zoom or scream at each other from 6 feet away in a park?” Being quarantined home alone in his apartment reminded him of his deep desire to develop a healthy relationship. For some people living alone, the loneliness they are experiencing helps them prioritize the importance of forging intimate relationships.
For other people who are already in intimate relationships and living together, it may feel like the ultimate stress test. In fact, there has been research that looked at how people cope after tragic life events. In 2002 The Journal of Family Psychology produced a paper after Hurricane Hugo looking at how people in devastated counties of South Carolina coped after this tragedy. In this paper, the authors[...]
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, fear and worry abound. We are confronted with preoccupations about our physical health and safety, financial security, and the uncertainty of the timeline projected for the current quarantine. Additionally, we have been required to make drastic changes to our daily routines, seemingly overnight. Keeping up with news and social media updates can further exacerbate our already precarious state as each piece of new information seems to be more dismal than the last. Fortunately, we are now well-equipped with some practical information about protecting our physical health. My hope is that this post will provide practical information to safeguard your mental health during these uncertain times.
- Is there physical violence in your relationship? You should not stay in a physically abusive relationship. The psychotherapist Mira Kirshenbaum clarifies this issue, [...]
It is important to stay informed about changes be[...]
As a psychologist specializing in healing from addictions and relationship counseling, I am frequently confronted with difficult situations in relationships. The pain involved in an unhealthy relationship is enormous yet people stay stuck in their discomfort for many years. Why? When confronted with this overwhelmingly difficult question, I like to explain it in more simple terms. Recently, I have been utilizing Stephen Karpman’s Drama Triangle (1968) to explain dysfunctional relationships and why people stay in them.
Although Karpman described this triangle over fifty years ago, it can [...]
One of the most important life lessons I have learned occurred while I was watching an old interview with Toni Morrison. Morrison described how when a child enters the room and looks to see her parents, what she is searching for is to see if their faces are lighting up. Are their eyes sparkling? Do the grown-ups in the room care if she is there?
So often parents are preoccupied on their cell phones and spend too much time checking their texts and emails, worrying about the next event they have to attend, or their next deadline. If they do notice their child, it is usually to focus on her imperfections. The parents may fix their daughter’s hair or tuck in her shirt. They may believe that this is caring for their child by trying to fix her and make sure she looks “presentable.” However, the message the[...]
In 2020 there seems to be an unwritten rule that all holistic therapists are supposed to recommend that their patients meditate. This recommendation has become so popular that it feels “on trend” like eating kale or suggesting yoga. The goals of meditation are varied, but generally the purpose is to encourage our patients to “be in the present,” unplug and focus inward. Many therapists suggest meditation apps as well as going to private meditation classes. While that is a great aspirational goal for many people, it does not work for everyone.
Several years ago, I googled “surrounding meditation classes” and did not find many that were close to where I liv[...]
- Stay informed and follow recommendations